Clinton Email Story Gets Worse

For the New York Times, that is. Former Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, author of one of the best investigative books I’ve ever read (Conspiracy of Fools)’ writing for Newsweek, starts out his opinion piece by cutting directly to the point:

What the hell is happening at The New York Times?

Seems like a fair question to me. After recounting the history of the Times’ fixation with the Clintons, Eichenwald takes their latest reporting to task in brutal fashion.

Indeed, if the Times article is based on the same documents I read, then the piece is wrong in all of its implications and in almost every particular related to the inspector generals’ conclusions. These are errors that go far beyond whether there was a criminal referral of Clinton’s emails or a criminal referral at all. Sources can mislead; documents do not.

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In terms of journalism, this is terrible. That the Times article never discloses this is about an after-the-fact review of Clinton’s emails conducted long after she left the State Department is simply inexcusable. That this all comes from a concern about the accidental release of classified information—a fact that goes unmentioned—is even worse. In other words, the Times has twisted and turned in a way that makes this story seem like something it most decidedly is not. This is no Clinton scandal. It is no scandal at all. It is about current bureaucratic processes, probably the biggest snooze-fest in all of journalism.

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our hyper-partisan world, many people will not care about the truth here. That the Times story is false in almost every particular—down to the level of who wrote what memo—will only lead to accusations that people trying to set the record straight are pro-Hillary. I am not pro-Hillary. I am, however, pro-journalism. And this display of incompetence or malice cannot stand without correction.

And to other reporters: Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicable Times story was neither.

Go read the rest. Bad journalism doesn’t do justice to what we’re dealing with here. It’s out and out misrepresentation and lying. By the New York Times.

Welcome back to the ’90s, folks. It’s gonna be a long 15 months.

Clinton Rules Revisited

I feel like I’m reliving the 1990s. That big New York Times story about the criminal probe of Hillary Clinton and her private email account? Turns out it was wrong, wrong, wrong. And who pointed it out? Freaking Politico! How embarrassing is THAT?

The New York Times made small but significant changes to an exclusive report about a potential criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s State Department email account late Thursday night, but provided no notification of or explanation for of the changes.

The paper initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.”
That clause, which cast Clinton as the target of the potential criminal probe, was later changed: the inspectors general now were asking for an inquiry “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”

That whole passive voice/active voice thing is kind of tricky.

See, here’s the deal. Certain of the documents that have now classified were not categorized that way when they were received by Hillary Clinton. They were later determined to be classified. So it’s bizarre to accuse her of mishandling classified documents, much less to consider prosecuting her over them.

But facts have never gotten in the way of the Times when it comes to the Clintons. For those too young to remember, there’s one set of rules for journalism, but when it comes to the Clintons, there’s a whole set of different rules - literally, a set of Clinton Rules. I’ll let Paul Krugman explain, from earlier this year:

So there’s a lot of buzz about alleged scandals involving the Clinton Foundation. Maybe there’s something to it. But you have to wonder: is this just the return of “Clinton rules”?

If you are old enough to remember the 1990s, you remember the endless parade of alleged scandals, Whitewater above all — all of them fomented by right-wing operatives, all eagerly hyped by mainstream news outlets, none of which actually turned out to involve wrongdoing. The usual rules didn’t seem to apply; instead it was Clinton rules, under which innuendo and guilt by association were considered perfectly OK, in which the initial suggestion of lawbreaking received front-page headlines and the subsequent discovery that there was nothing there was buried in the back pages if it was reported at all.

This is why I’ve been dreading the arrival of the 2016 campaign - first with the Clinton Foundation non-story and now with the emails, the Clinton Rules are back. Like a bad acid trip (not that I speak with any experience, mind you, but so I’ve heard), the worst of the ’90s is being played out again 20 years later.

This was no innocent mistake, I assure you, but the mindset of a reporter and of a newspaper that wants to prove once and for all that it was right about those uppity Arkansas hillbillies the first time around. They were wrong then, and they’re being dangerously wrong now. At least this time, there’s a left wing infrastructure to fight back swiftly and immediately. The lesson seems to have been learned the hard way 20 years ago.  The real crime would be in letting it happen the same way again.

NYT - 1990s Redux?

One of my great fears about the 2016 election is that national media outlets like the New York Times decide to reprise their roles from the 1990s in terms of their coverage of the Clintons. Some of you out there in reader land aren’t old enough to remember Whitewater, and impeachment, and Lewinsky, and the role the Times and other “mainstream” media played in hyping up stories that turned out to be pretty well nothing.

It’s already happening again, as I see it. The Clinton Foundation stories, the email server, Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi! I’m not saying that there’s nothing to discuss, but those tut-tutting the most about “OMG what are those enormous fees for? Are they buying access to the White House?” have shown little interest in actual corruption on the GOP side, where even larger amounts of money change hands for actual influence in actual policy.

Today, I picked up the latest New York Review of Books, which arrived in my mailbox earlier this week. More evidence. Michael Tomasky, reviewing right wing ideologue Peter Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash, toward the end makes an interesting detour into why the Times and others hate the Clintons. And it isn’t their politics. In fact, it isn’t even any facts at all. It’s snobbery, pure and simple.

But at bottom, there seems to be a feeling—and I am talking here about the mainstream, even “liberal,” media, not conservative outlets—that the Clintons play by their own rules and keep getting away with one thing or another. Washington is a city of custom, and the permanent class of insiders who live here have fashioned a certain set of rules for all who come here to live by, and the Clintons have never really lived by those rules. In 1998, after the Lewinsky story broke and polls showed majorities favoring resignation or impeachment if he lied under oath, Bill Clinton said, “Well, we’ll just have to win, then.” He was breaking the rules. And he did win, because the public didn’t find a sexual liaison to be an impeachable offense and because the economy was blazing. This outcome infuriated the keepers of the conventional wisdom.

The New York Times is worth keeping an eye on here. It will endorse Hillary Clinton when the time comes, but the far more important question is how it will use its news pages to write about her between now and then. It was shocking that the Times based a piece on Clinton Cash, a book with an obvious political motive that was written by a former adviser to Republican politicians, some very right-wing. The paper that pushed the Whitewater story hard in 1992 and in 1998 ran a series of editorials calumniating Bill Clinton and praising prosecutor Ken Starr is now apparently prepared to continue in that tradition. In recent weeks, the Times has published two more articles along these lines, one about Hillary’s brother Tony Rodham, and another about Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal. Whether it will devote similar resources to scrutinizing Jeb Bush or other prospective Republican nominees seems a fair question.

Keep this in mind as we go forward. Today brings yet more evidence, criticism that Hillary Clinton is going to run pretty much the Obama campaign, rallying the liberal base of the party, and focusing on those states that are needed to win. This apparently has raised the ire of red state Democrats, who feel left out. Plus, it gives the Times the ability to lament the lack of focus on the all purpose media straw man, the “undecided voter.” Translation: Hillary won’t appeal to conservative rural white voters, who are the “real Americans” that Democrats must have to win.

This early in the campaign, however, forgoing a determined outreach effort to all 50 states, or even most of them, could mean missing out on the kind of spirited conversation that can be a unifying feature of a presidential election. And it could leave Mrs. Clinton, if she wins, with the same difficulties Mr. Obama has faced in governing with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Apparently, “winning” the election isn’t enough anymore, it had to be done the way the guardians of our public morality want it done. And oh, by the way, does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton went to, say, North Dakota or West Virginia, that would actually make a difference to anything at all? Somehow this candidate is being burdened with the responsibility not just of winning, but of doing it in the approved manner.

But the nadir is reached here:

A larger risk of a tailored strategy is that by taking advantage of polarization, a candidate could lose some of the authority that comes from the civic exercise of appealing to much of the nation.

“The president is the one person who potentially could be the unifying figure in the country,” said H. W. Brands, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin. “And if the president or a presidential candidate basically writes off 40 states, then how in the world do the people in those 40 states feel like they have a stake in that person or that election?”

I wish this was the worst it was gonna get, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

Gosh, I never felt like I had any stake in either Bush presidency, or Reagan’s. Wonder why that is? Oh, wait, because they ran and got elected and governed for the benefit of conservative voters! And I was told over and over again that “elections matter.” But somehow when Democrats win, there’s always an asterisk, a reason for Republicans to resist and fight and for Democrats to just accept it.

This blog post makes the point better and more calmly than I have. Alas, I didn’t see it until after I was just about done ranting. So read mine, then read Erik Loomis.

In the end, for all that Beltway pundits want to believe that Democrats convincing white conservatives to vote for them is the only strategy to victory because they are the real Americans, it’s just not the case. Hillary (or hey, maybe Bernie!) wins by motivating the base, focusing on winning necessary close states where they have inherent advantages, and maybe pressing to expand the map to North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia while holding on to Wisconsin and Ohio and Virginia. If I thought Hillary campaigning in Louisiana would actually lead to Democratic downticket victories there, I’d support it. But I just don’t see it. Better to focus on high voter turnout among the base. 

Sing it, brother. Amen.