Part 3—In truth, the pattern is there: Is there any truth to President Clinton’s story?
We refer to the story he told this weekend on CNN. His story is a forbidden story, though he tells it every now and again.
According to President Clinton, a familiar pattern can be seen in the ongoing coverage of Candidate Clinton. This pattern involves the GOP and the mainstream press.
According to Clinton, here’s the scoop:
The GOP wants Candidate Clinton to be “as mangled up as possible” if she’s the nominee. Toward that end, they have promoted the alleged scandal known as emailgate.
“I have never seen so much expended on so little,” the former president said.
(For ourselves, we’ve seen more expended on less. But that’s a minor quibble.)
Does the GOP want Candidate Clinton to be “as mangled up as possible?” Of course they do! Does that help explain their focus on emails? That seems fairly obvious too.
That said, Bill Clinton said the press corps is playing a role in the pattern he described. In this passage, he told a brutal but obvious truth:
CLINTON (9/27/15): The other party doesn’t want to run against her, and if they do, they’d like her as mangled up as possible. And they know that if they leak things, say things, that that is catnip to the people who get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America, even in small towns of rural America. Or how are you going to get jobs into coal country, given how much they’ve lost in the last twenty years?Oof! In Bill Clinton’s telling, the press corps has run with the alleged email scandal for an unflattering reason:
So that just happens. It always happens. We’re seeing history repeat itself.
According to Clinton, the mainstream press corps hates to talk about matters of substance! He said they find such discussions “boring”—boring beyond all belief!
Can Clinton’s statement really be true? Do the people at the top of our press corps really “get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief?”
Crackers! If you’ve watched these life forms down through the years, no statement could be more obvious! That said, the former president omitted one basic part of this story. It’s the part in which the establishment press corps has been involved in a twenty-year feud with both Clintons, a feud which spilled over into their fateful war against Candidate Gore.
For reasons which seem fairly obvious, Clinton omitted that part of the tale. For reasons which can't be excused, so have a succession of liberal journalists as they’ve refused to examine this syndrome down through the past twenty years.
Is there any merit to Bill Clinton’s tale? Is his story actually true? Are we “seeing history repeat itself” in the way he described?
Two weeks earlier, Matt Yglesias basically said the same thing! According to Yglesias, the current coverage of Candidates Clinton and Bush is very similar to the coverage of Candidates Bush and Gore back in Campaign 2000.
According to Yglesias, the tax proposal of Candidate Jeb Bush was getting soft-soap treatment in the press—almost precisely the same soft treatment George Bush’s tax proposal received all through Campaign 2000.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was getting swamped by relentless scandal reporting. Similarly, Candidate Gore had been “mercilessly persecuted over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals” sixteen years before.
Yglesias said the current coverage echoes that of Campaign 2000. His headline asked a sensible question:
“Why is the media more interested in Hillary’s email than in Jeb’s profoundly dishonest tax pitch?”
The gent was asking a sensible question. He finished his piece like this:
YGLESIAS (9/14/15): Obviously, a person is free to believe that delivering a large tax cut to owners of corporate bonds will do more to boost social mobility than providing preschool to poor children, or that reducing the tax burden on people who inherit $10 million estates is more morally urgent than reducing global malnutrition. The point is simply that Bush is proposing a very significant financial commitment—one whose rollout to the public was fundamentally dishonest, featuring sins of both omission and commission. The details and underlying rationale of this program are worthy of at least as much scrutiny as State Department email protocols. The precedent from 15 years ago is not encouraging, but a lot has changed in the media landscape since then, so it's too early for total despair.“The precedent from 15 years ago is not encouraging?”
Without any question, that’s true.
“A lot has changed in the media landscape since then?”
On balance, we think it’s silly to say that. But Yglesias’ overall aim was true—and at its heart, he was telling the same forbidden story Bill Clinton would later tell.
Tomorrow, we’ll return to Yglesias’ peculiar opening claim—his peculiar claim that Campaign 2000 was “the formative experience of [his] political life.”
We regard that claim as very peculiar. Tomorrow, we’ll ponder its strangeness again.
For today, we’ll merely note that Clinton and Yglesias are telling slightly different versions of the same important story. How forbidden is the story? So forbidden that Yglesias seems to have avoided telling it over the past fifteen years!
Whatever! Clinton and Yglesias are telling the same basic tale. In this widely-disappeared syndrome, the mainstream press corps keeps mangling Democratic front-runners with sets of pseudo-scandals. As they approach the Dems in these ways, they approach the policies of Republican front-runners with barrels of extremely soft soap.
Is there any truth to this story—to the story Bill Clinton told? Not if you read the New York Times, where Amy Chozick got busy, the very next day, mocking what Clinton had said.
She did so in a “news report” in Monday morning’s Times. As we read her “news report,” we thought we heard the clanking chains of The Ghost of Campaign Reports Past.
(Was that Kit Seelye we briefly saw? We thought we saw Seelye’s ghost!)
Bill Clinton’s story is loaded with merit, but it’s virtually never told. In truth, his story is a forbidden story. For the past sixteen years, members of the career liberal world have agreed that it mustn’t be told.
Do you remember when Ezra told it? He told it exactly once!
Tomorrow: The young man’s (accurate) tale