Post editors spot a nothing-burger!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2016

They may have had Chozick in mind:
On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post wrote a sensible editorial.

Like Kevin Drum before them, the editors said those WikiLeaks excerpts from Candidate Clinton's paid speeches were just a big nothing-burger. The editors criticized Clinton for refusing to release the transcripts of the speeches. But they said the dozen excerpts which were hacked from a John Podesta email were just a big pile of piddle.

At the end of their editorial, the editors described an increasingly familiar process. They explained how nothing-burgers of this type are turned into phony scandals:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (10/11/16): ...Then there’s her much-maligned view that “you need both a public and a private position,” which is playing as a confession of two-facedness but is actually a clumsy formulation of obvious truth: Nothing gets done in politics unless legislators can deliberate and negotiate candidly, outside the glare of publicity.

This whole episode illustrates that point. Ms. Clinton kept the speeches under wraps out of fear that they would be distorted for political purposes by her populist foes. Alas, that fear was amply justified in this populistic, polarized environment, as the manufactured uproar over their release proves. The fact that Ms. Clinton’s eminently reasonable and open-minded words regarding the issues and her opponents are being treated as scandalous is the real scandal.
The editors said that Clinton should have released the transcripts of her speeches. But at the end of their editorial, they made an obvious point. Given the way our discourse now works, any document, transcript or text will be demagogued loudly and dumbly.

For what it's worth, the Clintons surely came to this realization many years ago.

The editors criticized the "manufactured uproar" over those bland speech excerpts. According to the editors, Clinton's "eminently reasonable" remarks were being "treated as scandalous" when they actually weren't.

The editors were too polite to say what follows, so we'll say it for them. That is exactly the way Amy Chozick treated those excerpts in her New York Times news report about the leaked speech excerpts.

Let's consider one of the dozen excerpts from Clinton's paid speeches. Chozick gave this particular excerpt substantial play in her news report. Here's the excerpt in question, reproduced in its entirety:
CLINTON (2/4/14): And I am not taking a position on any policy, but I do think there is a growing sense of anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged. And I never had that feeling when I was growing up. Never. I mean, were there really rich people, of course there were. My father loved to complain about big business and big government, but we had a solid middle class upbringing. We had good public schools. We had accessible health care. We had our little, you know, one-family house that, you know, he saved up his money, didn't believe in mortgages. So I lived that. And now, obviously, I'm kind of far removed because the life I've lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy, but I haven't forgotten it.
That's the total excerpt. It's been pulled out of its larger context in Clinton's speech, whatever that larger context may have been. For that reason, Clinton's overall meaning in this excerpt isn't entirely clear.

That said, Clinton seems to be saying this:

There is a growing sense among many people that the game is rigged. During her own middle-class upbringing, she never had that feeling. When she was growing up, middle-class families had health care and access to good schools; they could afford to own their own homes. Today, Clinton is much wealthier, but she hasn't forgotten what middle-class life was like.

Can any sensible person explain why that statement would be objectionable? Presumably, no—but Amy Chozick knew how to make it seem that way.

In fact, Chozick behaved in exactly the way the editors describe. Here she is, in paragraph 4, referring to that particular excerpt and doctoring it a bit:
CHOZICK (10/8/16): In the excerpts from her paid speeches to financial institutions and corporate audiences, Mrs. Clinton said she dreamed of ''open trade and open borders'' throughout the Western Hemisphere. Citing the back-room deal-making and arm-twisting used by Abraham Lincoln, she mused on the necessity of having ''both a public and a private position'' on politically contentious issues. Reflecting in 2014 on the rage against political and economic elites that swept the country after the 2008 financial crash, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that her family's rising wealth had made her ''kind of far removed'' from the struggles of the middle class.
Clinton said she hasn't forgotten the nature of life in the middle class. By dropping that part of her statement, Chozick seems to reverse the general thrust of that excerpt.

By saying that she hasn't forgotten the world in which she grew up, Clinton seemed to be sympathizing who those now feel the system is rigged against them. But Chozick omitted the part of the statement which seemed to convey that sympathy. In Chozick's account, Clinton simply said that she's "kind of far removed" from middle-class struggles. Full stop!

That isn't what Clinton said. Later, it became clear that Chozick always knew that:
CHOZICK: Such comments could have proven devastating to Mrs. Clinton during the Democratic primary fight, when Mr. Sanders promoted himself as the enemy of Wall Street and of a rigged economic system.

Several of the most eye-popping passages ultimately express more nuanced explanations of her views. When Mrs. Clinton describes herself as ''far removed'' from average Americans and their finances, she had just finished describing her growing appreciation for how ''anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged.'' And she reminds the audience that her father ''loved to complain about big business and big government.''
Even here, Chozick avoids the apparent meaning of Clinton's statement that she "hasn't forgotten." Even after taking two bites of the apple, Chozick never reports that part of Clinton's statement. And by the way, riddle us this:

If Clinton "described her growing appreciation for how 'anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged,'" in what way was this excerpt an "eye-popping passage?" Why would such a statement "have proven devastating" to her primary campaign?

The answer is obvious. That statement is "eye-popping" and potentially "devastating" only if you send it through the manufactured scandal machine, as the editors at the Post described. In that way, hacks like Chozick keep producing "manufactured uproars." They do it by doctoring nothing-burgers to make it sound like they're "scandalous."

Chozick subjected several of Clinton's remarks to this phony treatment. She makes it sound, at two separate points, like Clinton endorsed specific parts of the Simpson-Bowles plan—parts of the plan she plainly didn't endorse.

In the relevant excerpt, Clinton spoke well of the "framework" of the plan, not of its particular planks. Chozick manufactured outrage by blurring this very basic distinction—not just once, but at two separate points in her crappy report.

Chozick is easily the most horrible new upper-end journalist of the past several years. That said, her work is typical of the New York Times' approach to domestic politics in this, the age which has followed the era of "Creeping Dowdism."

The editors didn't cite Chozick by name. They described her work to a T.

20 comments:

  1. Chozick will go down joining the ranks of Ceci, Kit, MoDo, Tweety, Pumpkin Head and others who failed the nation some 17 years ago.

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