THE SMELL OF TOTAL WAR: No insinuation left behind!


Part 2—The unexplained cries of the Haitian protesters:
In Sunday’s New York Times, public editor Margaret Sullivan discussed some reader complaints about the newspaper’s coverage of Candidate Clinton.

In response to the reader complaints, Sullivan had spoken to Carolyn Ryan, the newspaper’s Washington bureau chief. She had also spoken to Dean Baquet, the paper’s executive editor.

According to Sullivan, the gods are well pleased with the coverage! According to Sullivan, Baquet “characterized the campaign coverage as ‘pretty fabulous’ in an email to me and said that ‘other departments have contributed to make it rich in issues as well as politics.’ ”

So it sometimes tends to go when readers challenge the Times.

Sullivan lodged some complaints of her own about the Times’ campaign coverage. She said she “find[s] that the chattiness of some of the offerings verges on the juvenile. And like a lot of readers, I could do without the excessive coverage of Mrs. Clinton’s every move and the oddly barbed tone of some of those pieces.”

Given the history of the Times, we have no idea why Sullivan thought a “barbed tone” toward Candidate Clinton was somehow “odd” (in the sense of being surprising). To her credit, she did indicate that this tone was inappropriate, as it would be if taken toward other candidates.

That said, Sullivan’s column was filled with words of praise for the Times—words of praise from the paper’s executive editor and its Washington bureau chief.

Baquet and Ryan seem deeply impressed with their newspaper’s work. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

According to Sullivan, Ryan even noted the fact that Matt Drudge has praised some part of the coverage! Rather than seeing this as a problem, Ryan treated it as a straight accolade.

Sullivan focused on the May 23 “political memo” by reporter Jason Horowitz, which we critiqued last week. She said she had received complaints about what one reader called “its tone of ‘sarcastic derision’ ” toward Candidate Clinton.

Sullivan seemed to agree about the tone of the piece. Apparently, Ryan didn’t. According to Sullivan, “Ms. Ryan told me she thought that the piece was not well understood by readers.”

Damn those thick-headed subscribers! Sullivan quoted Ryan saying, “I feel like a lot of people misread” the piece, in which Horowitz “was trying to do something counterintuitive and brave.”

Regarding the Clinton coverage:

For chronological reasons if nothing else, Sullivan didn’t discuss last Saturday’s front-page report about the Happy Hearts Fund deal—the troubling deal which Candidate Clinton’s husband “distastefully” engineered.

When we read that 2200-word news report, we thought we discerned the unpleasant smell of total war in the morning. Has Sullivan been receiving complaints about that peculiar piece?

We have no idea. Experienced writers like Deborah Sontag are skilled with the tools of insinuation and passive aggression. They hide their promulgation of tightly-scripted pseudo-scandal quite well.

For chronological reasons, there was no way Sullivan could have discussed the Happy Hearts report. That said, we were surprised by another omission—by her failure to mention the New York Times’ earlier “bombshell report” about the scary uranium deal.

Did Sullivan get reader complaints about that? We don’t know, but if she did, they weren’t mentioned in her column.

In our view, that April 24 “bombshell report” resembled the Happy Hearts Fund report—and we don’t mean that as a compliment.

In each case, the Times presented lengthy, front-page reports which seemed to suggest greedy, possibly scandalous conduct by one or both of the Clintons. But how strange! In each case, it was hard to discern the nature of the supposed offense.

We almost thought we detected the smell of total war in these gimmicked-up, front-page reports. But then, our nostrils are well-trained. We’ve read the Times in the past.

In Saturday’s Happy Hearts Fund report, a person might say that Sontag left no insinuation behind. She got off to a fast start with the sexual sliming of Petra Nemcova, a former model who now runs a major philanthropic org.

This is the way the report began. We’ve seen this purring before:
SONTAG (5/30/15): To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Petra Nemcova, a Czech model who survived the disaster by clinging to a palm tree, decided to pull out all the stops for the annual fund-raiser of her school-building charity, the Happy Hearts Fund.

She booked Cipriani 42nd Street, which greeted guests with Bellini cocktails on silver trays. She flew in Sheryl Crow with her band and crew for a 20-minute set. She special-ordered heart-shaped floral centerpieces, heart-shaped chocolate parfaits, heart-shaped tiramisù and, because orange is the charity’s color, an orange carpet rather than a red one. She imported a Swiss auctioneer and handed out orange rulers to serve as auction paddles, playfully threatening to use hers to spank the highest bidder for an Ibiza vacation.
This newspaper sometimes plays these familiar old games with women who are too conventionally good-looking and whose politics misalign.

In a similar way, Naomi Wolf got slimed all up and down during Campaign 2000. In this report, Sontag had a good old time with Nemcova, reviewing a list of her former boyfriends and pleasuring readers with passive aggression about her coquettish ways:
SONTAG: In the end, the Happy Hearts Fund’s gala was a star-studded event, with celebrities including Naomi Watts and John Legend and the models Karlie Kloss and Coco Rocha in attendance. The Haitian president, Michel Martelly, a former musician who was Ms. Nemcova’s boyfriend’s boss at the time, was a second honoree, and he performed a couple of numbers with Wyclef Jean.

At the start of the evening, school bells rang and, as the master program dictated, “Petra dressed as schoolteacher” appeared, wearing glasses.

“Good evening, class,” the screen behind her read.
She later changed into a sheer red lace gown donated by the designer Naeem Khan, with diamond and ruby jewelry by Chopard.
Beyotch! But if you’ve read the Times in the past, you probably weren’t surprised by this gender-based hiss-spitting.

Nemcova’s vampish and trampish behavior played as a subtle background theme throughout the news report. That said, the actual target of the report was the greedy Bill Clinton, who had supposedly engineered a highly “distasteful” deal.

But how strange! Despite the length of the filler-clogged piece, it was very hard to discern the nature of Clinton’s offense. That said, a clear impression was conveyed. So it goes when the New York Times emits the smell of war.

After reading Sontag's report, Kevin Drum said he was puzzled. He said he couldn’t discern the problem with Clinton’s behavior in the Happy Hearts Fund matter.

For obvious reasons, neither could we! But the New York Times gave the “distasteful” conduct 2200 front-page words.

In its earlier “bombshell report,” the Times had doubled its displeasure. In an endless, distraction-filled piece which ran some 4400 words, the paper suggested that Hillary Clinton had engaged in virtually treasonous conduct in approving a scary uranium deal—with the Russians, no less!

In return for big money! What else?

That April 24 front-page report was the longest of the campaign. It was plumped out with seven photographs, a detailed timeline and an additional chart.

It was a giant report. But as in the Happy Hearts Fund matter, the New York Times did a very poor job defining the alleged misconduct. A clear impression was conveyed. But where was the actual offense?

Despite the length of the bombshell report, the Times failed to tell you that nine different cabinet departments sit on the committee which approved the scary deal. The Times failed to note that the Treasury Department, not State, chairs the committee in question.

Question: In all those departments, did anyone think there was a problem with the uranium deal? Did anyone in any department ever oppose the deal?

In 4400 distraction-clogged words, the Times presented no such indication!

Question: Did Hillary Clinton even take part in the decision-making about the uranium deal? Was she even part of the process?

In 4400 distraction-clogged words, the Times presented no evidence that she was! Indeed, if you read all the way to paragraph 61 of the endless exciting report, the Times finally quoted an assistant secretary of state who seemed to say that she wasn’t!

Can we talk? The Times keeps finding front-page scandals where scandals don’t seem to exist. Drum said he couldn’t spot the offense in the Happy Hearts Fund matter. In late April, we had the exact same problem with the sprawling bombshell report.

Did Margaret Sullivan get reader complaints about the bombshell report? If so, she didn’t mention them in Sunday’s column. For ourselves, we think we discern the smell of war in these tricked-out front-page reports.

Tomorrow, we’ll start with the most naked of all the insinuations in last weekend’s report. We refer to the unexplained cries of the Haitian protesters with whom Sontag ended her puzzling piece. Truly, when the Times wages total war, no insinuation will be left behind!

Tomorrow, we’ll start with the Haitian protesters, with whom Sontag ended her string of insinuations. We’ll move on to more of the bungled reporting which Baquet and Ryan seem to find so brilliant—bungled reporting which may decide who ends up in the White House.

They did this to Candidate Gore for two years. How did that war turn out?

Tomorrow: Concerning that $2.5 billion!


  1. 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. None of the NY Times comments mentioned the Total War Bob Somerby sees coming from that paper.

      In fact the biggest concern by far of Times readers was not bias in coverage of Clinton but lack of coverage of Bernie Sanders.

  2. It seems like a good sign that NY Times readers are complaining. For all its praise, Sullivan's article was defensive.

    1. It seems like a bad sign those complainers focused on something Somerby didn't mention at all, that the Total War on Clinton is causing the Times to ignore Bernie Sanders. And not a one mentioned the Uranium One article.

      Those Times complainers! Asleep in the woods again.

  3. "According to Sullivan, Ryan even noted the fact that Matt Drudge has praised some part of the coverage! Rather than seeing this as a problem, Ryan treated it as a straight accolade."

    It is comical and so revealing. Who knew eventheliberalNYTimes had such respect for the Sludge Report?

  4. Regarding the bombshell uranium article:

    "Indeed, if you read all the way to paragraph 61 of the endless exciting report, the Times finally quoted an assistant secretary of state who seemed to say that she wasn’t!"

    I agree with one criticism aimed at the Times reporter here. It isn't clear that Clinton herself was involved in any decision regarding the Uranium deal. Unfortunately, it also isn't clear that she was not. Therefore Somerby is required to say what "seems" to be a response from an assistant secretary of state, whom he says the Times quoted.

    Except the Times did not quote him. They quoted a written statement from an assistant secretary provided to them by a Clinton campaign spokesman. It "seems" to say what Somerby wants it to "seem" to say, but the parts Somerby leave out actually "seems not to deny" she could have been involved as well. Here is the full paragraph from the Times:

    "The Clinton campaign spokesman, Mr. Fallon, said that in general, these matters did not rise to the secretary’s level. He would not comment on whether Mrs. Clinton had been briefed on the matter, but he gave The Times a statement from the former assistant secretary assigned to the foreign investment committee at the time, Jose Fernandez. While not addressing the specifics of the Uranium One deal, Mr. Fernandez said, “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any C.F.I.U.S. matter.”

    So what do we end up with?

    A story considered by some to be a "bombshell" in which the candidate herself delegates the response to a subordinate. Wise decision of her part? Not to me. Especially considering these very same uranium interests and same players had already been written about in an unfavorable way when then Senator Clinton was running for President in 2008 by the very same reporter in the Times.

    The campaign subordinate refused to comment on whether the issue had been discussed with Clinton as Secretary. The written statement from the assistant secretary does not address the specific case but says Clinton never intervened with him on any matter before the pertinent committee. He is not reported to say he handled the matter entirely himself, and a suspicious reader could note there are two levels above him with whom the Secretary could have intervened in order to provide him with instructions.

    But that, of course only deals with the issue raised by Somerby. The larger issue is that, as a US Senator, Hillary Clinton raised serious objections to foreign ownership of US assets in the Dubai port controversy. In this case, where she had considerably more clout with which to weigh in, involving sale of 20% of known US uranium production capacity to an entity controlled by a foreign government, she remained silent.

    Somerby asks if anybody raised an objection. I think the better question is why didn't anybody involved raise one. Including Clinton.

    1. 2:42, so you're saying Clinton agreed with everyone else. No objections. Front page!

    2. My understanding from the article itself is that the US uranium assets were already in the hands of a Canadian company at the time the Russians acquired them. The prior sale did not occur when Clinton was Secretary of State.

    3. Shorter @2:42 :

      Somerby's right: The Times presented a gigantic badly researched muddled mess where even basic questions get confused half-answers.


    4. The introduction to that 4400 word debacle printed on the front page of eventheliberalNYTimes.

      3rd paragraph
      But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.
      Now, that is a straight unqualified assertion made by that reporter. What evidence did this reporter present that this sale of the uranium mines involved "a woman who would like to be ...the next [president of the US]?

      None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Diddly squat.

    5. non-anonymous member of the hiveJune 2, 2015 at 4:33 PM

      2:42 = a Jeffrey Meyer sockpuppet. They're becoming so transparent these days.

  5. Question: Did Hillary Clinton even take part in the decision-making about the uranium deal? Was she even part of the process?

    Answer: Yes. It's inconceivable that in a bureaucracy like the State Dept., Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been told about this decision.

    What a comedown from the Democratic Party that I grew up with. Harry Truman took responsibility. He said, "The buck stops here." Hillary Clinton delivers a weasel-worded document that, in effect, says, "The dog ate my homework."

    1. You think Hillary Clinton should have micromanaged the work of her subordinates? How then would she have had time to be Secretary of State. There was nothing about that deal to explain or take responsibility for.

    2. Whether or not Hillary Clinton was told about the decision - and there is no evidence that she was - has nothing to do with the question TDH asks, which is substantively different.

      "Did Hillary Clinton even take part in the decision-making about the uranium deal? Was she even part of the process?"


    3. A total jackass is someone who applauds the possibility that the Secretary of State of the United States did not take part in a decision to allow an arm of the Russian State to purchase 20% of the uranium production capacity in the Unites States.

      And then there is mm.

    4. In point of fact, when she was a US Senator, the Secretary of State tried to rewrite those rules. Because she was concerned over sale of a British company with contracts to manage US port facilities to a company with ties to the government of the UAE.

      Let's review the record. US Senator Clinton spoke out against and sponsored legislation on CIFUS in response to a takeover of a British company managing port facilities by a foreign company. That company had ties to the U.S. friendly government of a nation whose own port hosts more visiting US Naval vessels than any other nation in the world.

      Secretary Clinton said nary a peep about the purchase of a Canadian company with 20 % of the uranium production capacity of the US by a company with ties to Russia, a nation with a less than consistent record of cooperation with the US. And she statutorily sat on the committee charged with approving the deal, a committee whose governance she tried to alter by legislation just a few years before. ("Alter by legislation' for those intellectually challenged means "make the rules.")

      And of course it was just coincidental that a guy named William Jefferson Clinton had ties to those involved in both deals. And whose ties in both cases stirred quite a bit of interest in the press, which last I checked had a constitutional guarantee of freedom in this land where the intellectual culture is melting.

    5. "...when she was a US Senator, the Secretary of State tried to rewrite those rules..."

      No, not quite accurate. The bill she co-sponsored was only directed to the specific issue

      "Washington - United States Senators Robert Menendez and Hillary Rodham Clinton, joined by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg, Barbara Boxer and Bill Nelson, today introduced legislation to ban companies owned by foreign governments from controlling operations at U.S. ports."

      It must be very frustrating for you as you twist yourself into a knot trying to find a reason to hang the approval of this sale around Clinton's neck. In your little brain, the Dubai Port sale is just like the uranium mine sale.

      In February 2006, the stockholders of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), a British firm, agreed to a sale of that company to DPW over a bid by PSA International of Singapore. As part of the sale, DPW would assume the leases of P&O to manage major U.S. facilities at the Port of New York and New Jersey, Port of Philadelphia, Port of Baltimore, Port of New Orleans, and the Port of Miami, as well as operations in 16 other ports.

      After P&O stockholders approved the deal, the arrangement was reviewed by the CFIUS headed by the U.S. Treasury Department. The transfer of leases was approved.


      Congressional politicians were quick to respond after Schumer's press conference and the AP story put the Dubai Ports deal in the national spotlight. Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress started to question the approval. Republican leaders Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist, who usually work closely with the office of the President, publicly questioned the deal. Frist said "If the administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review."[5]

      On February 22, 2006, President Bush threatened to veto any legislation passed by Congress to block the deal, a veto that would be his first. In a statement to reporters, Bush claimed, "It would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."[6] DP Worlds Chief Operating Officer, Ted Bilkey engaged a number of high-profile lobbying firms to garner congressional support for the deal.[4]

      The controversy created a public and unusually high-profile dispute within the Republican Party, and between the Republican-controlled Congress and the Republican-controlled White House.

      On March 8, 2006 the House Panel voted 62–2 to block the deal, and senator Charles Schumer added amendments to a senate bill to block the deal, causing an uproar in the senate.[9]

      On March 9, 2006, Dubai Ports World released a statement saying they would turn over operation of U.S. ports to a U.S. "Entity".[10] Later that same day, American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein reported on PBS's "News Hour" that DP World was considering selling its U.S. operations to Halliburton.[11]

      Dubai Ports World eventually sold P&O's American operations to American International Group's asset management division, Global Investment Group for an undisclosed sum.[12]


      Did anything like that happen when the uranium mine sale went through? Anybody raise so much as a peep?

      By the way, what was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's involvement in that sale?

      I particularly enjoyed the bit about Bob Dole lobbying for DPW while his wife was a sitting senator.

      Go fuck yourself you hypocritical phony.

    6. "Former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole was hired by Dubai Ports World to lobby Congress on its behalf against bipartisan criticism of the deal. Mr. Dole is a special counsel in the Washington office of the law firm of Alston & Bird. DP World hired the firm in 2005 to help shepherd its purchase of the British-based firm Peninsular and Oriental."

      While his wife was a sitting Senator.

  6. Why in the world do firms pay Bill Clinton so much money to speak?

    What Bill Clinton is able to do far better than most politicians, far better than any coaches, far better than almost all CEO's, and far, far better than all but the very best comedians, is make people feel good about themselves. When he's paid a million, or even two million, to speak to fewer than a 1000 people, the corporation paying him gets very good value for the money. If Bill Clinton makes just 25 of the 1000 guests feel better about themselves, the paying corporation is assured of being able to close 5 deals among those 25 that the corporation otherwise would NEVER have had a chance of closing.

    His speeches to corporations aren't available, but his commencement addresses are. They are all excellent. They are not among the top 1%, but every one is at least in the top 10%.

    The organizations that pay to have Bill Clinton speak are paying him to make the audience feel smart and happy and enthusiastic. They get that from him -- every time. The organizations and the people attending may hope to get some influence with Bill Clinton, and they may think they obtain that, but that's very doubtful.

    From 2003 to 2006, Bill and Hillary Clintons' tax returns show total Yucaipa partnership income of $12.5 million. Yucaipa is run by Ron Burkle who never went to college and, even though he is a very effective supermarket manager and operator, lacks confidence in putting his deals together, despite many years of success. Did Ron Burkle consider having the Clintons on his boards money well spent? YES. Did Bill use connections to help Burkle out? Nope. Did Bill have good ideas for running supermarkets? No. Did Bill buck up Burkle's confidence so that Burkle ended up being much more successful? YES.

    Top lawyers and top investment bankers are loathe to admit that being at the very top of the firm -- or just shy of the top -- has nothing to do with managing people or doing the work. The number one or two guy in the top firms is a salesman more than anything else. Can you think of any politician anywhere, any time, who is more effective at selling ideas than Bill Clinton? Can you think of any preacher who is more effective at selling ideas than Bill Clinton?

    Firms and people that have been paying Bill Clinton to give speeches and to meet people have not been paying him to curry favor with him now or with Hillary Clinton in the future. They have been paying him because he is the most effective salesman there is in the whole world. They get their money's worth even if they NEVER see him again.

    1. Too bad Bill Clinton, the all time best politician at selling ideas, couldn't sell the idea of nominating his own wife to the Democratic party in 2008,

      Too bad Bill Clinton, the most effective salesman there is in the whole world delegated the sales job of health care reform to his wife in his first term. Thousands of lives per year could have been saved for well over a decade.

      Finally, did Ron Burkle consider flying Bill Clinton to Kazakhstan in his big private jet money well spent?
      Probably not as much as Frank Giustra did.

    2. I didn't know Burkle went to Kazakhastan.

      I looked up Frank Giustra. He overpaid to get the rights to mind uranium there in 2005 and the Russian firm Uranium One dramatically overpaid to buy him out in February 2007. He was bought out at the high for energy prices in the past 20+ years. Excellent timing.

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