After spending much of the last two weeks criticizing Hillary Clinton for supposed "gaffes" about her wealth and claiming she's increasingly out of touch with voters thanks to the combined earnings of herself and her husband, Beltway pundits are confronted with a new poll that shows that despite days worth of media attacks on Clinton's money comments, a clear majority think the former secretary of state relates to "average Americans" and the problems they face.
The findings from an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey forcefully debunk the punditry's conventional wisdom that by being "rusty" while discussing her wealth during her recent book tour, Clinton inflicted potentially deep damage to her possible presidential run by being so "out of touch."
The recent wealth coverage continued the Beltway press' long tradition of parsing portions of Clinton comments taken from hours worth of long-form interviews and spinning then in the most unappealing way, and by claiming Clinton's word choice and "tone" is all wrong. (CNN even altered a Hillary quote about money last week to make it more incriminating and newsworthy.)
To date though, voters don't seem to mind when Hillary Clinton talks about money.
Nonetheless as the Washington Post's Dan Balz noted, Clinton's "comments about being "dead broke" upon leaving the White House and not being among the "truly well off" today have triggered an avalanche of coverage raising questions about whether she has lost touch with the lives of ordinary Americans."
Just yesterday, Balz's colleague Ruth Marcus detailed what she called "Hillary Clinton's money woes," and warned the former first lady that the problem might get "worse" because she risks being viewed by voters as "greedy," "defensive," "whiny," and "out of touch."
How was Marcus so sure that voters would deeply resent the Clintons' wealth if Hillary ran for president? Or specifically, that they'd resent how she talked about her wealth. Did Marcus cite polling? Did she interview voters? No, she just knew. Or she thought she knew.
According to the new NBC/WSJ poll, none of Marcus' characterizations are accurate.
And that's why the red flag of the wealth coverage was always the question of whether voters were as deeply offended by Clinton's wealth as the Beltway press is. (MSNBC's Chuck Todd recently dismissed the Clintons' earnings from giving speeches by insisting, "It's not like they have acquired their wealth from hard work.")
Despite being exposed as a self-promoting smear peddler after having his work repeatedly debunked, discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein has been repeatedly given a platform by many in the right-wing media. Here are the top five reasons the media should not trust Klein's shoddy work.
The Washington Free Beacon's claim that it's being singled out by the University of Arkansas Library for unfair treatment in its reporting on Hillary Clinton-related documents was debunked by CNN, which confirmed it followed the same rules the Free Beacon was punished for not following.
The Free Beacon was informed on June 17 by the library that its access to their archives had been suspended because Free Beacon researchers had not followed standard procedures for gaining permission to publish library documents related to Clinton back in February. The Free Beacon suggested the revocation of their access was political retribution.
But CNN officials confirmed to Media Matters that its researchers were required to fill out permission forms to first gain access to the library's collection of private documents in February related to Hillary Clinton, and later submit separate requests for approval to publish the documents on its website.
"We do have policies that are in place for all researchers and we expect all of our researchers to comply," said Laura Jacobs, associate vice chancellor for university relations for the University of Arkansas. "The idea that we would single out any researcher is false. It is unfortunate that we have been characterized as trying to stifle academic freedom. It is one of the core tenets that we take seriously. Frankly, this is a simple procedural matter."
In a story on June 20 about an interview Clinton had given in the 1980's, the Free Beacon claimed it was never told to file any forms or seek permission.
"I find that hard to believe," said Jacobs. "The process is when you come in to research in our special collection, you sit down with the research manager, you sign something saying you will comply with our policies, you tell the reading room manager materials you would like to access and it is pro forma."
In fact, the University of Arkansas Library provided Business Insider with copies of the request forms that Shawn Reinschmiedt, a GOP operative who worked with the Free Beacon to provide research for the story, signed, including an email that noted that he would be required to fill out an additional form if he wished to publish.
The Free Beacon did not comment on the forms, but told Business Insider they did not believe the University had the right to restrict publication of the documents.
"You can get materials for personal use, we will provide materials for you all day long," Jacobs added. "When you ask us to duplicate materials, if you intend to publish them you are required to complete the permission to publish form."
CNN officials on Monday confirmed CNN researchers who posted a similar story in February did file such forms and requests for permission and were granted approval.
CNN anchor Miguel Marquez misquoted Hillary Clinton this morning, claiming she told the Guardian newspaper that she and her husband are "not truly well off." That's inaccurate. What Clinton told the Guardian was that unlike "a lot of people who are truly well off," she and her husband "pay ordinary income tax."
Here's the full context from The Guardian interview [emphasis added]:
America's glaring income inequality is certain to be a central bone of contention in the 2016 presidential election. But with her huge personal wealth, how could Clinton possibly hope to be credible on this issue when people see her as part of the problem, not its solution?
"But they don't see me as part of the problem," she protests, "because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work," she says, letting off another burst of laughter. If past form is any guide, she must be finding my question painful.
CNN's false quote fits with the interpretation that many in the media have made, which is that Clinton was contrasting herself with the "truly well off."
A headline from The Week:
Hillary Clinton Explains How She and Bill Aren't 'Truly Well Off'
Hillary Clinton: We're Not 'Truly Well Off'
But at least as good an interpretation of the quote is that Clinton included herself and her husband among the "truly well off," but was saying that unlike many of them, they pay ordinary income tax.
During the 2012 campaign, Mitt and Ann Romney came under scrutiny for taking most of their income as capital gains and dividends, therefore paying a much lower tax rate of 14 percent.
The gaffe police were on vigilant patrol last week, keenly monitoring Hillary Clinton's book release media tour and pronouncing much of it to be a failure.
The former first lady, senator, and secretary of state sat for a series of lengthy interviews that covered an array of topics, from the Iraq War to transgender rights, and spoke for hours to some the country's leading journalists during long-form Q&A's. (So much for the claim that Clinton shields herself away from the news media.)
By setting aside the substance and parsing Clinton's words in search of stumbles, the press announced Clinton suffered a "rough week" because of two alleged miscues: She spoke accurately about the state of her personal finances in early 2001 when she and her husband Bill Clinton were "broke." And she pushed back against National Public Radio's Terry Gross when she repeatedly tried to pigeonhole Clinton on the sensitive and personal issue of gay marriage. (i.e. Hillary got "testy" according to the GOP operatives who circulated the audio and much of the media who reported on it).
Those were the "gaffes" that earned her a mostly thumbs down review from the theater critics who pass as Beltway political pundits and who declared her performance was "rusty"; that Clinton had become "rattled" and emotional, according to Maureen Dowd. (Texas Governor Rick Perry last week likening homosexuality to alcoholism? That wasn't really treated as a major political gaffe for a possible 2016 candidate.)
Bloomberg's Albert Hunt summed up the agreed-upon conventional wisdom nicely when he wrote that Clinton suffered a "rough rollout for her new book" because the week contained "gaffes" and "awkward answers."
Well, at least she didn't cackle.
Note that the "broke" "gaffe" consisted of Clinton repeating commonly known facts about her at-times precarious finances more than a decade ago; facts that have been reported many times in the press. The Clintons, the New York Times noted on September 19, 1999, "are the least prosperous couple to live in the White House in many years." The Times noted "the Clintons have slightly more than $1 million in assets, but are still saddled by a $5 million legal debt." (In 2001, The New Yorker pegged the Clinton's legal bills at "eleven or twelve million dollars.")
The press seemed especially judgmental following the NPR interview with Gross who created the false impression that Clinton had stonewalled and dodged over the issue of marriage equality, despite the fact Clinton repeatedly answered Gross' question. What's a politician supposed to do when an interviewer repeatedly tries to assign cynical motivations for a policy shift if the politician insists that motivation isn't accurate? Should the politician simply go along with the allegation or should she push back and clarify, even as the interviewer again and again clings to the same position?
Clinton response was to push back a bit on NPR: "I think you're reading it very wrong." And "That's just flat wrong."
But apparently she was supposed to roll over. Because by standing up for herself (while never raising her voice), Clinton was breathlessly tagged as combative and unnerved in the wake of a mildly contentious back-and-forth:
Instapundit called her "testy," as did MSNBC, and New York Magazine does, too, also writing that "Hillary won't say she evolved on gay marriage." The Wall Street Journal also picks up the "testy" line, while the New York Daily News prefers "lashes out" in a "tense" interview. Mediaite says she "snaps" at NPR's interviewer. Oh, and Politico prefers "testy."
The media message to Clinton was clear last week: You can't lose your cool when dealing with the press. You can't try to intimidate reporters. And you certainly can't try to bluster them off tough questions. Those are the guidelines established for Clinton if she plans to run to become the country's first woman president.
Who is allowed to do all those things? Chris Christie, for one.
More and more journalists claim to have uncovered a key story of the unfolding 2016 presidential campaign. And more and more journalists insist it's all about them. Well, them and Hillary Clinton.
Specifically, we're told that Hillary's relationship with the press is going to be the defining dynamic of the 2016 campaign season, if she chooses to run. Not her pact with voters, mind you. But her dealings with the press. (Inside baseball trumps all, apparently.) I honestly can't remember a run-up to a presidential campaign where the D.C. press spent so much time writing about the D.C. press and how it will cover a candidate who isn't even a candidate yet.
Just look at this avalanche of recent analysis:
-Here's What Journalists Really Want from Hillary Clinton [Vanity Fair]
-Don't Blame Hillary Clinton's Media Problem on the Right-Wing Press. Blame Clinton Herself. [The New Republic]
-Hillary Clinton vs. The Press [syndicated columnist Richard Cohen]
-End of an Era? Clinton Media Strategy May Be Due for an Overhaul [New York Times]
-Hillary's Armor [Fox News' Howard Kurtz]
-What Is Hillary Clinton Afraid Of? [Politico]
-Why The Clintons Can't Handle the Media [New York]
And surprise! Virtually all the examinations reach the same conclusion about the strained relationship: Clinton just has to just "deal with" her misgivings and get over it if she wants to become president.
Not surprisingly though, the onslaught of media coverage about Hillary's media coverage isn't reflective. Instead, it's mostly one-way and instructional. It's telling Clinton how she must change her behavior, or else. (Should journalists really be in the "or else" business?) There's very little contemplation about why Clinton might be wary of the manner in which the political press provides scrutiny.
Regardless, journalists are sure of one thing: Hillary (and Bill Clinton) hate the press and remain purposefully cloistered away from it.
"All politicians resent the media, but few can match the mixture of incomprehension, terror, and bitter recrimination mustered by Bill and Hillary Clinton toward the Fourth Estate," New York breathlessly announced, claiming "the various streams of thought trickling through the Clintons' brains do not converge upon any coherent strategy for dealing with the media." (That sounds bad.)
On and on the cataloging has gone in recent weeks, as news consumers are inundated with descriptions of Clinton's "fear and loathing of the media," and how she's "withdrawn into a gilded shell."
But how exactly have Hillary and Bill Clinton acted on this supposed hatred of the media?
An overwhelming majority of Americans reject Karl Rove's attempt to scandalize Hillary Clinton's health and age, according to a new poll.
Rove has suggested in several appearances this month that Clinton's age and health should be major issues if she chooses to run for president, baselessly speculating that a concussion she suffered in December 2012 could have long-term repercussions. Rove's smears were echoed by his Fox News colleagues and others in the conservative media but termed a "lie" and "dirty tricks" elsewhere.
According to polling released today by ABC News and the Washington Post, 66 percent of Americans disapprove of Rove's attack, "including 46 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of strong conservatives."
Rove's former colleagues in the Bush administration have termed his comments a deliberate effort to start a conversation that damages Clinton. That effort isn't working.
Peggy Noonan is criticizing Hillary Clinton because the publisher's notes for her forthcoming memoir display insufficient modesty. But the publisher's notes for Noonan's own memoir describe her book as a "priceless account" with "timeless relevance" that is "as spirited, sensitive, and thoughtful as Peggy Noonan herself."
The book is being put forward as "a master class in international relations," which is quite a claim and a rather silly one: a professional diplomat would be slow to make it. But members of political dynasties are not in the modesty business.
In dubiously suggesting that Clinton wrote her own publisher's materials in order to accuse her of immodesty, Noonan ignores the reality that publishers typically offer extravagant praise for their authors and the books they produce. Indeed, Noonan's criticism of Clinton could also be applied to the Journal columnist based on publisher's materials for her own books.
For example, promotional language from Random House for Noonan's 1990 memoir, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era, is filled with over-the-top praise of the book's "timeless relevance" and the "spirited, sensitive, and thoughtful" Noonan:
On the hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth comes the twentieth-anniversary edition of Peggy Noonan's critically acclaimed bestseller What I Saw at the Revolution, for which she provides a new Preface that demonstrates this book's timeless relevance. As a special assistant to the president, Noonan worked with Ronald Reagan -- and with Vice President George H. W. Bush -- on some of their most memorable speeches. Noonan shows us the world behind the words, and her sharp, vivid portraits of President Reagan and a host of Washington's movers and shakers are rendered in inimitable, witty prose. Her priceless account of what it was like to be a speechwriter among bureaucrats, and a woman in the last bastion of male power, makes this a Washington memoir that breaks the mold--as spirited, sensitive, and thoughtful as Peggy Noonan herself.
CNN anchor and New York Daily News columnist S.E. Cupp was cursed with bad timing this week as she launched attacks on Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state. Pointing to current events surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Cupp wrote, "a new front is brewing that may bring Clinton's strategic judgment more directly into question: Russia." She added that if Clinton "thinks she's going to get off the hook for it, she's sadly mistaken." According to Cupp, the Russian troop movements demonstrate that Clinton's 2009 effort to reset U.S. relations with that nation were a failure that will damage any potential 2016 presidential run.
Why the bad timing?
The day before Cupp's column appeared detailing Clinton's would-be secretary of state "baggage," Pew Research published a poll showing a strong majority of Americans (67 percent) applaud Clinton's time as secretary of state. And when asked to identify the biggest positive of her long public career, the top response was Clinton's time as secretary. (Also, clear majorities of Americans peg her as being "tough," "honest," and "likable.")
So what Cupp sees as diplomatic "baggage," lots of Americans see it as part of Clinton's crowning accomplishment.
Cupp is hardly alone. Politico's Clinton beat writer, Maggie Haberman wrote that the Ukraine conflict "is another instance in which Clinton is tethered to the administration's decisions heading into 2016." Clinton is "tethered" to her time as secretary of state, Politico noted ominously, while a vast majority of Americans applaud Clinton's time as secretary of state. (And yes, the Pew poll was conducted after Russia invaded Ukraine.)
As the crisis in the Ukraine continues to play out, parts of the D.C. media's All News Is Bad News For Hillary brigade have rallied around the idea that even though Clinton is no longer secretary of state, the current conflict in Ukraine could damage her presidential aspiration because she used to be secretary of state.
More importantly, the Ukraine analysis is the exact opposite of the Beltway pundits' pronouncement last year as they praised current chief diplomat John Kerry after he reached an interim agreement with Iran to freeze its nuclear program. The media formula was simple: Good news that transpired after Clinton left the State Department was not her doing and she deserved no credit. Her efforts to build a sanctions regime that drove Iran to the bargaining table were ignored.
But apparently, the Ukraine crisis is her doing and she deserves the blame even though she left the administration last year. In other words, if Hillary runs for president all the things that didn't happen under her guidance at State will hurt her chances. And if she runs, all the things that happened while she wasn't at State will also hurt her. Under this rubric, all developments in international relations, whether good or bad for the United States, are bad news for Hillary Clinton.
Talk about a lose-lose for Hillary. And talk about trolling for bad news.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer distorted comments by Hillary Clinton to criticize her for "compar[ing]" Russian President Vladimir Putin with Adolf Hitler, even though Putin is not engaged in genocide. But Blitzer ignored Clinton's reported statement that while similarities to Hitler's actions are "what's gotten everybody so nervous" about Putin's recent actions, she believes Putin isn't "as irrational" as Hitler and that a diplomatic response is appropriate.
Clinton addressed Russia sending troops into Ukraine at a March 4 California fundraiser for the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club. According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, whose reporter attended the event, Clinton explained that Putin has been issuing Russian passports to people with Russian ethnicity who live in other countries in the region, including in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and has claimed that he sent Russian troops to the region to protect those Russians who are supposedly in danger. Clinton reportedly explained that the similarity between this move and steps taken by Hitler in the 1930s is "what's gotten everybody so nervous":
Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s... All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous.
Clinton went on to say that "while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II," according to Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of a California newspaper chain who also attended the event and spoke to Buzzfeed.
The former secretary of state also reportedly called for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine:
"So everybody is hoping that there will be a negotiation but a negotiation that respects Ukraine and doesn't ratify a reoccupation by Russia of Crimea," she said. "So it's a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric. Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution and that's what we should be trying to do."
On CNN Newsroom, Blitzer criticized Clinton for comparing Putin to Hitler, while failing to note Clinton's full remarks. Blitzer said that "it is always a mistake to make these comparisons with Nazi Germany," adding that Putin "clearly he is not engaged in any activities at all along the lines of what Hitler was doing, including genocide, mass murder, and all of the occupations that he was engaged in." Neither Blitzer nor CNN's Brianna Keilar, who was featured in the segment, addressed Clinton's reported statements that Putin is not as irrational as Hitler and that she believes a diplomatic approach is appropriate.
Rand Paul seems to have cracked the code.
The Kentucky Republican senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate has found a winning formula for staying in the headlines this winter: dredging up decades-old Clinton scandals and talking about Monica Lewinsky. It seems an unlikely script for a politician who supposedly wants to address America's future.
But what Paul has figured out, and sooner than any other potential Republican presidential candidates, is that every time he (indirectly) references Lewinsky and Oval Office sex, television producers start assembling panel discussions and editors quickly assign articles. It's like sending out the Bat Signal inside the Beltway; a transmission that cannot be denied or ignored.
Paul's attacks this week were boosted by the revelation of personal, decades-old correspondences between Hillary Clinton and Diane Blair, a close friend and confidant to the former first lady. With contemporaneous notes and letters that addressed the Lewinsky scandal and other trials from Bill Clinton's two terms, the newly uncovered archives were presented as big political news. They also gave the media an excuse to wade further into Clinton tumult nostalgia.
For Clinton critics, there appears to be no downside to the strategy. Any fear Paul might have had about the press condemning him likely evaporated weeks ago. Instead of scolding Ryan for looking backwards and attacking a female politician for her husband's distant, personal indiscretions, as well as accusing him without evidence of "violence" against women in the workplace, much of the press has celebrated Paul's Lewinsky star turn. According to CNN's Candy Crowley the Kentucky senator is on a "roll lately." Why? Because he called the former president a "sexual predator." (Crowley dubbed the low-blow maneuver "smart politics.")
Points are rarely deducted for taking the low road against the Clintons. For the press, Clinton name-calling passes for political momentum.
For a candidate who enjoys historically strong polling support for her possible White House push, Hillary Clinton is sure getting heaps of bad press as supporters await her decision on whether to run for president in 2016.
According to endless Beltway commentary regarding her non-candidacy, Clinton's overseeing an ominous "shadow campaign" that features a "political hit list" to keep track of "treacherous" foes. She's linked "to a culture of payback and bare-knuckles politics." Her non-candidacy is peaking too soon and it lacks "transparency"; it's a "predestined" "train wreck." "Indecision" is becoming a trademark. She's taking a "wrong turn" and repeating her mistakes from 2008. Her presence "unsettles" Democrats, she doesn't stand for anything, and her campaign needs a better manager!
Keep in mind Clinton isn't even a candidate yet. And the general election won't be held for more than 1,000 days. But that hasn't stopped the Beltway press from obsessing over her on a daily basis and routinely detailing all the things wrong with Clinton's would-be run. Because being the dominant would-be Democratic frontrunner and leading all GOP contenders in the polls is suddenly a bad thing?
Well, it's certainly not a good thing:
Politico: Hillary's No Slam Dunk in 2016
The Atlantic: Can Anyone Stop Hillary? Absolutely
National Journal: Why You Shouldn't Pay Attention to Hillary Clinton's Massive 2016 Lead
Can you spot the trend? And can you image the negative tone of the press coverage if Clinton's poll numbers were soft?
Obviously, candidates ought to face media skepticism. And over the last 20 years, few have faced more doubts in the press than Hillary Clinton. But isn't it odd that right now it seems the widely agreed-upon Beltway narrative regarding Clinton is that her possible campaign is already in deep trouble. That's the spin despite the fact that poll after poll puts her in one of the most enviable positions of any potential candidate in modern American history.
Talk about a vast disconnect between the people and the press.
Here's what's curious: Look at the sour assessments that surround the chattering class's Clinton appraisal and then compare that to the last time the Republican Party had a presidential campaign-in-waiting. As is the case with Clinton today, that featured a candidate with global name recognition, a big lead in the primary polls and a seemingly bottomless well of generous donors. That was George W. Bush prior to 2000, and the press had very few doubts about his mission.
"The national news media have built up George W. Bush like a rock star," observed one Florida newspaper columnist in 1999. And that media worship started long before Bush formally declared his candidacy in June of that year. It began in earnest when Bush won a re-election landslide as the governor of Texas in 1998.
Back then, while Bush lurked on the sidelines and gobbled up endorsement and campaign cash prior to his official candidacy, the press was amazed by his good fortune. There was no chronic hand-wringing. Instead, reporters and pundits marveled at Bush's standing and the unmatched infrastructure his team had built.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson dubiously suggested that a Senate report on the Benghazi attack would damage a potential 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton, even while admitting that the report barely mentioned Clinton.
On the January 16 edition of Fox's The Real Story, Carlson asked whether a newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report could potentially damage any 2016 political aspirations for Hillary Clinton. Carlson began her segment by claiming the report means "potential new problems for Hillary Clinton and any White House aspiration she may have." Carlson acknowledged that Clinton "is barely mentioned by name in this report," but she still went on to ask if Clinton will "escape any association" with the attack:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that released the Benghazi findings, has patently denied the report lays any blame on Clinton. In a statement released by her office, Feinstein clarified that the report does not assign "culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy":
Statements on the Senate floor this morning and some media reports about the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report on the attack against our diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, intimate that the report assigns culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy.
This is patently false.
The report approved on a bipartisan basis says no such thing. As a matter of fact, Secretary Clinton is not mentioned a single time in the 58-page bipartisan section of our Benghazi report.
Carlson then went on to rehash the already debunked accusation that Clinton deliberately played a role in dismissing the attack as an act of terror and instead blamed it on protests due to an inflammatory anti-Islam video, saying "Yeah, and maybe her biggest difficulty is the fact that she did still blame it on the videotape days after" some officials allegedly told the Obama administration otherwise.
Carlson failed to note what the Senate report did say about the video's role in the attack. The report indicated that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the intelligence community (IC) received multiple reports of protests, through media accounts, over an anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility. The report goes on to say that it took days for U.S. personnel to determine through eyewitness statements that there were indeed no such protests. Details like this from the Senate report have been repeatedly ignored by Fox while they continued to hammer calls for a further investigation into Benghazi.
Fox News contributor Doug Schoen is the latest media figure to push the false allegation that Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State lacked accomplishments, ignoring her record of achievement.
Hoping to derail a potential Clinton presidential campaign, the GOP and its media allies have begun to attack her record. Some mainstream journalists have followed their example, producing the emerging narrative that Clinton lacked significant achievements at State. This new conventional wisdom is attractive to reporters because the old and accurate conventional wisdom that Clinton was an accomplished Secretary of State "makes for dull copy," as Slate's David Weigel explained.
Earlier this month, Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus detailed the research effort underway to aggressively define what Clinton's "done or hasn't done" in an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt. For his part, Hewitt has spent weeks quizzing political reporters on what Clinton did at State, trying to promote the canard that she was ineffective. Meanwhile, right-wing pundits have been depicting her record at State as an unalloyed detriment, citing a purported lack of successes on the one hand at the pseudoscandal of Benghazi on the other.
This conservative effort is shaping the reporting of more mainstream outlets. An agenda-setting December 8 piece in Politico Magazine drew heavily from dubious conservative sources to promote the storyline that Clinton had been an ineffective Secretary of State, while depicting sources who contradicted the storyline with facts about Clinton's record as engaged in a campaign of spin.
Schoen -- who was a strategist for Bill Clinton in the 1990s but in recent years has largely been known for attacking progressives and promoting corporate interests -- is the latest to push this false narrative. In a December 13 Wall Street Journal column he writes:
Another major obstacle is Mrs. Clinton's foreign-policy record: She can point to no significant accomplishments as secretary of state. Now that her successor, John Kerry, has forged an interim agreement with Iran, good or bad, to limit its nuclear program, questions will inevitably be asked about why Mrs. Clinton failed to achieve anything on that front--or to strike a similar bargain with North Korea or make any progress with the Palestinians and Israelis.
Mrs. Clinton also still faces serious questions about the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. During the 2008 primary campaign, Mrs. Clinton said she was the candidate best equipped to answer the 3 a.m. emergency phone call. Americans will want to know how she answered that call in Libya.
Schoen's reference to Benghazi points to the dishonesty of his argument. While conservatives have spent the last year exploiting the terrorist attacks to smear Clinton, no evidence has emerged to suggest that the Secretary of State was at fault. Contrary to Schoen's suggestion, Clinton has extensively detailed her activities on the night of the attack, including communications with the White House, Pentagon, CIA, Foreign Service officials in Libya, and the president of Libya's National Congress.
With Secretary John Kerry winning plaudits for his diplomacy with regard to Iran, his recent success has had the unfortunate side effect of making journalists and pundits like Schoen bury Clinton's own successes.
On a seemingly never-ending hunt for bad news about Hillary Clinton and her political prospects, the New York Times recently published a front-page article about how the former first lady is busy trying to mend fences between herself and African-Americans, "the constituency that was most scarred during her first bid for the presidency."
Under the headline, "Eye on 2016, Clintons Rebuild Bond With Blacks," the Times claimed the turbulent Democratic primary from 2008 left deep wounds and assumed Hillary Clinton's appearances before black audience this year represented a pointed effort to fix that.
Usually when trying to assess a voting community's perception of a politician or public figure, reporters consult polling data. In this case the Times did not. Certain that Hillary needed to "rebuild" a "bond" with black voters, the Times chose to ignore all the polling data that indicates she currently enjoys extraordinary support among black voters. Indeed, including polling results in the article would have completely undercut the premise. (Why would you "rebuild" a bond that's amazingly strong?)
Instead, the Times omitted any reference to a Quinnipiac poll from this summer that found 88 percent of black voters view her favorably. The Times also ignored the recent NBC/WSJ poll that found in a hypothetical match-up against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Clinton would receive 83 percent of the black vote, versus Christie's four percent. As Political scientist John Sides noted, "Among black voters, any negative feelings about Hillary Clinton were erased long ago."
As for Bill Clinton, a Fox News poll from this year revealed that 90 percent of "non-whites" view the former president favorably.
The Times piece seemed to be little more than an attempt to pick at a five-year old political wound, while glossing over the fact that the abrasion's been healed for years. It was the Times trolling around in search of a conflict and justifying the creation of a dedicated beat devoted to the former secretary of state when, in this case, no conflict exists. (What's next for the daily, a look at how Clinton has to "rebuild" her bond with middle aged women?)
The baffling Times article was just the latest, and perhaps the most egregious, example of a new school of commentary that's cropped up around the Clintons, and specifically around speculation regarding Hillary's presidential plans in 2016. Not content with what-if columns, articles and panel discussions, the press increasingly spends significant time and energy conjuring up what could go wrong if Clinton ran.
Despite Clinton's enviable position with regards to her sky-high name recognition, a proven ability to fundraise, and her strong favorable ratings, the starting point for much of the Clinton coverage lately is She Might Be Doomed. (The New Yorker's Amy Davidson has already declared Clinton's 2016 campaign to be a "predestined" "train wreck.") Does anyone remember two years worth of He Might Be Doomed coverage for George W. Bush when he emerged as the clear Republican front runner well before the 2000 campaign?
That's not to suggest that Clinton is off limits from tough, skeptical coverage and commentary. She's not. But pretending she has to rebuild a relationship that's not broken? That's not skepticism, that's just spin.