Part 2—And Maddow's "What, us worry?": Way back in April 2015, Gene Lyons voiced a concern in his nationally syndicated column.
Campaign coverage had long since begun. It had started just in time to be inanely premature.
(As noted, we're talking about April 2015 [sic]. But also sick. And sad!)
On the Candidate Clinton beat, The New York Times had entered into a strange arrangement with conservative polemicist Peter Schweizer, author of the polemical new book-like object, Clinton Cash.
Thanks to its peculiar arrangement, the Times had already published one of the strangest "news reports" of the entire 2016 campaign. We refer to the famous newspaper's sprawling, 4400-word journalistic gong show about the scary uranium deal.
The Times had already published this mess. Seventeen months before anyone voted, Lyons expressed his concern right at the start of his column:
LYONS (4/29/15): As a professional matter, I've been halfway dreading Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy. The 2016 Democratic nomination appears to be hers for the asking. Democrats enjoy a strong Electoral College advantage. And yet it's hard to imagine how she can overcome the unrelenting hostility of the Washington media clique.Lyons went on to describe the strangeness of the sprawling Times report about the scary uranium deal, and the strangeness of the paper's arrangement with Schweizer.
The Washington Post had entered a pact with Schweizer too, Lyons noted. But it was the Times which had run with that sprawling going-show report:
LYONS: Basically, we're in Ann Coulter country here. Schweizer's not a journalist, but a controversialist for right-wing "think tanks." A former consultant to Sarah Palin and a ghostwriter for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Glenn Beck, he makes his living vilifying Democrats. Media Matters has posted a long list of withdrawn or retracted stories under his byline.To refresh yourself about the gonginess of the 4400-word Times report, we'll suggest you read Lyons' full column. For now, let's focus on the larger concern Lyons voiced this day.
Upon evaluating an earlier Schweizer book, reporters at the British Sunday Times found that "(f)acts that are checkable do not check out. Individuals credited for supplying information do not exist or cannot be tracked down. Requests to the author for help and clarification result in further confusion and contradiction."
The New York Times, in contrast, praised the fellow's "meticulous" reporting. All this in service of a front-page "blockbuster" by Jo Becker and Mike McIntire insinuating that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton sold out the national interest, helping a Russian company to buy uranium mines in Wyoming from a Canadian corporation in exchange for a few million dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation, the family's charitable enterprise.
At the time, it still seemed that Democrats possessed an Electoral College advantage in presidential politics. But uh-oh! After several decades on the Clinton beat, Lyons had voiced this concern:
"It's hard to imagine how [Candidate Clinton] can overcome the unrelenting hostility of the Washington media clique."
In the end, Candidate Clinton didn't overcome the various obstacles which lay between her and the White House. In part, she didn't overcome because she was a very poor candidate this time around—a much weaker performer than she had been in Campaign 2008.
That relatively weak performance hadn't happened yet. Lyons alleged a different obstacle—"the unrelenting hostility" of the upper-end mainstream press.
As a national journalist and an Arkansas resident, Lyons spoke from experience. During Bill Clinton's first term, he had done The Thing Which Must Never Be Done. A mainstream journalist himself, he had introduced the claim that the mainstream press corps was conducting a type of jihad against President Clinton.
He had introduced this forbidden thought in a lengthy essay in Harper's magazine, one of the nation's most respected publications. The ssay has been expanded into a book which carried a forbidden title:
"Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater"
Alas! As of 1995, rules for such conduct were clearly defined within the mainstream press corps. According to these familiar rules, conservatives were allowed to criticize, even to savage, the mainstream press corps. Indeed, this had been a basic part of conservative conduct since the Nixon years.
Mainstream and liberal journalists weren't allowed to issue equal-but-opposite claims. In accord with these widely-known rules, the Lyons book was widely ignored by mainstream news orgs, and by the toilet-trained liberal scribes who earned their livings within them.
Problems with the attacks on Bill Clinton went largely ignored within the mainstream press. Mainstreamers could barely bring themselves to critique the birther-style claims by major figures about the Clintons' many murders.
Starting in 1999, this fury was redirected at Candidate Gore, Bill Clinton's chosen successor. The code of silence still obtains. Plainly, this transferred mainstream enmity sent George W. Bush to the White House.
Your favorite money-grubbers won't tell you that to this day. But it's a blatantly obvious fact, except within their realm, which bears more than a hint of allegiance to certain types of "fake news."
Back to 2015! As Campaign 2016 started, would Candidate Clinton survive the enmity of the mainstream press corps? In April 2015, Lyons voiced his concern. The gonger about the uranium deal was reactivating the press corps' favorite old story—their story about the Clintons' character problems, which they'd also spotted in Gore.
As the New York Times pounded its tom-toms, Lyons voice his concern.
Candidate Clinton would go on to lose to Candidate Donald J. Trump. Six weeks after Lyons' column appeared, Trump announced his candidacy with that memorable speech about all the rapists and such.
Trump would go on to stage the craziest campaign in political history. Among his flaws, he displayed a capacity for groaning misstatement the likes of which American politics had never seen before.
Four years earlier, Trump had showcased this remarkable trait with the stupid, ugly campaign which made him King of the Birthers. Trump had disgraced himself in this manner for years.
Now it was time for him to announce. The night before the big day, Rachel Madow stopped her lunatic nightly pseudo-reports about upcoming Republican debates long enough to voice these immortal words:
MADDOW (6/15/15): In 2012, in the last presidential election cycle, he spent months implying he was going to run. He started giving speeches and doing interviews about his theory that President Obama was secretly foreign, that President Obama had a fake birth certificate and that actually meant that President Obama wasn't really president at all because he wasn't American.It isn't that Maddow didn't know about the years of gruesome misconduct in which Trump had engaged. It's just that this didn't "at all" make her "dislike Mr. Trump" (childish language hers).
It was a very weird way to fake-run for president, but Mr. Trump got tons of traction—months and months and months of press coverage for that in 2012. You remember when Mitt Romney and Ann Romney had to go do their Donald Trump event? You remember that, right? I mean, ultimately, Donald Trump did not run for president in 2012 either.
Then, in 2014, he said he was going to run for governor of New York. At the last minute, he decided he wouldn't run for governor of New York after all. Now, apparently, we are on the eve of him announcing whether or not he is going to run for president this time in 2016 as a Republican.
And here, we get to the limits of my abilities as a person who has a job like this, because it is not at all that I dislike Mr. Trump and, therefore, don't see the appeal because I don't share the affection for him that his supporters have. It's nothing like that. It's not qualitative at all.
It was nothing like that, our own corporate cash cow said. "It's not qualitative at all!"
In these snapshots, we get a glimpse of where matters stood as this campaign began. The New York Times was issuing journalistic gong shows aimed at Candidate Clinton. In this way, the paper renewed a campaign about her alleged character problems—a war which which had been underway for more than twenty years.
On the other side, the craziest person who ever ran for president was about to announce, following four years of balls-out birtherism. After describing what Trump had done with two large handfuls of soft soap, Our Own Corporate-Selected Rhodes Scholar said this didn't make her dislike Mr. Trump at all!
Do you start to see a possible problem with the work of our liberal elites? Before you answer that question, let's remember this:
When the New York Times published its sprawling, gong-show report about the scary uranium seal, do you remember how it was treated by our fiery liberal elites?
On All In, Chris Hayes called it a "bombshell report." His guest, Michelle Goldberg, said the same thing. Could this possibly help explain how we managed to get here?
Could these behaviors explain how we got here? More on these problems to come.
Tomorrow: Let's get back to the "lies"