ARISTOTLE’S ERROR: Morning Joe moves the jihad along!

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

Interlude—A look at post-rational practice: Aristotle is said to have said that we, the so-called human beings, are the rational animal.

We’d call that a gross overstatement. How “rational” does the work of our nation’s “press corps” generally seem?

Were we observing the work of the rational animal when we watched the tapes from yesterday’s Morning Joe? In this early six-minute segment, Mika and Joe and the rest of the panel gasped about the vast sum Hillary Clinton was paid for her speech at The University at Buffalo last year.

They worked from the banner headline report in yesterday’s Washington Post. Less than three minutes in, Steve Schmidt had a complaint:
SCHMIDT (7/17/14): If this was a Republican candidate in the same position, this would be the dominant political headline. People would be shouting from the rooftops. It’s extraordinary.
In fairness to Schmidt, he was partly citing the drop in Clinton’s approval ratings since leaving the State Department. That said:

In yesterday’s post, we noted the press corps’ almost total disinterest in the very large speaking fees Rudy Giuliani received before becoming a candidate in 2007. The Republican got large speaking fees too. The press corps didn’t care.

With regard to “shouting from the rooftops,” did we mention the banner headline in the Washington Post from which this panel was working? Large parts of the press corps are shouting quite loud—for example, this outraged Morning Joe panel!

Moments later, Chuck Todd said he agreed with Schmidt about “the political tone deafness” of Clinton’s behavior. His remarks strike us as very odd. In context, they’re hard to defend:
TODD: I’m with Steve. All of this book tour; all of these decisions to go out and basically make your post-presidential money before you run for—before you actually are president? Which is really what’s going [on]. Ex-presidents make money like this, not candidates before they run.
From hearing that, would a viewer realize that the fee from Clinton’s speech was donated to a philanthropic organization? It certainly didn’t sound that way, and no one spoke up to offer that basic point of clarification. Viewers were simply left with the claim that Clinton was out there “making her post-presidential money” when she gave that speech.

Joe jumped in to agree with all points—and to gasp at the Clintons’ net worth:
SCARBOROUGH: And Chuck, you’re talking about all the money she’s making, ex-president money. As Steve pointed out, they are worth one hundred million dollars! Like, $275,000? That’s a ton of cash, unless you are worth $100 million. So why do it? Why not give the speech and then announce at the end of the speech, “I’m going to give this money back to SUNY-Buff for a scholarship fund for journalism, or for political science or for disadvantaged youth”—whatever! I don’t understand.
Would viewers understand that the money in question did go into a philanthropic fund? It certainly didn’t sound that way, and no one stepped up to tell them.

Meanwhile, from his gasping about the money, would viewers understand that Scarborough’s salary is reported to be $5 million per year?

No one said anything that was flatly inaccurate during this segment. But this conversation was grossly misleading. It was dominated by the information everyone agreed to leave out.

Were viewers ever told that the money from Buffalo was donated to the Clinton Foundation? Yes they were, though the disclosure arrived in a cloud of gorilla dust.

Right at the start, Mika introduced the general topic to the panel. In the process, she performed an act of left-handed disclosure:
BRZEZINSKI: Chuck, also Steve Schmidt, I want to ask about the Hillary Clinton story that we were talking about. And this is about the Washington Post report that SUNY Buffalo paid her $275,000 for a speech in October of last year.

The speech was under an hour, there were all sorts of other constraints in the contract. I think there’s another college that paid her $225,000—that’s UNLV.

Clinton has said that all of her college speaking fees go to the Clinton Foundation. But first, they go to the speakers bureau, in total.

What’s your take on that? First whiff of this story, it’s kind of shocking. $275,000 for an hour speech!
At “first whiff,” Mika thought the story was “kind of shocking.” $275,000 for an hour speech!

As we noted yesterday, Giuliani had been making speeches for $200,000 eight to ten years earlier. In that case, the press corps barely said boo.

Whatever! In that passage, you see the one place where viewers were told that the shocking fee in question went to the Clinton Foundation. But please remember what we have told you: When the guild had declared a jihad, ameliorating information must always arrive in a cloud of suspicion.

Brzezinski borrowed the slippery conduct by Philip Rucker which we discussed in yesterday's report. Clinton said that her college speaking fees go to the foundation, Mika said—failing to note that this arrangement was specified in the Buffalo contract.

“But first, they go to the speakers bureau, in total,” she rather strangely added.

That murky statement isn’t inaccurate. It just wraps the whole disclosure in twin clouds of distraction and suspicion.

Incredibly, that was the only time in the six-minute segment that the donation of the fee was ever mentioned. From this point on, everyone spoke as if the money in question was taken for personal use.

Rational animals, can we talk? Whatever this discussion was, it wasn’t “rational” conduct. And it certainly didn’t represent sound journalistic practice.

In fact, it was barely “journalism” at all—but so what? Gene Robinson made no attempt to clarify any part of this misleading discussion. But then, this is the way this guild has behaved for a very long time.

Tomorrow, we’re going to try to wrap up this week’s report. With apologies, it’s hard to get to all the ways the rational animals find themselves moved to perform.


  1. "In fairness to Schmidt, he was partly citing the drop in Clinton’s approval ratings since leaving the State Department."

    In fairness to accuracy, that is all he was talking about.

  2. How much did Alexander the Great get for a speech? We don't know, because Aristotle kept his trap shut.

    1. Good thing Rucker the Younger wasn't covering him for the Persian Post.

    2. You do know he was Greek, not Persian, right?

    3. After he took Babylon it was hard to tell.

    4. He took Egypt too. Did that make him Egyptian? He was born Greek.

  3. SOMERBY: "In yesterday’s post, we noted the press corps’ almost total disinterest in the very large speaking fees Rudy Giuliani received before becoming a candidate in 2007. The Republican got large speaking fees too. The press corps didn’t care."

    Try Google, Bob:

    "Guiliani speaking fees draw scrutiny," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 7, 2007

    "Rudy Guiliani's speaking fees" Salon, May 17, 2007

    "Rudy Guiliani: No Free Speech" Smoking Gun, Feb. 16, 2007

    "Guiliani to seek advice from FEC on speaking fees" Washington Post, Feb. 15, 2007

    "SC Republican challenges Guiliani speaking fee," ABC News, March 31, 2005

    "The uncharitable Rudy Guiliani," Reuters, March 13, 2007

    "SC lawmaker wants Guiliani to repay $100,000 speaking fee," Associated Press, April 3, 2005

    "Rudy's millions: Paper scrutinizes former NYC mayor's speaking fees," USA Today, Feb. 7, 2007

    "Guiliani fee for speaking at tsunami charity: $100K, private jet" CNN, Feb. 15, 2007

    "Rudy Guiliani, Diva" Crooks and Liars, Feb. 16, 2007

    "Guiliani's greedy decision to quite Iraq Study Group," Slate, June 21, 2007

    "Guiliani's profitable partnership," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2007

    "Really rich Rudy," New York Observer, April 4, 2005

    1. Google is only good for Presidential Glass Teleprompter you vile troll.

    2. Your long list @ 3:30 mentions nothing from the pages of Time. They did, however, cover what happens to those fees when you are but an also-ran.

    3. This is made relative by the word "almost total". This seems like a lot less coverage than Clinton has been getting.

    4. Giuliani received less attention obviously.


      "rudy giuliani speaking fees"
      Environ 159 000 résultats (0,36 secondes)

      "hillary clinton speaking fees"
      Environ 32 900 000 résultats (0,24 seconds)

  4. Joe Scarborough gets 5 million a year for occasionally showing up for a couple hours on weekdays to bloviate, intimidate panelists who might disagree with him, and spew inaccuracies at times? Now that's a scandal!

  5. How many of the orbiting objects (aka performing animals) depicted in Amy Chozik's "Planet Hillary" article are on or have been on the payroll or consulting roster of the Gaping Maw Foundation? How many of those can be tied to past Clinton campaigns?

    Don't know?

    Kamyl Bazbaz is one whose nose is sticking out from under the tent already, having spoken up as Chelsea Clinton's spokesperson when Chozick chose to detail the younger Clinton's speaking fees.

    My guess is somebody in the press will find a list soon enough. I am sure it will be handed to them by a Son-of-Rove PAC oppo researcher, but they won't admit it when they publish it in the WaPo or NYTimes. And Hillary will have "Dead Broke" yoke all over her face. Anf, if past is prologue, a testy response that makes things worse.

    1. If I were her, I'd turn the job of defending the Clinton Foundation over to Bill.

      He'll knock it out of the park.

    2. Not if its staff and consultant directory looks like a Farm Club of the Hillary 2016 Big League squad.

    3. Yes, it must be a fake charity if the Clintons run it. Tell that to the millions of AIDS victims in Africa who are alive today because the Clinton Foundation provided drugs for them when no one else could.

    4. The American Voluntary Medical Team did great work too
      until its leader was perceived to have misused the organization to fuel a personal addiction. Nothing she did harmed the good works of the organization. But the damage to her reputation helped kill the organization.

      Fortunately she recovered.

    5. "was perceived"?!?

      Cindy McCain confessed to prescription falsification to feed her addiction to painkillers. She damaged her own reputation. One of the field physicians who prescribed painkillers for Cindy on numerous occasions lost his license. No more good works by that doctor.

      What does this sorry debacle have to do with the Clinton Foundation?

    6. As much as Aristotle has to do with Mr. Rucker. As much as FDR's Second Inaugural has to do with Hillary Clintons speech at SUNY Buffalo. As much as cheating at Atlanta’s Parks Middle School has to do with immigration protests in Murietta, California.

      To invoke the master, your comment reminds me of the press ignoring Rudy' Giuliani's speaking fees but jumping all over HRC. Did you criticize TDH for tenuous connections or just me? Why do I get all the tough questions?

      Did Cindy McCain's addiction divert resources from the mission? No. Did it stop the organization from doing its work? Not until long after the addiciton itself had been treated because of the perception. Will the discovery of, or even quasi credible allegations of anything political going on at the Clinton Foundation mean it did not do good things. No. Will it harm the organization? Less likely than it will harm any Presidential ambitions of HRC.

      See the connection? I just thought an organization helping people closely associated with Presidential quality candidates and wives might be a useful point of comparison.

      That and the addiction issue.

    7. "As much as Aristotle has to do with Mr. Rucker. As much as FDR's Second Inaugural has to do with Hillary Clintons speech at SUNY Buffalo. As much as cheating at Atlanta’s Parks Middle School has to do with immigration protests in Murietta, California."

      You forgot Inka culture.

      Has anybody else noticed how bizarre Bob's writing is getting. After reading the FDR Second Inagural lead-in, I went, "Huh?"

      It's like stray thoughts pop into his head, he rushes to his computer to write them all down, and then he can't really tie anything together.

      Truly strange.

    8. Use of analogy is difficult for people who cannot hold two thoughts in their mind at the same time. That is a symptom of mental illness or brain injury.

    9. I wouldn't go that far.

      But we all know people who think all history points to and supports the point they are making, and it could be about anything. These are usually quite lazy minds, and crashing boors to boot.

  6. One of the first places I learned to hate the obscene dollar amounts heaped upon those forming or reporting our public discourse was here at the Howler.

    1. Don't hate them. Distrust what they write and try to understand what their ulterior motives might be.

    2. Dollar amounts, last I checked, can't write or run for office.

  7. this is fraud by omission. they neglect o mention the fees go
    to charity and the good works of the Clinton Foundation.
    Clinton Derangement Syndxrome lives

  8. And this is what they come up with after investigating power and corruption at the heights of business and government? They should turn in their power and corruption detector if this is the best they can do.

    1. We agree with your point Anon. @ 4:33. But we have never held sanctimony in high regard nor attempted to disguise it to fit a meme.


    2. 433: God forbid you actually go to the website to learn that this is but a drop in the bucket of what they've come up with. After all, it's much easier to attempt some lame joke.

  9. While you're at it, look up the role of front groups with nice sounding names and altruistic mottos in laundering Koch contributions in California politics. Do you think you can tell who these people are and what they want from their name or motto online? When their findings turn up on Fox news they are not hunting Plutocrats.

  10. You want us to look them up for you? We gave you a link so you could do that yourself.


  11. Please. Somebody write a couple of short paragraphs explaining why it is a good thing for a former Secretary of State who might be the next Democratic nominee to charge $275,000 to give a speech at a public university, regardless of what she does with the money.

    1. It's a way to raise money for a good cause. There, not a couple of short paragraphs, but one sentence!

    2. Its a good way to take money from an educational institution and transfer it to your own foundation while raising eyebrows needlessly.

    3. I have no doubt that the Clinton Foundation has done enormous good.

      But please . . . not all of their money, including lecture fees, have gone to the Foundation.

      After being "not only dead broke, but in debt" just 14 years ago, got an idea of what their net worth is now and how they got it? By donating all their lecture fees?

    4. Since I raised the initla question I will note my concern if not with anyone cashing in on the lecture circuit. It is charging almost a quarter of a million to speak at a public university when you are thinking about running for President, regardless of where you sent the fee.

  12. The smoking gun used to post celebrity performance contracts. The were much more extensive, nitpicky and full of ridiculous demands. This stuff posted about Clinton contains nothing unusual but is being blown up as of it were some diva-like or inappropriate expose. It is nothing.

    The tone surrounding it speaks volumes about the intentions of those talking about it, just as the negative tone and empty content of the troll comments here reveal nothing more than a desire to hurt Somerby.

    1. Well, as noted before, there was a pretty good row over the most bizarre stipulations in Sarah Palin's contract, down to "bendy straws."

      Did Bob rush to her defense? Or does he pick and choose which female politician he will hop on his white horse to defend?

  13. 10:32, come right out and say that the Public Accountability Initiate is another Koch Bros. front.

    Then go to their Web site and back it up with some evidence.

    Otherwise, your insinuations are lame. And puerile.

  14. For 10:32

    Funding sources:

    •Arca Foundation
    •Elbaz Family Foundation
    •Harnisch Foundation
    •HKH Foundation
    •Park Foundation
    •Schmidt Family Foundation / 11th Hour Project
    •Sociological Initiatives Foundation
    •Sunlight Foundation
    •United Republic

    Oranizations they claim to have worked for or with:

    •National People’s Action
    •American Federation of Teachers
    •Campaign for America’s Future
    •Center for Community Change
    •New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness
    •Community Voices Heard
    •PUSH Buffalo
    •Take Action Minnesota
    •Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

    Now, put up or wipe your mouth with some GP products.