For the fifth time, Maureen Dowd recycled an inapt literary analogy comparing Bill and Hillary Clinton to the characters Tom and Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in her July 31 New York Times column.
The comparison has its origins in the phony Whitewater scandal in the mid-1990s, a period when much of the Washington press corps, including the Times, fell prey to an anti-Clinton fever that began with the Clintons' political enemies in the right-wing. Numerous independent investigations, several helmed by Republicans, found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons related to the decades-old land deal, yet the faulty characterization, which originated with columnist Joe Klein, author of a fictional anti-Clinton book, lives on at the Times 18 years later.
Klein's August 6, 1995, column for Newsweek focused on the Senate's Whitewater hearings, which he described as a "scavenger hunt through a sewer" that exposed "the perverse ways of this administration." He concluded with a description of "the most disturbing Whitewater 'revelation'":
It is about the character of the Clintons. They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. The Buchanans, you may recall, were E Scott Fitzgerald's brilliant crystallization of flapper fecklessness in "The Great Gatsby." They were "careless" people. They smashed up lives and didn't notice. After two years, it's become difficult to avoid a distinguishing characteristic of this administration: the body count. Too many lives and reputations have been ruined by carelessness, too many decent people have been forced to walk the plank for trivialities, appearances, changes of mind. Whitewater has been the worst of it.
Four days later, Dowd would pick up the analogy in her Times column:
As with Presidents Nixon and Reagan, the landscape is littered with aides taking the fall. As Joe Klein wrote of the Clintons in Newsweek: "They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. . . . They smashed up lives and didn't notice. . . . How could the First Lady allow her chief of staff to spend $140,000 on legal fees? Why hasn't she come forward and said . . . 'I'll testify.' "
Reacting this week to the news that NBC had announced it's going to produce a four-hour, primetime miniseries dramatizing the political life of Hillary Clinton, Rush Limbaugh dismissed the simmering controversy surrounding the programming decision. Announcing that he was bored of talking about the Clintons, Limbaugh then spent a good chunk of his first hour on Monday's show discussing the Clintons.
Limbaugh insisted the former First Couple amuse him and he mocked the premise of the NBC miniseries; that there's widespread interest in Hillary's life story. The talker insisted that outside of Democratic circles the Clintons are viewed as "jokes."
Indeed, the NBC press release unleashed all kinds of bitter right-wing commentary about Hillary Clinton and the alleged biases that will be in play in the production. (How dare NBC cast a beautiful actress, Diane Lane, to portray Hillary??) The attacks were laced with angry demands that as part of the miniseries, NBC devote all kinds of time exploring the numerous "scandals" that have allegedly plagued Hillary's career, and especially the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic outposts in Benghazi.
Based on 11 months worth of robotic and increasingly fantastic allegations about Benghazi, the Fox crew seems to actually believe that Clinton was part of a nefarious White House plot to let Americans die last September in an effort to secure President's Obama's re-election.
There are any number of ethical questions raised by NBC Entertainment producing a miniseries while NBC News continues to cover the production's topic. None of those questions have to do with whether the final product fails to cover "Cattle Futures-gate."
The indignant denunciations of NBC illustrate just how detached from reality the conservative press has become in terms of how it views Hillary Clinton, and the assumptions conservatives make about her image in America and around the world. (i.e. She's a joke.) Lashing out at NBC, one right-wing blogger claimed the network was "delusional" to think anyone cares about Hillary's life story.
The right-wing media have invested years (decades?) trying to define Hillary Clinton in the most ugly and mean-spirited way possible, and don't seem to understand the futility of their ways.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others really have dedicated incalculable hours trying to permanently brand the former First Lady as an angry, power-hungry hag whose political career has been a colossal failure. And with the allegation of a Benghazi "cover-up," they've tried to portray the former Secretary of State as having American blood on her hands.
That's the caricature of Hillary that the right wing holds near and dear and tries desperately to pretend that everyone else does, too. But the announcement from NBC suggests that portrait of Hillary as a political monster is not widely shared.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is mischaracterizing the aftermath of the September attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in an effort to promote her claim that Hillary Clinton's aides engaged in "obfuscation."
In her May 12 column, Dowd writes that Gregory Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission in Libya during the attacks and testified before Congress May 8, "believes he was demoted because he spoke up" about the Obama administration's characterization of the attacks in a meeting with Beth Jones, an undersecretary of state.
In fact, Hicks' change of position came after he voluntarily decided not to return to Libya; he subsequently testified that the "overriding factor" in that decision was that his family didn't want him to go back. According to the State Department, that decision took him out of the regular cycle in which Foreign Service officers are assigned, resulting in him being placed in a temporary position as a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs. According to State, Hicks retains the same rank and pay, and has submitted a preference list and is under consideration for his next assignment.
Dowd further claimed:
Hillary's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, also called Hicks to angrily ask why a State Department lawyer had not been allowed to monitor every meeting in Libya with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who visited in October. (The lawyer did not have the proper security clearance for one meeting.) Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, has been a rabid Hillary critic on Fox News since the attack. Hicks said he had never before been scolded for talking to a lawmaker.
But Hicks himself never described Mills as angry. In his testimony, Hicks acknowledged that Mills had offered no "direct criticism" of his actions, but cited the "tone and nuance" of Mills' voice during their conversation as indicating she was "unhappy" (Hicks later repeated a congressional Republican's description of Hicks as "upset.")
In painting this as part of a pattern of obfuscation, Dowd also ignored the administration's explanation for why Mills would have wanted a State Department lawyer present for Hicks' meeting with Chaffetz - a State Department official told Dowd's paperthat department policy requires one to be present during interviews for Congressional investigations.
Dowd's commentary follows that of Fox News hosts who have baselessly described Hicks as being "excoriated," "reprimanded," or "punished" by Mills - a characterization promoted by the false frame that Congressional Republicans pushed in their questioning of Hicks.
A member of the independent panel that reviewed the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya is calling attempts by Fox News and congressional Republicans to blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of U.S. personnel "total bullshit."
Fox News has been promoting Republican attacks blaming Hillary Clinton for security cutbacks prior to the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. But Richard Shinnick, a member of the five-person State Department Accountability Review Board that reviewed the Benghazi attacks last fall, says such claims are unfounded.
"Hillary Clinton was never in the loop for that," said Shinnick, a former 27-year foreign services officer. "It just doesn't make any sense to anybody who understands the State Department. They all know that the Secretary of State was never in that chain of responding to Benghazi, it just wasn't so."
On April 25, the Republican chairmen of five House committees released a report that stated Clinton's congressional testimony that she was unaware of requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound was false, citing a cable signed by Clinton that responded to one such request by calling for security cuts. Fox News, which has frequently harped on the Benghazi attack to criticize the Obama administration, quickly promoted the GOP attacks, calling them a "Benghazi Bombshell."
The Republican report specifically criticized the Accountability Review Board for failing to criticize Clinton:
The Board's finding regarding the security decisions in Benghazi, however, was limited to Diplomatic Security professionals and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The Committees' review shows that the leadership failure in relation to security and policy in Benghazi extended to the highest levels of the State Department, including Secretary Clinton.
But Shinnick says the claim that Clinton's signature on the cable indicates her involvement misrepresents how the State Department operates. He said many directives and orders come through that office without the secretary personally reviewing each.
"Every single cable going out is signed 'Clinton,' it is the normal procedure," Shinnick said. "Millions of cables come into the operation center every year, not thousands, millions. And they are all addressed Hillary Clinton."
"So you can make a story that Hillary saw a cable and didn't act on it or sent a cable out; it's all bullshit, it's all total bullshit," Shinnick stressed. "I can't be any clearer than that. I read those stories and fortunately or unfortunately the people on the ARB understood that. If you don't want to believe that, then go chase a story."
Fox & Friends used a 60 Minutes interview to reanimate the Fox smear campaign to relentlessly mock Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and accuse her of fabricating a concussion to get out of testifying before the U.S. Senate about the tragic September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade pointed to Clinton's joint interview on 60 Minutes with President Barack Obama and criticized CBS' Steve Kroft for not digging deeper into Clinton's December health issues. During the interview, Kroft asked Clinton about her health and recovery.
Clinton reportedly suffered a concussion after fainting in December, a result of dehydration. Fox News came under fire after the organization led a campaign to cast doubt on whether Clinton was faking her concussion.
At least most of them aren't snickering about the blood clot.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was recently hospitalized after doctors found a blood clot in her head, a condition that ABC News reported was "potentially 'life-threatening.'" The hospitalization came in the wake of the news in December that Clinton had suffered a concussion after catching a virus, becoming dehydrated, and fainting.
The news of Clinton's blood clot condition simply highlighted the cavalier and uncaring way her critics reacted to the concussion news, insisting it was fabricated to keep her from testifying before Congress about the terrorist attack in Benghazi. But the blood clot disclosure has done little to spark introspection or remorse among her detractors.
Maybe they're still busy laughing about Clinton's head trauma?
It's true. That story was marked by an unusual amount of laughter and merriment among conservatives. It's not often (ever?) that news of a United States cabinet member suffering a concussion elicits widespread delight in partisan media offices. But that's what happened when the State Department revealed the facts about Clinton's condition: right-wing guffaws.
The unhinged concussion response seemed to mark the unofficial return of the Clinton Crazies, that marauding mindset among conservatives who spent the 90's launching endless attacks against the Clintons; vicious and wildly personal attacks that went far beyond partisan debate. (i.e. Accusations of killings and mass murder.)
With Bill Clinton out of office and Hillary Clinton retreating from domestic politics in her role as Secretary of State, the Clinton Crazies temporarily shelved their hate of the former First Couple and focused their misguided attention on President Obama and his family.
But with Hillary Clinton's overseas term coming to an end and growing speculation about her future political plans in America, we're witnessing the unsightly resurrection of the Clinton Crazies, or Clinton Derangement Syndrome. Now there seems to be a conservative competition to see who can be the most offensive while operating under the guise of "political debate."
What else explains the conservative media's decision to treat Clinton's head trauma as being side-splittingly funny? There's something very disturbing about how it coalesced around its strategy to make fun of her health. I'd suggest there's also something very distasteful about gleefully mocking the health of a woman in her mid-sixties.
But boy, Fox News' Laura Ingraham thought the story was a hoot:
Fox News has continued to accuse President Obama of covering up the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, now claiming emails that allegedly linked the attack to a terrorist group challenge the administration's story. But the information being used by Fox appears to be unreliable, proving the point that information released in the middle of an attack needs to be corroborated.
CBS News and other outlets released State Department emails sent during the Benghazi attack, which reported that militia group Ansar al-Sharia had allegedly claimed responsibility. Fox seized on the emails to claim that the administration knew about the group's participation in the raid and therefore was hiding the truth by discussing the influencethat an anti-Islam video had on the raid. To back up the attack, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney appeared on the October 24 edition of America's Newsroom and claimed that "it is unusual for Al Qaeda-related groups to claim responsibility for attacks that they are not involved in":
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton responded to the story in an October 24 press conference, explaining that "[p]osting something on Facebook in and of itself is not evidence." Fox responded by accusing Clinton of "dismissing the significance" of the emails in an on-screen graphic.
But Clinton is right: Terrorist organizations often claim responsibility for attacks they did not commit. In fact, the information linking the attack to the Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia is reportedly wrong.
Today on Your World with Neil Cavuto, guest host Stuart Varney had highlighted pictures of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoying a beer and dancing at a Cartagena bar during a trip to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas. One of Varney's guests, Heritage Foundation's Nile Gardiner launched an attack, claiming that the pictures made Clinton look "as though she's auditioning for the sixth series of Jersey Shore rather than representing America on the world stage as Secretary of State."
This attack was so over the top, it was called out by Republican strategist Dee Dee Beinke, who called out Gardiner's attack as unfair and sexist.
From the August 2 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Terry Krepel, a senior web editor at Media Matters and founder and editor of ConWebWatch, has a great piece up at Huffington Post about the reemergence of the Western Journalism Center. Be sure to check out the entire piece.
Here's just a taste:
How is Barack Obama's birth certificate like Vince Foster?
To answer that, we must go back to the very beginning. After leaving the Sacramento Union in 1991, Joseph Farah and former Union publisher James Smith founded the Western Journalism Center -- under whose aegis Farah later founded WorldNetDaily. (After WND was spun off as a for-profit subsidiary in 1998, the WJC's share of of it was gradually transferred over the years to Farah.)
Farah likes to peddle the story that the WJC was founded "to fill a growing void in my industry's commitment to investigative reporting" and that its "mission was not ideological." In fact, the WJC didn't do all that much actual investigating; its main function was to attack the Clinton administration by promoting conspiracy theories surrounding the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster -- it accepted $330,000 in donations from then-Clinton-hater Richard Mellon Scaife toward that end, and other conservative foundations contributed as well -- and it went dormant as soon as Clinton left office.
Now that there's a Democrat in the Oval Office again, guess who's back?
The first hint of the WJC's resurrection came last August with a WorldNetDaily commentary by Andrea Shea King touting Jerome Corsi's factually dubious anti-Obama book, asserting that the book contains "legitimate questions about Obama that the author meticulously documents in the book's nearly 700 footnotes." The article contained the tagline, "This column was commissioned by the Western Journalism Center."
After undergoing a slight name modification -- it now prefers to call itself the slightly more highfalutin'-sounding Western Center for Journalism -- the WJC website is functional again, if only as a blog linking to other articles trashing President Obama and the so-called "liberal media" in general while offering no original commentary. According to its archives, blog posts began sporadically last September, but the blogging efforts have ramped up over the past few months. All posts thus far are anonymous.
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MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell: "I daresay that if there had been three or four IRS audits of the Clintons' tax returns or all of the Bill Clinton money raising, maybe she still wouldn't be secretary of state."
It's tempting to see this is nothing more than an obnoxious and baseless suggestion that the Clintons are crooked. But it's more than that: it's a stunningly clueless statement, because we would surely know already if the Clintons had failed to pay their taxes.
See, the Clintons have released their tax returns to the public. It was kind of a big deal, with the media -- Andrea Mitchell included -- endlessly clamoring for the returns (and showing no comparable interest in John McCain's.) A big enough deal that it's incomprehensible that a national political reporter like Andrea Mitchell wouldn't know that the Clintons released the returns.
(Thanks to S.P. for the tip.)