THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: As seen in the Post!


Prelude—The year of liberal narrative:
Before he was president, did Bill Clinton have "an affair" with an actress named Gennifer Flowers?

That's what it says in this news report in today's Washington Post. Late in their hard-copy report, Tumulty and Sellers refer to "Gennifer Flowers, an actress who had an affair with Clinton when he was governor."

Did Clinton and Flowers have an affair? As always, everything is possible. But we know of no reason to make that assertion—no evidence to that effect.

Still, the claim became part of treasured script at some point during the mid-1990s. And make no mistake—our public discourse very much runs on script.

Second question:

When he was president, did Bill Clinton have an affair with a "22-year-old intern?" Did he have an affair with an intern at all?

You can defend those descriptions as technically accurate. The more specific description went viral last week—Ron Fournier even repeated it!—after it appeared in a column by the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, with Marcus referring to Clinton's "inexcusable relationship with a 22-year-old intern."

In the column, Marcus said she agreed with Candidate Trump, who she described as "crude and vulgar" and also as "racist, sexist, narcissist." Marcus said she agrees with Trump: Bill Clinton will and should be "fair game" in the coming election.

(Headline: "Trump is right: Bill Clinton’s sordid sexual history is fair game")

We aren't even saying that Marcus is "wrong" in her judgments. Personally, though, we'd recommend that pundits avoid the centuries-old term "fair game," which got its start in regulations about which types of wild animals could legally be hunted.

Our political "journalism" is in large part bloodsport. In our view, it features too much hunting of game as it is.

But within that context, journalists are now describing Monica Lewinsky in the way Marcus did. In fairness, the current description is an improvement over our previous "journalistic" norm, in which Lewinsky was routinely described as a "21-year-old intern," a standard treasured description which was just flatly wrong.

Did Bill Clinton have an affair with an intern? How old was the person in question?

Thanks for asking! Your answers:

When the affair in question began, Lewinsky was already 22—almost 22-and-a-half! It's true that she was still an intern, with eleven days left to go on her term.

That said, Lewinsky had already accepted a full-time White House job when her affair with Clinton began. She had been offered and had accepted the job before interacting with Clinton.

Given these facts, Lewinsky was an intern for exactly eleven days of an occasional relationship which lasted several years. She was never 21 during the years in question. During the bulk of the time, she was actually 23 or 24!

Lewinsky was 22—almost 22-and-a-half—when the affair began! Why then did the mainstream "press corps" persistently refer to a "21-year-old intern" during the long impeachment war which ended up sending George Bush to the White House?

Why did our most famous "journalists" persistently do that? Easy! For the most part, our public discourse runs on narrative and script, not on information or fact.

The "affair" with Flowers and the affair with the "the intern" are parts of a larger controlling story, a story our press corps loves to tell. Because they love the story so much, our discourse persistently runs on bogus facts.

Their elbows and thumbs get placed on the scales; so do both cheeks of their ascots. Facts are invented, embellished, disappeared, changed in service to preferred story-line.

That's what the analysts told us today after they spotted the Post's latest reference to the "affair with Flowers." Love of narrative brings us such claims, they all declared. They said these claims are driven by deference to preferred story.

The analysts may be right! We thought we saw the same impulse at work in a new report in this morning's Post about last year's fatal police shootings. The report appears in the hard-copy Post, along with the report which cites Bill Clinton's "affair with Flowers."

As we noted on Monday, the Post performed a large service last year in its compilation of this database concerning those fatal shootings. But uh-oh! Once again, we thought we might see narrative at work in this part of today's report:
SOMASHEKHAR AND RICH (1/7/16): The Post sought to document every shooting death at the hands of police in 2015, and it revealed troubling patterns in the circumstances that led to such shootings and the characteristics of the victims.

The project will continue this year. Federal officials have announced plans to improve their data collection, but the new initiative will not be in place until 2017. Already, The Post has tallied 11 fatal police shootings in 2016.

Over the past year, The Post found that the vast majority of those shot and killed by police were armed and half of them were white. Still, police killed blacks at three times the rate of whites when adjusted for the populations where these shootings occurred. And although black men represent 6 percent of the U.S. population, they made up nearly 40 percent of those who were killed while unarmed.
According to Somashekhar and Rich, the Post's important journalistic project "revealed troubling patterns in the characteristics of the victims" of those fatal police shootings. The reporters offer two examples, in one of which they still have their thumbs on the scale.

Incomparably, your Daily Howler keeps pounding out those results! In part 1 of our current series, we noted a problem with a statistical comparison the Post offered in late December. In the second pattern cited above, Somashekhar and Rich have slightly adjusted their colleagues' presentation, perhaps in an attempt to fix it.

If they tried to fix it, they failed. We offer their continuing error as a prelude to Part 3 of our current award-winning report, in which we'll describe 2015 as the year of liberal narrative.

Did the Post's valuable research turn up some "troubling patterns?" At least on face, it did. In their example, Somashkehar and Rich say that "police killed blacks at three times the rate of whites when adjusted for" population. But then, they bungle their second comparison, producing a more pleasing apparent ratio of almost seven to one!

In late December, another team of Post reporters presented a form of that bungled comparison, in which a six percent rate is compared to a much larger forty percent. This produces the thrill that the script-lover loves. It produces the thrilling sense of an even more deeply troubling statistical pattern.

Somashekhar and Rich made a slight adjustment to that initial bungled comparison. Were they attempting to "fix" the initial bungle? We have no way of knowing that, but if they tried, they failed.

In the realm of journalism, was last year the year of liberal narrative? Was it really a year when devotion to liberal narrative swept sound journalism away?

Was it really a year in which emerging liberal/progressive news orgs began to play by The Rush and Sean Rules? When our own high-minded tribe began treasuring script more than fact?

If it was, the narratives in question largely involved fatal shootings by police. On Monday, we'll start to look at the way such liberal scripts prevailed over sound journalism.

Journalistically, liberal narratives strongly prevailed. In the process, journalism was strongly washed away.

Coming Monday: Part 3—The year of liberal narrative

Visit our incomparable archives: Way back in highly authentic real time, we documented the press corps' repetitive references to that "21-year-old intern," the one who didn't exist.

We did so in an award-winning series of posts. Our reports were presented under a whimsical rubric: "Forever Young."

For links to that award-winning series, click here
. It's your chance to see the nation's top "journalists" agree on a basic point:

Narrative murders fact!


  1. The main consequence of this relentless narrative about Bill Clinton has been that every late-night comic has lived on horn-dog jokes, whether any Clinton has been running for office or not. These are unfair and untrue but the fodder of comedy to the point where Clinton can never live down his reputation and the truth is lost in the minds of the public. The only hope is that they like and admire him for his human frailty. The more Hillary forgives, the less human she appears because sainthood is not a human quality. Now the old accusers are coming out of the woodwork, but what can they say that hasn't already been said on late night TV? Maybe they'll go the Cosby route and bring sex abuse charges. They are already using that to silence Hillary when she talks about women's issues. The cynical use of women in Republican attacks is one of the particularly ugly examples of sexism in a campaign that has hardly begun.

    1. Wing nuts are already insane.

  2. Bob wrote,
    Did Clinton and Flowers have an affair? As always, everything is possible. But we know of no reason to make that assertion—no evidence to that effect.

    Flowers' statement that they had such an affair is evidence, so Bob's claim of "no evidence" is wrong. Also,

    President Bill Clinton in sworn testimony has acknowledged he had a sexual relationship with Gennifer Flowers during his tenure as Arkansas governor, something he flatly denied in the 1992 presidential campaign, sources have told CNN.

    Sources familiar with Clinton's deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case say Clinton denied Flowers' claim of a long-running, 12-year affair. But the sources say he acknowledged they did have a sexual relationship.

    Wiki says,
    In his presidential deposition in January 1998, while denying Kathleen Willey's sexual accusations against him, Bill Clinton admitted that he had a sexual encounter with Flowers.

    So, there's no doubt that the two had sex. Bob's criticism is a quibble. The only dispute is whether they had sufficient amounts of sex to justify the word, "affair."

  3. David, the sexual encounter was: he patted her butt.

    1. impCaesarAvg, it's plausible to me that that's all that happened between Clinton and Flowers. But, it's been maddeningly difficult for me to find the details. Do you have a reference to support your claim? I've been "groping" around (pardon the pun) in Clinton's deposition, but since I haven't read it cover-to-cover I haven't yet found it.

    2. During the interview where Clinton came clean about Flowers and Hillary forgave him, he stated that he had slept with her once but had not had an affair with her. That is Bill Clinton's side of things. Flowers discredited herself as a source of information by claiming that Hillary murdered Vince Foster, that she was a gigantic lesbo, etc. If you are going to accept the word of a person as "evidence," you have to consider their credibility. Flowers has none.

      Nothing happened with Paula Jones or Juanita Brodderick. Lewinsky herself says there were only blow jobs, not actual sex between them, hence the national discussion about whether a blow job constitutes sexual relations (with 50% of the public saying it doesn't). She also says she was the aggressor.

      It is important to remember that all of these encounters were consensual. Clinton did not do anything unwanted, he didn't use his power to seduce anyone, he didn't give any quid pro quos or make any promises, he just didn't say no. Equating his acts with sexual or harassment, much less rape, is outrageous, but that is what the right is trying to do.

      Sex is private. We all differ in what we do and what we consider moral or appropriate or even fun. Judging someone on that basis is a violation of their privacy. Historically speaking, there is no relation whatsoever between what someone does or doesn't do sexually and what kind of president they were, the soundness or their judgment, their courage, their diligence, their competence in office. It is irrelevant, politically motivated, and no way to make a decision. In this case, it is the spouse not the politician being attacked on the basis of actions that are no one's business. That is grossly unfair.

    3. Of course a blow job is sex. Would anyone argue that cunnilingus is not sex? Oral sex is sex. Just because it might not result in pregnancy doesn't make it non-sex.

      Incidentally, rape statutes almost always (varies by state) include penetration by fingers or objects under the umbrella of sex (sexual assault).

    4. Rape is defined by consent not penetration.

      Half the people polled nationwide disagreed with you about oral sex. Many also don't consider it cheating because it is not intercourse. As I said earlier, people differ.

    5. Anon 8:19 -- No, that is false. Clinton did not admit sleeping with Flowers.

      David 20,000 -- Sorry, I can't find the reference showing that Clinton only patted her butt. But I'll use David in Cal's rule: My statement that he only patted her butt is evidence that he only patted her butt! Moreover, the burden of proof is on the accuser. Whoever says Clinton had "sex" with Flowers has to prove it and prove what kind of "sex" it was.

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