New York Times on Hillary: My 'Rhinoceros Skin Still Breathes'

The New York Times and the Washington Post seemed to have a contest on Sunday to see which could write the sappier profile of Hillary Clinton. The Times carried another soft-soap job by political writer Mark Leibovich titled "Clinton Talks of Scars While Keeping Her Guard Up." Her life, we’re told, is a long series of vicious "ego-mangling" attacks. But not one source in the 2,490-word story was an actual opponent of Mrs. Clinton. It was only friends and supporters, very cozy and unanimous.Leibovich noted Mrs. Clinton likes to say that women in politics "need to develop skin as tough as a rhinoceros hide"... "I joke that I have the scars to show from my experiences," she said in an interview. "But you know, our scars are part of us, and they are a reminder of the experiences we’ve gone through, and our history. I am constantly making sure that the rhinoceros skin still breathes." Her rhino skin still breathes? Is that supposed to be a catchy campaign slogan?The Times arrived at its usual Poor Dear thesis in this passage:

Friends and others say that Mrs. Clinton’s wariness has been buttressed by the years of scrutiny and ego-mangling she has endured. She has seemingly spent much of her waking life weathering public storms, each known by shorthand: Gennifer, Paula, Monica, Cookies and Teas, Travelgate, Filegate, Pardongate, Troopergate, Whitewater, Cattle Futures, Impeachment. Among other things, she has also been accused of having a grating voice and bad taste in clothes."She’s been attacked every day for the last 15 years," said Jim Blair, Diane Blair’s husband. "What else are they going to say or find about her?"

The New York Times sympathy comes oozing through when giving pardons to drug dealers and rifling through Republican FBI files is compared on a serious-accusations scale to a fashion critique. Leibovich began the profile at the funeral of Hillary’s dear friend Diane Blair, where we learned her thick skin kept her from an emotional breakdown. We learned what a friend Blair was to Hillary:

She sent Mrs. Clinton recipes (though the first lady did not cook), bird-watching manuals (though she cared little for birds), vitamins (with a note signed "Nurse Diane Fuzzy Wuzzy") and cards."Whenever you have trouble coping, just think of Snow White," one note said. "She had to live with seven men."

Leibovich was blunt that poor Hillary had to endure stories of her husband’s infidelities, stories she knew were probably true:

She also discovered what life in the political fishbowl could be like. Stories about her husband’s extramarital dalliances were widely circulated in Arkansas political circles, from their earliest days in the state. ("It’s nothing she didn’t know when they were dating," Mr. Blair said.)

Jim Blair’s role in a Hillary scandal, his making trades for the governor’s wife to award her a $100,000 capital gain off a $1,000 investment in cattle futures at the end of the '70s, was mentioned in passing, in paragraph 37:

The travails of Mr. Clinton’s first term — the political blundering, controversies over the Clintons’ financial dealings and rampant criticism in the news media — had already begun. Jim Blair played a part in another dust-up when it was revealed that he had helped Mrs. Clinton make nearly $100,000 in profits from trading in commodities futures.

Reread that passage if you missed the part about the "rampant criticism in the news media." Ha! The story ended with Bill Clinton crying at Mrs. Blair’s funeral, while Hillary held steady in her rhino skin. The continuation of the story ate all of page 30, with the headline almost identical but a little more positive: "Clinton Proudly Talks of Scars But Keeps Her Guard Up. It was spread out with a page-long column of photos, with the only negative one being finger-pointing Bill denying sexual relations with "that woman." Under pictures of Vincent Foster and Webster Hubbell, the caption read "Accumulating Scars: While in the White House, Mrs. Clinton was shaken by the suicide of Vince Foster, above left; a scandal involving Webb Hubbell, above right; and an affair by Mr. Clinton, which he at first denied."And so did she, creepily insisting it would not be "proven true" on the Today show, and that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was lying about her husband. But Leibovich washed over scandals and her role in them by quoting her memoirs and feeling her pain:

She felt deeply wounded by Webb Hubbell, who resigned as associate attorney general after it was disclosed that he had padded billing records at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, where Mrs. Clinton had worked. The 1993 suicide of Vince Foster, a close friend and former law partner who was working as deputy White House counsel, shattered her. And she seethed for months after publication of ''The Agenda,'' Bob Woodward's inside account of the administration based on a torrent of leaks. Mr. Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky was the ultimate betrayal.It was ''the most devastating, shocking and hurtful experience of my life,'' Mrs. Clinton wrote in her memoir. She worried that the ordeal would turn her into ''the brittle caricature some critics accused me of being.''

Leibovich could not manage to recount what the New York Times and other newspapers noted about what really happened to Mr. Hubbell. He embezzled almost a half-million dollars from the Rose Law Firm with the bill-padding – and then Hillary and other Clinton administration cronies lined up another $700,000 in phony jobs and other payoffs before he went to jail. (He was deeply involved in Hillary's Whitewater lawyering and documents, and it was easily suspected they were trying to keep him from singing to independent counsel Kenneth Starr.) Is this just "accumulating scars"? Or is it proof of accumulating corruption?This is not the first time Leibovich has composed a Hillary article that could easily be re-purposed as a Clinton campaign pamphlet. See Brent Bozell from this summer:

On the front page July 29, Times political writer Mark Leibovich lavished his awe on personal correspondence Hillary wrote as a Wellesley co-ed to her high school friend John Peavoy at Princeton. The headline was "In the ‘60s, a Future Candidate Poured Her Heart Out in Letters."

PS: A PC alert: Apparently Hillary enjoyed speaking nonsense, cartoonish Korean with her friend Diane: "She recalled how the two friends once played tennis with very bouncy balls, made in Korea. "We made up words that we assumed were Korean and screamed them at one another," Mrs. Clinton said.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis