ALLEGEDLY LIBERAL PUNDITS REACT: Hayes and Goldberg hear loud train comin'!

MONDAY, MAY 4, 2015

Part 1—The roar of the Clinton rules:
Do you believe in a journalistic phenomenon known as “the Clinton rules?”

On April 24, Paul Krugman discussed the alleged “Clinton rules” in a New York Times blog post. A few days later, Gene Lyons discussed the same topic in his nationally syndicated column.

Do you believe in the Clinton rules? Do you believe this alleged journalistic phenomenon really exists in the world?

Rather plainly, it’s long past time for the liberal world to form a decision about this. Let’s recall the way Krugman described the journalistic phenomenon he described as “the Clinton rules.”

According to Krugman, “the Clinton rules” are defined by the historical pattern we describe below. To read his full post, click this.According to Krugman, “right-wing operatives” created a “parade of alleged scandals” involving the Clintons during Bill Clinton’s two terms in the White House. According to Krugman, “mainstream news outlets” responded by “eagerly hyping” these supposed scandals.

According to Krugman, normal journalistic standards “didn’t seem to apply” during the age of these alleged scandals. According to Krugman, “innuendo and guilt by association were considered perfectly OK.”

According to Krugman, “the initial suggestion of lawbreaking received front-page headlines” during this era. But alas! “The subsequent discovery that there was nothing there was buried in the back pages if it was reported at all.”

According to Krugman, that’s the kind of journalistic behavior which came to be known as “the Clinton rules.” In the wake of his own newspaper’s recent “bombshell report” about a scary uranium deal, Krugman offered this advice:
KRUGMAN (4/24/15): Is this time different? First indications are not encouraging; it’s already apparent that the author of the anti-Clinton book that’s driving the latest stuff is a real piece of work.

Again, maybe there’s something there. But given the history here, we’d all be well advised to follow our own Clinton rules, and be highly suspicious of any reports of supposed scandals unless there’s hard proof rather than mere innuendo.
In our view, Krugman was giving good sound advice. That said, how did other liberal journalists and pundits react to the recent bombshell report in the glorious Times?

We’ll be discussing that question all week. We think the reactions were weak, soft, poor, unbalanced, craven, but also completely familiar.

Alas! Liberal pundits ran and hid in these same ways all through the pseudo-scandals which defined the Clinton White House years. Starting in March 1999, they also ran and hid for twenty months as the mainstream press invented a series of claims about Candidate Gore, sending George Bush to the White House.

Our favorite “liberals” have run and hid every step of the way in this process. In our view, it’s time for us pseudo-liberals to decide how we feel about this familiar pattern of conduct.

How did our favorite liberals react to the New York Times’ bombshell report? Krugman responded by urging skepticism. But how did others react?

For today, let’s consider a brief exchange between Chris Hayes of MSNBC and Michelle Goldberg of The Nation.

Their exchange occurred on April 23, on Hayes’ cable news program. In their exchange, the fiery progressives almost seemed to describe the same process Krugman described the next day.

That morning, the New York Times had posted its bombshell report about the scary Cold War uranium deal which was so scary and frightening. The exchange shown below came at the end of a ten-minute segment about the report on Hayes’ fiery program.

Hayes was speaking extremely fast, the way he’s been trained to do by the suits. We’ve transcribed his words as best we can. To watch the full segment, click here:
HAYES (4/23/15): I mean, the other thing about it that I think is interesting is—

We’ve been going through all this archival tape of the Clintons and you know with this, Hillary Clinton from the White House, is like—

At a certain point, there becomes a sort of background din during the Clintons in the 90s, of like, you know, “scandal,” quote unquote—some somewhat real, a lot of it not—that it’s almost like, it’s like living next to a train station, where like, you get like—


Seriously, it’s just like it ends up becoming this sort of atmospheric thing.

GOLDBERG: And now we’re kind of remembering like, “Oh, this is what’s coming.”

HAYES: Right! But then, it’s just like, “Oh yeah!” Like someone comes to your house and like, you live above somebody. They’re like, “God, that’s loud!” It’s like, “Oh yeah! I forgot about that.”

Michelle Goldberg, Eric Boehlert, thanks for being here.
Hayes and Goldberg almost seem to be describing the same behavior which Krugman called “the Clinton rules.” Indeed, Goldberg explicitly used that term on this program, as we’ll see tomorrow.

According to Hayes, he and his staff had apparently responded to the bombshell report by “going through all this archival tape of the Clintons” from the 1990s.

It’s unclear why they’d do that. At any rate:

According to Hayes, allegations of quote unquote “scandal” had formed “a kind of background din” during the Clinton White House years.

According to Hayes, some of the quote unquote “scandal” allegations were somewhat real during those years. But he said “a lot of” the allegations were not—didn’t even rise to that rather modest level.

According to Hayes, this background din became so loud in the Clinton years that it could be compared to the experience of living above a train station. Goldberg agreed with her host, adding this:

“And now we’re kind of remembering like, ‘Oh, this is what’s coming.’ ”

Apparently, Goldberg had forgotten this part of the Clinton years. Now, it was all coming back!

In some ways, Hayes and Goldberg said the same things Krugman would say the next day. But in one major way, they did not.

How odd! Hayes and Goldberg didn’t specifically mention the role the press corps played in this age of deafening pseudo-scandal! From these remarks, they might have been discussing “the right-wing noise machine,” no one else.

The distinction here is quite familiar. Krugman specifically described “the Clinton rules” as a matter of journalistic misconduct. In a familiar bit of behavior, Hayes and Goldberg did not.

Alas! By this time, Hayes had specifically vouched for the quality of the scary Times report. He had even described it, two separate times, as “a bombshell report.”

In a piece that day for The Nation,
Goldberg had offered a second definition of the term “Clinton rules.” She had also authored one of the strangest examples of so-called “moral equivalence” we’ve ever seen in print.

This is the way our favorite liberals behaved all through the Clinton White House years. This is the way our favorites behaved all through the twenty months in which the mainstream press invented lies by Candidate Gore, thus sending George Bush to the White House.

Our favorite liberals have behaved this way again and again and again. For twenty-three years, we in the pseudo-liberal world have been willing to sit here and take it.

Hayes vouched for the journalistic quality of a pitiful “bombshell report.” Goldberg seemed to play all ends against the middle as she and Hayes conducted a very familiar discussion.

That said, many liberal journalists reacted to the bombshell report in this very familiar way. In closing, we’ll recommend a very safe bet:

We in the pseudo-liberal world will accept this slippery conduct again. It’s the way we’ve always rolled. Most likely, we always will.

Tomorrow: Boehlert against the world


  1. You know, the "Clinton Rules" thing was very operable in the '90s when the right wing noise machine could really say anything they wanted and their choir would shout "Amen!"

    But you know what? Turns out they are equally capable of saying outrageous things about other Democrats as well, not just the Clintons.

    Want to make a list of some of the things said about Obama?

    1. He's a secret radical Muslim educated in radical Muslim schools.

    2. Isn't a U.S. citizen.

    3. "Pals around with terrorists."

    4. Won't release his college transcripts because he has to hide his cocaine addiction.

    5. Didn't write the books that he wrote. Instead, his terrorist pal wrote them for him.

    6. Is Hitler, Stalin and Mao all rolled up into one in his zeal to turn America into a Communist dictatorship..

    Feel free to add.

    And while we are at it, let's not forget the outrageous things said about John Kerry in 2004 as well.

    That's the way the right-wing noise machine works. They aren't interested in the truth. They are only interested in ginning up their base.

    1. Ah, but you see 10:41, pointing that out is tribal, and we can't have. Also, didn't you know that Maddow, Hayes and Walsh are just as bad as the right-wing noise machine? And don't you know that the right-wing attacks against the Clintons are actually the fault of "we liberals" --- because, you know, to point out that the attacks emerge from a right-wing noise machine is tribal.... In other words, only one person on earth isn't tribal, and that's Bob. Somehow, his enlightened view transcends tribe. Tribalism is for us rubes, not enlightened men from Harvard.

    2. Part of the Clinton rules includes (1) participation in this stuff by the mainstream press, such as the NY Times, not just the right wing media, (2) lack of defense or push back by liberals against right wing trash leaving the Clintons on their own.

      In 2008, taking a page from the right wing playbook, Obama's people used anti-Clinton tactics like those created during the 1990s.

      It is very odd that our mainstream media should join in the scandal-mongering the way they did. Maddow, Hayes, Walsh do amplify the right wing attacks when they should be energetically opposing them. Part of the problem is Clinton's original challenge to the Democratic party power structure, coupled with his less than elite Southern roots. He was an affront to Democrats so they abdicate the good of the party in order to let him twist in the wind. They are largely doing the same to Hillary.

      The attacks against Kerry were grossly unfair, offensive to his service. I don't know why the push back wasn't more effective in his case. It may be that the left lacked a media platform like the right's from which to defend Kerry. That isn't true now. In contrast, Obama has been well defended against right wing attacks, so that those attacks are marginalized and confined to the extremes of the Republican party not accepted by the mainstream media as the attacks against Hillary are being accepted.

      Notice that Bill Clinton has now made a statement about the Foundation donations. That is appropriate because it was his foundation -- not Hillary's. Yet she has been blamed for not making a statement herself about something she had no control over, no oversight of, and was entirely uninfluenced by during her term as Sec of State. Why should she have been expected to say anything?

    3. The "Clinton Rules" aren't about the right wing noise machine. You expect the opposition to oppose. The "Clinton rules" are about the supposedly neutral, unbiased mainstream press and a large faction of the left that behaves no better than the right wing when it comes to Clintons (suffering from Clinton Derangement Syndrome).

    4. The question of "did Obama get it just as bad as Clinton or ever worse?" is an interesting one, I 10:41 fails to make the affirmative case here. He is basically using stuff not from the Media but from Republican extremists, and I would argue that in the case of "pals around with terrorists" they were just reporting what one idiot was saying, they were not great on the citizenship smear but not that bad either. You have to remember in Clinton days the Republicans held hearings that, unlike Benghazi, the New York Times's Howell Raines encouraged, rather than ridiculed. It's not hard and fast, but as the NYT goes....... Today the situation is a little bit more crazy and complex, but perhaps not as bad as those "just that fact that questions are being raised...." days. The IRS Scandal was given little five minute bumpers on CBS Evening News and The PBS Newshour. No attempt by any major news organization (including Fox, who probably just gave more time to the RNC talking points) to get to the bottom of it. It was just like extending some free campaign advertising to the right that no doubt helped a little in the midterms. Obviously, no wrong doing was ever tied to the White House and the Republicans had to admit as much after the election was over. Does the whole thing stink of Republican subterfuge? Yep, but we will never know.
      At this point, it's hard not to figure this crap will not only not hurt Hillary, but may help her.

  2. It is also quite interesting how Somerby always lays the blame for the outrageous lies of the right-wing noise machine not at the feet of the liars, but at the feet of "press corps" who fails to ride to the rescue of the poor, defenseless candidate that Bob happens to like.

    This lies at the base of his pleasing tale about the "War on Gore." His old roomie did absolutely nothing wrong, nor did the people who started all the lies about him.

    Nope, the "mainstream press" deserves the blame for not riding to the rescue of the defenseless Al in distress.

    1. Right, because Al ran a flawless and deeply inspiring campaign against a chimp and couldn't beat him, despite being veep for one of the most popular presidents in recent memory and with a booming economy. Had to be Maureen's and Matthews' fault. Yet somehow, magically, these presidents who were loathed and mocked by the press managed to win election and the re-election handily: Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. Nope, Al did nothing wrong.

    2. It is reasonable to expect the mainstream press to do its job by vetting claims, not repeating lies, especially lies manufactured for political purposes. Everyone knows what to expect from the right -- people believe the media are unbiased and adhering to journalistic standards. There is something to expose with the mainstream media -- nothing new to say about the right.

      Al Gore won the popular vote. He should have won the election. It was stolen because the mainstream media didn't do its job. You can call Bush a chimp, but the election was close, as it was against Kerry as well. A candidate should receive fair treatment from a press corps that is supposed to be reporting the facts of a campaign, not swinging the election on behalf of the corporations that own the media.

    3. He thinks the mainstream press corp deserves blame for not saying anything and at times, echoing the noise.

  3. Can we also consider the "Maddow Rules" that seem to be in effect on this blog, in which our esteemed blogger gets to write anything he wants as long as it's about Rachel Maddow?

    Works like this:

    1. Maddow says something that Bob deems stupid. She is a vile, useless excuse for a human being.

    2. Hannity says something stupid. Maddow is a vile, useless human being for not pushing back.

    3. Hannity says something stupid and Maddow pushes back. Maddow is a vile, useless human being for offending the tender sensibilities of Hannity's fans.

    1. It isn't the stuff Maddow says that bothers Somerby -- it is her lack of ethics and integrity.

    2. Yes, and let's never forget the valuable service Bob provided to America by combing through every personality profile ever written about her in search of any inconsistency to attack her "lack of ethics and integrity" with.

      Such brilliance and insight can only be found here.

  4. In comments about race, Hillary Clinton ticked off a list that included Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and other blacks who caused their own deaths in naming examples of incidents that she suggests are evidence of an epidemic of police violence against blacks. It's unlikely she believes there is any such evidence but that didn't stop her from pandering and becoming part of the lynch mob race hustling problem. She won't be getting my vote.

    1. You know, I'm now convinced that Bob could write about bagels and cream cheese and the Zimmerman/Wilson Defense Team will rush in to do their victory dance.

      Welcome to your new readership, Somerby.

    2. @12:06 -- are you a single issue voter? Do her positions on a wide range of other issues not matter to you at all, her likelihood of appointing future supreme court justices, the ability to staff departments with Democrats instead of conservatives?

      When Obama pretended to have doubts about gay marriage did you condemn him for pandering? Do you have one standard for him and a different one for Clinton?

    3. @ 2:10--are you stupid enough to believe 12:06 is the kind of person who would vote for anyone who was a Democrat?

    4. @4:08 -- benefit of the doubt.

    5. Very Malala like.

    6. @2:10, all politicians pander so pandering in itself doesn't generally influence my vote. I don't care if gay marriage is legal or not legal, and don't think there are serious consequences in either policy so Obama's pandering on gay marriage, while transparent, was immaterial. Supreme court justices are important but, while in favor of abortion rights unlike conservatives on the court, I also support the Hobby Lobby decision and take both First Amendment religious clauses seriously unlike the liberals on the court.

      Some conservatives espouse a ludicrous agenda, most progressives espouse a ludicrous agenda. I would prefer departments staffed by moderate Republicans over extremist Democrats.

      Immigration is serious and Democrats are too interested in building their voter base to make rational decisions around it.

      Pandering around the high profile police cases pimped by race hustlers is significantly consequential. The Sharpton mentality has caused serious and unjust consequences for those scapegoated by the race hustlers' lynch mobs. Clinton has aligned herself with the mob.
      4:08 I voted Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Bush, McCain, Romney. I would vote for any Republican in the current field over Clinton. Al Sharpton and MSNBC's racial clown show shows no signs of abating, is not conservative or progressive but insane, and will be one of the most important factors in my vote.

    7. Ok, so you are a Republican. I don't believe you ever voted for Clinton. This is disinformation and you are a troll.

    8. You're free to define me as a Republican based on the facts provided and your personal preference, and I couldn't care less what you believe. We're all familiar with people limited by ideological, tribal rigidity which all but guarantees lifelong narrow-minded ignorance.

    9. "narrow-minded ignorance"

      Isn't that the slogan of the Republican Party?

    10. If you look closely it's the slogan of both parties' mainstream now.

  5. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

    1. I second this comment.

    2. We now have a landslide of troubled Bob commenters whose only commentary is about other commenters and thus never substantive.

      (In Bobworld, big private jets are "fairytale" planes
      so 2 comments is a landslide.)

  6. Typical Douche TrollMay 4, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    I have trouble recognizing that press misconduct exists.

    I think my opinion of the quality of Gore's campaigning is more salient anyway.

    I believe in the existence of a place called Bobworld.

    1. This is one of the comments that comes back repeatedly about Hillary Clinton. If she is unfairly attacked, people comment that she should be better at handling such unfairness. It is her fault for not being more aggressive in refuting the garbage -- not the fault of the people spewing the garbage in the first place.

      I've been hearing that Hillary hasn't done enough to refute the "bombshell" scandal -- even John Stewart implied that she should have issued a clear denial of any wrongdoing. But why should she have to? There is no substance to the report. She shouldn't have to dignify it. It shouldn't be up to her to issue a strong denial (thus appearing defensive and even guilty). If there is no substance, it is the fault of those making the accusation and they should have been vetted by the NY Times in advance and criticized by the media -- not Clinton -- for being empty and wrong and politically motivated.

      It is a when did you stop beating your wife accusation. She looks bad if she says anything about it. The media should defending her, not joining a chorus that says "Hillary is a bad campaigner because people are saying bad stuff about her and she is ignoring it."

    2. Legend has it that LBJ, in one of his early congressional campaigns, told one of his aides to spread the story that Johnson's opponent fucked pigs. The aide responded "Christ, Lyndon, we can't call the guy a pigfucker. It isn't true." To which LBJ supposedly replied "Of course it ain't true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it."

      It was extremely disappointing watching Chris Hayes play along but not surprising considering the behavior of MSNBC in 2008.

    3. Legend has it Washington admitted he chopped down that cherry tree.

  7. Typical Douche TrollMay 4, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    The toughest (that is to say, impossible) thing for me to admit:

    Somerby's got a point about Chris Hayes' cowardly "coverage" of this latest Clinton "bombshell."

    1. I think Chris went easy on Hillary because they are liberal tribe members.

  8. Perhaps given the reality of the Clinton Rules, the Clintons should conduct their business in a lower-key manner. You might not deserve to get mugged but that doesn't mean you walk down the street at night in a bad neighborhood wearing a Rolex. Nobody likes a rich politician, including journalists (especially rich ones who like to pose as liberals), so the Clintons, being the richest and most powerful, will be guilty until proven innocent.


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