Supplemental: Nicholas Kristof, hard and soft!

SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2015

The role of big money in politics:
Last Thursday, Nicholas Kristof discussed the role of big money in our politics.

His column made much more sense than Ruth Marcus’ recent nervous breakdown on the same general subject. That said, we were struck by the places where Kristof was hard, and by the places where he seemed soft.

In accord with Hard Pundit Law, Kristof began his discussion of big money with You Know Who and her husband. Here’s how the column started:
KRISTOF (5/28/15): I’ve admired the Clintons’ foundation for years for its fine work on AIDS and global poverty, and I’ve moderated many panels at the annual Clinton Global Initiative. Yet with each revelation of failed disclosures or the appearance of a conflict of interest from speaking fees of $500,000 for the former president, I have wondered: What were they thinking?

But the problem is not precisely the Clintons. It’s our entire disgraceful money-based political system. Look around:
We were struck by the delicacy of the gentleman’s conscience. He loves the work the Clinton foundation performs in the world. But he recoils from “each revelation of failed disclosures or the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

Earth to Kristof: Foundations can’t perform “fine work on AIDS and global poverty” without the speaking fees and contributions which actually pay for that work. If Kristof admires the work so much, you’d think he’d try to be careful and fair in his remarks about “failed disclosure” and “the appearance of conflict.”

To what “revelation of failed disclosure” does this giant refer? We don’t know, since he never says. But Marcus’ breakdown was triggered by a “failed disclosure” which was actually an ever-so-slightly delayed disclosure—a voluntary disclosure at that, one which occurred some seventeen months before the election it has apparently undermined in the minds of delicate observers.

(Only seventeen months to go to! At such a late date, will voters have a chance to consider this recent “failed disclosure?”)

Could that be one of the “failed disclosures” which have Kristof upset? We have no idea, since he doesn’t cite any specific failure. Concerning the appearance of conflict of interest, you’d think a man who admires the foundation’s work would be disturbed by slippery allegations or insinuations of same.

But how strange! When Kristof’s own newspaper engaged in virtual journalistic fraud in the form of a 4400-word “bombshell report” about a scary uranium deal, the great man had nothing to say about the slippery behavior! Could it be that moral giants like Marcus and Kristof persistently accede to the world’s most obvious “conflict of interest”—the one which keeps them from noting or criticizing the fraudulent work of their colleagues, their friends and their guild?

(Kristof has “moderated many panels at the annual Clinton Global Initiative?” In the wake of the turmoil concerning George Stephanopoulos, this statement has the tiniest feel of “delayed disclosure” itself!)

Bowing to strictures of Hard Pundit Law, Kristof began with the Clintons. To his credit, he went on from there to discuss the role of big money all through our politics. But not before he offered this left-handed acquittal:

“But the problem is not precisely the Clintons.”

The problem is not precisely the Clintons! Our great moral arbiter spoke!

The problem is not precisely the Clintons! Really, that language is rich. As he continues, Kristof cites allegedly shaky behavior by three Republican candidates. For our money, his statement concerning Candidate Rubio sounds shakier than anything his tribe has managed to pin on You Know Who, the never-ending focus of their guild’s heartfelt concern:

“Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has received financial assistance from a billionaire, Norman Braman, and has channeled public money to Braman’s causes.”

Rubio has “channeled money” to a billionaire donor’s “causes?” To our ear, that sounds a bit worse than anything that has been pinned on You Know Who and her unthinking husband. In fairness:

Reading Kristof, we have no idea what that actually means. Neither does anyone else. Is Rubio’s conduct precisely the problem? We have no idea.

In accordance with pundit law, Kristof began with the Clintons. He failed to note that they can’t perform all that good work without the fees and contributions which have him so upset. He fails to cite specific misconduct. He dismisses their case with a comic left-handed acquittal.

Especially given his admiration for the actual work the Clintons are doing, we thought his treatment of the pair was pretty tough. Compare it with the soft soap with which he seemed to cleanse big business interests.

In the passage shown below, Kristof discusses the way big corporate interests loot the American people. But his formulations strike us as soft. Suddenly, our ferocious watchdog has given away several teeth:
KRISTOF: Money doesn’t always succeed, of course, and billionaires often end up wasting money on campaigns. According to The San Jose Mercury News, Meg Whitman spent $43 per vote in her failed campaign for governor of California in 2010, mostly from her own pocket. But Michael Bloomberg won his 2009 re-election campaign for mayor of New York City after, according to the New York Daily News, spending $185 of his own money per vote.

The real bargain is lobbying—and that’s why corporations spend 13 times as much lobbying as they do contributing to campaigns, by the calculations of Lee Drutman, author of a recent book on lobbying.

The health care industry hires about five times as many lobbyists as there are members of Congress. That’s a shrewd investment. Drug company lobbyists have prevented Medicare from getting bulk discounts, amounting to perhaps $50 billion a year in extra profits for the sector.

Likewise, lobbying has carved out the egregious carried interest tax loophole, allowing many financiers to pay vastly reduced tax rates. In that respect, money in politics both reflects inequality and amplifies it.

Lobbyists exert influence because they bring a potent combination of expertise and money to the game. They gain access, offer a well-informed take on obscure issues—and, for a member of Congress, you think twice before biting the hand that feeds you.
Is it just our imagination? Or is Kristof kinder to the corporate interests which loot the public than to the people who do “fine work on global poverty?”

Kristof does cite “the egregious carried interest tax loophole.” But when he does, he attributes the misconduct to generic “lobbyists.” He doesn’t name a specific industry. He doesn’t name a specific politician who produced this “egregious” policy.

Kristof goes all generic when egregious conduct occurs. When he specifically cites “the health care industry,” we’d say his teeth fall out.

In Kristof Speak, this industry isn’t looting the public when it swarms the Congress. In Kristof Speak, the industry is simply making “a shrewd investment.” It’s seeking out a “real bargain.”

The industry has carved out “extra profits,” he says, though he doesn’t say at whose expense those profits are gained, or to what extent those people get looted. And, having said even that much, our moral giant seems to feel that he must say something nice:

According to Kristof, these lobbyists almost seem to play a helpful role in our governance! According to Kristof, they offer their “expertise” to the Congress. They’re willing to “offer a well-informed take” on various “obscure issues.”

Without their well-informed expertise, how would poor Congress know what to do? If you end up paying three times as much for health care, you may be getting a very good deal!

Marcus wrote a lunatic’s column, her fifth in a series. Nicholas Kristof didn’t. But we’d say his column was strangely hard and soft, in ways which are so ubiquitous that very few people will notice.

Marcus is “a fan of Hillary Clinton.” Kristof admires the Clintons’ fine work.

But how strange! The Clintons aren’t precisely the problem, Kristof says. Marcus just keeps saying things which are many times worse.

SAME OLD STORIES: Encouraged to loathe the lesser evil!

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015

Part 5—Still evil after all these years:
If we lived in Putin’s Russia, or in the world of Winston Smith, the State Journalistic Mental Health Squad might take [Name Withheld] away.

His letter appears in this morning’s Washington Post. His type of mental illness is clear—he can’t internalize the story-lines which are preferred by the Marcus Bruni Official Group Insight Brigade:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (5/29/15): Ruth Marcus noted in her May 24 op-ed column, “Clinton’s unseemly speechifying,” that people from whom Hillary Clinton takes money in exchange for speeches may be seeking to curry favor with her in her future role.

How is the expectation of the person or company who pays for a speech or the position of the speaker any different from the normal relationship between a major donor and the candidate recipient in our political system, particularly after Citizens United? Is the suspicion that there is a quid pro quo any different?

Reuters reported in April that billionaire Florida auto dealer Norman Braman, a former supporter of Jeb Bush, promised that Sen. Marco Rubio “will have the resources necessary to run a first-class campaign.”

The difference between the suspicions created or perceptions of inappropriate influence when a company pays for a speech and when a billionaire funds a campaign escapes me.

[Name Withheld], Potomac
You’re right. That letter is sad.

The writer starts by slandering Candidate Rubio. He then confesses his own mental disorder:

The difference between speaking fees and campaign contributions “escapes” him, the writer admits!

Such obvious mental disorder shouldn’t be ignored. The possibility exists that [Name Withheld] could write another letter someday about some other column in which Marcus tries to help us rubes ingest Official Insider Group Thinking.

In Putin’s Russia, the Marcus-Bruni Clear Thinking Van would take [Name Withheld] away. Before that happens, let’s get clear on what this lost soul has said.

Sadly, pitifully really, [Name Withheld] says this:

The possible influence of big money is found all through our political system. In many ways, the influence of big money isn’t a mere “possibility.” The actual rule of big money is clear as powerful industries write the industry-friendly legislation which then sails through the Congress.

Why do Americans pay two to three times as much, per person, for health care as citizens of other developed nations? This looting is an obvious offshoot of the role big money plays in fashioning legislation.

In our view, all that is implied by what [Name Withheld] wrote. As he flailed in a clear call for help, he restricted himself to a simpler point:

Presumably, big campaign contributors may seek favors from the pols to whom they contribute. But Marcus doesn’t seem to write about that! Her suspicions only seem to be aroused by speaking fees. And only when the fees go to You Know Who, of whom she says she’s “a fan!”

(In fairness, Marcus also becomes suspicious when donations go to a certain foundation so the needs of suffering children around the world can be met. That seems to trigger her too.)

Marcus finds her “hair on fire” when someone restores the hearing of children in the third world. But how strange! She doesn’t have a word to say about donations to people like Rubio. She doesn’t discuss the way the whole country is getting looted through the ridiculous costs of our industry-gimmicked health care.

Just a guess—her owners don’t like discussions like that! But, for the past twenty years, they’ve loved and enjoyed all manner of shrieking about You Know Who and her spouse.

Plainly, [Name Withheld] should be led away for his own good. He keeps thinking he sees connections where the Bruni Marcus Gang has declared that connections don’t exist and therefore shouldn’t be noticed.

He imagines a broader set of concerns about big money in our politics. Just a guess:

He might even think that someone like Marcus should focus on real abuses, abuses which have actually occurred, instead of pimping “suspicions” about uranium deals which no one seemed to think were scary at the time—uranium deals in which there is no evidence that You Know Who was involved.

[Name Withheld] should be led away, letting people like Marcus and Bruni continue their decades of work. That said, let’s consider a familiar old story which emerged in the comments to Bruni’s recent column—his column about the rapacious You Know Who and her rapacious husband, who insists on restoring kids’ sight.

As several commenters noted, Bruni’s column was rather poorly reasoned. Unfortunately, a boatload of readers seemed to swallow a central item of BruniThink, a pellet which was clearly implied by his weak-minded work.

In comments, the second commenter quickly gave voice
to Bruni’s pellet of thought. By a wide margin, his comment was recommended by more readers than any other comment this day.

For the record, the commenter is a Bernie Sanders fan—a real fan, not a fan of the Marcus type. Given Sanders’ excellent politics, we think his admiration for Sanders makes complete total sense:
COMMENTER FROM CHAPEL HILL (5/24/15): As is often said, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

In a functioning democracy, none of the Republican candidates would be considered viable Presidential candidates. Most would not hold elected office. Nor would Ms. Clinton be the presumptive Democratic nominee. They all are too flawed—each deeply in the pockets of Wall Street, corporations, banks and the power elite that buy them off—I mean, finance their campaigns. None of them really care about the average American after election day.

While many people support Sen. Sanders' policies, most will state he can never win. We supposedly live in a democracy, yet most believe there is no chance to make significant changes. The status quo is baked into the democratic equation and our psyche. Republicans are worse than Democrats, but make no mistake about it, Democrats support the status quo.

So, we are left with “relativity” to support our decision of whom to support. Each party declares the other candidate is worse and most people vote against rather than for. Nothing really changes for the better because candidates who really believe in significant change aren't supported by the billionaires.

I am supporting Sen. Sanders because he is the only candidate who proposes policies that benefit my children. He is the only candidate who believes in a real society. He is the only candidate not beholden to the power elite.

Sen. Sanders is not a lesser of two evils and that is why you should support him.
“The lesser of two evils is still evil.”

To date, 495 readers have recommended this North Carolinian’s comment, which captures the sense of Bruni’s column.

That said, we think that comment is very dangerous. In our view, it’s also a dangerous same old story, a story we’ve all heard before.

Why do we think that comment is dangerous? Not because of Senator Sanders, who has excellent politics.

We think that comment is dangerous because of what happened the last time that same old story gained traction. The last time around, the Brunis and Marcuses had helped convince a lot of liberals and progressives that Candidate Gore was the lesser of two evils, and therefore was still evil.

Three weeks before the nation voted, the Associated Press quoted one progressive saying exactly that. Beth Gardiner did the report, which ran in the New York Times:
GARDINER (10/14/00): Speakers assailed Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore as ideologically similar candidates in the pocket of corporate America.

They said the two have similar views on trade, foreign policy and the war on drugs.

Mr. Moore, a filmmaker, urged the crowd not to worry that voting for Mr. Nader might help Mr. Bush by taking votes from Mr. Gore.

"The lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil," Mr. Moore said.
"You don't make a decision because of fear: you make it on your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations."

He added: "Follow your conscience. Do the right thing.”
Three years later, that same filmmaker was bitterly complaining about the war which had been started by the greater of his two alleged “evils.” The lesser evil had given a speech warning against that course.

Was Candidate Gore really “evil?” Did that statement really make sense? What sort of thinking leads progressives to make such statements?

We think those are important questions as our new endless campaign starts getting pseudo-reported. We like Bernie Sanders too. Does that mean other people are “evil?” Should we start convincing ourselves of that same old story again?

A certain journalistic cult will be encouraging liberals to think that way in the next seventeen months. Four cycles back, with these same dynamics at play concerning the evils of You Know Who and his spouse, they succeeded in getting people to think that way about Candidate Gore, who was You Know Who’s chosen successor.

Dear lord, it felt so good at the time! How does that ardor look now?

“The lesser of two evils is still evil.” In our view, it’s very important for liberals to examine that talking point, which comes to us live and direct from the Bruni Marcus Barrel of Big Slick Upper-End Narrative.

All next week, we’ll examine the logic of that familiar old statement. Of all the various same old stories which were floating around last weekend, “the lesser of two evils is evil” strikes us as the most important.

This afternoon: A few more blasts from that highly destructive past

Supplemental: Clinton’s self-described “real opponent” declares!

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015

We’ve encountered this conduct before:
Hillary Clinton hasn’t been doing a lot of press events.

There’s a long history to such decisions by White House candidates. That said, when certain candidates don’t do such events, the “press corps” tends to get angry.

Some such attitude seemed to lay behind a 1250-word “Political Memo” in last Saturday’s New York Times. According to Jason Horowitz, Candidate Clinton’s “real opponent” had finally declared!

This is the way he started:
HOROWITZ (5/23/15): Hillary Rodham Clinton was in a forgiving mood. She had been discussing the small-business economy at a round-table gathering at a bike shop here on Tuesday when the Fox News correspondent Ed Henry interrupted. When, he shouted, would she take questions from the news media she had ignored for weeks on end?

''Maybe when I finish talking to the people here,'' Mrs. Clinton said as she leaned over a 3-D printed mechanical part that looked like a post-apocalyptic Rubik's cube. ''How's that?''

''You'll come over?'' Mr. Henry followed up.

''I might,'' Mrs. Clinton said teasingly. For the amusement of the 19 local residents invited to attend this latest installment of the movable Clinton court, and to the annoyance of the more than 50 members of the news media roped off around them, she added: ''I have to ponder it. But I will put it on my list for due consideration.''

Unlike in 2008, when Mrs. Clinton's regal bearing was brought low by Barack Obama's insurgent campaign, there is no one to force her out of her Rose Garden. Neither Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, nor Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, has applied significant pressure on her. That leaves the news media as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination, and while it may not be great for an educated populace or the furtherance of American democracy, it makes all the political sense in the world for Mrs. Clinton to ignore them, too.
“That leaves the news media as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination?”

Presumably, Horowitz didn’t mean that the way it sounds. But the rest of his piece had a familiar old sound, a sound we’ve heard before.

The snark and the snide were rather persistent all through the Horowitz piece. Forget about the way Obama undermined Clinton’s “regal bearing” in Campaign 2008. We’ve searched, but we still don’t understand this additional comment about that campaign:
HOROWITZ: She has rolled out more liberal positions on immigration reform and college debt and stayed mum on inconvenient things she does not want to talk about, like a potential trade deal or Israeli policies loathed by her liberal base. And unlike in 2008—when the battle between her and Mr. Obama forced Mrs. Clinton to do events late into the night, and she often slipped up or held forth about brain science—she is keeping her campaign schedule to a bare minimum.
“She often held forth about brain science?” On line, there are many links in Horowitz’s report. But there is no link to help explain that odd claim, and we were able to find no clues in a short attempt at a search.

Horowitz was snarking a bit about the topics Clinton was said to be avoiding. (We’re not sure why she’d be talking about “Israeli policies loathed by her liberal base” in these very early outings.) As he continued, he found several ways to tell his readers how fake and phony and disingenuous the candidate actually is.

This is familiar practice:
HOROWITZ: This week, as she campaigned in Iowa, Chicago and New Hampshire, where on Friday she again took questions from reporters—a relative flurry of activity—she generally filled each day with one event open to the news media, a smaller one with a pool reporter, and then some unexpected stops where she ordered coffee or bought toys for her grandchild. Always the grandchild.

At the bike shop event on Tuesday, she listened intently to the stories of the round-table participants, nodding 43 times a minute as they talked about their ice cream shops and 3-D printing. As television lights cast the shadows of two rows of ''everyday Americans'' onto the tablecloth, she looked expertly over the locals' heads and into the television cameras behind them to give her prepared remarks (''I want to make the words 'middle class' mean something again'').

She complimented the participants on their inquiries (''that's a very fair question'' or ''that's a very good question''), and when the moderator unexpectedly pushed her on her position on President Obama's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, she dodged artfully.


The smile on Mrs. Clinton's face slowly faded as she nodded and replied and obfuscated in response to the half-dozen questions asked of her. She did so with ease, despite the people shouting about her destroying her emails and calling out, ''Did you take official actions for the Clinton Foundation donors?'' And then she turned away, essentially dusting the whole dodging-the-press story line off her bird's-eye blazer.
In that passage, we’re told that Clinton “dodged artfully” about the trade pact. Also, that she “obfuscated with ease” in response to other questions.

You’ll note that Horowitz didn’t report anything Clinton actually said. We readers were simply expected to take his word for the fact that she had behaved in the way he described. After all, consider the way she had “looked expertly over the locals' heads!”

Just how phony is Candidate Clinton? Horowitz offered a key statistic. The candidate nodded 43 times per minute as she looked over the heads of those “everyday Americans,” he skillfully said. Scare quotes were placed around those words to provide a bit more snark.

Also note: In the New York Times, Candidate Bush is hailed as the world’s greatest human when he discusses his 84-year-old mother-in-law. When Candidate Clinton discusses her grandchild, she is subjected to snark.

When “journalists” of this type get mad, they have many ways to get even. Note the imagery Horowitz turned to late in his piece. Also note his comical words of self-praise, delivered without the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness:
HOROWITZ: Mrs. Clinton's relationship with the political press has never been warm. She started the 2008 race straight-arming reporters, and only when the nomination began slipping from her grasp did she seek to embrace them. It was too late. When she boarded the press bus with bagels (''I didn't want you to feel deprived''), no one partook. Despite that chill, though, there was a sense of professionalism and familiarity on the Clinton bus, because many of the reporters represented New York-based publications and had covered her as a senator. News conferences were not frequent, but they occurred behind curtains after events.

Now, both Mrs. Clinton and the news media have changed. She seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, returning to claim what is rightfully hers. And the press corps, both blessed and cursed with live streaming, tweeting and Snapchatting technologies, is armed with questions devised to win the moment. The result is a carnival atmosphere. It is not clear what Mrs. Clinton gains politically from playing the freak.

The solution for her team has been to keep the press at bay as Mrs. Clinton reads the scripts to her daily campaign shows.
Back in 2008, the professionalism of Horowitz’s colleagues made things somewhat bearable! Last Saturday, he showcased their current professionalism with his “circus freak” jibe and with the comment about reading the “scripts” to her “daily shows.”

We’ve seen this type of writing in the New York Times before. During Campaign 2000, Katharine “Kit” Seelye specialized in endless, small-ball punishments of the vile Candidate Gore.

Seelye’s “mistakes” and double standards came at Times readers early and often. People are dead all over the world because of the unprofessional, indulgent way she was allowed to perform.

For one especially striking example, consider the way she punished Candidate Gore in early March 2000. In Seelye’s magisterial judgment, he wasn’t doing enough press events. And so she resorted to this:
SEELYE (3/2/00): [J]ust as Mr. Gore was warming up to voters, he was clamming up to the press. The campaign wanted to ensure that he was delivering only the rehearsed message of the day, not random comments that were "off-message."

To see just how focused Mr. Gore has become on this task, go back to the scene in the hotel lobby here on Tuesday night.

The escort finally arrived and the traveling horde of perhaps two dozen journalists took the elevator to the vice president's suite. When everyone was assembled, Mr. Gore said nothing—this was supposed to be a "photo op" only—until a reporter asked, "How you feeling?"

"I'm grateful to the people of Washington State because, based on the projections, it looks like a big win, but I'm not taking anything for granted," Mr. Gore said.

He was then asked what message he had for Mr. Bradley.

"Uh, well, I don't, uh, have any, uh, message, uh, for, uh, for Senator Bradley," he responded slowly. "Uh, I, I, my message is for the, the voters of the country. Uh, I ask for their support. I'm not taking a single vote for, for granted."

Another question came. When would it be time for him to start unifying the Democratic Party?

At this point, Gore aides started trying to remove reporters from the room. Mr. Gore answered, "I, I am not taking a single vote for granted."

Much cross-talk ensued as the aides continued trying to hustle reporters out and Mr. Gore asserted, with the same rote-like repetition with which he famously said that there was "no controlling legal authority" over his fund-raising techniques, that he was not taking a single vote for granted.
Seelye punished Candidate Gore this day with a brace of “uhs” and by transcribing every repeated word. She journeyed back several years in time to throw in a jibe about “no controlling legal authority.”

Earlier in this piece, Seelye complained about the candidate’s changed habits. Her punishment techniques were on display all through this sad, dishonest passage:
SEELYE: [T]he vice president remains unusually distant from his traveling press corps, especially for a former journalist.

He was not always this way. As recently as a year ago, when he was traveling with just a few reporters and was not so much in the spotlight, he was more willing to engage in spontaneous conversation. But over time, he made blunders—claiming a central role in the creation of the Internet, for example—that got him publicity he did not want.

At the same time, his advisers told him that the trappings of the vice presidency made him seem too imperious, and he went through a very public transition in which he tried to relate to voters in a more human way, wearing casual clothes and holding open meetings.
As Seelye of course knew, Gore’s “blunder” about the Internet was made in a formal studio interview, not in “spontaneous conversation” with traveling reporters. But it was an embarrassing reference, so she threw it in.

Candidate Gore wore casual clothes on the trail from Day One of Campaign 2000, back in March 1999. We’ve documented that fact in great detail. In her comments about wardrobe changes, she was simply pimping the theme that Candidate Gore, who was phony and fake, had been endlessly “reinvented.”

Also, Naomi Wolf!

Gore’s “blunder” about the Internet was not as Seelye seemed to describe. In turn, Seelye omitted a disastrous event from the “spontaneous conversations” the Gore campaign had now decided to end. Way back in November 1997, Gore made an offhand remark about an old movie to a pair of reporters during a lengthy, late-night plane ride. It was transformed into an iconic “lie” by disgraceful people like Seelye:

Al Gore said he inspired Love Story!

The two reporters who actually heard what Gore said complained about what their colleagues did. But an ugly war was taking shape, and Seelye would serve as one of its leading warriors. In December 1999, she would “accidentally” “misquote” a statement by Gore about Love Canal. It became the third iconic “lie” in the trio of Gore’s invented “lies.”

People are dead all over the world because “Kit” Seelye did that.

Last Saturday, Horowitz was working to the Seelye standard. Might we note one last familiar part of his snark-infested profile?

It came in paragraph 21 of his 24-graf report. Note how poorly the highlighted passage comports with the impression he worked to convey in his first 20 paragraphs:
HOROWITZ: The solution for her team has been to keep the press at bay as Mrs. Clinton reads the scripts to her daily campaign shows.

''The media was confined between the bar and the stove,'' Gary Swenson said, describing an event with Mrs. Clinton at his home in Mason City, Iowa, on Monday. Asked if he had learned anything from her talk, he said, ''No, I don't think I learned anything remarkably new,'' but added after a pause: ''I think it was more her demeanor. It astonished me. I expected somebody who had space between herself and the people who lived here, and there was none.''
Horowitz worked his ascot off to convey the sense that Clinton was fake and phony with those Iowa voters. When he finally quoted a local person, that person reported a totally different impression.

This was very common in the New York Times “reporting” about Candidate Gore. Seelye worked a remarkable con of this very type from New Hampshire in the fall of 1999, but we’re running out of space.

These “reporters” are very bad people. They’ve been that way for a very long time. They aren’t real honest; they have little discipline; they’re swollen with a sense of their own importance.

They seem determined to con their readers in ways they find appropriate.

People are dead all over the world because they did this the last time. Careerists in the liberal world have agreed that this can’t be discussed.

Just a speculation: Today’s piece by Amy Chozick strikes us as strangely warm.

It seems to be very strangely warm. To our ear, the tone of the piece seemed so unusual that we wondered if it might be some sort of a “make-up piece.”

SAME OLD STORIES: A destructive old tale from the not-distant past!

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015

Part 4—Repulsed by the lesser evil:
By her own embarrassed admission, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post is “a fan of Hillary Clinton.”

Over at the New York Times, Frank Bruni pretty much isn’t. Last Sunday, this contrast produced a bit of instruction about the way the insider press corps works.

Here’s the learning we took away from the insiders’ columns:

You can have a schoolgirl crush on Clinton, or you can be a borderline hater. None of this will have any effect on what you end up writing!

How odd! Marcus, with the schoolgirl crush, wrote at least her fifth column in the past year about the “piggishness and gluttony” of the woman she so admires. For our background report, click here.

Bruni, the borderline hater, wrote the exact same column!

Is FIFA a weirdly secretive guild with weirdly hidden procedures? So is our insider “press corps!” By rather obvious rule of law, there are certain things they must all do and say. And when their reasoning goes to Qatar, we aren’t supposed to notice!

In his exasperated column, Bruni told the same old story about the Clintons’ rapacious ways in the realm of filthy lucre. As he started, he set the stage for some very weak reasoning with some vague remarks:
BRUNI (5/24/15): Say anything critical about a person or an organization and brace for this pushback: At least he, she or it isn’t as bad as someone or something else.

Sure, the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t done right by women. But those Mormons have more to answer for!

Yes, there are college presidents with excessive salaries. But next to the football and basketball coaches on many campuses, they’re practically monks!

Set the bar low enough and all blame is deflected, all shame expunged. Choose the right points of reference and behold the alchemy: naughty deeds into humdrum conformity. Excess into restraint. Sinners into saints.

Arkansas into Elysium.
According to the leading authority, Elysium “is a conception of the afterlife that...was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults.” In fairness, Bruni should know all about the way members of a sect can maintain group stories!

At any rate, poor Bruni! No matter who he criticizes, some alchemist will quickly declare that somebody else is worse!

So far, Bruni had given no specific examples. Now he did—although, just for the record, we’d have to say he slightly miscast the point of his villain’s remark:
BRUNI (continuing directly): I mention Arkansas because of a classic bit of deflection performed last month by one of its senators, Tom Cotton. He was rationalizing a so-called religious freedom bill that would have permitted the state’s merchants to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation. And he said that it was important to “have a sense of perspective.”

“In Iran,” he noted, “they hang you for the crime of being gay.”

I see. If you’re not hauling homosexuals to the gallows or stoning them, you’re ahead of the game,
and maybe even in the running for a humanitarian medal.

Like I said, you can set the bar anywhere you want.

And you can justify almost anything by pointing fingers at people who are acting likewise or less nobly.
You can set the bar anywhere you want? Once again, we’d have to say that Bruni should know about that!

Beyond that, we’d have to say that Bruni was miscasting and overstating the point of Cotton’s remark just a bit. You can read the CNN transcript yourself, by just clicking here.

Whatever! Fairly or otherwise, Bruni had offered a dramatic example of the kind of moral reasoning he had in mind. And sure enough! In his very next sentence, the basic rules of his own “sect or cult” kicked in:

“Naturally, this brings us to the current presidential campaign.”

“Naturally,” Bruni said, Cotton’s squalid-seeming remarks made him think of our new endless campaign. But as he continued, you can see whose moral squalor he actually had in mind:
BRUNI (continuing directly): Earlier this month Hillary Clinton not only made peace with the “super PACs” that will be panhandling on her behalf, but also signaled that she’d do her vigorous part to round up donations for one of them, Priorities USA.

She did this despite much high-minded talk previously about taming the influence of money in politics.

She did this without the public hand-wringing of Barack Obama when he reluctantly embraced his super PAC, which happened at a later point in his 2012 re-election effort.

She did this because Jeb Bush and other potential Republican rivals were either doing or poised to do this.

And she did this, no doubt, because of the Koch brothers and their political network’s stated goal of raising and spending nearly $1 billion on behalf of Republicans during this election cycle. For Democrats, “the Koch brothers” is at once a wholly legitimate motivation and an all-purpose exoneration, a boogeyman both real and handy, permitting all manner of mischief by everybody else. True, I’m vacuuming up money like an Electrolux on Adderall. But in a Koch-ian context, I’m a sputtering Dustbuster.
We’d finally reached Bruni’s central focus, the actual point of his column. “Naturally,” a heinous comment by Senator Cotton made him think of Hillary Clinton and the people panhandling on her behalf!

Can we talk? You can be an embarrassed fan; you can be a borderline hater. But within the sect of Marcus and Bruni, all roads seem to lead to this one destination!

By some undisclosed “natural” force, it lies in the order of things! Within this modern upper-end sect, every kind of squalid remark produces thoughts of Clinton!

Because the children will get upset, let’s explore the internal structure of this particular column:

A cynic might say that Bruni positioned himself a tad with his cite of Cotton’s remark. Cotton is a Republican. This might seem to provide the column with a bipartisan feel.

Beyond that, Cotton was pictured being wanton with respect to the treatment of gays. Bruni’s objection to the remark gave him a liberal-ish feel.

In our view, the bipartisan feel this column may have is illusory. Cotton is a first-term, back-bench Republican—a minor figure who is often regarded as comically fringe. By way of contrast, Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee for the White House next year, at least as matters now stand.

As is often the case in such columns, Bruni sprinkles some GOP names about, even some major GOP names. But by a vast preponderance of the insults, his emphasis is on the hypocrisy of Clinton, and even of Obama before her.

According to Bruni, Clinton had offered “much high-minded talk” about money in politics. But she then proceeded to behave in the same way Cotton did! For Bruni, it’s Clinton’s conduct which Cotton’s remark brought to mind!

Indeed, as is required inside Bruni’s sect, the problem of money in our politics seems to end up being the Clintons’ fault! Our giant money-in-politics problem seems to start with their “rapacious” conduct and “assiduous enrichment” inside their “messy world.”

Warning! Mind-reading ahead:
BRUNI (continuing directly): Democrats tell themselves that they have a ways to go before they sink as low as Republicans do. Republicans tell themselves that none of their machinations rival the venal braid of conflicting interests and overlapping agendas in the Clintons’ messy world.

The Clintons tell themselves that their assiduous enrichment since the end of Bill’s presidency still doesn’t put them in a league with the fat cats whom they’ve met and mingled with, and that they earned their wealth rather than inheriting or shortchanging shareholders for it.

Other politicians tell themselves that if the Clintons are lapping at the trough so rapaciously, surely they’re entitled to some love and lucre of their own.
You have to feel sorry for those unnamed “other politicians!” When they see the Clintons at the trough, they think they need lucre too!

Let’s be clear. The rules of this modern sect do allow for disparate judgment by members. If you’re a fan of Hillary Clinton, you talk about her “gluttony” and compare her to a “pig.”

If you’re a borderline hater, you speak of her “rapacious” ways, although you too may mention a trough.

Marcus and Bruni were telling several same old stories in these Sunday columns. Hillary Clinton is a pig at a trough, both columnists have now said. Beyond that, Bruni seemed to point at a type of hypocrisy, a story that was dumped on Candidate Gore when he proposed campaign finance reform in Campaign 2000.

Can we talk? As far as we know, Hillary Clinton hasn’t said that it’s OK for her to do something wrong because someone else is doing it worse. She has said that she will play by existing campaign finance rules, even as she proposes changing those rules in the future.

As almost anyone can see, that position makes perfect sense. It also made perfect sense in Campaign 2000, when Gore reporters at Bruni’s newspaper kept suggesting that Candidate Gore was a raging hypocrite because he’d adopted such a puzzling stand.

Bruni was telling some same old stories. “Naturally,” talk of hideous moral squalor made him think of you-know-who, the gluttonous person of whom Marcus is such an undisguised fan.

Sadly, the most destructive of the same old stories arose right away in comments. Some progressive readers were stampeding off, reciting a story from Campaign 2000 as they went.

People are dead all over the world because we bought this same old story that time. Liberals, please! Are we really planning to buy this same old story again?

Tomorrow: “The lesser of two evils”

Supplemental: Are we able to like or respect more than one thing at a time?


Bernie Sanders’ politics:
Many liberals very much like Bernie Sanders’ politics.

We like Sanders’ politics too. On the other hand, we were surprised to see him semi-endorse the notion of a 90 percent marginal tax rate.

Has he advanced such a position before? To us, that seems more like a position you advance as a professor, as a journalist or as a member of Congress, rather than as a White House candidate.

Just a guess. It could have the effect of “McGovernizing” a very good man—and we loved Candidate McGovern, who went on to lose 49 states.

That said, we’ll wait to see the way the campaign plays out.

We like everything we know about Bernie Sanders. We also understand one of the ways his politics has managed to stay so good—he has conducted his entire electoral career in the state of Vermont.

Also, he isn’t exactly expected to win. That’s what allowed Candidate Kucinich to advocate single-payer in 2008 when none of the other candidates would.

(We like Kucinich too. We once saw him go out of his way to do a good thing when he didn’t know that anyone was watching.)

It isn’t hard to see why liberals like Sanders’ politics. In the next few days, we’ll be asking a basic question in several different ways:

Can we like or respect more than one thing at a time?

We like the way Sanders conducts himself. We also know that the Clintons have conducted their politics in the national context, in situations where they were trying to win.

We recall how it felt after 1988, when it seemed that no Democrat would ever win the White House again. We liked and admired Candidate Dukakis—still do!—but he got left for dead in a way which was very disheartening.

We were grateful to Candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 for finding a way to win. We also agree with what he said to Cynthia McFadden in an NBC interview earlier this month:
MCFADDEN (5/4/15): Former President Bill Clinton says he has no regrets about taking millions from foreign governments for his foundation.

CLINTON: I don’t think that there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people, and countries that are seriously involved in development, to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up. I don’t think there’s anything bad with that. I think it’s good.

MCFADDEN: But even while the criticism at home rumbles, the heart-warming stories here in Africa are undeniable. At the Starkey Hearing Foundation program, a hundred and fifty people will be fitted for hearing aids. Their goal, a million people by 2020.

CLINTON: I’ve done these in Uganda and Zambia.

MCFADDEN: This boy will hear for the first time.
We’re glad that boy will hear for the first time! We don’t think “there’s anything bad with that” either. We’re willing to guess that Bernie Sanders thinks that’s a good thing too. Based on everything we know, we’re able to imagine that Bill Clinton has done this work around the world on the basis of good motives.

We’re going to repeat a few basic points. We like everything we know about Bernie Sanders. Also, we think it’s good that a little boy in Africa had his hearing restored.

We’re often amazed by the sour odor given off by the upper-end journalists who have been chasing the Clintons around for all these years. This is the way Ruth Marcus ended Sunday’s column in the Washington Post:
MARCUS (5/24/15): Now comes the news about the previously undisclosed speaking fees that went to the foundation, not the Clintons themselves. The foundation says it is disclosing these out of an abundance of transparency.

True, no law or ethics rule requires such reporting. As to Clinton’s agreement to disclose foundation donors, the position of the foundation and the Clinton campaign is that the document doesn’t include these because they’re “revenue” for services rendered, not charitable gifts.

This interpretation makes no sense. By this logic, Vladimir Putin himself could have given the foundation $2 billion to hear Bill Clinton speak while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, and it wouldn’t have to be revealed.

Was this a bookkeeping glitch? (Another one, after the failure to specify foreign-government givers on IRS forms, or the previously revealed instances in which donors weren’t reported.) Or was it a calculated end-run around the disclosure agreement? I suspect the former but understand those who tend to the more nefarious interpretation.

One explanation involves bungling; the other, shadiness. Neither is an especially attractive proposition for a presidential candidate.
Marcus has it in her heart to imagine a bookkeeping glitch. For unexplained reasons, she can also understand those who picture shadiness and nefarious motives here, even though the foundation disclosed these donations itself.

What doesn’t enter the picture here is the little boy who got the chance to hear. Beyond that, Marcus doesn’t say that she can believe that this work around the world is being done from a desire to serve.

That said, we’re often struck by the crabbed, fallen nature of our large gang of Javerts.

Earlier in her column, Marcus complained about the way Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees “invite suspicions that [companies] are seeking to curry favor with you, in your future role.” She didn’t mention the way the New York Times had to conduct a 4400-word journalistic scam to create even one “suspicious” example—the frightening scary uranium deal, which Hillary Clinton seems to have played no part in.

Marcus says that she’s concerned about possible future misconduct. She doesn’t seem to be concerned by the journalistic clown show which has already occurred.

We like everything we know about Bernie Sanders. We also like the fact that deserving children are being helped around the world. We can’t say we’re real impressed with the crabbed, dishonest form our “journalism” has routinely taken in the decades of the endless Clinton/Gore pseudo-scandals.

For ourselves, we’re willing to like and admire more than one thing at a time. We don’t plan to hate the one if we prefer the other. We’re especially reluctant to let the crabbed memes of scribes like Marcus worm their way into our heads just because we’ve heard them repeated for so many years.

We’ll discuss versions of this idea over the next several days. We think it’s a central idea for those who will experience the machinations of our new endless campaign.

SAME OLD STORIES: Marcus and Bruni have money troubles!


Part 3—These old story-lines never end:
With fans like the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, who needs an enemies list?

In her column this Sunday, Marcus identified herself as “a fan of Hillary Clinton.” Within the upper-end insider press corps, this is the way such people have reasoned all through the Clinton/Gore years:
MARCUS (5/24/15): Hillary Clinton’s unseemly speechifying

Again with the speeches. The gross excessiveness of it all,
vacuuming up six-figure checks well past the point of rational need or political seemliness. The ceaseless drip of information that ought to have already been released, now being presented with a self-serving back pat over transparency.

I wasn’t planning to write, again, about Hillary Clinton’s compulsive speechifying. I already weighed in nearly a year ago urging her to stop talking. For money, that is.

That unheeded advice came, by my accounting, some $6 million ago.
Not including Bill Clinton’s speeches. Not including any speeches that Hillary Clinton made on behalf of the family foundation, which just disclosed that, um, it neglected to disclose somewhere between $12 million and $26 million of money it made by booking the Clintons.
Again with the speeches? The gross excessiveness of it all?

In fairness, we had the exact same set of reactions! But we were reacting to Marcus’ “compulsive columnizing” about this same old subject, which also drove the way her gang wrote about Candidate Gore.

We’ve read these same old stories before, with the same old points of view and the same old double standards. Frank Bruni, who isn’t a fan of Clinton, was trundling down this same old road in his own column this Sunday.

Within the realm of Bruni and Marcus, this is the way you approach the world, whether you’re a fan of Clinton or a borderline hater. Unless you don’t care who reaches the White House after our current endless campaign, we think you should be concerned by the widespread déjà vu occasioned by these same old columns.

Almost anything can trigger these same old screeds, as Marcus proved in her piece. But before we examine the outrage which set Marcus off this time, let’s get clear on the depth of her concern.

In Sunday’s column, Marcus understated her track record in this area. By our count, this is at least the fifth column she has devoted, since last June, to Hillary Clinton’s “greed.”

It’s true! Last June, Marcus did “urge” Clinton to stop speaking for pay. More accurately, she issued a type of command:
MARCUS (6/29/14): Which gets me to the second set of issues: how you're continuing to vacuum up the money, and the aura of greediness it exudes. Madam Secretary, enough already. This behavior borders on compulsion, like refugees who once were starved and now hoard food. You're rich beyond your wildest imaginings! You don't need any more! Just. Stop. Speaking. For. Pay.
We’re often struck by the sense of entitlement these masters of the world convey as they issue their directives to the mortals who cross their path.

At any rate, when Clinton didn’t Just. Stop. Speaking. For. Pay., it seemed to set Marcus off. Though still a fan, she wrote a column last month in which she turned to the Yiddish word for “pig” to describe the woman she so admires:
MARCUS (4/26/15): Which brings us to greed, and the Yiddish word chazer. It means “pig” but has a specific connotation of piggishness and gluttony. This is a chronic affliction of the Clintons, whether it comes to campaign fundraising (remember the Lincoln Bedroom?), compulsive speechifying (another six-figure check to speak at a public university?) or assiduous vacuuming-up of foundation donations from donors of questionable character or motives.
Inside the Masonic lodge of the insider press, that’s the way a person writes about those of whom she’s “a fan.”

(Just for the record: We do remember the Lincoln Bedroom. We remember the way Marcus’ newspaper gimmicked the numbers during that heavily-flogged episode, adding Chelsea Clinton’s middle-school slumber party guests to the total number of people who slept in the sacred room—and yes, they actually did that!

(We also remember what happened when USA Today reviewed the tenure of President Bush; they found that a similar number of donors had slept in the White House while he was president. You’ve never heard about that from Marcus, or from pretty much anyone else, and the chances are good that you never will. We have no idea why that’s the case. Apparently, she only applies these same old standards to those of whom she’s a fan.)

Marcus is “a fan of Hillary Clinton” even though Clinton’s a gluttonous pig! Somehow, though, she can’t stop repeating the talking-points which have long been employed by those who have tried to destroy the Clintons and their vassal, Candidate Gore.

After last month’s “gluttonous pig” fan letter, Marcus found herself compulsively columnizing on this subject again. And sure enough! Another of those same old stories was banging around in her head:
MARCUS (5/6/15): Oh, Bill. There you go again. We knew you were going to pop off, but did it have to be so soon—and so tone-deaf?


"We have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy," Bill Clinton asserted. "Knowingly inappropriate"—the 2016 version of Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority.”
Live and direct from 1997, “no controlling legal authority” still haunts Marcus’ sleep!

We won’t make you sit through a recitation of the inanity of that tired old tale, which turned on the issue of which room in the White House a person can sit in when making a fund-raising phone call. Suffice to say that stories like this never seem to leave the heads of those who are willing to tell their readers that they are Clinton’s “fans.”

Do you think it makes a difference who ends up in the White House? If you do, we advise you to be concerned about the re-emergence of the same old stories the guild has routinely told about the Clintons and Gore.

Double standards have always abounded in Clinton/Gore money stories:

In April 1999, Marcus’s own newspaper published an astounding magazine cover report about Candidate Gore’s deeply disturbing fund-raising goals. The paper already knew that Candidate Bush was planning to eschew “matching funds,” freeing him to raise much more than Candidate Gore. But so what? They ran the astounding cover report anyhoo, with its amazing cartoon visuals of the rapacious Gore.

We don’t recall the glorious Marcus raising her voice about that ridiculous scam. We get a whiff of that same old story when scribes like Marcus and Bruni complain about Clinton’s approach to fund-raising while rushing past the massive money being raised everywhere else.

Inanity has often been present in Clinton/Gore money stories:

Consider Bruni’s column last Sunday. Is Hillary Clinton a hypocrite because she plans to “round up donations” for a super PAC which “will be panhandling on her behalf...despite much high-minded talk previously about taming the influence of money in politics?”

Actually, no, she pretty much isn’t, as almost anyone should be able to discern. But this same “hypocrisy” club was endlessly used at the New York Times to beat Candidate Gore over the head, even in their “news reports,” even as he was being outraised by Candidate Bush.

(Warning to Democrats! In the Post and the Times of that ludicrous era, Gore’s fund-raising showed he was venal. Bush’s substantially larger fund-raising showed he was well-liked.)

These same old stories are floating around, pretty much as it’s ever been during the Clinton/Gore years. We liberals agreed long ago not to notice such problems, but they still exist.

Do you think it matters if Republicans take the White House? If so, we think you should be concerned by these emanations. Meanwhile, almost anything can trigger these same old stories, as Marcus proved in her latest fan letter.

What inspired Marcus to write her fifth column about the way Clinton’s a greedy pig? The fact that the Clinton Foundation just made a disclosure—a disclosure Marcus says they’re weren’t required to make!

Being a fan, she’s upset because this disclosure could have been made a few months earlier. And she is upset because Clinton scored $6 million in the past year, after the time when the Empress Marcus commanded her to stop.

Just for the record, that’s roughly the amount a mid-level infielder makes.

Money is a major problem in our American politics, as every sane person knows. But the heads of crazy people like Marcus still teem with riotous, tilted tales from the disgraceful journalistic era of the Clinton/Gore pseudo-scandals.

She still remembers the Lincoln Bedroom, but she remembers it only one way. Eighteen years later, she can quote what Gore said in the terrible scandal concerning which room you’re allowed to sit in while you make phone calls.

Would you be OK with a President Walker? If so, you shouldn’t worry about the same old stories which seem to be popping up.

If that prospect doesn’t seem OK, you might be concerned about the ease with which a fan like Marcus finds herself with her “hair on fire” about these troubling matters, which seem to grab such people in rather unbalanced ways.

In her latest column, Marcus said this: “I find myself, once again, with hair on fire” about these money matters.

No problem, one of the analysts cried. Because she’s living in Salem Village, a dunking pool must be nearby!

Tomorrow: “The lesser of two evils”

Supplemental: Bruni in spring!

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

The same old story continued:
But seriously though, folks! Do you even understand the theory behind this type of campaign reporting?
CORASANITI (5/22/15): His S.U.V.’s motor was running and an open door beckoned. But Jeb Bush, quite possibly the most media-friendly hopeful in the Republican presidential field, was not done answering questions.

A journalist tossed him an intimate inquiry, the kind usually brushed off by politicians: Who in his family was ailing with Alzheimer’s?

Mr. Bush, his back to the reporter and an escape within reach, nevertheless whirled around. “My mother-in-law has dementia and she’s 94 years old,” he responded. “She’s a gift from God; she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

The candid, personal detail would have gone unknown and unreported had Mr. Bush not stopped to answer a question. But that has been his hallmark throughout his two-day swing through New Hampshire: He has been open, available and engaging, in contrast with the stage-managed, tightly controlled events held by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
That’s the way the New York Times opened a recent “campaign report” about the wonderfully accessible Candidate Bush, who stands in wonderful contrast to that other person.

That said:

Do you have the slightest idea what the logic of that report might be? More specifically, why in the world would some campaign reporter toss that “intimate inquiry” to a White House contender?

“Who in his family was ailing with Alzheimer’s?” How on earth would a campaign reporter come up with a question like that?

We don’t have the slightest idea how such “journalism” works. Nor do we know why voters should care about Bush’s intimate answer, which “would have gone unknown and unreported” had he failed to respond.

Just a guess! This young reporter for the Times seems to think that campaign reporting involves an effort to learn who the candidates “really are” deep inside. When young reporters start thinking that way, we advise you to check your wallets.

(Older reporters have worked that way for several decades now. Way back when, Katherine Boo called it Creeping Dowdism.)

Young Corasaniti lavished praise on Candidate Bush for his open, available, engaging ways. As he continued, his language reminded us of the language Frank Bruni had used to praise a previous Candidate Bush, way back in 1999.

In the fall of that year, Bruni was spilling with praise for Bush’s effusive glad-handing on the campaign trail. By the spring of 2000, the “media-friendly” part of the package was there for all to see in Bruni’s fawning work.

By now, Saint John McCain had left the race for the White House. Starting in December 1999, his sudden rise in the New Hampshire polls made him the stand-alone darling of the national press corps.

(About that, all agree.)

Even Bruni’s ardor for Candidate Bush seemed to cool during this period. Now, with McCain’s campaign a thing of the past, it was safe for reporters to fawn about Candidate Bush again.

It was also safe for Candidate Bush to interact with reporters again. For several months, that had stopped as their fawning focused solely on McCain—as Bush’s occasional bungled statements were suddenly treated as news.

Now, McCain was out of the race. Bush began chumming around with reporters again. Bruni described it like this:
BRUNI (4/14/00): It did seem to take the Straight Talk Express, a perpetual group interview on wheels, to nudge Mr. Bush onto the same airplane as reporters. (Mr. Bush never opened up his bus in a similar fashion.)

But now that Mr. Bush is among his shadows, he gives every appearance of enjoying being there.

He not only slaps reporters' backs but also rubs the tops of their heads and, in a few instances, pinches their cheeks. It is the tactile equivalent of the nicknames he doles out to many of them and belongs to a teasing style of interpersonal relations that undoubtedly harks back to his fraternity days.

Last week, he turned to a reporter who grew up in the arid expanse of Australia's most famous rural region with a mock suggestion.

"Outback woman!" he said. "One of the things I'd like to do sometime is have dinner with you at the Outback steakhouse. That way, we'd have the Outback woman at the Outback steakhouse."
“During flights last week, he talked baseball with one network producer,” Bruni reported this day. “He listened sympathetically to another network producer's romantic travails. He confessed that he never saw the movie ‘Titanic’ but loved ‘Austin Powers’ and its sequel, phrases and gestures from which sometimes inform his banter.”

We’re not saying that Bruni’s report was inaccurate. In truth, it’s an important record of the unprofessional way our campaign reporters were going about their business.

Candidate Bush had been a target for several months while McCain was ascendant. Now, Bush was the children’s favorite again. Candidate Gore was now their only target.

For that reason, Candidate Gore still had to watch every syllable out of his mouth. Candidate Bush returned to his practice of rubbing journalists’ heads, pinching their cheeks and pretending he cared about their romantic endeavors.

He was also dishing those nicknames. In the Times, “Panchito” was praising Candidate Bush for being so media-friendly. And of course, he was snarking at that other person, Candidate Gore:
BRUNI: [Bush] articulated his hopes for the cows and bulls on his Texas ranch.

"You know about my abstinence program?" he asked, referring to his efforts in Texas to encourage sexual restraint among teenagers. "We have not extended that to the agricultural world."

And he talked, and talked, and talked, about the serious and frivolous, everything and nothing, for an hour during one flight and nearly 90 minutes during another, underlining a striking evolution of his methods and a new element in his identity.

With Senator John McCain out of the running and the Straight Talk Express at least temporarily out of gas, Mr. Bush has reached boldly for the mantle of Chattiest Candidate. And he has pretty well grabbed hold of it.

That gesture is self-serving and not necessarily permanent, obviously designed to build rapport with reporters in a more relaxed phase of the campaign, erase any impressions that he is lost without a script and highlight the approachable demeanor that his aides consider one of his political strengths.

It is also a clear effort to put his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, to shame. Not only does Mr. Gore keep mostly to himself on his airplane; he has not held a news conference since Feb. 19. (Mr. Bush typically holds several a week.)
The pattern which Bruni described and enacted in this piece dates at least to Kennedy/Nixon. The basic rules were already clear in Theodore White’s iconic book, The Making of the President 1960:

The targeted candidate must hold himself apart from the traveling press corps. The preferred candidate would be well advised to clown around with the kids on the bus.

He should pretend to enjoy their company. He should pretend to seek their advice, as White described Candidate Kennedy doing.

Flattered by the rubbing of heads, they’ll write good things about this media-friendly fellow. They’ll aim jibes at the other candidate—at the one who won’t discuss his plans for the cows and bulls on his ranch.

Will some such pattern obtain in the reporting of our latest endless White House campaign? Unless you think it doesn’t matter who goes to the White House two years from now, we think you should already be concerned by this possibility.

For quotes from White’s iconic book, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/14/03. It seems it was ever thus!

SAME OLD STORIES: The openness of Candidate Bush!

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

Part 2—As pioneered by the younger Frank Bruni:
Viewed as a system, our system of endless White House campaigns has its pros and its cons.

On the plus side, the system is good for hotel and restaurant interests in Iowa and New Hampshire. It lets partisan channels burn oodles of time snarking at the other party’s three hundred early contenders.

There’s also a down side to the endlessness of these campaigns. On the down side, our endless campaigns can lead to silly “campaign reporting” of the kind we found in Friday’s New York Times.

Candidate Christie was swearing too much! Candidate Clinton got fluffed! These utterly trivial news reports sat together on a page which featured an utterly trivial “campaign report” about the remarkably outgoing, candid, intimate and friendly Candidate Bush.

As part of a long tradition, Nick Corasaniti is the latest young reporter the Times has turned loose on the trail. His report was bannered across the top of the page which bore the other reports.

Hopeful-affirming headline included, this is the way it began:

CORASANITI (5/22/15): Jeb Bush Opens His Campaign Playbook by Opening Himself

BEDFORD, N.H.—His S.U.V.’s motor was running and an open door beckoned. But Jeb Bush, quite possibly the most media-friendly hopeful in the Republican presidential field, was not done answering questions.

A journalist tossed him an intimate inquiry, the kind usually brushed off by politicians:
Who in his family was ailing with Alzheimer’s?

Mr. Bush, his back to the reporter and an escape within reach, nevertheless whirled around. “My mother-in-law has dementia and she’s 94 years old,” he responded. “She’s a gift from God; she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”

The candid, personal detail would have gone unknown and unreported had Mr. Bush not stopped to answer a question. But that has been his hallmark throughout his two-day swing through New Hampshire: He has been open, available and engaging, in contrast with the stage-managed, tightly controlled events held by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Candidly, that’s just sad.

By paragraph 4, the young reporter was pounding away at the hopeful who hasn’t been open, available and media-friendly. This is one of the same old stories you’ve read a million times as newspapers like the New York Times pretend to cover campaigns.

Candidate Bush has been most media-friendly! In contrast to Candidate Clinton! That said, please note the boon the public received as a result of that open and friendly behavior:

The public learned that Candidate Bush’s 94-year-old grandmother has dementia. Also, that she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met!

“The candid, personal detail would have gone unknown and unreported had Mr. Bush not stopped to answer a question,” the young reporter said. He failed to note that this “candid detail” provides nothing useful to any voter. The excited young scribe was drowning the public in useless distraction again!

Alas! When our campaigns drag on for two years, this is the way they get covered. On the one hand, campaign reporters pound away at the candidates who aren’t sufficiently “media-friendly.” At the same time, when they put their news judgment on display, they help us see why certain candidates might be well advised to steer away from the filters they will provide.

Corasaniti seemed to be blown away by the openness of Candidate Bush. As he continued, he continued hailing the hopeful for his media-friendly behavior.

As we read this passage which follows, we were struck by the way it repeated a story the New York Times told the last time a Candidate Bush hit the trail in pursuit of the White House. To our well-trained ear, this had the unmistakable sound of a “same old story:”
CORASANITI (continuing directly): But the openness carries risks, too, as shown when he engaged in a debate last week with a college student in Nevada who told him before a pack of reporters that “your brother created ISIS.” It was an instant viral moment, one that put Mr. Bush on the defensive.

Still, that encounter did not seem to deter him in New Hampshire this week. At a press gathering in Portsmouth, he shouted over his shoulder while being shoved toward an S.U.V. when asked about the troop levels in Iraq. He stopped to speak in Spanish with a voter after an event in Concord. And he playfully grabbed at a boom microphone dangling over his car in Salem, before apologizing and saying he didn’t know they could break. (The microphone was fine.)

“I really like campaigning,” Mr. Bush said as he began his two-day swing in Portsmouth, before quickly adding, “I’m not a candidate.”

Mr. Bush has even alluded to the contrast with Mrs. Clinton, who finally answered questions from the news media this week after coming under increasing criticism for failing to engage reporters. Mr. Bush regularly mentions how many questions he has fielded, and at one point was counting the number of questions Mrs. Clinton had taken.
Corasaniti sailed past the various problems this candidate had with his openness last week. He said a college student’s question “didn’t seem to deter him in New Hampshire,” then went back to marveling at the open, honest and “playful” way the candidate conducted himself on the trail in that state.

Reporting like this is highly subjective. It’s highly subject to being tilted, depending on a reporter’s point of view, or that of his superiors.

It also seems to be highly subject to repetition. This is precisely the way the New York Times portrayed the previous Candidate Bush when he was on the trail in New Hampshire in 1999.

We refer to the upbeat campaign reporting of Frank Bruni, who was then a young, inexperienced political reporter himself. Starting in September 1999, Bruni’s treatment of Candidate Bush was so fawning that it has even been mentioned by people other than us. In late November of that year, he delivered the same upbeat, subjective portrait Corasaniti delivered last Friday.

On November 4 of that year, Bruni had told the world that Candidate Bush “wrapped up a feverishly busy visit to New Hampshire that saw him log hundreds of road miles, lunge for every hand in his path and, above all, look less like a carefree front-runner than a scrappy contender who had indeed broken a sweat.”

That was a down payment on what was to come. Three weeks later, Bruni delivered the same portrait we read in the Times last week.

Shakespearean headline included, this is the way he started, though the profile went on and on:
BRUNI (11/27/99): Levity the Soul Of Bush, a Puck Among the Pols

As George W. Bush loped through the headquarters of the Timberland Company here, he might have been any candidate in the hunt for votes,
any pol on the path toward the presidency. He tirelessly shook hands, dutifully took questions and let a multitude of promises bloom.

But there was something different about Governor Bush's approach, something jazzier and jauntier. It came out in the way he praised a 20-year-old man for his "articulate" remarks, then appended the high-minded compliment with a surprising term of endearment.

"Dude," Mr. Bush called his new acquaintance.

It emerged again when Mr. Bush crossed paths with an elderly employee, and she told him that he had her support.

"I'll seal it with a kiss!" Mr. Bush proposed
and, wearing a vaguely naughty expression, swooped down on the captive seamstress.
On and on the description went. We aren’t saying that Bruni’s description of Bush was “wrong.” We’re saying that, to a weird degree, it’s the same old story Corsaniti just told:
BRUNI: Mr. Bush's arm curled tight around the shoulders of other voters; he arched his eyebrows and threw coquettish grins and conspiratorial glances their way. It was campaigning as facial calisthenics, and Mr. Bush was its Jack LaLanne.

He is frequently that way.
When Mr. Bush is not reciting memorized lines in an official speech or rendering careful answers in a formal interview, he is physically expansive and verbally irreverent, folksy and feisty, a politician more playful than most of his peers.

This disarming demeanor goes a long way toward explaining the commitment and confidence of Mr. Bush's core Republican supporters. They clearly see in the two-term Texas governor a warmth and affability that provide a sharp, necessary contrast to the brooding of a Bob Dole or the belligerence of a Newt Gingrich.
“Interestingly, it is sometimes Mr. Bush's most mischievous moments that demonstrate how astute he can be,” Bruni wrote before he finished the day’s sponge bath. He went on and on and on this day, presenting the highly subjective portrait which we almost thought we were reading again, in shortened form, in last Friday’s Times.

Candidate Bush went on to lose New Hampshire by 19 points. Bruni’s sense that he was watching a political genius may have been somewhat inaccurate.

That said, he wasn’t the first Timesman to offer that portrait of Bush that year. In August, the dean of the Times political staff had painted the same picture in yet another over-the-top affirmative profile of the “loosy-goosey, laughter-punctuated” style of the talented hopeful.

Upbeat headline included, Johnny Apple started like this:

APPLE (8/21/99): A Gregarious Bush Warms to Politicking

Former President George Bush's biggest problem, an old friend of his once suggested, was that he liked policy a lot more than politics.

Nobody who has watched him would ever say that about Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, who plunges into crowds—a crowd of 10 at an airport late at night, a crowd of hundreds at a fund-raiser, a crowd of thousands at a rally—with all the enthusiasm of Bill Clinton or Nelson A. Rockefeller or that formidable flesh-pressing Texan of yesteryear, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Nobody would ever mistake him for Vice President Al Gore.
Last Friday, Corasaniti waited until paragraph 4 before he named the candidate you’re supposed to dislike. Perhaps due to his seniority, Apple had unsheathed the knives by just his third paragraph.

Apple went on and on, for 1600 words, about Bush’s unparalleled greatness. He marveled at Bush’s joke-telling skill with 6-year-olds and at his skill with adults as well:
APPLE: Nothing seemed to faze Mr. Bush in the slightest as he moved slowly past market stalls stacked high with peaches, pole beans, Japanese eggplants and Silver Queen corn, the bounty of late summer in the Virginia Piedmont. After he had spent more than an hour shaking hands, posing for photographs, chatting about the military and the local museum and the weather, kissing a baby swathed in pink (and a grandmother or two as well), complimenting Gina Thomas on her "good-looking" family of four children and signing a lot of autographs, a man handed him a $100 bill and asked him to sign that.

"You must be doing pretty darn well," Mr. Bush said.

"Not as well as you and your father," the man replied, and the Governor, laughing, gave him a chummy punch on the upper arm.

Where did this come from, a campaign visitor asked, this knack for putting people at ease, this common touch? Well, Mr. Bush said pointedly, he grew up in Midland, Tex., and not in Greenwich, Conn., like his father. Then he thought a minute and added, "I must get it from my mother."
That Candidate Bush cited his mother, not his grandmother. For ourselves, we’d say that Apple gave Candidate Bush a “chummy punch on the arm” this day. When he did his profile of Candidate Gore, it was a poisonous mess.

This is the kind of piddle we get when our pseudo-campaigns go on forever. Hotels in New Hampshire make a killing. The public gets stuck with this.

When we read Corasaniti’s report, we had a strong sense of déjà vu. A young reporter was gushing about the openness of a Candidate Bush! Just where had we read that story before?

We knew where we had read it, of course. We think Dems and liberals should be concerned by this style of “campaign reporting,” even if they prefer the politics of Bernie Sanders to that of the hopeful we’re being encouraged to dislike this time around.

Tomorrow: Bruni’s latest column inspires a same old story

This afternoon: Bruni expands that same old portrait in April 2000

SAME OLD STORIES: Christie curses, Clinton gets fluffed!

MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015

Part 1—Also, Frank Bruni’s successor:
On this Memorial Day, we’ll have the naming of points.

Our first point: The first thing about our pseudo campaign is its amazing length.

President Kennedy announced he was running in January of the election year. President Clinton’s announcement came in October the year before.

Here it is, late May of the year before, and the gang of candidates and pseudo-candidates have been tramping New Hampshire for months. It’s how we pretend to do it now.

As a system, it doesn’t work.

Journalistically, this system permits the “press corps” to waste its time on an endless series of personality-based distractions. It lets them avoid the thing they hate most—discussion of actual matters of substance which are important right now.

That leads us to our second point: Inevitably, the amazing length of the pseudo-campaign leads to amazing inanity. Just consider the campaign reports in last Friday’s New York Times.

Chris Christie is one of the hopefuls the children don’t like. As a result, we got pure piddle from Barbaro/Haberman about his relentless cursing.

In the last campaign, Barbaro established his greatness with his front-page report about Candidate Romney’s hair dresser. On Friday, he and Haberman recoiled from all the troubling language at an annual, just-for-fun New Jersey event.

Here’s how the children started:
BARBARO AND HABERMAN (5/22/15): Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger of Newark, suggesting it provided a refuge for “angry drunks.”

He joked about a reporter who was involved in a car accident a few hours earlier, seemingly wishing that the vehicle had contained more of the journalists who cover him.

And he profanely taunted a reporter with a French surname, saying he would not pronounce it correctly—not because it was difficult, but because he could not be bothered.

The annual New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club Show is always a mischievous affair, full of off-color skits and envelope-pushing humor. But even by the standards of veteran attendees, Mr. Christie’s curse-filled speech Wednesday night was unexpectedly unplugged, unfiltered and uncensored.
Good lord! He ridiculed a leading newspaper; he even insulted the French! But most of all, the uncouth candidate engaged in unfiltered cursing.

The children even counted the curses in the “curse-filled speech.” In this passage, a careful reader might get a sense of what was being discussed:
BARBARO AND HABERMAN: Mr. Christie swore, gratuitously and enthusiastically, at least nine times in his speech, rendering many one-liners unprintable in this publication.

At one point, Mr. Christie joked that he was not the “heartless bastard I was portrayed as tonight,” according to the audio recording from the International Business Times.

Mr. Christie told the crowd of reporters that he would by no means return to the dinner in 2016, no matter how badly he was doing in the presidential campaign.

“Anything that gets me off this stage next year,” he said, deploying a curse to describe the stage. “I’m willing to do anything.”

He added: “Why do you think I might run for president?”

He repeatedly told the group that he did not give a darn—about them or the show—but used a more colorful expression.
Christie cursed “at least nine times,” the troubled youngsters reported. If you read that passage carefully, you can perhaps discern that “damn,” a word he used “repeatedly,” may have provided the bulk of the profanities in his curse-filled speech.

The candidate also joked that he wasn’t “a heartless bastard.” It seems that was counted too.

The children built an entire report out of this inanity. On the same page, Michael Schmidt discussed the hot new set of Hillary Clinton emails, which had been leaked to the Times and didn’t seem all that hot.

How pointless was this campaign report? By paragraph 4, the fearless young reporter was informing the world that the emails in question “offer occasional glimpses into the private side of Mrs. Clinton’s life, such as her public-radio listening habits and the fact that she was complimented for how she looked in a photo that appeared on the front page of The Times.”

Schmidt never explained his pointless remark about Clinton’s NPR habit. Before long, though, he was providing a fuller sense of the way such a person gets fluffed:
SCHMIDT (5/22/15): The emails show that even those at the highest levels of government engage in occasional flattering of those above them. In March 2011, Mrs. Clinton received an email from Ann-Marie Slaughter, the director of policy planning for the State Department, who was leaving her position.

“Gorgeous pic on the front page of the NYT!” Ms. Slaughter said, referring to a photo of Mrs. Clinton. “One for the wall...” Ms. Slaughter then moved on to more serious matters, including her opposition to arming the rebels in Libya.
Ms. Slaughter “moved on to more serious matters?” On the whole, Mr. Schmidt didn’t.

Schmidt did include a suggestive and misleading statement about Benghazi, the truth of which actually matters in our ongoing politics: “The emails also show that Mrs. Clinton was circulating information about the attacks in Benghazi that contradicted the Obama administration’s initial narrative of what occurred.”

Schmidt never explained what he meant by that suggestive statement. He devoted half of one sentence to that topic, two paragraphs to the photo-based fluffing which seemed to have him concerned.

This is what the children will be discussing for the next seventeen months, thanks to the pseudo-campaign’s absurd and amazing length. They’ll thrash about in piles of piddle, looking for personality-based trivia they can share and tilt.

That said, the most amazing campaign report that day appeared at the top of the page which bore the Christie/Clinton reports. This campaign report concerned Candidate Bush—and it was an obvious rerun.

The report was written by Nick Corasaniti, who's basically new to this game. In hard copy, it was bannered across the top of the page.

To an amazing degree, it told the same old story—a story the New York Times told us once before.

Corasaniti is a bright young fellow who seems to have studied Frank Bruni’s work. We say that because, sixteen years ago, Bruni—then a bright young reporter himself—wrote the exact same story about that year’s Candidate Bush!

In fact, he wrote it several times. But then, so did other Timesmen, including the late Johnny Apple. Beyond that, endless versions of this story were written about Candidate McCain.

Corasaniti graduated from [Ithaca College] in 2008.
Initially, it looks like his background was in sports. But then, Bruni wrote about movies before he began his famous fluffing of that year's Candidate Bush.

Whatever! Last Friday, Corasaniti wrote the same “news report” Bruni wrote in 1999. Along with the amazing length of the pseudo-campaign and the sheer inanity of the reporting, you’re being handed the same old stories you consumed in predecessor campaigns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at Corasaniti’s faithful rewrite of Bruni’s fatuous work. As the week proceeds, we’ll examine several other “same old stories” which popped up over the weekend in the Post and the Times.

On the whole, those stories should be rejected. So should the silly children who write them.

That process should start right now. As we all understand, it won’t.

Tomorrow: Channeling Bruni

THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE: Leading pundits just wanna have fun!

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015

Part 5—People, what’s in a word:
Did an employee of the New England Patriots let some air out of some footballs?

We can’t give you the answer to that. The NFL’s official Wells report says this: “more probable than not.”

If that actually happened, did the team’s wonderfully handsome star quarterback actually know about it?

We can’t answer that question either. The Wells report is highly speculative concerning that second point.

That said, we don’t critique NFL employees or handsome star quarterbacks at this site. We critique the work of the American press.

In many ways, the Wells report seems slippery and disingenuous. If anything, the journalism about the report has been substantially worse.

In what way does the Wells report sometimes seem disingenuous? In what way has the journalism failed to challenge this problem? Consider the passage shown below, in which the Wells report discusses what happened when the Indianapolis Colts intercepted a pass from a quarterback who is widely believed to be more handsome than their own signal-caller

Alberto Riveron is an NFL senior officiating supervisor. According to the Wells report, this is what occurred:
THE WELLS REPORT (page 64): Riveron told us that it was his call to collect the game balls for testing at halftime and that he did not consult with anyone else. Riveron believed that the combination of the pre-game concerns raised by the Colts and the information received about the intercepted ball made testing the game balls essential. At Riveron’s request, Daniel retrieved a gauge that was near the air pump in the dressing area of the Locker Room, and they tested the intercepted ball three times before the balance of the game balls were brought back to the Officials Locker Room. All three measurements were below 12.0 psi. A few minutes later, the game officials and other NFL representatives started arriving in the Officials Locker Room for halftime. Riveron took the intercepted ball from Daniel and walked into the dressing room area of the locker room.
“All three measurements were below 12.0 psi,” the Wells report dumbly says.

We call that statement dumb for an obvious reason. On page 113, the Wells report finally notes an extremely basic fact. According to basic laws of physics, the Patriots’ footballs should have measured “below 12.0 psi” by halftime of that game.

In fact, the Patriots’ footballs should have measured anywhere from 11.32-11.52 psi by halftime, given weather conditions. But the Wells report doesn’t mention that fact until page 113.

Forty-nine pages earlier, it tells us that the intercepted football measured “below 12.0 psi”—full stop! And uh-oh! Since readers have already been told, early and often, that the “permitted range” was 12.5-13.5 psi, that statement clearly seems to imply that these readings—the footballs were below 12.0 psi!—meant that something was wrong.

“All three measurements were below 12.0 psi,” the Wells report dumbly says. Was that statement deliberately disingenuous, or is it just an artifact of lousy writing?

We can’t answer that, but the statement is massively dumb. It plainly suggests that the psi of the intercepted ball meant that something was wrong.

It makes this obvious suggestion even though the authors of the Wells report knew that the football should have produced such a reading by halftime. At best, that is horrible writing. A cynic could wonder if it’s actually deliberate deception.

The suggestion that passage makes is monumentally dumb. But as we noted yesterday, the New York Times adopted this ridiculous framework in all its reporting about this matter.

Amazing! In two lengthy front-page reports and a third informational column, the New York Times never told readers about the way weather conditions affected air pressure in the Patriots’ footballs. With remarkable dumbness, the Times adopted the gong-show framework according to which the Patriots’ footballs were judged to be “underinflated” because they measured below 12.5 psi at halftime.

In three lengthy reports, Times readers were never told that the Patriots’ footballs should have measured below 12.5 psi. The famous newspaper didn’t seem to have made it all the way to page 113 of the Wells report.

The Wells report is very poorly written. At various points, it’s hard to tell if the poor quality of the writing has been done deliberately, for a nefarious purpose.

“Appendix 1” to the Wells report was written by Exponent, a scientific firm with a somewhat shaky reputation. The appendix is much more competently composed than the 139-page Wells report proper.

The appendix actually offers answers to some of the questions which the Wells report proper seems to duck. For that reason, it’s possible that some of the misleading work in the Wells report results from simple incompetence, rather than from bad motives.

That said, the journalism in the New York Times was just amazingly bad. This brings us to the dumbest part of a truly hopeless performance by the American press corps.

All across the American press, that hopeless performance quickly focused on a single word from a single text message. That single word became the primary focus in the coverage of this consensus scandal.

Everyone knew that this single word was the last nail in the coffin! When the Wells report appeared, the New York Times seized on the new talking-point in the very first sentence of its very first news report:
BRANCH (5/7/15): He called himself the deflator. A longtime locker-room attendant for the New England Patriots, Jim McNally, was responsible for controlling the air pressure in the footballs that quarterback Tom Brady would use on the field.

Another Patriots employee, an equipment assistant named John Jastremski, was in direct communication with Brady and provided McNally with memorabilia, including shoes and autographed footballs.

Those three men—two low-rung employees and Brady, the passer regarded as one of the best ever—are now linked in a scandal that threatens Brady’s legacy and further tarnishes the reputation of the Patriots, a team that has taken suspicious paths to success.
“He called himself the deflator,” the Times said in its opening sentence. As the consensus scandal progressed, this was treated as the definitive point—as a virtual confession—all across the American press.

“He called himself the deflator!” In part because of slippery writing in the Wells report, reporters may not have understood that McNally “called himself this” exactly once, and that he did so in May 2014, three months after the Patriots played their final game of the previous season.

No football games were being played when McNally made this lone remark in a cryptic text message. If McNally ever let air out of footballs in an inappropriate way, he hadn’t done so for at least three months at the time this lone remark was texted.

The Wells report interpreted the remark in a nefarious way. In at least one passage, it seemed to pluralize the remark—seemed to convey the impression McNally may have “called himself the deflator” on a regular basis.

Many journalists took it that way. Eagerly, they gulped the bait they had been offered.

One week later, in their rebuttal report, the Patriots said that lone remark wasn’t a reference to deflating footballs. Starting on ESPN, American pundits reacted to the passage shown below with utter derision, as in all such consensus scandals, and with the greatest joy known to the modern journalist—the appalling joy of the hive:
PATRIOTS REBUTTAL REPORT: There was a second way that Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally used the term “deflation” or “deflator” which the report disregards. The Wells investigators had the May 9, 2014 “deflator”/espn text string in their possession several weeks before their full day, four lawyer-staffed interviews with each of Mr. McNally and Mr. Jastremski. They came to the interviews with laptops, documentation and had obviously prepared extensively for each interview. They never asked either of them about that May 9 “deflator”/espn text. Perhaps that is not surprising since the word “deflator” appears in only ONE text from among many hundreds of texts that were made available to the investigators. The Report then takes this one word, in this one text, and uses it throughout the Report as a moniker for Mr. McNally. Is this true objectivity? Further, when they sought their additional interview with Mr. McNally, they never candidly said they had overlooked this text and therefore wanted Mr. McNally back for another interview to ask him about it. They never asked Mr. Jastremski about it in his interview. Had they done so, they would have learned from either gentleman one of the ways they used the deflation/deflator term. Mr. Jastremski would sometimes work out and bulk up—he is a slender guy and his goal was to get to 200 pounds. Mr. McNally is a big fellow and had the opposite goal: to lose weight. “Deflate” was a term they used to refer to losing weight. One can specifically see this use of the term in a Nov. 30, 2014 text from Mr. McNally to Mr. Jastremski: “deflate and give somebody that jacket.” (p. 87). This banter, and Mr. McNally’s goal of losing weight, meant Mr. McNally was the “deflator.” There was nothing complicated or sinister about it. If there was any doubt about the jocular nature of the May 9, 2014 texts, a review of all the texts between these two men that day would dispel it...
Is it possible that this explanation was true? Is it possible that McNally and Jastremski used that term as a jocular reference to losing weight?

Is that possible? Of course it’s possible! People use unconventional joking language with friends all the time. Of course it’s possible that Jastremski and McNally spoke with each other that way.

The fact that this is possible doesn’t mean that it’s true, of course. It’s also possible that this is a joking reference to letting air out of footballs in a surreptitious manner, although McNally couldn’t have done that for at least three months at the time he made this one remark, a remark which was quickly pluralized across the American press corps.

Is it possible that McNally and Jastremski jokingly refer to weight loss as “deflation?” Yes, of course it is! But it isn’t possible inside a hive whose inhabitants mainly like to cavort and play, as they’ve done so many times in matters of much greater consequence.

When the Patriots rebuttal appeared, we turned on ESPN. Groups of ex-jocks were taking turns laughing about “the deflator.”

Their analysis was clear. They had never spoken that way. So plainly, no one else had!

On ESPN (the network of record), the analysts were having great fun that day. They never asked why the NFL sent that bad information to the Patriots. They never asked why their own network had reported a bogus set of statistics, attributed to “NFL sources.”

They didn’t ask why the NFL didn’t correct or disavow that false information. They never mentioned the clownish aspects of the data collection which lay at the heart of this messy consensus tale.

Most of them were former jocks. When X’s and O’s are no longer involved, their analytical skills aren’t among the best. Talking about statistics is hard. Joking and laughing are fun!

That said, their joking and laughing was reproduced all around the press corps. We’ve seen almost no discussion or analysis of the NFL’s clownish data collection, or of its apparent lying concerning the data it gathered.

All in all, American journalists just wanna have fun. We think Cyndi Lauper said that!

Our pundits don’t know what McNally meant by his single use of that term. But all across the American press, the dumbness of the whale is such that no one is able to understand or say that.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Inside the hive, that provided two solid years of good solid fun!

Given the dumbness of the whale, all the hive-dwellers knew it was true. Even though they didn’t!

They enjoyed two years of fun. At least in the case of the man who “called himself the deflator,” their silly clowning won’t result in death all over the world.

The power of pluralization: How do talking-points spread within the hive? On the day of Branch’s front-page report, Michael Powell included this in his New York Times column:
POWELL (5/7/15): The evidence fell a couple of feet short of definitive. Investigators, however, unearthed a clubhouse fellow who went by the wonderfully suggestive nickname ''the deflator.'' Mr. Deflator worked closely before games with another clubhouse attendant. When word of the scandal broke, that attendant spent a lot of time talking and texting with Brady.
Mr. Deflator “went by that wonderfully suggestive nickname” exactly one time!

The joy of the hive was spreading fast. The next day, Dan Barry had some fun in his own New York Times column:
BARRY (5/8/15): McNally and a longtime friend, a Patriots equipment assistant named John Jastremski, felt comfortable enough to exchange candid texts about deflating footballs (he even refers to himself as ''the deflator''), collecting Patriots memorabilia and trash-talking about Brady.
He even “refers” to himself as the deflator? In fact, he did it exactly once, at a time when “deflating footballs” simply wasn't possible.

Later in his column, Barry referred to McNally as “the self-proclaimed ‘deflator.’ ” As when they joked and clowned about Gore, these whales just want to cavort and play. Our children just wanna have fun.

Why did the NFL distribute all that bad information? How strange! Neither columnist asked!