THE WAY WE ARE: Cillizza fails to respond!


Part 2—Classic press corps behavior:
Let’s return to yesterday’s question:

Can President Clinton say that?

For yesterday’s post, click here.

The former president’s slanderous comments were apparently made in late April. Two weeks ago, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza repeated the vile things he said:
CILLIZZA (9/25/14): “If a policymaker is a political leader and is covered primarily by the political press, there is a craving that borders on addictive to have a storyline," Bill Clinton said in a speech at Georgetown University back in April. “And then once people settle on the storyline, there is a craving that borders on blindness to shoehorn every fact, every development, everything that happens into the story line, even if it’s not the story.”
Can President Clinton say that? As we noted yesterday, he was describing gross journalistic misconduct when he made those remarks.

To state the obvious, journalists aren’t supposed to adopt a “story line,” then “shoehorn every fact” into that preferred narrative. In that statement, Clinton was describing grotesque misconduct.

That said, here’s a dirty little secret:

Clinton was describing the way our upper-end “journalism” works! He was describing the way our press corps has worked for quite a few years—and this has been especially true in the coverage of White House campaigns.

As E. R. Shipp described in March 2000, the coverage of Campaign 2000 was dominated by the types of “story lines” Clinton seems to have been describing. This occurred over a twenty-month period, to a degree which can only be called astounding.

No subsequent presidential campaign has been dominated by “narrative” to such an astounding degree. But in Campaign 2008, the coverage of Candidate Hillary Clinton almost began to come close.

If Hillary Clinton runs again, could negative “story line” reporting send a Republican to the White House, as plainly occurred in Campaign 2000? As he continued, Cillizza quoted Thrush and Haberman saying this:
CILLIZZA (continuing directly): That view, according to a terrific story by Politico's Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman over the summer, informs and impacts the Clintons' thinking on a 2016 bid. Write the duo: "As much as anything else, her ambivalence about the race, [Clinton sources] told us, reflects her distaste for and apprehension of a rapacious, shallow and sometimes outright sexist national political press corps acting as enablers for her enemies on the right.”
Wow! According to Cillizza, President Clinton accused the upper-end press corps of outrageous misconduct. And not only that! The fear of such continued misconduct could affect Hillary Clinton’s decision about getting in the next race!

Cillizza reported remarkable charges by Bill Clinton—charges of gross journalistic misconduct. On-line at the Washington Post, he built a 970-word post around those charges.

Here we reach the next part of our story—Cillizza’s response to those remarkable charges. This part of our story is remarkable too, although it was wholly predictable:

Breaking! In his 970 words, Cillizza made absolutely no attempt to evaluate Clinton’s charges. He offered a standard non-response response to the things Clinton said.

Does the national press corps really behave in the astounding way Clinton described?
As Kevin Drum noted in this blog post, Cillizza made no attempt to say if Clinton’s charges were accurate, sensible, true!

Check that! As Drum noted, Cillizza managed to offer one very small and tiny response to Clinton’s remarkable charges. We highlight that response below:
CILLIZZA: [A]ny objective analysis of the 2008 primary campaign would conclude that the remarkably adversarial relationship between the Clinton campaign and the media hurt her chances. To be clear: The media and its relationship with Clinton was far from determinative in the nomination fight. Barack Obama's superior understanding of delegate allocation was the determining factor. But, it's hard to deny that the friction between Clinton, her campaign and the media didn't help. Access to the candidate was nonexistent. Simple questions were routinely ignored or, on the other extreme, treated as adversarial. That is not to say that reporters were entirely innocent in the whole thing; Clinton was the story and as the story she had far more reporters poking and prodding her campaign than anyone else—including Barack Obama—in the race. And, even in 2008, the world of online news and social media was beginning to kick into high gear—leaving the Clinton campaign hopelessly unable to handle the sheer volume of incoming they were receiving every day and deeply cynical about reporters' true motives.


Regardless of who was to blame, by the end of the campaign, reporters—including me—and the Clinton operation were at each others' throats daily and often more than daily.
That highlighted sentence represents Cillizza’s only attempt to evaluate the conduct of the press in light of Clinton’s charges.

In his overall response, Cillizza restricts himself to Campaign 2008. More specifically, he restricts himself to what he calls “the remarkably adversarial relationship between the Clinton campaign and the media” in that campaign.

As Cillizza evaluates that relationship, he starts in a wholly predictable way—directing several criticisms at the Clinton campaign. He also says that the media’s conduct didn’t affect the outcome.

Only then does he offer these tiny words about his own sacred guild, the most baldly corrupt of all our major elites:

“That is not to say that reporters were entirely innocent in the whole thing; Clinton was the story and as the story she had far more reporters poking and prodding her campaign than anyone the race.”

That is a very soft critique of the national press corps. Here’s why:

Duh! According to every civics text, the nation’s reporters are supposed to “poke and prod” presidential campaigns! In his one attempt to critique his own guild, Cillizza pictures his colleagues doing the very things they’re supposed to do.

What’s the only problem Cillizza can find? He and his colleagues may have done their jobs a bit too much! They may have poked at Clinton’s campaign a bit more than they prodded Obama’s. Comically but predictably, that’s the only fault Cillizza can find in the work of the national press!

Whatever happened to President Clinton’s very serious charges? At the start of Cillizza’s essay, he quoted a very important person charging the national press with egregious misconduct. The Washington Post’s ombudsman, E. R. Shipp, had made identical charges back in Campaign 2000.

A famous person had charged the press corps with egregious misconduct! But as he continued to type, Cillizza made no attempt to evaluate what Clinton had said. The charges vanished into thin air, as always happens when serious charges are lodged against the press.

We’ve told you this for sixteen years—the national press corps will not discuss the work of the national press. Simply put, its members never discuss their own practices, conduct, attitudes, outlook and behavior.

Before the week is done, we’ll recall what Cokie Roberts said near the end of Campaign 2000 when she made a clownish attempt to deny that a “story line” had guided the coverage of Candidate Gore. But as we approach Campaign 2016, liberals should ponder a basic thought:

The press corps’ astonishing use of “story lines” sent a Republican, George W. Bush, to the White House in January 2001. Especially if Hillary Clinton enters the race, the press corps’ use of negative “story lines” could very easily send a Republican to the White House again.

We offer a final point, at the risk of sounding un-tribal:

If liberals want pushback against such misconduct, we’ll have to provide it ourselves. Meanwhile, just ask Susan Rice, who was left for dead in the “story lines” of the fall of 2012:

If we wait for Maddow and Hayes to push back, we may wait a very long time.

Tomorrow: The endless sounds of silence


  1. OMB (Speaking of Scripts like the OTB)

    BOB's subplots, the many movie titled series in these parts, sometime cause him to miss bits and pieces which need to be shoehorned into his blog to serve his main script...the script writing plutocrats press.

    For example, back when Bill Clinton gave us this marvelous analysis, BOB skipped it in favor of his freshman follies "Ms. Dent Doesn't Go to College" and "Frosh Fortang's Privileged Offense."

    One script writing scribe, however did cover the speech. She too skipped the reported Bill Clinton attack on the press. But here is a nugget from what she did cover based on Bill's speech.

    "Last week, dozens of labor scholars and activists, including Ralph Nader, sent Mrs. Clinton a letter asking her to use her influence with Walmart to urge the retailer to raise wages for its predominantly female work force. From 1986 to 1992, Mrs. Clinton served on the board of Walmart.

    “She has been going around the country getting awards and making $200,000 per speech giving soft, cushy addresses on mother and apple pie issues,” Mr. Nader said in an interview. “It just surprises me as to why she wouldn’t come out for something so obvious.”

    Did King Ralph (to continue the movie title theme), during his service as an activist, take the initiative in creating the script of the Hillary Jihad? Did BOB miss it?

    1. BTW TUAA,

      While some might think we insert this link late to make it look like we talk to ourselves and mess up the thread early in the morning, we thought you might like to see the original article we just quoted.

      We do so not just because it shows how devoted the reporter,
      Amy Chozik, is to her Planet Hillary script, but because of the delightful correction the New york Times had to make at the bottom of the article. BOB is so right about the Times and its lazy editors. They'll wave anything into print.

    2. The Walmart that the Clintons were involved with in 1986 to the early 90's is not anything like today's Walmart. The extent of influence Clinton might have is not the same either. Hillary Clinton has done much more to support women and a fair wage than Ralph Nader. This may represent an early potshot at Clinton presaging a Nader campaign, more than any sincere effort to change Walmart. As such, Clinton is wise to avoid being drawn in by Nader's posturing and to instead spend her time helping Democrats win their midterm elections.

      This does seem to further the narrative that Hillary is a plutocrat herself with no sincere interest in the little people, despite championing them throughout her career. Is that your intention? It is never clear what kind of comment you are making about anything you post, other than you hate Somerby.

    3. Thank you for your continuing defense of Hillary. Hill & Bill appreciate your kind words and thoughts.

    4. Anon @ 3:39 we do not wish to further any narrative about Hillary Clinton. We simply suggest Ralph Nader may have been the soruce of it rather than Diane Sawyer.

    5. KZ may have a point. Mother Jones didn't break the speaking fee story until May 21. Sawyer didn't bring up the speaking fees issue until June 9.

      Somerby may have fingered the wrong oleaginous, oily old coot!

    6. KZ has no points except that Somerby is bad. He doesn't actually care about any issue posted here.

    7. So I take it you think it is fair to give Diane Sawyer credit for the groundbreaking work of Ralph Nader?

  2. "We’ve told you this for sixteen years—the national press corps will not discuss the work of the national press. Simply put, its members never discuss their own practices, conduct, attitudes, outlook and behavior." Bob Somerby

    "And yet, any objective analysis of the 2008 primary campaign would conclude that the remarkably adversarial relationship between the Clinton campaign and the media hurt her chances" Chris Cilizza

    "by the end of the campaign, reporters -- including me -- and the Clinton operation were at each others' throats daily" Chris Cilizza

    "The Obama team was not exactly press friendly. And, as he grew into a bigger and bigger phenomenon, they had less and less use for the media. That continued into Obama's presidency, particularly the first few years. But, once Obama's popularity began to flag and with it his ability to drive his preferred message to an increasingly skeptical public, his lack of relationship with the media caught up with him" Chris Cilizza

    "some of those in Clintonworld promised a different approach to the press in 2016. No, Clinton would never be John McCain in the back of the straight Talk Express in 2000 but neither would she or her campaign repeat the mistakes of their dealings with the press in 2008."
    Chris Cilizza

    "How a campaign deals with the media is a direct result of how the candidate views the media." Chris Cilizza

    It is hard to read Cilizza's blog post and come away with the impression that the press "never discuss their own practices, conduct, attitudes, outlook and behavior." They are as self absorbed as anyone else. They just don't, like Somerby does, hold themselves exlusively to blame.

    1. "John McCain in the back of the straight Talk Express in 2000..."


      "They just don't, like Somerby does, hold themselves exlusively to blame."

      It is hard to read Cilizza's post and find any blame whatsoever assigned to the "press".

    2. In the quotes posted, the Washington Post writer does not partially blame the media for anything.

    3. No 1:01, nor is that a surprise. It is equally hard to find Somerby label any politician at fault for bad coverage they receive.

      You don't see Somerby cover his own errors often either.

    4. How exactly are the subjects of reports themselves responsible for the coverage about them? The reporters generate that coverage, not the people being written about. People are responsible for their own actions, but whether those actions are distorted, misdescribed, ignored, or even invented, is beyond their individual control. So, @1:29, your comment makes no sense to me. You can't even avoid coverage by doing nothing wrong, because the press can and does make up things to say about you.

    5. Just because the media talks about itself endlessly does not mean they are engaged in self reflection or anything like journalism. Any scribe can report he-said-she-said and leave the reader with no better understanding of what is actually going on. It does not matter how much Chris Cilizza says, it matters what he is saying.

    6. So, 4:10, you seem to agree Somerby is wrong when he says "the national press corps will not discuss the work of the national press." They do it "endlessly."

    7. No, that is not what anyone is saying.

  3. With professional tweaking and creativity we could address some of the issues we know are plaguing journalism today​.

  4. "To state the obvious, journalists aren’t supposed to adopt a “story line,” then “shoehorn every fact” into that preferred narrative. In that statement, Clinton was describing grotesque misconduct."

    Clinton was making an observation about the everyday practice of the press corps. In fact, he was making an observation about how he, Bob, and most human beings function in our daily lives. We put events around us in a familiar context. I don't find his observation particularly profound.

    To Bob Somerby an obvious fact of daily human life is not only something journalists "aren't supposed" to do, doing so is "grotesque misconduct."

    This is the guy who is launching a series about "the way things are"?
    I would suggest it will be written by someone who is either a foolishly naive idealist or someone completely delusional.

    1. Somerby isn't arguing against narrative per se, but against false narrative or "preferred" narratives, which facts must be changed to fit. That is misconduct.

    2. "Wow!" These were "slanderous" comments about "gross journalistic misconduct." "Clinton was describing grotesque misconduct", "a dirty little secret" "which can only be called astounding." "Remarkable charges."

      "Breaking" says Somerby about Cillizza's "remarkable" "non-response" to these "remarkable charges" about the "most baldly corrupt of all our major elites."

      I don't know if I got all the good descriptors shoehorned in. I tried my best.

      Of course these remarkable charges were made but not covered here five months ago. Cillizza's horrid non-response came almost two weeks ago. Thank heavens Drum covered it at the time. Readers here might have missed it entirely.

    3. WOW!

      When Clinton was making remarkable charges of gross misconduct, Bob seems to have been linking the rest of us to pictures of happy black and white children in Tuscaloosa County Schools.


      When Chris Cillizza was avoiding these astounding charges, Bob was reminding us that in discussing the first debate in 2000, NBC had a panel of five East Coast Irish Catholics all from the mid-twentieth century except maybe for one.

    4. @ 3:46

      "Somerby isn't arguing against narrative per se, but against false narrative or "preferred" narratives, which facts must be changed to fit. That is misconduct."

      I'll concede Bob may make that argument from time to time. He did not do so here. You are adding things to fit your preferred "defense of Bob" narrative.

    5. You liar. The word preferred is in this post.

    6. So you are revising your statement to delete "false narrative" and "which facts must be changed to fit"
      then calling someone a liar. Classic Somerby.

  5. Not to pee to hard on Somerby's new parade, but Cilizza is not the only one not responding to Clinton's remarks. Clinton was addressing how the political press covers policymaking. He wasn't addressing how the political press covers political campaigns. Both Cilizza and Somerby missed that point by a mile.

    1. According to Merica’s report, Clinton seems to have offered a wider context for his unpleasant remarks. He seems to have said that this adherence to “storylines” is offered in lieu of serious coverage of * serious policy issues. *

    2. 1:43. You should learn to read and use your brain.

    3. "According to Merica's report, Clinton seems" to have offered a wider context.

      No, 2:47. In Merica's report, Clinton did offer a specific context, coverage of the adoption of the Affordable Care Act.
      "Seems" you get your information from Bob the Blogger.

      "He seems to have said...." No. He did say what Meria and Bob the Blogger quoted him as saying.
      No ifs-ands-or buts about it.

      You can "seem" to watch it with what "seem" to be your own eyes and hear it with what "seem" to be you own ears

      Bob the Blogger "seems" to have missed it in what "seems" to be real time.

    4. The 2:47 quote is cut and pasted totally from bob the blogger. Bob was the one who said seems.

    5. 3:31 seems a little crazy and stupid.

    6. 3:31. Don't listen to them. You are safe. You won't die.

    7. That seems to be easy for you to say @4:30.

    8. 3:31 seems to not be familiar with the definition of the words seems.

    9. 3:31 seems to have Bob's pee pee in his pocket.

    10. Well, if 3:31 won't die, he's a better life form than most of the others Bob covers.

  6. The current story line is that Obama is tired of being president and is just going through the motions while neglecting effective action on major problems such as ISIS and Ebola. That covers both individual characteristics and policy. It makes no sense to quibble about whether a story is being told about Obama or his policies. I think the lines are similarly blurry with respect to past narratives about Gore, Clinton, and so on. Can you talk about Gore as a liar without also talking about whether he reinvented government while VP, a policy issue?

    1. As a journalist, you should refrain from making a judgement about whether Obama is "tired", just report what he does and his statements about why he is doing it. If what he says is not supported by facts (that you have independently confirmed), you can point this out as well, but don't call him a "liar". If his political enemies or other pundits say he is "tired", that is not "news" or a "fact" and is not really relevant. If you really want to talk about Obama being "tired", save it for the opinion page. Everyone loves a good food fight, but that is not the same as journalism.

  7. The trolls here… Not super smart.

    1. "The trolls here..."ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz,

    2. Trolls seem to attract flies too.

    3. Anon@12:47 - read comp fail.