When The Media Play By ‘Clinton Rules’
Having coined the phrase “Clinton Rules” to explain the national news media’s obsession with phony scandal narratives involving Bill and Hillary Clinton, I should be gratified to see it pass into general circulation.
First came New York Times columnist and liberal MVP Paul Krugman, casting doubt upon that newspaper’s virtually incomprehensible 4,400-word treatise, which insinuated that Secretary of State Clinton had peddled a Wyoming uranium mine to the Russians in return for contributions to her family’s charitable foundation:
“If you are old enough to remember the 1990s,” Krugman wrote, “you remember the endless parade of alleged scandals, Whitewater above all—all of them fomented by right-wing operatives, all eagerly hyped by mainstream news outlets, none of which actually turned out to involve wrongdoing. The usual rules didn’t seem to apply; instead it was Clinton rules, under which innuendo and guilt by association were considered perfectly OK, in which the initial suggestion of lawbreaking received front-page headlines and the subsequent discovery that there was nothing there was buried in the back pages if it was reported at all.”
Actually, Krugman first used the term during the 2008 Democratic primaries to characterize some Obama supporters’ hostility toward Hillary Clinton, an attitude Barack Obama himself appears never to have shared. Social media conversations among Democrats show that something similar is currently happening again among Bernie Sanders supporters, also without his cooperation.
To some degree, hard feelings are inevitable in politics. The Times has recently documented how successful conservative groups such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads are at planting anti-Clinton messages among Democrats. That Hillary hater on Facebook may be a professional troll. They’re also spending big bucks on focus groups, studying how to make the party’s likeliest nominee look like a gold-plated bitch come November 2016.
“They’re trying to make her Mitt Romney in a pantsuit,” said David Brock, former right-wing hitman turned liberal culture warrior. I’d have said Leona Helmsley; the New York hotel heiress who declared that paying taxes was for little people. There’s an unmistakable whiff of woman hating about the whole enterprise.
Recently Vox reporter Jonathan Allen made a halfway brave attempt to describe “the media’s 5 unspoken rules for covering Hillary,” and his own conflicted role in applying them. I say “halfway” brave because the unvarnished truth probably couldn’t be written by any insider who wasn’t prepared to quit Washington journalism altogether.
That said, Allen cuts close to the bone, making it clear that, among political reporters, “the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton” ranks as “the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism.” He adds that regardless of how ultimately baseless and even ludicrous the allegation, “the act of choosing, time and again, to go after the same person has the effect of tainting that person, even when an investigation or reporting turns up nothing.”
Why does Hillary so dislike the political media? Because any normal person would, Allen thinks, if her first experience of them was being treated as a suspect in the death of a dear friend (Vince Foster) who’d committed suicide. And no, it wasn’t just Rush Limbaugh. It was Newsweek, Time, The Washington Post, the TV networks, basically everybody.
So a CNN interviewer asks the former Secretary of State why nobody trusts her and she’s supposed to show contrition or be derided as “inauthentic”? Allen’s Rule #5 states that “everything she does is fake and calculated for maximum political benefit.” If so, what answer can she possibly give?
Maybe the one she did give: that right-wing apparatchiks have been peddling this line to reporters for 25 years, but she’s won elections anyway. So aides used a rope line to keep reporters out of her face while she walked in a parade? Boo-hoo-hoo. They ought to be glad she didn’t break out stock whips and cattle prods.
Because that would be really bitchy.
Meanwhile, these guardians of public morality can be awfully selective about admitting their own mistakes. Consider the experience of Sidney Blumenthal, the former Clinton White House aide dragged before the latest House Benghazi investigation because he emailed Clinton information about Libya that was offered by a retired CIA analyst they both knew.
Supposedly, according to a heavy-breathing New York Times story, Blumenthal had highly suspicious financial interests in Libya. Supposedly, too, “the committee’s investigators are… interested in whether the planned business venture in Libya posed any potential conflicts for Mr. Blumenthal or Mrs. Clinton.”
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius depicted Blumenthal as Hillary’s “Svengali,” cunningly manipulating the Secretary of State for his own devious ends. It was all terribly suspicious, emblematic of Hillary’s well-known propensity for skirting the law.
Except that Blumenthal (a friend) had no such business ties, as his attorney and his subsequent testimony have made clear. He’s labored in vain to have that testimony released by seemingly embarrassed GOP investigators. So when will the Times and Post correct the damage to Blumenthal’s reputation?
I’m guessing never: Clinton rules.
File photo: Hillary Clinton, 2007 (Marc Nozell via Flickr)