THE SMELL OF TOTAL WAR: Candidate Clinton discusses an issue!

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2015

Part 5—At the Post, interest wanes:
Last Saturday, we thought we detected an unpleasant smell. We thought we might have detected the smell of total war in the morning.

We don’t like the smell of total war, not even in morning newspapers. Were we right about what we thought we detected?

Last Saturday, we detected the smell of total war in a long, ridiculous front-page report by the New York Times’ Deborah Sontag. It smelled so much like an earlier, front-page “bombshell report” that it gave us the feeling of war.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, another puzzling, front-page report had rather clearly been crafted in the same press corps coloring book. But then, we first detected the smell of war in the Washington Post last summer, when the paper offered a puzzling set of reactions to a certain non-candidate’s book tour.

Are the muckety-mucks of the insider press corps actually staging a war at this time? Without any question, they have behaved in such ways in the past, even if our favorite heroes have always agreed not to say so.

These plutos have waged total war in the past. Are they so engaged once again? A report in this morning’s Washington Post brought this question to mind again.

Yesterday morning, Post readers were told about an obvious outrage right on their front page. For our background report, click this.

Rather plainly, Rosalind Helderman’s front-page report came straight from the coloring book which defines the lines of the total war we think we keep detecting.

To us, her report makes little sense, but that’s the essence of press corps war. The message her puzzling report conveyed was wonderfully, perfectly clear:

Those greedy, mammon-loving Clintons accepted a big sack of cash!

If a total war is under way, that’s its battle cry. Sixteen years ago, a different war was being waged, principally under this claim:

Candidate Gore is the world’s biggest liar, just like President Clinton!

There were ancillary claims, of course: Candidate Gore didn’t know who he was! He was constantly reinventing himself! He was annoyingly wooden and stiff! The gentleman wasn’t authentic!

Back then, a total war was under way, scripted by a coloring book. Is a total war under way now?

We’ll only say this:

Yesterday, the Post ran a ludicrous, puzzling report about the greed of the Clintons. Except as an example of script, the report made little sense.

Yesterday’s puzzling report ran on the Post’s front page.

Later that day, something significant happened. Candidate Clinton went to Texas and made a major speech about a major policy matter.

In fairness, the Washington Post reported the speech. But in this morning’s hard-copy Post, it does so on page A6.

The candidate’s major policy speech didn’t make the front page. Meanwhile, these are the respective word counts for the two reports:
Confusing, jumbled attack on greed of candidate’s husband:
1842 words, page A1

Report about candidate’s major policy speech:
1442 words, page A6
People, we’re just saying!

Each person can assess these journalistic decisions for him or herself. In our view, the treatment of the policy speech falls within the reasonable range. Yesterday’s puzzling front-page report looks more like the deranged artifact of undeclared total war.

That said, we had to chuckle at the placement of the policy speech. We remembered the way denizens of this same newspaper reacted in April to this same candidate’s brief announcement video, with various columnists crazily screeching that the candidate hadn’t included any policy proposals.

One example:

As we all know, Ruth Marcus is “a fan of Hillary Clinton,” who she describes, in fan-girl fashion, as “a gluttonous pig.”

After Clinton’s short announcement video appeared, Marcus offered a 600-word post bearing these headlines: “Hillary Clinton's insultingly vapid video/The announcement made no attempt to offer specific goals.”

We're taking those headlines from Nexis. To read the post, click here.

According to Marcus—and she’s a fan!—“the video was relentlessly, insultingly vapid.” It was also “vacuous” and “disrespectful” to voters, mainly through its failure to articulate policy goals.

Yesterday, Clinton made a major policy address. It got pushed inside the Post, unlike the ludicrous character slam from the day before.

Whatever! The analysts chuckled, recalling an episode from roughly this stage of Campaign 2000. We offer what follows for amusement purposes only—and perhaps to offer a bit of perspective on the way the “press corps” works:

Candidate Gore made his formal announcement in June 1999. He was met with a hail of profiles describing what a liar he was and how fake and phony he seemed.

Also, how wooden and stiff!

Apparently, Gore’s staff was urging the press to write about substance instead. This produced a mocking report in the New York Times, with Katharine Seelye explaining how silly it is to discuss matters of substance at such an early point in such an endless campaign.

Seelye started by listing Gore’s “blizzard of positions,” which she also described as an “avalanche of positions.” Then, she explained how silly it was to talk about substance so soon:
SEELYE (7/29/99): Mr. Gore's advisers say they have been disappointed that news organizations have dwelt on his political problems despite his focus on issues, although a recent poll by The Dallas Morning News suggests that voters at this point seem to put little stock in issues. The poll found that even though most Americans admit they know little about Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, the Republican front-runner, they strongly favor him over Mr. Gore and former Senator Bill Bradley, Mr. Gore's rival for the Democratic nomination.

But since mid-May, Mr. Gore has delivered five speeches that his aides call major policy addresses, covering education, crime, the economy, faith-based organizations and cancer research.

Many of his positions follow routes laid out by President Clinton, including insisting on a balanced budget. Some bump up against Democratic orthodoxy, like his advocacy of teacher testing. But perhaps the most striking thing about his positions is the sheer volume of them, especially so early in the campaign.

Mr. Gore becomes almost indignant when asked if his avalanche of positions might be overwhelming voters.

"When people say, 'You're giving too many details, you're offering too many specifics,' my response is, too many compared to what?" he asked. "Compared to nothing? And how did we get in a situation where it's considered odd to offer a detailed set of policy proposals for the challenges we face?"

Mr. Gore, who last year floated and then abandoned the slogan of "practical idealism," has not adopted another that melds his various proposals into an overarching theme. Asked what he stands for, he offered the following: "Keep the prosperity going, make certain no one's left behind, bring revolutionary improvement to our public schools, build stronger families and more liveable communities."
Silly Gore! Seelye ridiculed his “avalanche of positions.” She tortured that Dallas News poll to wring from it the unfounded conclusion she wanted.

She said Gore became “almost indignant” when asked if his blizzard of policy stands might be “overwhelming voters.” Skillfully, she turned his complaint, using it to note that Bush was way ahead in the polls.

Eventually, she offered a direct criticism:

Candidate Gore hadn’t come up with a catchy slogan yet!

Sixteen years later, other insiders ridiculed Candidate Clinton because she didn’t include enough policy stands in a brief announcement video—a brief video which appeared in mid-April, not in late July. Arguably, these contradictory feigned complaints are markers of total war.

Was yesterday’s ludicrous front-page report a marker of total war? It extended a run of front-page reports in the Post and the Times devoted to the Clintons’ greed—reports where it’s rather hard to discern the offense which is being alleged.

This morning, the Post was substantially less enthralled with a major policy speech. If these are markers of total war, history says that this total war will continue through next November.

Two final humorous notes from Campaign 2000:

Why might the Gore camp have been annoyed with the way the Times was reporting matters of substance?

On July 12, Gore had given a policy speech about crime flanked by members of the Boston police. Below, you see paragraphs 3 and 4 of the New York Times news report.

Paragraphs 3 and 4! Of the paper’s news report!
HENNEBERGER (7/13/99): In an address at police headquarters, surrounded by uniformed officers who made the Vice President look unusually loose, Mr. Gore also pledged to push for a Federal law establishing "gang-free zones" with curfews on individual gang members and a ban on "gang-related clothing."

After giving Mr. Gore a Fenway Park T-shirt for his newborn grandson, Mayor Thomas M. Menino called the Vice President a "visionary" and a "friend of American cities" who with the President had helped push crime in Boston to its lowest rate since 1971. Recalling a speech Mr. Gore made at a St. Patrick's Day event two years ago, Mr. Menino, a Democrat, added, "They say he's wooden! Huh! I wish I was as wooden as he was that morning!"
Because a war was under way, Menino shouldn’t have made those comments. That said, the New York Times knew what to do with the gift.

In closing, consider Gail Collins.

Early in Seelye’s report, she quoted a statement in which Gore described his sense of how a campaign should work. We’ll highlight the chunk the wonderful Collins chose to have some fun with:
SEELYE (7/29/99): The blizzard of positions is the essence of the Gore-for-President campaign, designed to show voters that the Vice President has ideas and experience and, by contrast, to suggest that his opponents do not.

"I'm campaigning this way because I believe that campaigns ought to be based on ideas, and I think voters have a right to know exactly what a candidate for President is proposing to do as President," Mr. Gore said in an interview. "Our democracy is ill-served by an over-reliance on generalities and fuzzy rhetoric and is much better served by specific, detailed discussions of the tough choices we have to make."
Silly Gore! When you’re a target, you can’t say things like that to someone in the press! In her column that Sunday, the wonderful Collins shortened the quote, then gave us a good solid laugh:
COLLINS (8/1/99): Vice President Al Gore is eager to have voters notice that he is being specific about the issues. "Our democracy is ill-served by an over-reliance on generalities and fuzzy rhetoric," he told The Times's Katharine Seelye last week, in an interview where he proudly pointed to his detailed proposals on things like gun control, classroom computerization, tax cuts and cancer research.

Finally, a man who dares to speak out on the fuzzy rhetoric controversy!...
The candidate’s statement was perfectly sensible. The columnist took out her scissors and made it sound inane. But this is the way these life forms work. They’ll be working in similar ways right through next year’s election.

Last Saturday, we thought we might have detected the smell of total war in the morning. These last two mornings, did the puzzling Washington Post possibly make us seem right?

Still coming: Becker does disclosure


  1. And then there's today's massive front page profile of Rick Perry. The headline tells you all you need to know about this warm tongue bath (to borrow your wonderful phrase, Bob): "A Wink, Texas Swagger, and a Pitch for the Presidency" (Just changed, mysteriously, to "Rick Perry is a winker.But can it help him win?" The piece begins with a "telling" anecdote, typical of the genre.

    "When it happens, Rick Perry is speaking to a friendly crowd in a plaid-and-paisley living room in Greenville, S.C. He appears relaxed. His suit fits perfectly. Hair: just great. Glasses: starting to seem more natural.

    He’s gotten nods talking about jobs in Texas, laughs with the line about flunking organic chemistry and claps when he says a brighter future “starts right here . . . today!”

    Then a man poses a question about the importance of speaking plainly, and Perry pauses a moment before he answers by asking rhetorically, which is to say confidently: “Did I say anything today you couldn’t understand?”

    People laugh, and this is when it happens: Rick Perry winks.

    It could be argued that the Perry persona comes down to the wink, which friends and supporters describe as part of a broader repertoire of natural-born gifts that makes the 65-year-old former Texas governor one of the most instinctive retail politicians in the 2016 GOP field.

    Because Rick Perry is a winker, and has been for a long time.

    “It’s something he’s always done,” said a friend who has known Perry since he was a Texas state legislator in the 1980s. “I’ve seen him do it at an inaugural, from a podium. It’s a way he communicates. He’s very good at it, and it’s very disarming. It’s real natural to him. Like some people can whistle with their fingers? Actually, he can do that, too.”
    " .... It could be argued that the Perry persona comes down to the wink ..." Yes, that sentence was actually typed.

    And this: "which friends and supporters describe as part of a broader repertoire of natural-born gifts that makes the 65-year-old former Texas governor one of the most instinctive retail politicians in the 2016 GOP field."

    While Bezos's Post, as Bob points out, daily sneers at Hillary Clinton, this is what's written about a bumbling, airhead Republican "candidate" who is currently UNDER FELONY INDICTMENT.

    1. By the way, I counted 22 uses of some form of the word "wink" in this fascinating and enlightening "analysis," which also includes gems such as this: d"Other notable political winkers: George W. Bush, who winked at Queen Elizabeth II after he accidentally suggested she helped America celebrate its birthday in 1776 rather than 1976; Sarah Palin, who winked during 2008 vice-presidential debates; President Obama, who winked in his State of the Union speech earlier this year, after dressing down the congressmen who clapped when he alluded to the end of his term."

      And this: "On one hand, [the wink] evokes his bona fide country upbringing, Texas swagger and ability to say things such as “I’m gonna love on you,” meaning flatter you, without sounding as though he is laying it on thick. Only a winker could sell T-shirts with his own grinning mug shot, as Perry did after being indicted last year on felony abuse-of-power charges that he has dismissed as politically motivated.

      "More fundamentally, the wink can seem to reveal a certain sensitivity — an ability to read a room, to feel for the right moment to reach in for the handshake, touch an elbow or a shoulder and close the deal."


      Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I implore you....

    2. Finally, a reporter who dares to speak out on the wink controversy.

  2. Politics is a form of war. The problem is that journalists are not supposed to be taking sides in it, especially at the major papers that pretend neutrality (in reporting, not editorials). We cannot trust them to be fair and unbiased, evidently.

    When you find bias you have to ask what the motives behind the slant are. In this case, I agree with Somerby that papers reflect plutocrat interests, moneyed interests. Because they are attacking HIllary and not one of the other Democratic candidates, and not any of the Republicans, I have to believe they consider her the greatest threat to their interests, the person they would least like to see elected.

    This is a kind of reverse endorsement. When you wonder who would be most effective in fighting plutocrats, it isn't Bernie Sanders. They don't care if he gets votes, evidently. It is Hillary Clinton. As in the past, they are attacking her in her greatest strength, just as Kerry's heroism was the point of attack when he was swiftboated. Her service to the needy, her championing of social justice, health and income equality causes (worldwide) is her strength so they are calling her greedy, corrupt, inept, treasonous, etc. That tells me she is the person we need in office -- because anyone the plutocrats hate and fear is probably going to be my best bet for a better future.

    1. BINGO! This kind of character assassination so early and so relentless from so many powerful interests "does not happen by accident", to borrow a phrase from HRC herself.

      Clinton has been in DC a long time but has never become part of the DC establishment. Her tense relationship with the press and her scorn for its self celebrations like WH Correspondents Dinner prove that unlike every other politician in DC she refuses to suck up to the Washington establishment. Her remark to her late friend, Diane Blair, that media figures "have big egos and small brains" further underscores this fact. You are correct that more than any other candidate of either party, powerful forces in the nation's capital and elsewhere are deeply threatened by HRC.

    2. " Her remark to her late friend, Diane Blair, that media figures "have big egos and small brains" further underscores this fact."

      What it underscores is that, since at least 1993, a person whose ego is every bit as big as anyone in the press corps
      has demonstrated a disdain for that press corps which was and still is reciprocated in an endless loop, making Clinton one of the worst choices for Democrats to nominate.

      And she and her fans think she is smart for this.

      As a wise blooger once said:

      "Our guess? Such cluelessness from Clinton supporters may represent her “biggest problem.” "

    3. Yes, we should definitely let the media select our next president. They would like that just fine, just as they did in 2000 when they crammed Bush down our throats. How did that work for ya?

    4. Btw, she has ample reasons for disdaining the press corps which began inventing scandals about her before she ever got to Washington. That would be Jeff Gerth's Whitewater story, long since thoroughly debunked. I prefer a candidate who has years of experience being smeared to another John Kerry who was totally lost when he was "swift-boated".

    5. "And she and her fans think she is smart for this."

      No, I think she should kiss their royal asses in Macy's window at least once a week and twice on Sunday. After all, it's all about them isn't it?

    6. The idea of either Clinton as a warrior against the "plutocrats" is not supported by their histories. Do warriors against the plutocrats typically spend a lot of time in Davos?

    7. The media has had an adversarial relationship with the Clintons since shortly after Bill was elected president. Coverage was grossly slanted against Mrs. Clinton in 2008 partly because of that grudge but mostly because the media was so obviously invested in Obama. The negative coverage continues.
      But to attribute that to "plutocrats" threatened by Mrs. Clinton's alleged danger to them is ludicrous, wishful thinking.

    8. I think Hillary should just campaign. If the press corps want to find a seat in the audience, fine.

    9. I don't think the persistence of the vendetta against the Clintons is fully explained by just feeling a bit adversarial or being invested in another candidate.

    10. "I think Hillary should just campaign."

      Which is precisely what she is doing, and it is driving the kids nuts.

  3. Meanwhile, these are the respective word counts for today's post:

    Confusing, jumbled revisiting of sins against blogger's ex-roomie
    fifteen to sixteen years ago:

    1084 words

    Report about current Total War:

    775 words

    Mention of topic of "major policy" speech:

    0 words

    People, we’re just saying!

    1. When will liberals decide to insist that the public be warned about: Unexplained Haitian protesters!

    2. You aren't saying anything. This is a blog, not a newspaper.

    3. My Somery! Repeat or Long!

  4. I wonder if the Times' scoop on Marco Rubio's awful traffic tickets was part of their total war on poor Ms. Clinton?

    1. Soon we will learn Mrs. Clinton has a chauffeur from the Bill, Hil, and Chelsea Charitable Conglomerate. The Rubio matter was just to make them look balanced.

    2. The main difference is that Rubio actually did something to deserve the negative attention. So far, Clinton has not.

    3. Also, traffic tickets are a far more important issue than influence-peddling or deleting e-mails. That stuff is so boring!

    4. What makes that Times article particularly awful, is that Marco Rubio did NOT have an awful record. He got 4 traffic tickets in something like 18 years, but was found not guilty in 2 of the cases. So, he was guilty of only 2 driving violations in 18 years. The Times made it sound like a lot by including Mrs. Rubio's tickets, not focusing the long time period, and ignoring the two cases where he was found not guilty.

      I found a site that says 20.6% of drivers get a speeding ticket each year. I don't have statistics for other classes of moving violations. That rate implies almost 4 speeding tickets in 18 years. So, Rubio's two convictions in 18 years actually makes him better than average.

      I salute the Times for finding a new way to lie with statistics

    5. When you find a dubious stat like that please cite the source. It is ridiculous to think people on average get one speeding ticket per year so I think you are not telling us it is for Males age 18-25 or something similar.

    6. Why is he getting any speeding tickets and why are you suggesting it is normal to break the law?


      Anon 8:23 PM you could have found this pretty easily using google, but here's the source.

    8. I don't care whether Rubio has more tickets than the average driver. I don't understand why he can't follow the easy rules in his community. The average driver isn't running for president.

    9. BTW the Times did not do the research that divulged these driving records. They were fed that info by American Bridge, a left-wing activist group. The Times article hid this fact by a sneaky use of the passive voice: “According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets. . . . ”

      BTW the link responds to anon 8:25 and Anon 4:00: It points out that Florida is notorious for the entrepreneurial spirit of its traffic police.

      Read more at:

    10. Barack Obama got more than an education when he attended Harvard Law School in the late 1980s. He also got a healthy stack of parking tickets, most of which he never paid.

      The Illinois Senator shelled out $375 in January [2007] two weeks before he officially launched his presidential campaign _ to finally pay for 15 outstanding parking tickets and their associated late fees.

  5. I didn't catch all the programming, but the One True Liberal Channel's shows last night prominently covered Clinton's speech and Republican reaction on two shows.

    Of course they both led with the Denny Hastert story about a teacher molesting his students. I am surprised Somerby has not weighed in on this witch hunt.

    1. What was the major policy matter?

  6. I don't have Somerby's Nexis subscription, but I am surprised he failed to finger Rosalind Helderman's Clinton - FIFA story for the copycat work it is.

    This story first came for the web in a May 27 post in the Daily Beast with the headline:

    Corrupt FIFA Has Clinton Foundation Ties; World Cup Host Qatar Gave Millions

    Like the Diane Sawyer salvo against Hillary's high speech fees, this unfair shot has leftist origins rather than a pluto base.

    It was written by youngish scribe Jackie Kucinich (American U) whose father is Dennis Kucinich, a Clinton rival, about whom Bob Somerby has had nothing but nice things to say. Kind of like Ralph Nader.

    1. Trolls can supply all the links they want.

      Bob Somerby says Helderman's article came from something like the Coloring Book of Total War. That seems good enough for me.

  7. Since Bob won't deliver on his promised explanation of the Haitian protest at the Clinton Foundation money swap with the Happy Hearts Fund, readers mighty enjoy this link which gives even better coverage of the Petra Lemcova "charitable" soiree.

    "Over 100 Haitians and North American activists, mobilized with only 48 hours notice, protested against the Happy Hearts Fund of super-model Petra Nemcova awarding Haitian President Michel Martelly a prize for his “leadership in education” in a sumptuous Manhattan ceremony. The foundation also gave the former President Bill Clinton a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

    One of the main chants of the demonstrators on 42nd Street outside the Cipriani restaurant was “Clinton, where is the money for reconstruction?” The answer was “in whose pockets?”


    "She then presented the award to Martelly, who took the floor to say that “today I am here to talk about children’s education, which is the centerpiece of my vision for Haiti.” To prove it, Martelly explained that “my first act on May 14, 2011 was to inaugurate with Petra the Happy Hearts School.” Making the inauguration of the school of his business partner’s girlfriend’s NGO is not exactly presidential.

    During the ceremony, President Martelly sang two duets with Haitian singer Wyclef Jean: “Let It Be Me” and “No Woman, No Cry.” Protesters booed Wyclef when he entered the restaurant. Martelly, Lamothe, and Clinton found it wiser to enter through a rear door.

    Mr. Clinton, presented by Ms. Nemcova, also spoke after receiving his award.

    The Dessalines Coordination (KOD), KAKOLA, and ISHN were among the Haitian groups sponsoring the New York rally, which also included many members of the Lavalas Family chapter in New York."

    1. You seem to be implying that the protest was aimed at Clinton but the unrest has focused on the Haitian president and the government's misuse of recovery funds.

    2. Yes, the chant with Clinton's name in it does indeed make me "seem to be implying" something of that sort.

      You seem to be implying and inability to read.

  8. A Kossack has noticed that recent unfavorable NYT stories about Denny Hastert don't mention that he's a Republican, whereas recent unfavorable NYT stories about Hillary Clinton make sure the reader knows she's a Democrat:

    1. That's the way Fox operates too.

    2. Well, if a Kossack noticed it is must be true.

      Of course the Kossack's 3 examples of "unfavorable NY Times stories" are all Associated Press wire stories, two of which are about the Presidential campaign. The other is a news story about a Clinton Charitable Foundation employee testitfying before Congress.

    3. Funny, but in Somerby's coverage of the Hastert legal troubles there has been no mention of his party affiliation either.