Career liberals, guarding their nests: Hillary Clinton may yet get elected, of course.
This week, though, we've begun to feel that the die has perhaps been cast. That sinking feeling may turn out to be wrong, of course. But we've gotten that feeling as we've watched an array of career liberals pretending to reason about the horrible work of the mainstream press.
Yesterday, we thought this post by Paul Krugman seemed phony on its face. Krugman even mentioned "the Clinton Rules." That's shorthand for a belief which career liberals discuss very rarely—the belief that the Clintons have always been held to a different standard by the mainstream press.
Krugman directly cited the Clinton Rules. But look at what else he said. Headline included:
KRUGMAN (9/14/16): Why Are The Media Objectively Pro-Trump?It looks as if people are doing that? People have been doing that since the 1990s!
Because they are, at this point. It’s not even false equivalence: compare the amount of attention given to the Clinton Foundation despite absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, and attention given to Trump Foundation, which engaged in more or less open bribery—but barely made a dent in news coverage...
Brian Beutler argues that it’s about protecting the media’s own concerns, namely access. But I don’t think that works. It doesn’t explain why the Clinton emails were a never-ending story but the disappearance of millions of George W. Bush emails wasn’t, or for that matter Jeb Bush’s deletion of records; the revelation that Colin Powell did, indeed, offer HRC advice on how to have private email the way he did hasn’t even been reported by some major news organizations.
And I don’t see how the huffing and puffing about the foundation—which “raised questions”, but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found—fits into this at all.
No, it’s something special about Clinton Rules. I don’t really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it’s the cool thing to do.
And as I feared, it looks as if people who cried wolf about non-scandals are now engaged in an all-out effort to dig up or invent dirt to justify their previous Clinton hostility.
Did Krugman write that post in good faith? Once you've mentioned "the Clinton Rules," it's hard to know why you'd find the rest of that conduct puzzling. Clinton is treated different from Powell, or even from Bush, because of the long-standing Clinton Rules!
(Also, because Powell is an official press corps god. Krugman doesn't know that?)
To state the obvious, that is what the Clinton Rules are. And that's the way this game has worked since the 1990s.
Ten days ago, Krugman even mentioned the way this same game was played in the case of Candidate Gore. What explains why he now says, in the current case, that he "doesn't really understand" the things he sees going on?
Yesterday, we found it hard to believe that Krugman was being sincere. Then we watched last evening's Chris Hayes show, and we watched a trio of career liberals who were really playing it dumb about the mainstream press corps.
The children were discussing this same topic. But no one even mentioned the Clinton Rules, let alone the basic fact that the game has been played this way since the time of Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater.
How phony was the pseudo-discussion led by Hayes, a millionaire corporate employee? In its usual lazy way, MSNBC still hasn't posted a transcript. But you can watch the segment here, and good God! "The media isn't doing a terrible job," Jonathan Chait even says at one point.
We concluded, long ago, that Chait simply won't tell the truth about the mainstream press corps. (We like him on other topics.) You'll get to see Hayes and Traister protecting their interests too.
Hayes and his guests conducted the perfect pseudo-discussion. That brings us to this morning's column by Nicholas Kristof.
As he started, Kristof described an essential sin of the mainstream press. Sixteen years later, he even got around to mentioning what he and his colleagues once did to Candidate You-Know-Who.
His column got worse as it continued. But already, we'd have to say that this passage is cheaply dishonest:
KRISTOF (9/15/16): One of the mental traps that we all fall into, journalists included, is to perceive politics through narratives.We all fall into that same trap—"journalists included?" Before he accepts minor blame for his tribe, this big phony has to pin blame on you!
President Gerald Ford had been a star football player, yet somehow we in the media developed a narrative of him as a klutz—so that every time he stumbled, a clip was on the evening news. Likewise, we in the media wrongly portrayed President Jimmy Carter as a bumbling lightweight, even as he tackled the toughest challenges, from recognizing China to returning the Panama Canal.
Then in 2000, we painted Al Gore as inauthentic and having a penchant for self-aggrandizing exaggerations, and the most memorable element of the presidential debates that year became not George W. Bush’s misstatements but Gore’s dramatic sighs.
I bring up this checkered track record because I wonder if once again our collective reporting isn’t fueling misperceptions.
At any rate, we all fall into the trap of "perceiving politics through narratives," Kristof says. Could it be that citizens fall into that trap because they keep seeing major journalists pounding away with those narratives?
Kristof isn't sure about that; he doesn't seem sure about much! But he mentions the many times his guild has fallen into that trap. Sixteen years later, he even gets around to mentioning the way his guild "fell into that trap" with respect to Candidate Gore.
People are dead all over the world because Kristof and his colleagues did that. You'd think this might inspire him to be a bit more frank today.
If you thought that, you don't understand the soul of these careful careerists. Like Krugman, Kristof feigns uncertainty about just what is happening now. (He wonders if his colleagues are at it again!) Eventually, he makes a striking statement:
KRISTOF: There frankly has been a degree of unreality to some of the campaign discussion: Partly because Hillary Clinton’s narrative is one of a slippery, dishonest candidate, the discussion disproportionately revolves around that theme. Yes, Clinton has been disingenuous and legalistic in her explanations of emails. Meanwhile, Trump is a mythomaniac who appears to have systematically cheated customers of Trump University.In one way, that highlighted statement is perfectly accurate. The "narrative" about Candidate Clinton actually does hold her to be "a slippery, dishonest candidate." And that does explain why press coverage (euphemistically called "the discussion") "disproportionately revolves around that theme."
Here's the problem. Kristof never tries to explain how Clinton acquired that "narrative." Much more importantly, he never explains why she, or any other candidate, should ever come to have "a narrative" at all.
Meanwhile, what's the press corps "narrative" about Candidate Trump? Kristof never identifies any such critter. That's because there is no controlling press corps narrative about Candidate Trump. Candidate Clinton has been gifted with a very negative controlling "story-line." For all his years of bald-faced lying, Candidate Trump has not.
In the last few months, he has received a lot of negative reporting. But she was necklaced, in a standard group manner, pretty much right from the start.
Currently, you're seeing a lot of liberals playing it dumb about this. On Hayes' show and in many venues, this dumbness takes a basic form: The children pretend the basic problem involves the coverage of Candidate Trump.
That isn't where the basic problem lies. The basic problem lies with the coverage of Candidate Clinton—with the assignment of a disparaging "narrative" to that candidate, in line with the decades-old Clinton Rules and the concepts emerging from same.
Candidate Clinton been gifted with a standard group "story line." It comes right out of the previous coverage of President Clinton and Candidate Gore. People like Hayes, Chait, Traister and Kristof pretend that they still don't understand this blindingly obvious fact.
Even Krugman, explicitly citing the Clinton Rules, pretends he can't quite understand or explain what's going on. Ten days ago, he was explaining how this very same thing was done to Candidate Gore.
What is going on here? In its current iteration, the trashing of Dishonest Unscrupulous Clinton began in the summer of 2014, when the Washington Post staged a slippery, unprecedented jihad about those speaking fees. In the larger sense, it's part of a narrative which began in the 1990s and has been alive ever since.
Especially in the last few months, Candidate Trump has received a fair amount of critical coverage, but it's the coverage of Candidate Clinton which is letting this election slip away. Krugman and Kristof pretend they don't know this. Last night, Chait and Hayes were substantially worse.
(Beutler says it's all about access? Journalist, please! Add him to the list!)
You're being conned by people like these, just as it's ever been. That said, it takes some cheek to specifically mention the Clinton Rules, then to say you don't understand why this coverage is happening.
They've sold your interests away many times. This week, we finally got the sinking feeling that they've succeeded again. That could be wrong, of course.
Where do narratives come from: Again, we'll quote Cokie Roberts' remarkable statement as November 2000 drew near. (For our previous post, click here.)
Why was Candidate Gore getting savaged for minor errors, while giant howlers by Candidate Bush were being widely ignored? Below, you see what Cokie said in response to that question. In even a slightly rational world, she should have been instantly fired:
KURTZ (10/15/00): The broadcast networks all played up Gore's mistakes after the first debate, as did major stories in the New York Times ("Tendency to Embellish Facts Snags Gore") and The Washington Post ("GOP Homes In on Gore's Credibility")...According to "the story-line," Candidate Gore was a serial liar; Candidate Bush was not. Incredibly, that was Cokie's explanation for the way Gore was being assailed by the press for extremely minor factual errors, while very large misstatements by Bush were largely being ignored.
"The story line is Bush isn't smart enough and Gore isn't straight enough," said ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts. "In Bush's case, you know he's just misstating as opposed to it playing into a story line about him being a serial exaggerator." If another politician had made [Gore’s] mistake, "people wouldn't have paid any attention," Roberts said.
Here's our question: According to what journalistic theory are presidential nominees ever assigned "story-lines?"
Kristof named Candidate Clinton's story-line. As was the case with Candidate Gore, it's a very disparaging line.
He didn't name one for Candidate Trump. Despite his ludicrous decades of lying, no such line exists!