But why?

MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014

Part 1—Halperin's striking prediction: Last Friday, a gaggle of pundits on Morning Joe were discussing the White House campaign.

At the present time, of course, there is no a White House campaign. According to almost all the experts, our next presidential election takes place in November 2016.

That’s well over two years away! At present, there is no campaign.

No one is currently running for president! But major parts of the mainstream press corps love discussing White House campaigns, including those which aren’t yet occurring.

Our upper-end “journalists” love to kill time in this fashion. They also love to fashion the frameworks within which they will discuss a campaign.

In part, that explains what happened when Hillary Clinton launched her recent book tour.

Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, concerns her four years in the State Department. The book discusses a wide array of events from around the globe. It’s a type of discussion our upper-end press corps finds insuperably boring.

At the same time, it’s widely assumed that Clinton will launch a White House campaign next year. For that reason, many interviews on her book tour raced in that direction.

Multimillionaire TV stars asked if voters would support a person as wealthy as Clinton. In response to Clinton’s answers, some of the nation’s most famous pundits launched their famous “gaffe culture.”

The Washington Post even launched a front-page jihad concerning the size of Clinton’s speaking fees. In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd assailed Clinton for her “rapacious” behavior and her “wanton acquisitiveness,” which she was said to be passing along to her daughter.

In some quarters, these events have sparked minor discussions about Clinton’s relationship with the press. Last Friday, a major pundit on Morning Joe offered a startling assessment.

Mika Brzezinski quoted a recent statement by Clinton about her relationship with the press. At that point, she threw to Time magazine’s Mark Halperin.

What were Halperin’s views about this? Halperin, a major insider, made a striking prediction:
BRZEZINSKI (7/25/14): Mark Halperin, your thoughts.

HALPERIN: Well, I don't ever like to overstate the media’s role, but the media has a pretty big role in the presidential process. I think she’s talking about what is the most important issue determining whether she’ll be president right now. She'll raise the money, she’ll have policy positions. She needs to find a way—we talked about this the other day—to change the narrative about how she's being covered.

Right now, she's destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president.
“We talked about this the other day?” Halperin referred to a discussion which occurred on the Morning Joe program of Tuesday, July 22. For links to both discussions, see below.

Citizens, can we talk?

Halperin is a major press corps insider. He knows all the other press corps insiders.

He attends the cocktail parties where media narratives slur their way into shape. Mark Halperin understands the way the press corps works.

Keeping those credentials in mind, let’s make sure we’re perfectly clear about what Halperin said:

According to Halperin, “the most important issue determining whether” Clinton can get elected to the White House will be her press coverage. She’ll be able to raise the money, he said. She’ll be able to articulate her stands on the various issues.

But Clinton needs to find a way “to change the narrative about how she’s being covered,” Halperin said, somewhat clumsily. And that’s when he made his startling prediction:

As matters stand, Clinton “is destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president!” So Mark Halperin said.

That is a remarkable statement, for at least several reasons.

For starters, insider pundits rarely speak in such awkward ways about the insider press. Halperin made a starting suggestion—he suggested the press corps’ coverage of a major candidate could determine the outcome of our next White House campaign.

Plainly, that’s what happened in Campaign 2000, when a twenty-month war against Candidate Gore let George Bush reach the White House. In the main, that war was conducted by the mainstream press corps, not by the RNC.

The press corps’ poisonous war against Gore let Bush reach the White House. But it’s a basic law of the guild: Major journalists never suggest that the behavior of their own guild could have such startling effects.

As such, Halperin’s remarks on Morning Joe were extremely unusual. They broke the most ironclad code of silence in American culture—the silence the mainstream press corps maintains about its own views and behaviors.

How potent is that code of silence? To what extent are its strictures observed? To anyone with eyes to see, it’s perfectly obvious that the “horrible coverage” of Candidate Gore was “the most important issue determining” his failure to get to the White House.

But so what? Right to this day, even “liberal” members of the mainstream press corps refuse to discuss this history-changing fact.

Is Clinton “destined to get horrible coverage” if she runs for president? Plainly, that’s what happened to Candidate Gore as our most corrupt elite transferred its post-impeachment enmity to Bill Clinton’s chosen successor.

That recent journalistic history has been disappeared. You aren’t supposed to discuss that history. Nor are pundits supposed to say the sorts of things Halperin said.

Can we talk? When Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination in 2007 and 2008, her coverage was rather horrible too.

Major figures in the press corps ridiculed her as “Nurse Ratched” and as “Evita Peron.” In a rare manifestation, the New York Times published a news report about the horrible coverage she had received, though only after the race was done.

In June 2008, the Times’ public editor savaged that same Maureen Dowd for “the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1.” But through all these trials and tribulations, careerist members of the press corps have obeyed their guild’s code of silence, pretending there’s “nothing to look at” in the way the Clintons and Gore have been covered.

This has gone on for a very long time. They buried Gene Lyons’ 1996 book, Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater. In 1999 and 2000, they pretended they had no idea why Candidate Gore was getting such horrible coverage.

When the Post began its most recent jihad last month, career liberals sat and watched in silence, just as they and their successors have always done. Some launched their own peculiar assaults on Clinton, as was the case with Gore.

Last Friday morning, Halperin made a rather startling prediction. It came in the second of two semi-remarkable discussions on Morning Joe.

On each of those programs, high-ranking national pundits played a familiar game. They pretended they had no earthly idea why they themselves, and their colleagues and friends, were giving Clinton some premature horrible coverage.

They’ve played this game many times in the past. If they’re allowed, they will continue to play it.

Do you want to see a Republican president? That choice is up to each voter, of course.

But “horrible coverage” of Candidate Gore did send Candidate Bush to the White House. Halperin issued a clear prediction:

Hey rubes! It could happen again!

Tomorrow: What David Gregory said

To watch the Morning Joe discussions: Last week, Morning Joe panels staged two discussions of Hillary Clinton’s press coverage.

For our money, Mike Barnacle was the star of last Tuesday’s discussion. We’ll discuss his comments on Wednesday. To watch that whole segment, click here.

On Friday, Halperin made a startling prediction. Mika threw to David and Donny. To watch that full segment, click this.


  1. Notice how Halperin made it Hillary Clinton's responsibility to change the behavior of the press corps. Notice the word "destined". This language evades press responsibility for its own conduct. Who sets the press agenda?

    1. Halperin loves to use the passive voice.

      Bad press coverage is like bad weather -- there's nothing Mark or anyone else in the media can do about it. He can only let you know what's coming.

  2. I noticed. I also noticed how some feel it is never the actions, answers, or personality of the politician. Notice how few suggest it is a symbiotic process.

    Notice the press all to often does not cover itself because it is not generally assigned, in a political campaign, to cover itself. Notice generally that those who view coverage of their candidate as negative assign the reason to a conspiracy or built in bias on the part of the press and they complain loudly throughout and, in some cases, for decades afterward.

    Notice how the pundit who is usually savaged for being wrong is applauded when he says something the savager thinks is correct. Notice how when those who say something never happens are confronted with it happening it becomes something that rarely happens then quickly reverts back to never happening until it once again does.

    Notice it has always been thus and, as long as we don't have censorship, it will always be thus. Until further notice.

    1. None of this explains why Bush was treated so well and Gore so badly. You make it sound as if there were not objective consensus about how the press has played favorites in past elections.

    2. And maybe you should notice the actual history of coverage of Gore. The so-called lies by Gore were pure, outright, fabricated lies by a raft of pundits and reporters repeated over and over throughout the campaign. With the public, Gore won the first debate by a large margin, and yet the press dreamed up stuff about off-camera sighs and sneers as if they were the most important information in the campaign.

      Man, there are apologists and then there are apologists. On this one, Somerby will eat you for lunch.

    3. Or . . . they were statements out of Gore's own mouth, embellished by the GOP, and picked up by a willing media, for which, for whatever reason, Gore could not seem to defend effectively. And Bob then blames "liberals" in the press for a code of silence that prevented them from not acting tribally emough to suit Somerby by rushing to fight Gore's battles for him.

      And now that we do have a network that has found its niche by pushing back, what is Somerby's response? "They are just as bad as Fox."

    4. Anonymous @ 12:32 here, responding after comments by
      4 others to my original comment to Anonymous @12:00.

      Notice that all of you jumped in with Gore when I never mentioned him.

  3. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy. However, something is seriously out of order in that democracy when an esteemed member of the media states unequivocally that the media, not the voters, will choose our next president. We have been forewarned. It's up to us not to let that happen.

    1. We the people are dumb.

    2. Speak for yourself.

    3. Well actually, no.

      With the stewardship of Cronkite gone, we the people have been freed to be just as dumb as we want!

      Alas! We the people are enormously dumb; presumably, we always have been.

      We are a very dumb, very gullible people. The last several years have really brought home the range of crazy, ridiculous things we the people are prepared to believe.

      That said, we the people are amazingly dumb. In truth, we don't know squat from squadoosh; squadoodle is light-years beyond us. For that reason, we're prone to believing every damn-fool claim that comes down the pike.

  4. You know, I am a very devoted reader of this site. I think Bob writes about things more people should cover and is right more than wrong.

    But I have one problem. He demonstrates the press War on Gore in the 2000 primaries. He demonstrates how the press favored McCain in these primaries. Gore won. Mc Cain lost. Gore went on to win the popular vote. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how this happened.

    1. Have you considered that he would have won by a wider margin without the press against him, one that would have made it less possible for the election to have been stolen?

    2. It's entirely possible the press is not as powerful as Halperin and Somersby think it is. A CNN poll out this morning shows that after six weeks of relentless attacks on Clinton by the media, she would only crush Romney in 2016 by thirteen points. Think what her lead would be without the ongoing jihad!

    3. They haven't been polling about Romney but RealClearPolitics shows Clinton's lead against Bush in 2016 cut by 18 points in presidential general election polls taken between April and July 2014.

    4. Certainly I have considered it as it relates to the General Election. Gore won the popular vote by 5 times the margin of JFK in 1960.

      Kennedy was widely believed to be the recipient of more favorable press coverage than Nixon. Nixon supporters believe the elction was stolen in Illinois and Texas and have blamed the liberal biased press ever since.

      How do you explain the primaries?

    5. That is really beyond question. It's impossible to see a good faith argument that the relentless negative coverage didn't cost Gore a few hundred thousand votes nationally, and a few tens of thousands more than the 500 he officially lost by in Florida, easily more than enough to have won the electoral vote. It is quite possible that without the negative coverage Gore would have won Missouri, Nevada and Ohio, too, making it a near landslide electoral win, but in any case Florida would have readily done the trick.

    6. Ditto for Nixon. Impossible to see how the negative coverage didn't prevent him from winning. Then, one could argue, with a continuation of Eisenhower's policies in Southeast Asia, Vietnam could have been avoided. When the Civil Rights movement erupted, Nixon could have ignored the Southern Democrats, listened to Republican leaders like Javits and Dirksen and solidified a Republican hold on the black electorate that made Edward Booke the odds on favorite to become the first African American president until his affair with Barbara Walters was revealed.

  5. How about a translation?

  6. Bill Clinton was loathed by the media --- was twice elected (pretty handily the 2nd time) and his approval ratings peaked *during impeachment* (70%). I was no fan of Tricky Dick, but was there a recent president more loathed and outright despised by the media than Nixon? Elected twice --- the second time, a total landslide.

    I recall the press thought Reagan was a semi-literate boob. Two landslides.

    And so forth.

    The public doesn't take its cues from the news media, which it actually holds in very low regard: http://www.gallup.com/poll/171740/americans-confidence-news-media-remains-low.aspx

    1. That's why candidates poll numbers don't fluctuate with media critiques? Oh wait, they do. Confidence in the media may be low, but that doesn't mean the public is unaffected by the news media.

      When someone wins in spite of the media, that doesn't mean the media had no effect. What else do you suppose might have affected the campaigns you use as your examples above?

    2. Not sure where your recollection comes from, but not only was Nixon given wide benefit of the doubt coverage, his opponent in 1972 was vilified in the press/media.

      And Reagan got great coverage, very deferential. After the assassination attempt, he was spoken of in almost reverential tones. He would lie straight into the camera and the press/media response was, "Hey that's Reagan. And didn't he do it great?"

    3. In 1972, the Democrats were eating their own in the primaries, the Republicans weren't.
      Nixon convinced working class Americans, even union members, that the Democrats were being taken over by immoral, hippie-type freaks of the drug culture. (Which had some truth to it.)
      The silent majority took it to heart, and taught the undisciplined, self-indulgent hedonists a lesson.
      And the press DID vilify McGovern, claiming much of his base was the drug culture, and that he was a fool for not vetting Eagleton, and a coward for dropping him.
      Those were some of the happiest days of my life. (sigh).
      Luv that Dennis Hopper!

    4. Right. After the revelation of Eagleton's electroshock treatments for depression, McGovern announced that he was standing behind his chosen running mate "1,000 percent."

      Then a few days later, he introduced Sargent Shriver as his new running mate.

      That was all a matter of the press vilifying him.

    5. Bear in mind, for those whose memories of the '72 election have grown fuzzy, that after the 1970 mid-terms, Richard Nixon turned into quite the "progressive" president.

      Among the things he did in a very short time:

      He began withdrawing troops from Vietnam, leading to the October Surprise "Peace is at hand."

      He opened relations with China.

      He began a policy of detente with the Soviet Union, leading to a huge wheat deal that made farmers very happy.

      He established the EPA.

      He balanced the budget and began "revenue sharing" that poured billions into state and local governments.

      He instituted federal wage and price controls to curb inflation.

      He proposed, but didn't get, a national health insurance plan.

      He proposed, and it was passed after his resignation, the federal earned income tax credit as a way to "reward work" and get people off welfare.

      Now as soon as he was re-elected, he dropped the FDR impression and turned back into Richard Nixon.

      But he won re-election in a historic landslide for reasons other than the press was mean to McGovern.

  7. Halperin says she is destined to get horrible coverage if she runs for president. I think she has gotten horrible coverage of her book publication. If they wanted to decrease her book sales, they couldn't have done a better job of that either. They cannot keep her off the shows but they spend the time discussing other topics and have conducted a concurrent scandal campaign over speaking fees that are no different than any other politician of her stature gets. The focus has been on her earnings, so it is harder for her to complain that their neglect of her book is affecting her income. If anyone wanted to make sure fewer people read her book, they couldn't have done a better job.

  8. This is not true. The article does attribute the statement about despising to a specific source, who is not Somerby.

  9. Sure Mr. Legend.

    According to an author Somerby quoted, the Clintons hated Tim Russert. Tim Russert hated them. Bob asks about the latter but not the former.

    He doesn't "seem to think" there might be a connection. He doesn't suggest or contemplate the mutual contempt between Clintons and press might be wider than what he seems to accept as the contempt between one member of the press and Clintons.

    Clear enough or shall I try again?

  10. It certainly looks like they are trying out story lines, seeing which ones can gain traction and which ones won't. It will be somewhat more difficult because there is more knowledge of what happened in 2000 and there is little regard for the major press these days.

    The speaking fees won't gain traction because it's a free country and if people want to pay her that, so be it. If it's going into the foundation, too, then who cares? Going after Chelsea is dirty pool, so that won't work, either. They haven't found a tack that will work yet, and it's possible they never will.

  11. SOMERBY: Halperin is a major press corps insider. He knows all the other press corps insiders.

    He attends the cocktail parties where media narratives slur their way into shape. Mark Halperin understands the way the press corps works.

    HALPERIN: .... there is no doubt that the press failed to scrutinize this program (Affordable Care Act) at the time of passage and during the context of the president’s re-election. Any reporter who would argue otherwise would be putting their head in the sand. As we write in “Double Down,” the problem for the Republicans in the re-election context was you nominated, Republicans nominated Mitt Romney, a guy who was not very well positioned, to say the least, to make the case against Obamacare because he passed the healthcare plan in Massachusetts....

    ...Part of the flaws of the way the media works. If the candidates aren’t talking about it gets less coverage. No doubt a disservice was done to the country and to liberals. It didn’t get scrutiny on passage and then again when the president was running for re-election. Our cover story in the magazine lays all this out just how deep the president’s predicament is now politically and substantively.

    SOMERBY: That is a remarkable statement, for at least several reasons.

    For starters, insider pundits rarely speak in such awkward ways about the insider press.

  12. "Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, concerns her four years in the State Department. The book discusses a wide array of events from around the globe. It’s a type of discussion our upper-end press corps finds insuperably boring."

    I am glad you point this out. Were it not for your thorough, thoughtful review I might not have known enough about it to have gotten excited about it.

  13. Kevin Drum has linked to this thread. He is, too, a good liberal.