THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: Kathleen Parker drinks the waters!


Edmund Hillary travels to Flint:
Just this once, let's say it:

Absent the guiding hand of gatekeepers, we the humans simply aren't up to the challenge of playing this game.

(On the other hand, when we do have gatekeepers, gatekeepers can be corrupt. That's the powerful portrait we recall from the Robert Graves novel, I, Claudius.)

We the humans simply aren't up to this task! For today's example, we give you Kathleen Parker's astonishing column in today's Washington Post.

Within the modern establishment press corps, Parker is typically found on the "saner" end of the spectrum. This morning, though, she seems determined to prove that we the humans simply aren't up to the task.

She finds herself drifting back twenty years to William Safire's woeful 1996 column, in which he said that first lady Hillary Clinton was a "congenital liar."

Twenty years later, Parker finds herself supporting that claim. She finds herself offering two examples.

We will focus on one:
PARKER (1/27/16): Safire’s concerns at the time—Whitewater, Travelgate, “lost” records—may seem remote and trivial to some, but the drip-drip he identified didn’t stop with the White House years. Subsequent to the various “-gates” were, for example, the story of coming under fire on a tarmac in Bosnia or about her having been named for the explorer Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, despite her having been born about six years before his history-making climb.
"These are such trivial stories to invent that one wonders why she bothered," Parker says as she continues.

Let's consider one of those trivial stories and ask what form of moral or intellectual illness led Parker to revive in support of Safire's ill-advised, reckless claim. As we do, let's turn Parker's question around:

Let's wonder why Kathleen Parker bothered with this trivial story! That said, the answer is largely clear.

Good God! Hillary Clinton invented a story "about her having been named for the explorer Edmund Hillary?"

We'd say that Parker's use of this "example" comes close to raising the possibility that she, the columnist Parker herself, is flirting with something resembling mental illness. In fairness, that often seems true of us the humans at a fraught juncture like this.

Good God! Parker reaches all the way back to 1995 for this troubling example, which supposedly helps us see that Clinton may be "a congenital liar." In that year, the first lady met Sir Edmund Hillary during a goodwill trip to Nepal, at which time she related an old family story.

Apparently, it was the only time Clinton ever told the pointless old story in public. Todd Purdum did the reporting in the New York Times:
PURDUM (4/3/95): "To be honest with you, in America, before if anybody recognized the name Hillary, it's always been me," Sir Edmund, 75, told reporters just before greeting Mrs. Clinton. "And now they say, 'Oh, you must be a lady!' "

For her part, Mrs. Clinton confessed that her mother, Dorothy Rodham, had read an article about the intrepid Edmund Hillary, a one-time beekeeper who had taken to mountain climbing, when she was pregnant with her daughter in 1947 and liked the name.

"It had two l's, which is how she thought she was supposed to spell Hillary," Mrs. Clinton told reporters after the brief meeting on the tarmac, minutes before her Air Force jet flew past the peak of Everest itself. "So when I was born, she called me Hillary, and she always told me it's because of Sir Edmund Hillary."
Reporter Purdum's pointless report appeared beneath this headline: "Hillary Clinton Meets Man Who Gave Her 2 L's." Now let's get down to brass tacks:

Did Dorothy Rodham always tell Clinton that story when she was a girl? Down here on this troubled planet, Kathleen Parker has no earthly freaking idea!

If told, was the story actually true? Once again, Parker has no idea! She lacks the first hint of a nub of a clue about these pointless matters.

Hillary Clinton's pointless story was utterly pointless that day. It was never worth discussing at all, after maybe the first ten minutes.

But alas! Even by 1995, a large, ugly effort was underway to brand the Clintons as liars. Starting in March 1999, this assault was extended to Candidate Gore. In the end, this effort succeeded. It sent Bush to the White House.

Even by 1995, the establishment "press corps" crawled with gatekeepers who wanted to sell us this story. People like Safire pimped it out. People like Parker drank their waters and contracted their illness.

People like Dionne and Alter sat around and looked away as these destructive wars went on. Simply put, pseudo-liberal careerist "journalists" don't challenge the guild when a powerful script takes hold. They let it go in the case of the Clintons, then in the case of Gore.

(People are dead all over the world because of Safire and Parker. People are dead all over the world because of those others as well.)

This morning, almost twenty-one years later, Parker recalls the troubling story Hillary Clinton once told. Tell us why we shouldn't think that Kathleen Parker is spiritually ill in some manner or form. Tell us why this doesn't establish the claim that we the humans, absent benevolent gatekeepers, simply aren't up to this task.

Do we see a connection here? Do we see a connection between Parker's column and the journalism which is unfolding concerning events in Flint?

Well actually, yes we do. To understand that, you must understand an extremely basic point.

Let's start with this. The current situation in Flint was plainly caused by a serious failure of government.

(For what it's worth, failures of government do occur. In this morning's New York Times, we're already starting to read about similar breakdowns elsewhere.)

The current situation in Flint was caused by a failure of government. Having established that obvious fact, let's establish another:

Lousy journalism can be performed in the wake of a government failure.

Are we able to grasp that point? Trust us, many of us the humans cannot! For that reason, let's state it again:

A journalist can do lousy reporting about a failure of government. This is especially likely to happen when, as in the case of Parker's column, some larger tribal narrative, claim or belief is involved.

In our view, the reporting on Flint has often been quite weak to this point. In a great deal of the reporting, we'd say we're getting an excess of narrative, a shortfall of information.

Within the modern celebrity press corps, Kathleen Parker actually sits on the saner end of the spectrum! In our view, some of the people reporting Flint are perhaps less stable and less reliable even than she.

Parker's column today is just this side of insane. On the brighter side, it shows you where our human-ness frequently leads.

We think the reporting on Flint has been rather poor to this point, almost in an embarrassing way. Again recommending Kevin Drum's graphic, we'll explain in this afternoon's post.

Are we the humans up to this task? Again and again, the answer is no. In parting, here's an important warning:

This is true on the corporate careerist undercompetent left, as it is on the crackpot right.

This afternoon: Excitement, narrative, information in the reporting on Flint


  1. Example 1. Hillary this week regarding the use of a private e-mail server: “I’m not willing to say it was an error in judgment,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “Nothing I did was wrong.”

    Hillary last September: “As I look back at it now . . . I should have used two accounts. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”

    Example 2 Four separate family members of the Americans slain in the September 11, 2012 terrorist assault on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi say that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton privately blamed the attack on an online anti-Islam video. Hillary now denies having made such a statement.

    IMHO Hillary often says whatever she thinks will serve her politically at a given moment.

    1. Hey jackass, Trey Gowdy had her in the hot seat for 11 fucking hours. How come he never brought it up? He could have brought these honest family members in for questioning and cross examination. But that's not how you McCarthyites roll, is it? Better to smear on FOX NOOZ.

    2. This is nonsense. Why do you come here with this stuff?

      We live in an age where everyone's comments are recorded permanently and searchable to anyone. How can any living person maintain perfect consistency when they make as many statements as someone like Clinton does? Finding two that don't match is easy, no matter who is speaking, no matter what the topic.

      Somerby complains about the dredging up of these examples as an attempt to brand someone a liar. You prove his point by dredging up a couple of irrelevant, trivial, stupid examples of your own.

      A lie is a deliberate untruth spoken to deceive another person. There is no evidence that these inconsistencies amount to lies. To establish that you need: (1) evidence that the person knew they were telling an untruth, (2) evidence that the statement was factually incorrect, (3) intent to deceive, (4) actual deception of the listener. Hillary's changing view of whether she made a mistake using her server (which clearly has caused a great deal of trouble to her personally) doesn't meet any of those criteria. Playing gotcha over Benghazi has been discussed to death here. It doesn't constitute any kind of lie either.

      I don't think you belong here any more. I think it would be a good idea for you to return to your conservative blogs where this incessant garbage might be welcome.

      Show me any candidate on the face of the earth who doesn't say whatever he or she thinks will benefit them politically at a given moment. Why wouldn't, and more to the point, why shouldn't they do that? Do you think anyone is in politics to lose, to do a poor job, to fail in serving the public. Why would they undermine their own efforts by saying self-defeating things?

    3. One reason Hillary continues to say whatever she feels like is that there are no consequences. Her fans will find ways to support her, no matter what. Parapharasing the two comments above:
      1. It's not a lie because Trey Gowdy didn't attack that particular statement.

      2. It's not a lie, because we can't read Hillary's mind to be certain that her false statement was intentional.

      3. It's not a lie, because Shut Up.

      4. It's not a lie because all politicians lie.

    4. Shorter 11:36 -

      I'm a hater, and haters gotta hate.

    5. paraphasing DinC:

      Republicans can't win with an honest straight debate on the issues, therefore they have to smear their most formidable opponent.

    6. Give me a break, mm. Republicans were good at smearing 65 years ago, when they called liberals communists or comsymps. Today, liberals have taken the lead, by calling conservatives "racists" or "hatemongers" or "terrorists". E.g., a common trope today is to liken the Tea Party to the Taliban.

    7. where's your fucking Purple Heart bandaid, dickhead?

      ALEX CASTELLANOS: ... I think a lot of the fault actually belongs to the conservative intellectual leadership of America that you see in this issue of National Review. With the conservative cause that animates the Republican Party, we don't appeal to young people, we don't appeal to millennials, we don't appeal to young women, we don't appeal to minorities. We appeal to only cranky old white guys like me who end up voting for Donald Trump.

      That would be you, DinC.

    8. "2. It's not a lie, because we can't read Hillary's mind to be certain that her false statement was intentional."


      Calling someone a liar used to be fighting words. Unless you can prove otherwise, you'd better give her the benefit of the doubt (or smile when you say it).

      The horrible part of Parker's column is the term "congenital liar." It astonishes me that a journalist would say that in print about anyone of stature. It shows a lack of restraint that tars mainstream journalism with tabloid values.

      We all know conservatives sit around calling Bill Clinton a rapist and Hillary a murderer amongst themselves when they think no one is listening, but saying it in print crosses the line. She should have been called on it, and DinC loses whatever goodwill he had here by repeating it. We can disagree about politics without getting nasty about it.

    9. Said Anon @ 11:26:

      "Finding two {statements} that don't match is easy, no matter who is speaking, no matter what the topic.

      Somerby complains about the dredging up of these examples as an attempt to brand someone a liar"

      Yes, Somerby does complain here. A few posts back he did the same thing to Ta-Nehisi Coates in three different posts.

  2. An innocuous bit of flattery presented as a family story (which may even have been told to her as a girl) seems entirely consistent with diplomacy. Do you really want a Secretary of State (or President) who doesn't know how to lie?

    First conservatives complain that Clinton didn't handle classified material properly, now they complain that she lies? Keeping top secret stuff from the public is a major lie. Every president, every top official has lied and should lie to protect state secrets. A congenital liar seems best qualified to fulfill a role that requires lying in the best interests of the American people.

    Lies people tell every day, congenitally: Your hair looks wonderful, I love your potato salad, I've missed you grandma, of course I've done my homework, I have to wash my hair on Saturday night, I only take 1 drink a day doctor, I weigh 160 (not 175 as it says on my driver's license), the check is in the mail, you are my first and only love, I floss every day, I never tell a lie.

  3. Maybe Secretary Clinton made up the story about her first name. Maybe her mother made it up. Maybe the Secretary misremembered something her mother told her. Or maybe Edmund Hillary was, for who knows what reason, in the news in 1947.

    Maybe using a private server was a mistake. Maybe it wasn't: if she hadn't done that, she'd be attacked for something else.

    But I don't care. In my humble opinion, she'd be a less bad president than any republican.

    1. Damning with faint praise. Actually, she'll be a good President.

    2. I think she'll be a better president than Obama was.

    3. She's too ready to use force. She voted to authorize it against Iraq and she used it against Libya. So, if you're in a swing state, vote for her but keep your eyes open.

    4. Go back and read what she said about the Iraq vote at the time. It is different than the way her vote is being characterized now. When you say Clinton used force against Libya, you seem to imply that she, and not Obama, was president.

      Those who wish to characterize Clinton as a hawk should also disclose whether they themselves are against force in all cases and situations or whether they have some special grudge against Clinton. Pacifism is a luxury those in power, those with responsibilities for lives and wellbeing of our country, cannot always afford. Is Clinton especially hawkish or is she just not a pacifist?

      I see Sanders, a man with no foreign relations or military experience whatsoever, espousing an extreme position that no one who actually holds office can make work. These conflicts in the Middle East were not created by Clinton and sitting them out is not really an option. Given that, is she really a hawk? I just don't see any evidence of it.

    5. January 27, 2016 at 3:00 PMJanuary 28, 2016 at 12:45 AM

      "I think she'll be a better president than Obama was."

      That's still-President Obama to you, butthurt @ 3:19 PM.

    6. Is somebody in this thread suggesting "lying" is genetic flaw in Hillary Clinton. Or that Edmund Hillary had articles written about him before he was even a team leader on a climb of New Zealand's tallest peak?

  4. David in Cal? What would Somerby do for comments if it weren't for you?

    1. Somerby doesn't read the comments. He wouldn't notice if DinC left.

    2. Somerby reads his comments. He simply quit replying to them in his own name.