The press corps’ marketing scam: Let’s give credit where credit is due!
On Monday, June 23, the Post’s Philip Rucker authored a lengthy front-page report about Hillary Clinton’s troubling gaffes. Her troubling gaffes concerned her wealth, which is also troubling.
The 1800-word poison pen piece ran beneath this headline: “Clinton's rareﬁed life could be a liability in campaign.” Since then, the cub reporter has been pouring it on, delivering Ole Massa’s narrative.
Let’s give credit where credit is due! That very night, Chris Matthews was able to see, and willing to say, that something seemed to be somewhat odd about Rucker’s front-page report. After detailing some of the poison, Matthews said this to Nia-Malika Henderson:
MATTHEWS (6/23/14): Ryan Grim is Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post and Nia-Malika Henderson is the national political reporter with the Washington Post.Already, Matthews was hedging. From that, and from his earlier comments, it wasn’t clear if he was surprised at the Washington Post or at the Democratic aides, most of whom went unnamed, who criticized Clinton in the report, sometimes with startling venom.
Nia, I was looking at the New York Times—I mean, the Washington Post, your paper, this morning. I picked it up. I couldn’t believe this headline about “Some Democrats worry that Clinton’s wealth and imperial, whatever, image could be a problem for 2016.” That’s a strong statement to put on the front page of the newspaper. What do you make of it?
Do the unnamed aides really exist? We have no idea. But Henderson knew how to answer.
Henderson works for the Post—and from MSNBC. For these reasons, she said the newspaper’s conduct had been reasonable—and she acted like the attacks on Clinton had come from the GOP:
HENDERSON (continuing directly): It is. And it’s very timely because here we have had Hillary Clinton over these past couple of days rolling out her book tour, making—now this is the second major gaffe around wealth. She just hasn’t really figured out—even after several tries—hasn’t figured out a way to talk about her wealth.Nice play! In fact, the poison in the Post report had come from two principal sources—it had come from unnamed Obama aides (real or imagined) and from the Post itself.
And we know that Democrats are in a position, and even Republicans, too, where populism is all the rage. There is a lot of concern and talk on the progressive side about income equality. So it’s reasonable, I think, to put this question to Hillary Clinton and figure out if her wealth is going to be a problem for the Democratic Party.
Now, if we flash back to 2004, you remember, John Kerry, he also had something of a problem with his wealth. He was worth something like, what, $200 million because his wife was very wealthy. And you saw from Republicans, their attempts to paint him as French, as a wind-surfing flip-flopper.
And you see them early on trying to the cast Hillary Clinton in a similar way.
Whatever! Matthews threw to Ryan Grim, but only after citing some shaky old tales from past White House campaigns. Grim seemed to see the actual source of the problem, but he didn’t want to judge:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Ryan, this is what we do in politics. You always try to make the other side kind of la-de-dah.To his credit, Matthews seemed to see there was something odd about the early onset of this press corps illness. First, though, he repeated some hoary old tales from past campaigns, tales which may be bogus.
This was done against George Sr. Everybody loves George Sr. now, George Bush Sr. He was— Remember, he said, do you want some coffee? He said, “I will have just a splash.” And people ridiculed him for that. It was so country club.
And he also went to that supermarket. He didn’t know what a modern-day scanner looked like. He ordered some sweat socks. Everything was turned into another example of how he was the late George Apley or somebody, some Yankee who didn’t know what life was like.
So this isn’t just Hillary. But it is awful early to be nailing her this quickly. My thoughts, but what are yours?
GRIM: Right. And once this narrative is set—and once it was set with Bush Sr., the press kept going for it. So, she runs the risk of the press keep coming back to her over and over again on this. And she should probably just stay away from personal narrative here and just stick to inequality policy issues, because it just doesn’t work for her...
Did Bush 41 actually ask for “a splash of coffee?” That seems to be one of about 300 shaky “quotations” Maureen Dowd has invented at various times to clarify White House campaigns. Nor is it clear that Bush was ever mystified by that supermarket scanner, though pundits never stop repeating such tales once they’ve been memorized.
Grim at least seemed to realize that it’s really the press corps which seizes on these “narratives” and never lets them go. That said, he seemed to treat this low-IQ conduct as an immutable fact of life. Rather than criticize the corps, he said Clinton would have to learn how to answer these questions.
Clinton will have to learn how to answer these questions. (It’s amazingly easy to do so.) That said, we were very much struck by the place Matthews went next.
Eventually, Matthews began to act like it’s really the voters’ fault that these silly themes develop. In the process, he seemed to say that he himself is one of “us”—that he’s not like the wealthy Clintons.
We recommend that you watch the tape of what comes next. To our ear, Matthews plainly ends up saying that he’s one of “us” when it comes to the question of wealth:
MATTHEWS: I wonder, Ryan—and I want to get back to Nia on this. But this is basic to our democracy:Just for the record, Matthews is extremely wealthy, apparently with the filthy lucre he gained from a deal with the devil.
Why do people want to be fooled? If they notice that a person is better off than they are and they’re making $200,000 a speech, and they obviously are accumulating some wealth and they have these fabulous degrees like Yale Law behind them and they are able to make this money and be very smart, elected to the Senate from New York, become secretary of state, this amazing success in life, why do they go, why do the people expect them to act like that didn’t happen?
She really didn’t– “Don’t act like you went to Yale Law School! Don’t act like you’re a Rhodes Scholar! Don’t like act you were a senator! Don’t like act you were secretary of state! Pretend you’re like us.”
And then you know it’s a fraud! But why do people want to be victims of fraud? Why do they want them to be like Prince Charles over with New Guineans dancing with them in their native gowns? Why do they want politicians to be frauds? Why don’t we accept them as they are and stop making them like us?
Because I don’t know the answer why we want them to be frauds to us. If she’s a little elitist, let her be a little elitist.
Reportedly, Matthews’ salary went to $5 million in the year 2001. Beyond that, his wife, Kathleen Matthews, holds an upper-end corporate job with Marriott.
Chris Matthews is very wealthy. His summer home, the crib on Nantucket, was purchased in 2004 for $4.4 million—about the price of the Clintons’ two houses combined.
But with these facts, a problem arises. The upper-end “press corps” works very hard to keep us rubes from knowing or thinking about their vast wealth. They want us to think they’re ”just like us,” even as they sell their souls to their corporate owners, as Matthews apparently did with Jack Welch.
The jihad about the Clintons’ wealth turns on this endless scam. Horrible people like Diane Sawyer labor to make themselves seem like “one of us.”
Apparently, these efforts are quite successful. For this reason, multimillionaires are able to go on TV and feign concern about the Clintons’ worrisome wealth. No one seems to notice the oddness of this dance.
Go ahead—watch the tape of Matthews saying that “we” should “accept them as they are and stop making them like us.” Watch him go on to say this:
“I don’t know the answer why we want them to be frauds to us.”
Matthews is very wealthy, as the Clintons are. But even as he defended Hillary Clinton this night (after a decade of gender-laden Hillary-hating), he still seemed to feel that he had to pretend that he isn’t wealthy like them.
This is a remarkable marketing ploy, one the corps has worked for decades. Here’s why we offer these thoughts:
We still want to show you the tag team stylings of Hoover and Hostin, Erin Burnett’s vaudeville team in the matter of Clinton’s wealth.
We thought Hostin really worked it last week. She kept pretending she’s just like us, if not a little bit more so. Burnett was working it too, acting like one of us as opposed to the wealthy Clintons.
Sorry—we weren’t buying the play. Matthews’ claim to be one of “us” offers a bit of background.
Still coming: Hoover and Hostin, with Erin Burnett (reported net worth, $12 million)