Part 3—Insiders can’t figure it out: Last week, on two different Morning Joe programs, Mark Halperin delivered a stinging indictment of the mainstream press corps.
For background, see yesterday’s post.
Halperin is a major insider. He understands the insider press. He knows the other insiders.
But uh-oh! According to Halperin, Hillary Clinton “is destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president,” at least as matters stand.
“The press loves to cover her hard,” Halperin memorably said.
As Halperin voiced his full indictment on last Tuesday’s Morning Joe, he even said what follows. He was responding to a question from a thoroughly baffled insider:
HALPERIN (7/22/14): The press loves to cover her hard. The momentum is all against her right now.The Clintons “are held to a different standard,” Halperin alleged. A deeply puzzled Mika Brzezinski basically seemed to agree. (To watch this whole segment, click here.)
BARNACLE: Why is that, Mark?
HALPERIN: About the press?
BARNACLE: Yeah. [Chuckling]
HALPERIN: The Clintons have tried to figure that out for several decades. I don’t know. But they’re just—
HALPERIN: They’re held to a different standard. Look, you could go scrutinize the personal wealth of a lot of other people thinking of running for president. But it’s just not happening now.
Is it true that Halperin “doesn’t know” why this double standard exists? We’ll guess the gentleman could have said more this day.
That said, Halperin described gross misconduct on the part of the mainstream press during last week’s discussions. And how odd! None of the other major pundits really seemed to disagree with the claims he was making. They just couldn’t seem to explain their own long-standing conduct!
What was Halperin claiming? According to Halperin, a major American politician is likely to receive “horrible coverage” if she runs for the White House. On last Friday’s Morning Joe, he plainly implied that this “horrible coverage” might well get her defeated.
And not only that! Halperin seemed to say that this politician—and her husband, a former president—have been held to this “different standard” for “several decades” now! The press corps “loves to cover her hard,” this major insider said.
Different people will assess these claims in different ways. We’d say those claims have a lot of merit—especially if you add in the “horrible coverage” extended for two solid years to Candidate Gore, Bill Clinton’s chosen successor in Campaign 2000.
The era of Whitewater pseudo-scandals? The lunatic coverage of Candidate Gore? The misogynist trashing of “Nurse Ratched/Evita Person” in the 2008 Democratic primaries?
These manifestations all emerged from the mainstream press corps, more than from the RNC or the “right-wing noise machine.” The same is true of the current jihad about Hillary Clinton’s deeply troubling speaking fees, a jihad which jumped from the Washington Post to Maureen Dowd’s latest name-calling screed.
Have the Clintons been held to a “different standard” for “several decades” now? Is Hillary Clinton “destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president?”
Different people will assess those claims in different ways. But please note this very important point:
None of the major insiders on Morning Joe seemed to dispute what Halperin said! Instead, they did what they always do when their conduct is called into question. The pundits began to shuffle along, scratching their heads and puzzling hard about the reasons for their own long-standing behavior.
We first described this conduct in 1999, when Howard Kurtz asked two panels of pundits to explain the trashing which was being delivered to Candidate Gore. (That trashing soon got worse.) Last week, this same shambolic, baffled behavior was acted out by the master thespians on these Morning Joe programs.
Let’s start with the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson. Last Tuesday, Brzezinski turned to him first after Halperin delivered his accusations.
Poor Mika! As she began, she offered a ridiculous thought about what Clinton should have said about her speaking fees. (We’ll offer that ridiculous text before the week is done.) At that point, she threw to Robinson.
What explains the Clinton coverage? Without disputing the claim of the double standard, this major insider quickly fell into the passive voice. He seemed to be completely puzzled by the Clinton coverage—by the coverage from his own colleagues over the past twenty years:
ROBINSON (7/22/14): You know, it is kind of ironic, the scrutiny of the Clintons’ personal finances. You know, they—she was born to not great wealth, but she was comfortable growing up, but not fantastically wealthy or anything.“Yet, they’re the Clintons,” Robinson said, implying that the double standard actually does exist.
The Clintons have worked very hard and have made a lot of money and that’s supposed to be something I thought that people respected and admired. It’s the American way. Yet, they’re the Clintons. And you know, if you look up the phrase “lightning rod” in the dictionary, I suspect you see pictures of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Indeed, if you look up “lightning rod” in the dictionary, you’ll see photos of the Clintons! So this insider said.
In this way, a master dissembler completed a practiced dodge. According to Halperin, it’s Robinson’s own insider cohort which has made “lightning rods” out of the Clintons. It’s Robinson’s colleagues and friends who hold them to that different standard.
Robinson never addressed that claim in his weirdly halting remarks. Instead, he acted like a baffled visitor from a distant preserve. He observed the oddness of the coverage, but made no attempt to explain it. He seemed to have no idea why the Clintons are “lightning rods.”
Make no mistake—Robinson was dissembling. In June 1999, he was editor of the Washington Post’s Style section. Under his guiding hand, the Post ran three mocking profiles of Candidate Gore that month, timed to coincide with the formal announcement of his candidacy.
His owners wanted Gore covered that way; Robinson provided the coverage. This helped make him the major insider he is today—a man who gets to go on TV and scratch his head and baldly dissemble in defense of the guild.
Mike Barnacle emerged from the clown car next. His clowning was even more perfect.
First, a quick bit of background:
Barnacle has been a major pundit insider since the dawn of time. He was already a major cable presence in November 2000, when he worriedly said that his worried grandchildren needed Candidate Gore to drop his Florida challenge.
Barnacle has been a major insider for decades. He knows all the other insiders. If the Clintons have been treated in the manner described, he would surely have an insight into why this has occurred.
Barnacle speaks from within the tent—but on this day, he clowned. Even as he extended Halperin’s portrait, he threw to Julie Pace, a youngish AP reporter (Northwestern class of 2004), asking her to explain the conduct of his own insider guild.
Mika seemed thoroughly baffled too, a stance she adopts with great ease. In what follows, you see world-class clowning by a pair of master dissemblers:
BARNACLE (continuing directly): Julie, I don’t want to put you on the spot. You know, you’re a reporter. And I don’t want to really put you on the spot...You’re looking at world-class dissembling. Let’s get clear on what was said in that absurd exchange.
But I’m wondering if you have any sense of why, or how, everything about Hillary Clinton, in terms of media coverage—That’s us! That’s you and me, it’s Mark, it’s Willie, it’s Mika—seems to have like a negative—
BRZEZINSKI: Twist, yeah!
BARNACLE: —note contained in it.
In that passage, Barnacle and Brzezinski accept and extend the general thrust of Halperin’s withering portrait. Barnacle even goes so far as to name the people who keep introducing a “negative note” to all the coverage of Clinton.
Who introduces the “negative note” to all the Clinton coverage? According to Barnacle, Willie Geist does it, and so does Mika. Halperin does it, Barnacle claims—and so does Barnacle himself!
Mika seemed to agree with this general notion. When Barnacle paused in his assessment, she threw in the idea that major pundits introduce a negative “twist” whenever they discuss Clinton.
Rather plainly, these insiders were agreeing with Halperin’s withering portrait. Rather plainly, they seemed to agree that they themselves have covered the Clintons in this constant “negative” way.
But how odd! Rather than explain his own conduct, Barnacle threw to Pace, a young reporter for the AP who isn’t a major insider. Sidestepping in a practiced manner, he asked Pace if she could explain why he and his cohort have behaved in this way for the past several decades.
Tomorrow, we’ll show you what Pace said, for which she was applauded. For today, we want you to focus on the world-class dissembling by the old white guy, the admirable black guy and the upwardly striving, equality-seeking woman.
All the insider press corps “types” came spilling out of the clown car this day. When they did, they dumped their baggage on Pace.
No one disputed Halperin’s portrait. But as always, the pundits pretended that they were baffled by their own decades of misconduct. We described this very same pundit behavior in the fall of 1999.
These are deeply dishonest players. They’ve played this game for decades now.
Through their clowning, they seek to let their guild maintain its control of the national discourse. When in the world will liberals insist that this clownish dissembling must stop?
Tomorrow: Pace is applauded
To watch these Morning Joe discussions: Last week, Morning Joe panels staged two discussions of Hillary Clinton’s press coverage.
Last Tuesday’s discussion featured Barnacle’s clowning—and his throw to Julie Pace. To watch that full segment, click this.
On Friday, Halperin said that Hillary Clinton “is destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president.”
How long do liberals plan to accept this? To watch that whole segment, click here.