The New York Times can’t find the beef: Last Wednesday morning, the New York Times published a nothing-burger.
In fairness, it was a giant nothing-burger. It ran at the top of the paper’s front page. It consumed almost 3000 words. Inside the paper, it was accompanied by a giant Venn diagram which was worth basically nothing.
The big pile of hamburger posed as something resembling an expose concerning the Clinton Foundation. In Sunday’s column, Maureen Dowd treated herself to a small breakdown about it:
DOWD (8/18/13): In a Times article last week headlined ''Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions,'' Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick offered a compelling chronicle about an internal review of the rechristened Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation that illuminated the fungible finances and tensions between Clinton loyalists and the foundation architects [Ira] Magaziner and Doug Band, former bag carrier for President Clinton.“You never hear about problems with Jimmy Carter’s foundation,” Dowd rather comically said, ignoring the reasons for the differential treatment presidential foundations may get.
You never hear about problems with Jimmy Carter's foundation; he just quietly goes around the world eradicating Guinea worm disease. But Magaziner continues to be a Gyro Gearloose, the inept inventor of Donald Duck's Duckburg.
''On one occasion, Mr. Magaziner dispatched a team of employees to fly around the world for months gathering ideas for a climate change proposal that never got off the ground,'' Confessore and Chozick said.
We are supposed to believe that every dollar given to a Clinton is a dollar that improves the world. But is it? Clintonworld is a galaxy where personal enrichment and political advancement blend seamlessly, and where a cast of jarringly familiar characters pad their pockets every which way to Sunday.
As always, it sounded bad, extremely bad, when Dowd described her paper’s latest mountain of burger. But the report she described was a big nothing-burger, right from its headlines on down.
As she started her mandated shrieking, Dowd didn’t note that the “internal review” in question had been conducted by the Clinton foundation itself, in past years. Confessore and Chozick weren’t describing problems they had unearthed at the Clinton foundation. Instead, they were describing minor concerns the Clinton folk had already addressed, as part of their own self-assessments.
How minor were those “problems?” You can get a sense of that from the fuzzy headlines which sat atop the Times’ front-page report:
NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINES (8/14/13):Was that the best they could do? Key point:
Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions/
With Mrs. Clinton’s Arrival, an Urge to Focus
If the worst thing you can headline is “unease,” you aren’t discussing misconduct or scandal. As usual, Dowd fooled many Times readers on Sunday with her repellent, ridiculous column. But the report she was busy distorting was, for the most part, a great big sack of filler.
It didn’t rise to the level of burger! It was full of hamburger helper, as in this disturbing passage about—well, you can try to figure out what the highlighted passage concerns:
CONFESSORE AND CHOZICK (8/14/13): Last year, the foundation and two subsidiaries had revenues of more than $214 million.Four years ago, the foundation purchased one first-class plane ticket! When she arrived at the meeting in question, its bearer had brought her pet dog!
Yet the foundation's expansion has also been accompanied by financial problems. In 2007 and 2008, the foundation also found itself competing against Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign for donors amid a recession. Millions of dollars in contributions intended to seed an endowment were diverted to other programs, creating tension between Mr. Magaziner and Mr. Band. The foundation piled up a $40 million deficit during those two years, according to tax returns. Last year, it ran more than $8 million in the red.
Amid those shortfalls, the foundation has sometimes catered to donors and celebrities who gave money in ways that raised eyebrows in the low-key nonprofit world. In 2009, during a Clinton Global Initiative gathering at the University of Texas at Austin, the foundation purchased a first-class ticket for the actress Natalie Portman, a special guest, who brought her beloved Yorkie, according to two former foundation employees.
When you read passages like that, you have entered the special preserve from which the crackpots at the Times stage breakdowns about the Clintons. (The paper’s breakdowns about Al Gore have largely ended, though they could start up again at any time.) And by the way:
If a foundation takes in $214 million in a certain year, are we supposed to get upset if it runs an $8 million deficit for that particular year? In this report, financial data seem somewhat selective. We’re told about a few years where deficits occurred, but we aren’t told about all the other years.
When Bill Clinton replied to the claims and insinuations on this topic, the Times relegated that to a blog post, in its typical fashion.
Go ahead, we dare you—read this lengthy report! You’ll be inhaling a mountain of nothing, the equivalent of a triple Whopper larded all the fixings:
You’ll read that the Clinton foundation has decided to create an endowment, so it won’t be over-reliant on Bill Clinton’s energetic fund-raising.
You’ll read that the foundation has decided to hire a director who lives in New York, instead of Bruce Lindsey, who worked from Arkansas.
You’ll read about “efforts to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts”—efforts which were undertaken in past years as part of the foundation’s self-regulation. Most strikingly, you’ll read all kinds of ridiculous stupidshit of this type:
CONFESSORE AND CHOZICK: [O]thers criticized Mr. Magaziner, who is widely seen within the foundation as impulsive and lacking organizational skills. On one occasion, Mr. Magaziner dispatched a team of employees to fly around the world for months gathering ideas for a climate change proposal that never got off the ground. Another time, he ignored a report—which was commissioned at significant expense from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company—on how the foundation could get involved in forestry initiatives.Can you follow the twists and the turns in these revelations? Hang on:
Mr. Magaziner's management style and difficulty keeping projects within budget were also raised in discussions that surrounded the 2011 Simpson Thacher review. (One person who attended a meeting with Mr. Magaziner recalled his lying on a conference room table in the middle of the meeting because of terrible back spasms, snapping at a staff member.)
Mr. Band repeatedly urged Mr. Clinton to fire Mr. Magaziner, according to people briefed on the matter. Mr. Clinton refused, confiding in aides that despite Mr. Magaziner's managerial weaknesses, he was a visionary with good intentions.
Band thought Magaziner should be replaced. Bill Clinton didn’t agree!
On one occasion, Magaziner initiated a project which didn’t get off the ground. (Dowd thought this one alleged event was such a big deal that she featured the quote.)
On another occasion, Magaziner didn’t agree with the advice of an outside consultant! One other time, he had terrible back spasms—and he even snapped at an assistant!
Who except the New York Times publishes bullshit like this? If a restaurant tried to serve this shit as hamburger, its license would be lifted by local food inspectors.
There’s nothing in that front-page report, from its fuzzy headlines down. It did allow the New York Times to place the word “Clinton” above the fold, and to engage in the cultural lunacy it has displayed since its first (bungled) front-page Whitewater reports, which it has never explained.
Can we talk? In recent weeks, this clownish imitation newspaper has been serving its sickened readers a steady diet of weiner. But the mystery meat it most loves to serve carries a brand name: “Clinton.”
The paper loves to peddle this shit; when it does, it sets Dowd screaming. Tomorrow, we’ll look at a few of her characterizations. But for today, just try this:
Go ahead! Set aside an hour or two and fight your way through that lengthy front-page groaner. As you do, remember to ask Clara Peller’s question:
Where’s the beef?
There’s nothing wrong with that front-page report, aside from the fact that it’s crammed full of filler. Go ahead, read that ginormous report! One warning:
Unless you're a student of journoscam, you’ll largely be wasting your time.
Tomorrow: And Sullivan too!