Part 3—Also, Carl Bernstein declares: Later today, we're going to take a good, long shower. We'll be washing away the residue which comes from having read Megan Twohey's front-page report.
Donald J. Trump had been making dire threats, so the New York Times swung into action. The result was a heavily cherry-picked "news report" about famous old claims by Gennifer Flowers, claims with which our childish "press corps" long ago fell in love.
In her lengthy, front-page report, Twohey picked and chose her facts rather heavily. This was done with the permission of her unnamed editors, of course.
In the process, Twohey misled readers about the credibility of Flowers' thrilling claims from years long past. If we're all still speaking English, she flatly misinformed readers about what Bill Clinton eventually said about his relationship with Flowers.
Most significantly, she gave an utterly silly account of Hillary Clinton's reaction to Flowers. She also gave a gonzo account of earlier claims by "rock groupie" Connie Hamzy (Twohey's description).
All in all, Twohey assembled the type of "news report" which ought to get journalists fired. Later today, we'll be trying to wash away its effects.
That said, let's be fair! In her 2900-word front page report, Twohey played the same journalistic games her colleagues have played for decades. As of 1998, the children who pose as our "mainstream press" had adopted the appalling Flowers as one of their honored truth-tellers. From that day right up to this, they've been putting their asp's cheeks on the scales to keep Flowers' stories alive.
The career liberal world has just sat and stared as this gong-show has unfolded. It's what the Chaits, the Dionnes, the Marshalls and even the Krugmans have done for the past twenty-four years. This has led to the current state of loathing of Candidate Clinton, a state of loathing which means that Candidate Trump could still emerge as the winner of this year's White House campaign.
Career liberal silence has been persistent; so has mainstream clowning. Consider two high-profile books about Hillary Clinton—books which have often been cited as Donald J. Trump has advanced his new threats and claims.
Briefly, let's consider All Too Human, George Stephanopoulos' 1999 memoir. At the time, Stephanopoulos was trying to execute a fairly tricky transition. Earlier in the decade, he had been Bill Clinton's press spokesman. Now, he was trying to gain acceptance as a mainstream TV news star.
Stephanopoulos was already on the scene when Hamzy and Flowers made their claims about Bill Clinton (in November 1991 and January 1992, respectively). In recent months, the RNC and the Trump campaign have cherry-picked his accounts of these matters to create a pleasing charge—to claim that Hillary Clinton launched ugly attacks on those brave truth-tellers.
The New York Times has cherry-picked Stephanopoulos too; Twohey did so in Monday's report, especially with regard to Hamzy's thrilling claim. That said, we were struck, when we reread All Too Human, at the careful way Stephanopoulos positioned himself with respect to his former boss, who was now regarded very negatively by Washington's press elites.
In our view, Stephanopoulos may have gone a bit out of his way to reassure that establishment concerning his view of Bill Clinton. Instantly, he mused about Clinton's "shamelessness" in his brief, three-page prologue. Beyond that, it seems to us that he may have gone out of his way to avoid reporting the implausibility of Flowers' claims, and to avoid discussing her general all-around craziness.
By now, Flowers had been adopted by the corps as one of their truth-telling heroes. It seems to us that Stephanopoulos may perhaps have tried to avoid rocking that particular yacht.
That said, a person can only laugh, then cry, at the way Stephanopoulos opened his book. Believe it or not, this is the first paragraph in Chapter 1, a chapter called Background Check:
STEPHANOPOULOS (page 7): On the Sunday before Christmas 1992, I was feeling lucky. A few weeks earlier, with my help, Bill Clinton had been elected president—and soon I'd be working for him in the White House. But first I had to visit the Rose Law Firm. If you've read John Grisham, you've got a pretty good idea of what Rose Law was like—Little Rock's version of "The Firm." Not that anyone's even been murdered there (as far as I know), but its pedigree, power, and aura of buttoned-down mystery had made it a force in Arkansas for than a century. It was Hillary Rodham Clinton's firm.No one had ever been murdered at Hillary Clinton's firm—as far as Stephanopoulos knew! A person should weep for the dead of Iraq when he or she sees this classic climber kissing the ascot of power this way as he claws his way toward the top.
No one was murdered as far as he knew! With that dog whistle in his first paragraph, a former press hack may perhaps have been worming his way toward a much brighter light.
Eight years later, in 2007, Carl Bernstein published a lengthy biography of Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge. To this day, Bernstein is the go-to guy on mainstream TV regarding the life of Hillary Clinton. Routinely, he's asked to pontificate on the basis of that high-profile book.
Well, here we are in 2016, and Gennifer Flowers is back again, on the front page of the Times. We decided to revisit Bernstein's book, to recall what he said about the claims which made Flowers wealthy and famous.
Amazing! In a thoroughly researched book—a book which ran 554 pages—Bernstein had virtually nothing to say about this important episode.
Go ahead—check it out! On page 10, in his prologue, Bernstein makes a single, parenthetical reference to Flowers—a glancing reference in which he doesn't even attempt to explain who Flowers is and was.
His next reference to Flowers comes on page 163. Completely out of nowhere, this is what he wrote:
BERNSTEIN (page 163): Later, Gennifer Flowers, the nightclub chanteuse with whom Bill had an affair, said their relationship began in 1977 and that Arkansas newspaper reporters were making inquiries about it toward the end of his first term as governor.How odd! In this, his first real reference to Flowers, Bernstein simply announced that she and Bill Clinton "had an affair." But how odd! In 554 heavily researched pages, Bernstein never explained what he meant by that claim, or how he knew it was true.
Later, Bernstein notes that Flowers originally filed an affidavit saying that she hadn't had a sexual relationship with Clinton. But in all his 554 pages, Bernstein never explains why we're supposed to disbelieve that original claim, in favor of the later claim for which Flowers was richly rewarded.
As best we can tell, Bernstein never reports what Bill Clinton said when he was compelled to testify about his relationship with Flowers. He never describes the narrow definition under which he was forced to testify, or the extremely limited "confession" he made.
In all his 554 pages, he never mentions the reams of craziness surrounding Flowers' long-standing behavior. He simply asserts the factual claim which his guild so ardently loved: Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers excitingly had an affair!
To all appearances, Bernstein's book was thoroughly researched. In most respects, it seems to be thoroughly "journalistic." But by the time his book appeared, the guild had established the appalling, ridiculous Flowers as one of their beacons of truth. And it's just as we've told you down through the years:
When the guild has a story it deeply loves, no one will ever move to disrupt it. Dearest darlings, use your sense. It simply isn't done!
Bill Clinton "had an affair" with Flowers! By now, this had ceased to be a claim; it had become sacred writ. And so Bernstein declared that Clinton had that affair, as if reading from one of the tablets.
As for Stephanopoulos, no one was murdered at the Rose Law Firm. No one as far as he knew!
Twohey kept pouring it on this week, advancing the stories her childish guild so deeply and childishly loves. Jonathan Chait sat meekly by, as did the rest of his ilk.
These boys all know that they mustn't speak up. We'll dream of Chait and his well-behaved ilk as we stand in the shower today, washing away the residue of Twohey's cherry-picking.
There are brighter sides to this "all too human" story, of course. People are dead all over the world, but Twohey and Chait and the rest of the gang have their puny careers!