Maureen Dowd gobbles the big nothingburger!


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; 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.
“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.

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:
Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions/
With Mrs. Clinton’s Arrival, an Urge to Focus
Was that the best they could do? Key point:

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.

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.
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!

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.

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.
Can you follow the twists and the turns in these revelations? Hang on:

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!


  1. "Unless you're a student of journoscam, you'll largely be wasting your time."

    And reading a 41-paragraph post on this " pile of hamburger" wouldn't?

    1. No.

      But counting Somerby's paragraphs, now that... well, maybe it isn't a waste of *your* time, "Matty Cooper" -- I have no idea how you value your time.

      Well, actually, we now do have some idea. And it's saddening.

    2. "we now do have some idea."

      You have a weasel in your pocket? And is your weasel sad too?

    3. So tell me. Exactly how long does it take to count 41 paragraphs?

  2. If you feel like you are wasting your time here, you know what to do.

    1. Are you a mind-reader or something? And who are you to tell another commenter to shove off?

    2. Matty Cooper says "And reading a 41-paragraph post on this "pile of hamburger" wouldn't?" -- wouldn't be a waste of time (from the preceding sentence).

      If a commenter here considers reading Somerby's posts a waste of time, he or she is welcome to shove off. It doesn't take mind-reading to parse a sentence.

      Who are you, and the rest of the scum who regularly tell Somerby to sit down and shut up? Who is Matty? Who is lower case guy? If you have nothing to contribute in comments except to tell Bob to get a life, we don't need you to add clutter and waste the time of everyone else here, who does care about what journalists do with the limited space they are allotted to serve a public purpose.

      Shove off yourself.

    3. Anon@357: how Bob's new posse rolls.

    4. @3:57. . . i see myself referenced here. i was very annoyed when i was neglected, a dozen or so posts back, unlike ppp and trollmes, who were singled out for derision -- but with no mention made of me. im grateful god gave me the sense to think for myself and i thank you for giving me my due -- that im not a sycophant.

  3. OK, OK, OK. But any girl who references Gyro Gearloose and Duckburg in the same column is the girl for me. WAK! Baby, WAK!

  4. Personally, I passed on reading the "Unease" article last week and I'll trust TDH that there's nothing meaningful there.

    But looking forward, the media coverage of Hillary Clinton's campaign (and TDH will eventually admit that her campaign has begun) will not be entirely favorable. So what? I'll grant that the recent NYT article is a "nothingburger," but why should I care? Doesn't TDH have to offer some reason to care about Hillary Clinton's campaign for any of this to matter? What is the big issue where she will make a difference?

    I supported HRC in the 2008 election, but it's hard to see now that there's any important area where she would make a stand different from any other mainstream DLC-type Democrat. If there's a candidate not beholden to the many, many supporters of her family foundation, that would seem to be a plus...

  5. The NYT interns are restless.

  6. "Tomorrow: And Sullivan too!"

    >>> seeing this i laughed thinking it read "ann sullivan".

    what ridiculous theory was somerbys sick-with-hate mind going to come up with?

    "like ann sullivan, americans of irish catholic heritage possess a preternatural ability to connect with people but being deathinlife zombies they can only use it for evil. sure sullivan did help keller out but she was solely motivated by a sadistic desire to dominate the per girl. any good done was incidental."

    1. "americans of irish catholic heritage possess a preternatural ability to connect with people but being deathinlife zombies they can only use it for evil"

      You're trying to show us that somebody *else* is sick?