THE SMELL OF TOTAL WAR: The Times donates, then takes away!


Part 3—Clinton’s $2.5 billion:
The horrific state of New York Times journalism can’t be discussed in the press.

The guild has rules—and a code of silence. That code is strictly observed.

That said: Even by New York Times standards, last Saturday’s “Happy Hearts Fund” front-page news report was a masterwork of insinuation. For starters, let’s consider the way it began.

Insinuation watch: Please cry for Indonesia

Deborah Sontag’s front-page report was the latest attack on the obvious greed of You Know Who and her “distasteful” husband.

By her second paragraph, Sontag was sliming a former model who has trafficked with the beast. By paragraph 4, she was crying for Indonesia.

This is how Sontag’s report began. Insinuation in bold:
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.

The gala cost $363,413. But the real splurge? Bill Clinton.

The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds—enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.
In the highlighted sentence, Sontag shot and scored.

Would that $500,000 donation have been “enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia?” Let’s assume it would have been.

Presumably, it will also be enough to pay for the joint projects in Haiti these two foundations have agreed to pursue. The money won’t be spent in Indonesia. It will be spent in Haiti instead!

That said, you have to read further in Sontag’s piece to get clear about this agreement. Right up front, she seems to insinuate that the money was stolen from Indonesia in some unexplained manner.

Why was that jibe about Indonesia in that passage at all? Sontag never explains! Later in her report, she does say this about the Happy Hearts Fund:

“Most of the charity’s building has been in Indonesia after the earthquakes of 2006 and 2009.”

But then, she quickly adds this note about Nemcova, the vampy-and-trampy former model who consorts with You Know Who:

“After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ms. Nemcova turned her attention to that small island nation, where both Mr. Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, as secretary of state, played outsize roles in the earthquake relief effort and the more problem-filled reconstruction.”

In short, Nemcova and the Happy Hearts Fund have been active in Haiti for years. What explains that early insinuation about Indonesia getting hosed?

Sontag never explains. That early jibe was insinuation, plain and simple. Insinuation—full stop.

Alas! Sontag’s lengthy front-page “news report” is larded with insinuations. In a slightly rational world, she and her editors would be happily shown the door. Her “news report” would be sent to the International Insinuation Museum, where it would go on display as a warning to the world’s schoolchildren and to graduate students at the CSJ.

We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where work of this type will not be discussed within the upper-end press corps. For that reason, Sontag was free to end her lengthy, gong-show report with an even more naked insinuation, as we’ll see below.

On a purely journalistic basis, how egregious is the campaign reporting at the New York Times? Quite routinely, the reporting is comically awful. Just consider that $2.5 billion—the $2.5 billion the Times gave to the Clinton campaign, then rudely took away.

Inflated estimate watch: Where does big campaign money come from?

We’ll start with a front-page report from last Sunday’s Times. According to Lichtblau and Confessore, the Clinton campaign has struggled to find billionaire donors to match those who are giving big bucks on the Republican side.

We don’t know if that’s accurate. But along the way, the reporters shot down a “widely circulated” fund-raising estimate—an estimate they described as bogus:
LICHTBLAU AND CONFESSORE (5/31/15): Inflated estimates of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign budget—a figure of $2.5 billion was widely circulated—have also been a headache for her campaign and for Priorities USA. A more realistic fund-raising target for her campaign, they say, is around $1 billion.
By now, everyone has heard the claim that Candidate Clinton is planning to raise $2.5 billion for her White House campaign. In the current climate, the claim is used to denounce Clinton as a grasping, greedy captive of big money.

Alas! That estimate was an “inflated estimate,” the two reporters now said. Because we knew the source of that estimate, we emitted low mordant chuckles.

Perhaps a month before, we had Nexised that widely circulated claim, wondering where it had started. That Nexis search made the answer fairly clear.

That “inflated estimate” had started—where else?—in a New York Times news report! It started with an absurdly unsourced statement by the crack reporting team of Chozick and Haberman:
CHOZICK AND HABERMAN (4/11/15): In the early months of the Democratic primary contest, Mrs. Clinton's campaign hopes to capture some of the magic of her successful 2000 run for the Senate in New York...

But even as Mrs. Clinton attempts to set aside her celebrity and offer herself as a fighter for ordinary voters, her finance team and the outside groups supporting her candidacy have started collecting checks in what is expected to be a $2.5 billion effort, dwarfing the vast majority of her would-be rivals in both parties.

The Clinton campaign's fund-raising staff and other aides have already started working out of a new headquarters in Brooklyn, with almost the entire team working there on Friday.
Needless to say, the claim was used to help us see how phony Clinton is. That said, a Nexis search makes it clear. Within the realm of the press corps, that’s where the “inflated estimate” got its start.

Seven weeks later, two other Timesmen shot it down. They failed to say where it started.

Please note the absurdity of Chozick and Haberman’s style of “reporting.” They made no attempt to state a source for the giant figure they introduced. They merely described the giant figure as “what is expected.”

Expected by whom? The reporters didn’t say. But so what? Their editors waved their claim into print, and the claim started to circulate.

Credit where due! Virtually no other reporters repeated this unsourced claim. Within their news divisions, other newspapers took a pass on this unsourced assertion.

The absurdly unsourced estimate began to “widely circulate” the old-fashioned way—through a screeching column the very next day by one of the press corps’ most deranged Clinton/Gore/Democrat-haters.

Her column was titled “Grandmama Mia.” As she complained about Clinton’s banality, Maureen Dowd repeated the claim, adding the word “obscene:”
DOWD (4/12/15): ...On the eve of her campaign launch, she released an updated epilogue to her banal second memoir, ''Hard Choices,'' highlighting her role as a grandmother.

''I'm more convinced than ever that our future in the 21st century depends on our ability to ensure that a child born in the hills of Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta or the Rio Grande Valley grows up with the same shot at success that Charlotte will,'' she wrote, referring to her granddaughter.

This was designed to rebut critics who say she's too close to Wall Street and too grabby with speech money and foundation donations from Arab autocrats to wage a sincere fight against income inequality.

But if Hillary really wants to help those children, maybe she should give them some of the ostensible and obscene $2.5 billion that she is planning to spend to persuade us to make her grandmother of our country.
Just like that, the unsourced $2.5 billion had become “obscene.” The “wide circulation” of the claim got its start right there.

Charles Krauthammer followed with a similar column repeating the unsourced claim as fact. When Candidate Rubio made a joke about the $2.5 billion—“That’s a lot of Chipotle,” he wonderfully quipped—TV news divisions had a way to broadcast the claim without having to state it themselves.

(In Campaign 2000, Bob Dole’s inaccurate joke about the Buddhist temple played this same role. Dole’s joke enabled a primal press corps longing—the desire to circulate bogus claims which drive preferred story lines.)

How much money does the Clinton campaign actually hope to raise? We don’t have the slightest idea! Lichtblau and Confessore gave a new, vastly smaller estimate, which could of course be a confection.

They at least seemed to source their estimate to the Clinton campaign and Priorities USA. That said, the antecedent for their use of the word “they” was wonderfully unclear.

At any rate, we mordantly chuckled on Sunday morning as we read that front-page report. Two Times scribes were rolling their eyes at an inflated estimate which had received wide play.

As the reporters surely knew, the wildly inflated estimate got its start in their own newspaper! Their famous paper had cited no source for the claim.

Insinuation watch: The cries of the Haitian protesters

A code of silence keeps other “professionals” from discussing the work of the Times. The Times should thank the gods for this, because the paper’s “campaign reporting” is horrific, disgraceful, god-awful.

Consider the naked insinuation which closed Sontag’s front-page report about You Know Who’s “distasteful” transaction with the Happy Hearts Fund.

Sontag had finished listing Nemcova’s various boyfriends. She had finished fingering the model’s vampy conduct.

But alas! More than 2000 words later, she still hadn’t explained the problem with the “distasteful” transaction. A whole lot of insinuations had flowed over the dental dam. But Sontag still hadn’t managed to describe an actual problem:

Happy Hearts had donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In return, the world’s most famous person had headlined the smaller org’s annual fund-raising event.

The two orgs had agreed to spend the money on joint projects in Haiti. Thanks to Sontag’s pseudo-reporting, we still had no earthly idea what the problem was.

Neither did Kevin Drum! “What am I missing,” he sensibly asked.

Sontag decided to close her report with a piteous irony. The irony took the form of a completely unexplained insinuation.

We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more naked play of this type. As she closed, Sontag returned to the Happy Hearts fund-raising dinner and pretended to cry for Haiti.

She made exactly zero attempt to explain what she wrote. In what world does an editor wave garbage like this into print?
SONTAG: “Petra did not have to devote 10 years of her life to building these schools,” Mr. Clinton told the crowd. “But what she has done is a symbol of what I think we all have to do.”

Outside [the event], protesters, mostly Haitian-Americans frustrated with the earthquake reconstruction effort, stood behind barricades holding signs.

“Clinton, where is the money?” they chanted. “In whose pockets?”

How ironic! Inside the gala, Clinton was praising the morals of the vampy Nemcova. But out on the street, Haitian protesters seemed to suggest that somebody’s money had gone into somebody else’s pockets—presumably, into Bill Clinton’s!

What were those protesters talking about? What there any actual merit to this implied accusation?

Sontag made no attempt to explain. She simply closed with this one last play, with insinuation full stop.

Work like this is routine at the Times. Thanks to a vibrant code of silence, no one discusses this parody of campaign reporting which, just as a matter of fact, has left people dead and dying all across the world.

Tomorrow: In the aftermath of the bombshell report, the Times discusses disclosure


  1. The "Happy Hearts" piece sounds like another attempt to copy Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic" bit that mediocre people still regard as the height of cleverness. We're all whores, but let's unmask the phony liberals.. blah blah blah...... Sontag probably tried like hell to find a way to suggest Clinton was boning Nemcova but couldn't quite bring it off. Nobody bats a thousand.

    1. Terrible isn't it.

      I bet if Sontag could have suggested Clinton "was on a leafy terrace high above Port-au-Prince enjoying drinks with Alfre Woodward and Petra Nemcova and as they gaze, just a bit grandly, on the city below" she would have done that too.

      Then we could "increasingly regard him as a bit of a fallen soul."

    2. Still haven't quite figured out the difference between the New York Times and this blog, yet, huh?

    3. Kristof was shown having drinks on that terrace with Woodard in the show. No insinuation involved. They do gaze on the city below, and given the poverty, it cannot help but appear to be grandly done. Doesn't it matter to you whether things are made up or real?

    4. @ 1:40 have you figured out the difference between Hillary Clinton and an "oleaginous, oily old coot!"

      One is a woman in the downhill side of her sixties who is rich but "whose man is a major cultural figure responsible for you getting to the top." The other is a woman on the downhill side of her sixties who is rich and "in her current position because... she married ...a major cultural figure" and is "conventionally good looking."

  2. What is the inflation rate for campaign costs when "clueless" supporters talk off the record to the press?

    "Our guess? Such cluelessness from Clinton supporters may represent her “biggest problem.” BOB SOMERBY


    "Far from being just another aide to Hillary and Bill Clinton, Craig Smith is something of an adopted son. He worked for the pair in Arkansas, was the very first hire for Bill’s 1992 presidential run, followed them to the White House and then advised both the 1996 and 2008 campaigns.
    ....Smith’s current role as a senior adviser for Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that has been set up to organize the grassroots for a 2016 Clinton presidential effort should she run.

    Smith estimates that the entire Clinton effort — including all the current super PAC ­projects and an actual campaign — will cost a cool $1.7 billion in total."

    Mark Halperin Time March 12, 2014

    "A Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign could cost $1.7 billion?
    March 12th, 2014

    CNN Political Producer Rachel Streitfeld

    Washington (CNN) - With every passing month, the campaign to encourage Hillary Clinton to run for president grows.

    And supporters at the Ready for Hillary Super PAC say they're turning up the heat.

    Ready for Hillary is also raising money for the campaign they hope to see.

    They are bracing for an expensive campaign cycle, should Clinton choose to run. Craig Smith, a senior adviser for Ready for Hillary, has made an “educated estimate” that a 2016 campaign could cost $1.7 billion including spending by outside groups, the source confirmed.

    The numbers were first reported by Time Magazine's Mark Halperin.

    Stuart Rothenberg, the editor of the the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said Smith's fundraising figure is both part real and part motivation...."

    1. Reading ComprehensionJune 3, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      "I imagine this incoherent post will validate the reporters and shame Somerby."

      -A lonely "thought" in 11:56 Anonymous's little head.

    2. Actually the thought was "it is amazing how much better Google is than Nexis and what you can find if your leave the dollar amount out of your search."

      But as a mind reader you appear to be engaged in what someone recently described as "Soviet-style psychiatric analysis."

    3. Oh, 12:32, I thought you were clarifying that it wasn't unsourced, it was just a lie.

  3. The question of why such awful political coverage goes uncriticized, especially when it involves anyone named Clinton, is easily answered. No journalist wants to suffer the same fate as Sidney Blumenthal who defended the Clintons in the nineties against false accusations and insinuations in the media. Today this brilliant writer and political historian is routinely treated as a shady character, if not an actual criminal, by his former media colleagues.

    Forced to choose between having the courage to tell the truth and going along with the prevailing narrative to get along in an increasingly competitive profession, political reporters take the path of.keast resistance. Sid Blumenthal remains a powerful object lesson as we saw when Clinton's Benghazi emails were released and included some from Blumenthal. You would have thought he was worse than Ghadaffi himself.

    1. Well said. At the same time, while some on the left bravely target media that adopt and promote a narrative that targets their favorite politicians, the same media justice warriors fall silent over insane "rape culture" and "police murder blacks" and "pay gap" and "celebrate the courage of conforming through self-mutilation" narratives because they fear the wrath of the Stalinist left, or worse, are part of it on those fronts.

    2. "Today this brilliant writer and political historian is routinely treated as a shady character"

      Well, not by everyone.....

      "While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

      Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government.
      It is not clear whether Mrs. Clinton or the State Department knew of Mr. Blumenthal’s interest in pursuing business in Libya; a State Department spokesman declined to say. Many aspects of Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement in the planned Libyan venture remain unclear. He declined repeated requests to discuss it."

      Another example of the "clueless" Clinton supporters at work and the brilliant Clinton strategy of not responding to the press helping to make her a martyr in the new "Total War" on Hil.

    3. I suppose you think there's a point in there somewhere?

      Why the fuck is it improper for Hillary Clinton to maintain a relationship with a friend?

      Sid Blumenthal refused to answer the reporter's question as to whether he was committing treason? Smart guy.

    4. On the contrary, I suggest no impropriety. I suggest Hillary Clinton is so trusting of Mr. Blumenthal it never occurred to her that an employee planning "commemorative events" for the charitable Clinton Foundation might have something other than a keen interest in world affairs that sparked him to pass along intelligence on Libya through her private e-mail account.

      But then I am a dumb guy answering a comment from a guy who has to slip "fuck" or "ass" into at least every other offering.

    5. James Fallows of the Atlantic pointed out that it used to be considered "canny" for a public official to keep open channels to contacts outside of government. He doesn't understand that this is You Know Who, and, therefore, it's a terrible thing.

      And it was certainly treasonous for Mr. Blumenthal to piss off Obama's political hacks during the '08 primaries, thus getting "banned" from working at the State Department for petty political reasons, not national security reasons as is insinuated.

    6. 1:28, you know at some point you're going to have to start making sense. What difference does it make to you or anyone else what other "interests" Mr. Blumenthal may have had? You will forgive me, but I do not suffer from this feverish disease you apparently are suffering from. When I read the name Sid Blumenthal, this is not some conjuring word to me. This is brilliant and accomplished man. If he had important information he wanted to pass on to his friend the SofS, is he supposed to just keep it to himself because some jackoff at the NYTimes or some anonymous jackoff on a blog years later might insinuate something nefarious. As it turned out his information was pretty good.

    7. Well, since this post is about tracing things back to the proper source, @1:44, let me give you a clue about the identity of "Obama's political hack" who banned the treasonous Mr. Blumenthal.*

      According to popular legend it was a guy who is described thusly in his official bio at the internet's greatest authority:

      The hack "was appointed as director of the finance committee for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. In 1993, he joined the Clinton administration, where he served as the Assistant to the President for Political Affairs and as the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy before resigning in 1998."

      * the term "treasonous Mr. Blumenthal" has its origins in two comments made on Bob Somerby's blog on June 3, 2015.

    8. The job he was banned from doing, by the way, was as Clinton's speech writer. It was a job for which he was not only well qualified but very well suited. It's not like she wanted to make him Deputy Secretary of State.

    9. Clinton's association with Blumenthal is not a problem. The Obama administration is a greater liability.

  4. I think part of the strategy to take down Hillary is to make it so damn uncomfortable for anyone to have even a fleeting tangential relationship with the Clintons. The political pygmy press will be on your ass and make your life miserable. Honestly, I think that is part of the strategy. This poor woman donates her time and money to a charity is gets slimed in the NYTimes and is virtually called a whore. These people are truly juvenile ghouls.

    1. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.

  5. Leftist media and Twitter are abuzz with the breaking news that Neil Cavuto used the unapproved pronoun for Bruce Jenner "seven times."

    Mind your p's and q's, people. We're watching and counting.

    1. If I had an unused billion laying around, it would be very fun to donate it to Clinton and make the press prophecy come true. Maybe that would cause them to watch what they invent.


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