Lauer gets clobbered by name in the Times!


It feels like a watershed moment:
Could short-term sanity prevail?

In the morning's Washington Post, the editors ask that the email lunacy stop. They say the coverage is "out of control." For Kevin Drum's treatment, click here.

We'd call that short-term sanity. To us, the featured editorial in the New York Times suggests the possibility of something larger.

That said, let's start with Paul Krugman's column. In his column, Krugman batters Matt Lauer by name.

Already, we were pleased by that highly unusual conduct. Then we read the editorial, which strikes us as a watershed event. This seems like something very new. It's decades overdue:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (9/9/16): There was not much of a contest in Wednesday night’s forum with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Mrs. Clinton answered the questions of the moderator, Matt Lauer, in coherent sentences, often with specific details. Mr. Trump alternated between rambling statements and grandiose boasts when he wasn’t lying.

Mr. Lauer largely neglected to ask penetrating questions, call out falsehoods or insist on answers when it was obvious that Mr. Trump’s responses had drifted off.

If the moderators of the coming debates do not figure out a better way to get the candidates to speak accurately about their records and policies
— especially Mr. Trump, who seems to feel he can skate by unchallenged with his own version of reality while Mrs. Clinton is grilled and entangled in the fine points of domestic and foreign policy—then they will have done the country a grave disservice.


Mr. Lauer seemed most energized interrogating Mrs. Clinton about her use of a personal email server while secretary of state. Focusing on it meant that other critical issues—like America’s role in Afghanistan and its ties with China—went unaddressed. He was harder on Mrs. Clinton than on Mr. Trump, reflecting a tendency among some journalists to let Mr. Trump’s deceptions go unchallenged. That certainly was the case when he let Mr. Trump attack Mrs. Clinton for voting for the Iraq war and going into Libya when Mr. Trump had supported those actions.


There will be many issues to explore at the three presidential debates. For the sake of the nation, the moderators need to be fully prepared to challenge the candidates, so voters can have a clear picture of how they will lead.
To us, that seems remarkable. As part of basic mainstream press culture, it has been extremely rare to see big mainstream players or orgs criticize big mainstream stars at all, let alone in so unvarnished a fashion. This code of silence has enabled the mainstream press corps' disastrous conduct of the past twenty-plus years.

We were amazed to see the editors criticize Lauer so. We thought of a variant on something we said yesterday:

We wondered if the potential disaster of a President Trump may be leading mainstream figures to abandon their destructive old loyalty codes. We wondered if the fear of Trump could start to break the code of silence which has long been observed by the upper-end mainstream celebrity press.

Will mainstream journalists start to discuss the ways of the mainstream press corps? In the end, Krugman's column, and a piece by Jonathan Chait, suggest that the answer may be no.

By the end of his column, Krugman is wondering why Lauer didn't challenge some of Candidate Trump's "blatant, in-your-face lies" at Wednesday night's forum. After musing about that failure, he wonders why Candidate Clinton seems to face such an obvious double standard from the mainstream press.

Why is Trump allowed to lie, while Clinton gets nitpicked at every turn? This is the way the column ends. Is this really the best he can do?
KRUGMAN (9/9/16): There’s also a deep diffidence about pointing out uncomfortable truths. Back in 2000, when I was first writing this column, I was discouraged from using the word “lie” about George W. Bush’s dishonest policy claims. As I recall, I was told that it was inappropriate to be that blunt about the candidate of one of our two major political parties. And something similar may be going on even now, with few people in the media willing to accept the reality that the G.O.P. has nominated someone whose lies are so blatant and frequent that they amount to sociopathy.

Even that observation, however, doesn’t explain the asymmetry, because some of the same media organizations that apparently find it impossible to point out Mr. Trump’s raw, consequential lies have no problem harassing Mrs. Clinton endlessly over minor misstatements and exaggerations, or sometimes over actions that were perfectly innocent. Is it sexism? I really don’t know, but it’s shocking to watch.

And meanwhile, if the question is whether Mr. Trump can really get away with his big liar routine, the evidence from Wednesday night suggests a disheartening answer: Unless something changes, yes he can.
In that passage, Krugman tries to explain the "asymmetry," the double standard. Why do news orgs go relatively easy on Trump's crazy lies, yet "have no problem harassing Mrs. Clinton endlessly over minor misstatements and exaggerations?"

Krugman says it may be sexism. Is that really the best he can do?

Surely, he's dissembling. Just four days ago, Krugman noted that Candidate Gore was inaccurately portrayed as dishonest and as a liar, in much the way Candidate Clinton is now being portrayed.

Four days ago, Krugman specifically said that! Four days later, he can't bring himself to say what is blatantly obvious:

This has been the mainstream press corps' controlling narrative about Clinton, Clinton and Gore ever since the 1990s! Surely Krugman understands that fact. It seems he just doesn't want to say it.

In one way, we can't blame him. It's hard to tell a bunch of readers that a destructive syndrome has been in effect for twenty years and they've never heard a word about it. It's very, very late in the game for career liberals to start telling the truth about the rest of the press corps.

That said, the mainstream press corps "had no problem harassing [Candidate Gore] endlessly over minor misstatements and exaggerations, or sometimes over actions that were perfectly innocent." They did that for twenty months during Campaign 2000, even while Krugman was told not to challenge Candidate Bush's misstatements too harshly.

Krugman described this four days ago. Today, he runs off and hides.

This piece by Chait is quite similar. The headline asks an important question: "Hillary Clinton Is a Flawed But Normal Politician. Why Can’t America See That?"

Surely, Chait understands an obvious part of the answer. His colleagues in the mainstream press corps started in on not yet-Candidate Clinton in the summer of 2014. (College speaking fees! Please blur all distinctions!) For the past two years, they've ginned up an endless series of "character problems." (The scary uranium deal!) Everyone was able to see how corrupt the Clintons are. (With his dying words, the late Beau Biden complained about Candidate Clinton's values. He used his last few nouns!) In the end, they settled on the email matter as their winning play. (No fair tattling on Powell, at least until the Dems release the whole email in question!)

In Krugman's terms, Chait's mainstream colleagues have "had no problem harassing Mrs. Clinton endlessly over minor misstatements and exaggerations, or sometimes over actions that were perfectly innocent." This pattern continued right through Lauer's appalling performance Wednesday night. More on that tomorrow.

Surely, Chait understands that this is a decades-old play, a play that predated this White House campaign, a play that was directed at Bill Clinton and Al Gore before it reached Candidate Clinton. But Chait can't seem to bring himself to make this obvious statement. He turns to sexism as his answer too, then offer a few muffle-mouthed mumblings about the way the press corps works. He's so professorial at that point, it almost sounds like Kathleen Hall Jamieson wrote that part of his post.

("A final cause is the inability of journalists to subject Clinton to appropriate scrutiny while still placing her failings in the appropriate context!" That's the way the language sounds when someone's avoiding the truth.)

Telling the truth very slowly is hard. When you've hidden the truth for so long, it's hard to make the transition.

Tomorrow: Four more questions from Lauer


  1. Is the media really tougher on Hillary than on Trump? Consider Hillary's loss of memory, as reported in Newsweek:

    Besides the 11-page interview summary, the FBI also released other details of its investigation into her use of an unauthorized private email system while running the State Department, in which it concluded she mishandled classified information but not in a way that warranted a criminal prosecution.

    Clinton told investigators she could not recall getting any briefings on how to handle classified information or comply with laws governing the preservation of federal records, the summary of her interview shows.

    "However, in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot," the FBI's summary said. "Based on her doctor's advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received."

    Taking Hillary at her word, a health problem that caused loss of memory would be serious indeed. But, there's little media focus on this alleged mental problem.

  2. Is the media really tougher on Hillary than on Trump? Consider Hillary's loss of memory, as reported in Newsweek:

    Besides the 11-page interview summary, the FBI also released other details of its investigation into her use of an unauthorized private email system while running the State Department, in which it concluded she mishandled classified information but not in a way that warranted a criminal prosecution.

    Clinton told investigators she could not recall getting any briefings on how to handle classified information or comply with laws governing the preservation of federal records, the summary of her interview shows.

    "However, in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot," the FBI's summary said. "Based on her doctor's advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received."

    Taking Hillary at her word, a health problem that caused loss of memory would be serious indeed. But, there's little media focus on this alleged mental problem.

    1. The media has been far, far tougher on Trump than on Hillary.

    2. D in C - you are incorrigibly dense. What about Romney, Bush, and other republicans disavowing Trump? Your genius, Ted Cruz noted that virtually every word that came out of Trump's mouth was a lie.
      What if there are 2 candidates, neither of whom is perfect - who is? One of them is bizarrely dishonest on a non-stop basis, like Trump; the other is basically rational, though (you won't agree but your arguments are incredibly slanted) has been subject to unrelenting irrational attacks from the rabidly demented right, and maybe now is finally being recognized, unfair, slanted scrutiny by so-called 'liberal' mainstream media for decades - what is a fair minded media to do - act as if they are equivalent? Some of the issues raised about Trump maybe unfair, but in fact their are so many lies, bizarre positions, evasions, that what happens is that the full force of it is understated by the msm. Our country is in trouble because there are so many who have gone over to the dark side like you.

    3. AC/MA most people think a politician who lectures about "income inequality" while making 100 million $ in politics and paying 5 million $ for their daughter's wedding is the same thing as a family values Republican caught with a mistress. In fact the Republican would have to be copulating at the podium while lecturing, in the same way she lectures in a $12,000 designer pantsuit.

    4. AC/MA -- yes, all those bad things about Trump are true. I see Hillary as worse than you do. I was an officer of a small insurance company. Our ethics would have prevented my company from buying paper clips from a firm headed by my wife. But, the Clinton Foundation collected enormous donations from foreign interests while Hillary was S of S. That's a glaring violation of ordinary ethical practice. Ted Rall explains it better than I could:

      Clinton's defenders like to point out that neither she nor her husband draw a salary from their foundation. But that's a technicality.

      The Clintons extract millions of dollars in travel expenditures, including luxurious airplane accommodations and hotel suites, from their purported do-gooder outfit.

      They exploit the foundation as a patronage mill, arranging for it to hire their loyalists at extravagant six-figure salaries. Charity Navigator, the Yelp of non-profits, doesn't bother to issue a rating for the Clinton foundation due to the pathetically low portion of money ($9 million out of $140 million in 2013) that makes its way to someone who needs it.

      "It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons," says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group.

      As a measure of how institutionally bankrupt American politics is, this is all technically legal. But that doesn't mean it's not corrupt.

      Public relations experts caution politicians like the Clintons that the appearance of impropriety is almost as bad as its actuality. If it looks bad, it will hurt you with the polls. True, but that's not really the point.

      The point is: access is corruption.

    5. This idea that access is corruption is pretty silly. The public should have access to its public servants. Otherwise how are public officials to do their jobs serving the public?

      Aside from the fact that there is no evidence the people who donated got preferred access (they would have had access whether they donated or not), why would anyone complain because some person was able to speak with a member of their state department about state department business?

      Access is not corruption. Corruption is corruption. There has been no corruption in Clinton's state department. I feel confident of this because her administration has been investigated thoroughly and there are no instances of corruption found. If there had been, they would be the story, not these hints about appearances.

      I am sure Hillary Clinton's mother had access to her whenever she called. Was that corrupt too?

    6. Ironic, since the real evidence for having a foundation used as a slush fund is for the Trump foundation. Two documented instances of using foundation funds illegally.

      FL AG Bondi - clear bribery
      Citizens United (David Bossie- criminal republican ratfucker) received $100000 from Trump Foundation used to sue NY AG just as they announced investigation into Trump University fraud/racketeering.

      This is the person David in sunny California prefers. Deplorable.

    7. D in C - I don't have time to sit around all day like you looking for anti-Clinton propaganda. I still am working for a living.

      How do you know that if you put every politician, or every person for that matter, under a microscope, with thousands of right wing and allegedly liberal pundit focusing all the time in finding something that could be characterized a corrupt, or appearing maybe to look bad, i.e. applied the same standard as is applied to Clinton - that they wouldn't come out looking the same or worse than her? A prime example of how she gets treated is the way the gift from the Bahraini prince was handled - 5 years before she was appointed sec. of state, the prince gives millions to the foundation earmarked for scholarships for students from his country. Like several secretaries of state before her, she met with this prince. How is her treatment on this justified. The real question (which I doubt you will answer) is what is it that you think would be better for the U.S., and for you (which isn't the same thing) if Trump was elected?

  3. The co-founder of Politico said,
    I tend to be a defender of the media. And I tend to think that it’s overblown, what people think just lots of bias. I have a much different view this year, like having been starting a company and taking a little bit of a step back from looking at the politics moment by moment, particularly if you pay attention to Twitter. The number of mainstream media reporters who are out there expressing their explicit opinions, that tend to be decisively pro-Hillary and anti-Trump, to me is scary. I don’t, listen, Donald Trump gives you a lot things to fear and a lot of things to dislike. But you cannot, cannot, cannot as a reporter be taking sides in a public forum whether it’s on Twitter or whether it’s on email or whether it’s on TV.

    1. The problem is not bias among folks like Hugh Hewitt. It is that, in the name of false equivalency, they focus on nit-picks with Hillary while giving Trump a pass on his numerous lies.

      When one candidate is much worse than the other, it becomes inaccurate reporting when a reporter fails to notice that difference in the name of appearing unbiased.

      An unbiased coin should be tails half the time and heads half the time if the two sides are weighted evenly. If the coin itself is false it would fall more often to one side than the other.

      In this situation, the coin should fall more often to Hillary's side because she is objectively more honest and a more experienced and better prepared candidate. When reporters try to make her appear as flawed as Trump, they are ignoring the bias in the coin and trying to treat it as if it were balanced when it is not.

      Hillary should be getting better press because she is a better candidate. When the press tries to prop up Trump by ignoring his flaws, they are introducing bias themselves through their reporting. They achieve the opposite of the objective you state here (in Hewitt's words).

      The reporting should be balanced only when the candidates themselves are relatively equal in their merits. It used to be that the process produced such a situation more often than not. It has failed this time and we have a candidate who has no business running. It is time our reporters started reporting that, because that is the story.

    2. Somerby is not talking about false equivalency and biased reporting. He is talking about the ongoing vendetta against the Clintons.

      He reminds us that this isn't a well-meaning attempt to treat both candidates fairly but a choreographed effort to bring down Clinton on behalf of interests who have pursued that end since before 1992. I agree with Somerby.

  4. Hillary was terrible at the forum and it wasn't because of Lauer but the contrast with Trump. He came across as honest and likable. The debates will be very interesting.

    1. An "honest and likable" idiot has no business being president. He will still do enormous damage to our country, as we saw with G.W. Bush.

    2. Let's just isolate one episode from "honest and likable" Trump -- his secret plan to destroy ISIS and destroy it quick.

      Well, his plan is so foolproof, he's going to listen to the generals first. But of course, not Obama's generals. They've been reduced to rubble. He'll fire those generals then listen to his own generals.

      And rather than implementing his own fool proof plan right away, he's going to give his own generals 30 days to come up with a plan, giving ISIS 30 more days of life.

      And if he likes his generals plan better than he likes his own foolproof secret play for destroying ISIS quick, he'll use their plan. Or he might use part of their plan and part of his plan.

      But he's got a plan. Only he's not going to share any part of it, because he doesn't want ISIS to know about it. And this of course includes the part of whether or not it involves U.S. ground troops, which is something the voters would like to know.

      But he's got a plan. And it's guaranteed to work, and work quick.

      How honest and likable can you get?

  5. The Media may finally be learning the lesson of 2000. If you let a woefully unqualified candidate skate around the truth and help to get him elected when he should be unelectable, there are negative consequences for the country.

    The irony is, Lauer is getting skewered for what the mainstream media has been doing the entire election.

  6. Is it smart politics to insult voters? Hillary just said, "you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it."

    That sort of insult makes me more eager to go vote against her. But, maybe it will be effective at encouraging others to vote for her.

    It does tend to divide the country. Ideally we should support our candidate and our party, but come together after the election. However, will Hillary voters want to join racists? Will Trump voters want to come together with people who insult us?

    1. It is not smart to insult your own voters. Those deplorables are never going to vote for HIllary in a million years.

      If we do not want racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamaphobia (no name it) to be part of our culture, it is important to make it very clear that it is stigmatized, not normalized.

      I don't consider white supremacists to be just another viewpoint, like vegetarianism or pet adoration. It is destructive to our society, so Hillary is right to call out those beliefs that involve hating and hurting other people. Deplorable is a very mild word to use for that purpose, in my opinion.

      If you want to defend such people, you are walking a dangerous path. Those who tolerated Hitler because they themselves were not Jewish (or gypsy or gay or disabled) found out that no one was safe from his totalitarian state. Some people need to be placed firmly beyond the pale.

      Making America great happens to include finding a place for the people those deplorables wish to exclude. If racists are worried that Hillary won't like them after the election, they should clean up their acts.

      So should you since you appear to be a great deal more concerned about inclusion of those deplorables than you are about the exclusion of people whose difference is inborn (such as those of different genders, races, and previous nationalities or religions).

      Vote against Clinton at your peril. I guarantee even you won't like what Trump would hand you as president. What do you think it means when a candidate states that he wants to hand pick his own generals?

    2. Are "birthers" deplorable? Trump is a birther.
      Is the KKK deplorable? They support Trump.
      Is the alt right movement deplorable?
      They support Trump.

      I think you're in the right basket David.

    3. AnonymousSeptember 10, 2016 at 10:14 AM -- your comment makes sense from your POV. From my POV, Democrats support racist, anti-semitic, homophobic policies. Racist policies include fighting school choice, not including a teen-age exemption in minimum wage increaes, encouraging immigrants who take entry-level jobs, etc. Support for Islamic immigrants means encouraging the immigration of people who have been raised to be anti-semitic and homophobic. And, much more so than just bad words. Muslims murder Jews and gays worldwide as they did in Orlando recently.

      Now, suppose Donald Trump announced that Hillary voters are racist, anti-semitic, homophobes. Would that comment help him get elected? Would it be good for the country? I don't think so.

    4. As a Hillary voter, I will support Trump if he wins. I hope he does great if he wins. I don't see that happening though but I will be hoping he does. I put the chances of him doing great at 3-4 percent. I hope he loses though and we never get to see.

    5. BTW, the post was meant for David

    6. If Trump wins the election, the interesting thing will be to see exactly what the inevitable incompetencies and failures will be, how long they will take to reveal themselves, their magnitude and on whom Trump will blame them. It will be similar to GW Bush - a grand failure of competency and morals.

    7. 2:12 the next President will have a tough time matching Obama's dismal results: chaos throughout the middle east, rising racial animosity, North Korea growing nuclear capability, little economic growth, Russian military expansion, and doubling of the national debt.

    8. Dave the Guitar PlayerSeptember 12, 2016 at 3:25 PM

      DinC - You have got to think more outside the box you are in. You complain about "little economic growth" after living through the biggest economic downturn in your entire life. Obama did just fine, but you see the glass as mostly empty. Is it so hard to see that North Korea would likely have "growing nuclear capability" regardless of who was President? If you are truly disappointed, please refer to a specific action/inaction that you think was "dismal".

  7. Bob, you keep asking why Krugman hasn't been ripping the NYT for all these years.
    Well, conservatives ask why liberal generals wait until they are retired to criticize Pentagon policies.
    Isn't the answer obvious?
    I have to bring this up again where Paul Krugman, whom you refer to as the biggest and most important liberal columnist, recommended this very blog by name twelve years ago.

  8. Boy has this place ever slid to the bottom.

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  10. David in Cal in a verified plant. He has admitted so on other forums. I wouldnt waste time on him.

    1. He's a professional.
      And even he can't shine the turd that is the modern conservative movement.

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