Part 2—Gregory starts to explain: If Hillary Clinton runs for president, is she “destined to get horrible coverage?”
We can’t answer that question, although events of the past few months make it a plausible theory. So do events of the past several decades, as David Gregory, and other insiders, mumblingly noted last week.
Let’s start at the beginning! Last Tuesday, Mika Brzezinski introduced a segment on Morning Joe about Clinton’s White House prospects. Needless to say, she also discussed Clinton’s troubling wealth, then asked a stupid question:
BRZEZINSKI (7/22/14): Meanwhile, a new study by Bloomberg shows that Clinton earned at least $12 million since she stepped down in February of last year. That figure includes the advance from her new memoir along with speaking fees which are said to command 200 grand per appearance.Say what? Was Mika kidding? As everyone knows, Clinton doesn’t donate all her fees to the Clinton Foundation. We can’t tell you why Brzezinski pretended she didn’t know that.
I’m curious about these numbers. All the fees go to the Clinton Foundation? Some of them?
But in response to that silly question, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin began to outline his theory about the way Clinton will be covered if she runs for the White House. If you care which party holds the White House, you ought to be concerned by his views:
HALPERIN (continuing directly): They’re not totally transparent, but a lot of them do. But some critics say, you know, they control the foundation.According to Halperin, Clinton has “lost control of [the way] the media’s covering her.” This was the start of a theory he laid out in two different segments on Morning Joe last week.
She’s lost control of her public image. It’s the worst thing that can happen to somebody thinking of running for president and it’s a time when she should be in command. She had a book tour, she can control the message. Her operation is playing defense on a lot of stories. And it’s fine—she can recover from it. But right now, she’s lost control of how people are thinking about her, how the media’s covering her.
If you care which party holds the White House, we think Halperin’s theory is well worth considering—is well worth considering now. We also think you should consider the way two panels of big-name journalists reacted to his assertions.
This morning, we’ll lay out Halperin’s theory in full, exactly as it was expressed on those Morning Joe programs. We’ll also review a reaction from David Gregory, kingpin of Meet the Press.
For now, let’s return to last Tuesday’s program.
After Halperin made the statements we've posted, Willie Geist Jr. jumped in with a typical Willie Geist question. In response, Halperin fleshed out his views:
GEIST (continuing directly): Would it have been better, in hindsight, if Hillary Clinton had not written this book and gone out on a book tour? Because look where she was when she was out of the fray. No one was talking about her in terms of politics, just in terms of how she’d done as secretary of state.Whatever his various merits may be, Geist is the Peck’s Good Boy of the celebrity press corps. According to Geist, things would go fine for Hillary Clinton if she just wouldn’t write any books or make any public appearances.
She’d have less money. That’s true.
HALPERIN: I think so. I think on balance it’s pretty clear that the timing of the book, the way the book went for her political aspirations, wasn’t a good thing.
But she has a lot of positive attributes that are currently just being overwhelmed by all this negative coverage. And it’s going to keep going. The momentum—there’s, there’s— The press loves to cover her hard.
As he ended, Geist threw in a snide remark about Clinton’s quest for money. That is the very narrative to which Halperin was referring when he cited the way the press corps is covering Clinton.
Whatever! As he replied to the Geist, Halperin further defined his theory:
The “negative coverage” of Clinton is “going to keep going,” he said. “The press loves to cover her hard.”
Is that true? Does the national press corps “love to cover her hard?” Halperin was alleging gross misconduct on the part of the national press. As we’ll see, he extended this theory three days later, also on Morning Joe.
Is it true? Does the national press “love to cover Clinton hard?” At this point, insider pundit Mike Barnacle jumped in—and quite clearly, Barnacle seemed to agree with this general claim. At the same time, he seemed completely baffled as to the reasons why he and his colleagues cover Clinton in this negative manner.
Tomorrow, we’ll review the silly, disingenuous exchanges Barnacle generated, with help from the Washington Post’s equally puzzled Gene Robinson. For today, let’s skip ahead three days, to last Friday’s Morning Joe, where Halperin extended his theory about Hillary Clinton’s press coverage.
Three days had passed, and Mika Brzezinski was discussing Clinton’s prospects again. She quoted something Clinton had said, then threw to Halperin.
In response to Brzezinski’s toss, Halperin made his most dramatic prediction:
BRZEZINSKI (7/25/14): Former secretary of state and possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is admitting she may have some work to when it comes to media relations. Clinton has frequently clashed with the press, including during her 2008 presidential campaign and her recent book tour.Halperin completed his theory, making a startling prediction. Unless Clinton can change the way she’s being covered, she is “destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president.”
Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson said she believed the former first lady expected the press, especially female journalists, to be loyal to her. And now Hillary Clinton is responding, saying, quote:
“I think maybe one of the points Jill was making is that I do sometimes expect perhaps more than I should and I’ll have to work on my expectations. But I had an excellent relationship with the State Department press that followed me for four years and enjoyed working with them, and whatever I do in the future, I look forward to having the same kind of opportunities.”
Mark Halperin, your thoughts.
HALPERIN: Well, I don't ever like to overstate the media's role, but the media has a pretty big role in the presidential process. I think she's talking about what is the most important issue determining whether she'll be president right now. She'll raise the money, she’ll have policy positions. She needs to find a way—we talked about this the other day—to change the narrative about how she's being covered.
Right now, she's destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president.
Rather plainly, Halperin said this horrible coverage could cause Clinton to lose the race. If you care which party holds the White House, you ought to be concerned about this prediction.
Is Clinton “destined to get horrible coverage?” The theory is perfectly plausible, as events of the past two months, and the past few decades, make abundantly clear.
Events of the past few decades? At this point, Brzezinski threw to David Gregory. Below, you see what Gregory said about Halperin’s theory:
HALPERIN: Right now, she's destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president.Instantly, Gregory said the situation “goes back a long time.” And uh-oh! Rather quickly, he suggested a link to Clinton’s alleged “open disdain for a lot of the media culture and members of the media.”
BRZEZINSKI: So how did that happen, David Gregory?
GREGORY [chuckles]: You know, I mean I just think this goes back a long time. One of the downsides to being in the public eye as a political figure for so long is that there's just a lot of baggage associated with that, that goes back now twenty-plus years. And relationships and views about the press and situations you've been in, I think that's very difficult to get out from under.
I think there's always been, if you go back to her presidential runs, what has surrounded her is the idea that she’s this formidable and perhaps unstoppable force. And I think the media will always look to kind of pick that apart, especially if there’s vulnerability and if you don't live up to expectations. I think that's part of what happened in 2008.
And I think if you don't make—if there's open disdain for a lot of the media culture, and members of the media, you're not able to kind of forge new relationships. I think the only way that can change is if there's a real effort to sort of, to sort of create new relationships.
And I think there, I mean, I think there was a kind of a deft comment, which is almost like, you know, “I'm sorry I care so much—”
BRZEZINSKI: Oh, my gosh!
GREGORY: “I'm sorry my expectations are so high,” you know, that they’ll never be met.
We don’t know why Gregory seemed to think that Clinton has made previous “runs” for the White House (plural). But we were struck by his instant reference to that alleged “open disdain.”
Some of what Gregory said this day made perfect sense. In the statement quoted by Brzezinski, Clinton did display her political tin ear, in something like the way Gregory burlesqued.
Clinton knows a lot about matters of substance. This has been clear in recent weeks in the TV interviews where she was asked about the affairs of the world.
In sessions with the likes of Diane Sawyer, she tended to reveal a shortfall in the realm of deft/glib political speech.
Having said that, let us also say this: By the laws of the upper-class press corps, you are not allowed to display anything like an open disdain for members of the media or their wonderful media culture. If the lords and ladies think you’ve done that, you will almost surely be treated in predictable ways.
The situation in question goes back a long ways, the chuckling Gregory said. Three days earlier, Halperin had made a similar statement to Brzezinski.
Most of the pundits on these programs seemed to agree that Halperin was talking about an actual state of affairs. They seemed to agree that Hillary Clinton does receive negative coverage.
That raises an obvious question: Why? Tomorrow, we’ll show you a very familiar manifestation:
Does Clinton get tons of negative coverage? With Mike Barnacle taking the lead, we’ll show you the way these disingenuous pundit panels pretended they really can’t explain why this problem exists.
Is Clinton “destined to get horrible coverage?” For two years, Candidate Gore did get horrible coverage. It led to a very bad end.
If you care which party holds the White House, we think you should be concerned by Halperin’s prediction of more to come. You also ought to be concerned by the silly faux behavior of major millionaire inside players like Robinson, Barnacle, Mika.
They can never explain their own misbehavior. Or at least so they pretend.
Tomorrow: Thoroughly baffled, Barnacle throws to Pace!
To watch these Morning Joe discussions: Last week, Morning Joe panels staged two discussions of Clinton’s press coverage.
For our money, Mike Barnacle was the star of last Tuesday’s discussion. We’ll discuss his clowning tomorrow. To watch that whole segment, click here.
On Friday, Mark Halperin made a startling prediction—and Gregory discussed the Clintons’ “open disdain for media culture.”
David said more than the law allows. To watch that full segment, click this.