In the Who's Sappier? contest of Hillary Clinton profiles on Sunday between The New York Times and the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wrote up a 3,085-word article called "Growing Up Rodham" that completely matched the Clinton-campaign template about her upbringing under a stern, even tyrannical father who was odiously conservative. Like the Times, the Post couldn’t find a single Hillary critic or adversary in the entire 3,000-plus words.
In the Post, it kicked off a series of long candidate biographies called "The Front-Runners." Jenkins is usually a sports writer and sports columnist for the Post. (Oddly, the Mitt Romney profile on Monday was written by reporter Eli Saslow, also brought over from Sports.) The overall effect of the Jenkins piece was to use Daddy’s ill-tempered right-wing views to nudge Hillary’s image into the center. On the front page Sunday, under a smiling Hillary portrait, these words appeared in large print:
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:
Under some fire for pounding Rudy Giuliani on Sunday’s Meet the Press with questions about a New York City security detail for his mistress, and whether it would be "appropriate" for a president to provide Secret Service protection for his mistress, Tim Russert hit NBC and MSNBC on Monday morning to defend himself and suggest that it’s essential we know what skeletons presidential candidates have in their past. But did Russert ever ask Bill Clinton about Secret Service protection for his mistresses? Russert’s interviews with Bill Clinton (especially lately) are classified under C for Chummy. Here are Russert’s mistress questions to Giuliani, followed by his defenses on Monday:
Always eager to promote another Hollywood film that casts a snarky eye on American foreign policy, Time magazine interviewed Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman about Charlie Wilson’s War, a new movie about a conservative Texas Democratic Congressman who secured funding for the Afghan rebels, written by liberal West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin. Hanks recalled that when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, he just knew it was the beginning of the Soviets’ Vietnam, that "They have made a mistake equal to anything wrong America has done." Moral equivalence with the Soviets? Still in vogue in Hollywood in 2007.
Reasons to be skeptical? At the time, Hanks was 23 and had yet to get his big break as Kip-slash-Buffy in the ABC sitcom Bosom Buddies; and Hanks also suggested the Soviets freshly took over Hungary in 1956, instead of merely keeping the Soviet lid on the country. The interview began with Time’s Belinda Luscombe celebrating her own ignorance about American support for Afghan rebels:
CBS This Morning co-host Harry Smith offered a typically sappy and supportive Bill Clinton interview in the 7:30 half hour on Monday. Our Kyle Drennen will have more on that later today. But bias aside, can we just suggest that viewers should expect a news anchor who does his homework? In reporting on Andrew Young's remarks that Clinton is as black as Barack Obama, Smith called him "your UN ambassador," and Clinton had to correct him: he was a UN ambassador for Jimmy Carter.
Then Smith turned to Clinton saying he always opposed the Gulf War. He said "I did a little Googling," and found that all Clinton said was we should let the inspectors do their work. Harry Smith has the resources and the tape library and the high-faluting Tiffany Network traditions of CBS News -- and he's Googling by the seat of his pants at 4 in the morning? He should have found what ABC's Jake Tapper found, and he could it have Googled it from NewsBusters:
Late in the last decade, liberal legal eagle Alan Dershowitz wrote a book called "Sexual McCarthyism," in which he made the "compelling" analogy about Joe McCarthy searching for fake communists, just as Bill Clinton was recruiting fake...sex partners? This old book is relevant only because The Washington Post selected Dershowitz as the book reviewer for Bill O'Reilly's new book "Kids Are Americans Too."
Dershowitz began by noting factual errors in the book, a routine task for a critic. But quickly, he dipped into the sexual harassment lawsuit of former O'Reilly producer Andrea Mackris. Instead of reviewing the book, then Dershowitz turned it into a screed mocking O'Reilly as a hypocrite. For example:
Why would Barbara Walters make Bill Clinton a Most Fascinating Person of 2007? She explained it on Thursday’s Good Morning America: “We didn't want a political candidate, but I mean he has had such a year. Wrote another best-selling book, Giving, traveled all over the place. And we talked to him about what it was like to be, you know, what he thinks it's going to be if she wins.”
But the ooziest, least credible part came when GMA co-host Robin Roberts asked Walters “What do you make of the partnership between Bill and Hillary Clinton?” Walters laid on the lovey-dovey-Clintons line, thick as an oil slick: “Well, you know, we asked him, for example if he does, you know, text messaging. And he said no, he calls her because he has to hear her voice. He knows from the moment she says hello what kind of a day it is for her. Well, that's the only kind of relationship you can have if you're very close and, you know, obviously, they are.”
That’s not exactly what Walters heard from Hillary during a long, mostly fawning 2003 interview about her memoir. Hillary ducked and dodged on whether her husband is now hopelessly devoted only to her. From our book Whitewash:
The recent setback in Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez’s efforts to proclaim himself ruler for life were stunning to ABC News woman Barbara Walters. "I was amazed that he, that he didn’t get to be president for life."
Perhaps Barbara was shocked that the people would rise up against this charismatic man she’d already wrapped into her special on the Ten Most Fascinating People of 2007. When asked if Hugo’s setback made him less fascinating, Walters said no, that "we try to have people that do positive things." But her actual profile of Chavez (recycling a March interview) turned a bit dreary. Her enthusiasm cooled enough that she actually edited more emotional quotes (both from Walters and Chavez) out of the brief profile.
James David Dickson of The American Spectator reviewed our book Whitewash on Blogcritics:
"In the general election," counsels Jonah Goldberg, "audiences will remember Whitewater, Travelgate, illegal fundraising, bimbo eruptions and impeachment. If they don't, you can be sure Republicans will remind them. Fair or not, the Republicans' intense dislike of Hillary will underscore the idea that a vote for her is a vote for more of the same rancor."
Whitewash is a great place to start in producing this rancor. As to whether conservative journalists will have any success cajoling their mainstream brethren to join them, that, like Hillary's election next November, is far from inevitable.
Some conservatives have insisted that the Republican nominee can't win merely by offering negatives about Hillary Clinton scandals, even if Dick Morris did call her "The Tornado" for all the trouble she caused. It's not up to the GOP to remind people of Hillary scandals. It's up to the conservative New Media.
In the fall edition of Ms. magazine, author L.S. Kim interviewed former ABC news anchor Carole Simpson to discover that it used to be that the news was presented "not in the public’s interest, but in white men’s interest." If that sounded plausible forty years ago, it certainly does not today. But feminist bloggers thought that Kim's article was "one of the standout articles." Here's how Kim quoted Simpson:
As Carole Simpson, a trailblazing African American woman who was ABC’s former weekend anchor for World News Tonight, explains, the news of old wasn’t delivered by men but solely decided by them. " And they were usually white, middle-aged, and upper-middle-class," says Simpson, currently a faculty member at Emerson College School of Communications. "The news they presented was not in the public interest, but in white men’s interest. News about, for, and by women was relegated to ‘women’s pages’ or ‘women’s shows.’"
Matthew Balan's item on CNN describing (unlabeled) Planned Parenthood and the "conservative" Heritage Foundation is all too common. It happens almost daily. It's even worse when radical leftists are unlabeled, and conservatives are described as "hard line." Liberals can't even describe their own ideological brethren as ideological.The difference in Wolf Blitzer’s labeling of Seymour Hersh and Pat Buchanan on Tuesday’s edition of The Situation Room is merely the latest lesson. Blitzer plugged upcoming segments this way:
How did the Bush administration apparently get it so wrong [on Iran] -- the intelligence community -- even as they were turning up the war rhetoric?I'll speak with Sy Hershof The New Yorker magazine. He broke the story, actually, a year ago and got slammed by the White House for reporting it. Plus, Pat Buchanan, the hard-line conservative -- you're going to find out why he thinks immigrants are right now destroying the American way of life. Pat Buchanan is standing by to join us live this hour.
Let’s now return to the goo at GQ, part 2. In his glory-to-Bill prayer of a story, George Saunders lamented how the media isn’t half-kind enough to the man they hope is President Clinton the First: "To observe Clinton up close is to get a mini seminar in the deficiencies of the media in conveying the real scale of our public figures." Clinton is enormous. Saunders pushes comparisons to Gandhi, Mandela, and Martin Luther King, as well as Frank Sinatra, Willie Mays, and Michael Jordan. Clinton's heart is immense, his talents prodigious. He is so brilliant he makes the writer feel like an idiot: "Because when Bill Clinton’s at your table, you don’t really want anyone else talking, and that includes you. When you do talk, you feel stupid. I mean, you are stupid."
Saunders does more mooning over Bill as the man stands in the bright sun listening to boring speeches by local African dignitaries:
Try to remember a time in September when it was reported that the Hillary Clinton campaign showed its "hard-nosed media strategy" by getting GQ magazine to spike a piece on Clinton team in-fighting by threatening to pull access to Bill Clinton for GQ’s planned December "Man of the Year" cover package. Well, that "Man of the Year" issue is out, and there was no bucking, only fawning. The article is titled "Bill Clinton, Public Citizen: On the road with one man who believe that there is no problem on Earth, no matter how complex or horrific, that cannot be solved." GQ spiked the negative article and gave the former president a puff piece so puffy that it will lead to Monica Lewinsky jokes. The editor found Clinton to be Reaganesque.
In his letter from the editor in the December issue, Editor/Spiker-in-Chief Jim Nelson makes no reference to the deal he made with the Clintons. In a note headlined "The Year of the Wide Stance," he summarized the year like this: "It was a year when politicians couldn’t decide what they stood for – or in the case of Larry Craig, what they sat for." Nelson mocked Rudy Giuliani for citing Reagan as a role model and joked candidates should pick a more obscure president to model after, like alcoholic Franklin Pierce. Then he compared Clinton favorably to Reagan:
Sometimes, newspapers bury the lede on purpose. Today’s Exhibit A? The Washington Post Style section profile of Chris Weitz, the director of the new anti-religious movie The Golden Compass. The Post’s anodyne headline was "‘Golden Compass’ Director Seeks True North." David Segal’s story takes eight paragraphs and a sentence before it gets to the point, why the publicity: The trilogy of books behind the movie "attacks the concept of organized religion -- more specifically, any religion that rules by fiat and claims an exclusive pipeline to the truth."
Weitz has done quite the comedy routine in defending the film. In a soundbite on CNN’s The Situation Room on Tuesday, he claimed: "I don’t think the books are a threat to organized religion. First of all, I think organized religion is strong enough to stand on its own. Secondly I don't think that Pullman is aggressively anti-Catholic or anti-religious." Come again? This is like Weitz claiming his American Pie movies weren’t about teenage sex.
Between her tirades against White House press secretary Dana Perino, Helen Thomas granted an interview to the Huffington Post about how she has never made a major mistake. "I don't have any mistakes to tell you about," she said. The Huffington Post’s Seema Kalia replied: "You don't have any recollection of any time you didn't do something well?" Thomas said: "No, not that I know of. I don't say I'm perfect, and I do say I've made mistakes, but nothing that's colossal." This is not the standard she’s used to judge President Bush, writing at least two columns that lamented his answers to list-your-mistakes questions from the White House press corps.
The Laura Ingraham radio show began Wednesday morning with a red-hot burst of outrage at yesterday's National Public Radio debate with the Democratic presidential candidates. She called it "an underreported treasure trove of idiocy" and said the broadcast completely lived up the boutique-liberal NPR stereotype -- which is why it was underreported by the rest of the media.
The show began with an NPR question on why America is so hated in the Muslim world, which couldn't be a bigger softball to Joe Biden, and the rest of the candidates, who quickly blamed the Bush administration for the unsettled Muslim world.
The lead-in to NPR's evening newscast All Things Considered last night was all ‘crazy neocon’ Iran quotes last night from the candidates. (They play the theme song, and then you get that featured soundbite or set of soundbites). Sadly, that’s not on the NPR website, but the two-hour debate is here.
Hillary Clinton, victim of an unfair press? Bill certainly thinks so. Associated Press writer Philip Elliott reported: "Bill Clinton said Tuesday that if reporters covered the candidates' public records better, his wife's presidential bid would be far ahead of her rivals. During a campaign stop on behalf of his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president said he can't understand why so much of the media coverage of the campaign ignores her experience—and, without naming him, the relative lack of experience of her closest Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama."
Press coverage aside, if this Democratic race was really about experience, wouldn’t Joe Biden and Chris Dodd be the two front-runners? It is amazing and shameless that the Clintons can complain that the 89-percent pro-Clinton press isn’t pro-Clinton enough, that if the press did their job correctly, Hillary would have an enormous lead, as if media professionalism was defined by how well the media elite realized and established for the public that she is just what the country desperately needs. Elliott continued with Bill’s mighty whine about the media being rude to his wife (as if he’s never been):
CNN Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman appeared on Sunday’s Reliable Sources to defend the CNN selection of liberals and Hillary supporters in disguise as questioners at the CNN-YouTube debate. Bohrman made several odd claims. They Googled Gen. Keith Kerr, the gay endorser of Hillary Clinton, but didn’t find the Hillary campaign documents, which was allegedly new to Google when it was found in minutes during the debate. They stopped investigating Kerr because he had a "great question...regardless of where he was from." Bohrman took the same position with the Edwards supporter they used. CNN does not agree that investigating the backgrounds of alleged grass-roots questioners is important. And in the wake of the Kerr backlash, CNN wishes they’d decided on a different Victim of Social Conservatives: "Let's use the gay linguist from Guantanamo who was dismissed."
Former Time reporter Nina Burleigh is unhappy she was criticized on NewsBusters for her Clinton-defending review in The Washington Post of Sally Bedell Smith’s book For Love of Politics. She lamented on The Huffington Post on Saturday night that before many could even read the review, "an apparently insomniac internet goon named Tim Graham had penned a screed dissing The Washington Post for having me review the book. Graham is the lifetime College Republican running ‘Media Research Center,’ one of the most persistent groups to express shock and awe over what one of the newsweekly wags called my "quote of the century." Those unfamiliar with my sarcastic remark need only google my name and the word blowjob."
Other than Nina recalling her infamous quote about fellatio for abortion-rights presidents, just how much of this is wrong? I don’t "run" the MRC; I work several levels below the pinnacle. I was never a College Republican, although I did work at the RNC as a minimum-wage phone fundraiser in the late 1980s in my first years in Washington. I did post my critique at 6:35 in the morning, but I sleep like a rock, so that should at worst make me a "early-rising Internet goon." A longer look at Burleigh’s article also strangely calls me part of the "self-righteous and supposedly apolitical establishment" that rules Washington. What a strange passage, in which I am also a troll:
In Monday’s Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz is noting how Rudy Giuliani uses the "liberal media" as a foil in his campaign, and also offers the latest in a trend of adding prominence to his old WashPost colleagues at The Politico website for their scoop on Giuliani’s use of public money (for his security detail) for his messy private life (visits to his mistress in the Hamptons). Giuliani called the story "totally false," five years old, and a "debate-day dirty trick."
Kurtz did not ask about that "liberal media" and their double standard: that the public moneys wasted on enabling adultery was always a distasteful right-wing trash-for-cash story when the Clintons were in the spotlight (Troopergate, anyone?), and that a five-year-old Clinton adultery story was always something the liberal media would regard as news no one needed to read. Kurtz went to his long-time Post colleague John F. Harris for a rebuttal:
The Washington Post "Reliable Sources" gossip column led off in the upper left-hand corner on Monday with shocking comments from Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean "razzing his journalist hosts" at the Saturday night Gridiron Club dinner:
Fox News said, 'Stalin thought he was right when he did the same thing.' That was painful.... If anybody knows about Joseph Stalin's tactics, it would be the people at Fox News....
It's not the first item in the online version, perhaps because it's a quote, and not a written report. But it's definitely shocking, even from Howard Dean. Does he think that Roger Ailes has his own KGB, and maybe a Gulag in the basement?
The subject was how Dean suggested that if people don't want politicians to talk in sound bites, you could bar the press. (Nothing gets the press upset faster than the words "bar the press.") Here's the complete Dean quote as it appeared in the column by Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts:
I enjoy reading long-time Washington Post book reviewer Jonathan Yardley, and one thing he does that’s interesting is write about reading a classic book a second time. This week, he revisited the 1931 book Only Yesterday, a very popular history of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen.Yardley explained that his book had "a hint of Mencken in it, but Allen was his own man and resisted the mere apery to which so many tinhorn Menckenites of his day succumbed. Allen was a fair man, as it must be admitted Mencken really was not, and though he had his own sharp opinions, he sought balance and understanding rather than invective."
But the paragraph he quoted before that balanced-without-invective claim looks a lot more like invective against "a pestilence" of anti-communists of the time than it looks like "balance and understanding"on the subject of the "Red Scare." In fact, the words "Red Scare" betray a lack of balance. He wrote:
As Sen. Jim Webb prepares for his Sunday interview on Meet the Press, let's note the well-placed word that demonstrates that The Washington Post still relishes the moment that young S.R. Sidarth first launched the "Macaca" boat. In a small Wednesday item reporting Sidarth now works for Bill Richardson for President, reporter Michael Shear -- who with Tim Craig beat every bush to spread alleged racial bigotry all over George Allen's face -- displayed his opinion by saying "Alas," young Sidarth "is not reprising the role" of opposition camcorder agent.
Here's most of Shear's small item:
The young man whose video helped bring down former senator George Allen of Virginia has resurfaced in the presidential contest that Allen once hoped to be part of.
Brent Bozell's culture columns in the last two weeks have tackled some very contemporary topics, from new MTV star Tila Tequila to CBS's "reality" fest "Kid Nation" to Fox's "Family Guy" even working itself into submarine sandwich commercials. The latest column explored how MTV keeps looking for a new sexual barrier to cross on its "reality" shows:
The twist in the series is that Miss Tequila is bisexual. As the new MTV star tells it, "They found out about my lifestyle, and said ‘How would you feel about putting it on MTV?’" Viacom thought it was time for America’s youth to watch a bisexual dating show. So the show’s plot called for inviting 16 straight men and 16 lesbians to compete for her physical attention. Neither the men nor the women were informed of the other gender’s presence so they could look shocked for the cameras.
Here’s an update on the St. Petersburg Times report on CNN’s snarky response to conservative bloggers. Eric Deggans, one of the reporters on the CNN-YouTube debate, brought his own skepticism on Friday to CNN’s responses to the secret Hillary Campaign questioner on his blog The Feed. (Deggans is not a conservative, as my earlier Koulter Klan blog illustrates.)
Deggans mentions the anti-CNN complaints of bloggers on both sides, but suggests the liberals should consider how they would respond if the shoe was on their foot: "even though some liberal bloggers are saying the political background of questioners shouldn't matter, I have a hard time believing they would have tolerated seeing Hillary Clinton asked a tough question on an issue important to conservatives by someone with hidden ties to Rudolph Giuliani or George W. Bush."
The St. Petersburg Times, the "hometown newspaper" for the CNN-YouTube Republican debate, published an interesting story on CNN’s reactions to conservative criticism. Their list of excuses was extensive, and ridiculous. As far as conservatives are concerned, CNN has two choices: either they were extremely cynical in knowingly placing Democratic supporters into a Republican debate, or they were extremely unprofessional in failing to do five minutes of work to prevent the publicity fiasco of allowing Hillary supporters to try and embarrass her opponents on national TV.
CNN is responding by attacking their critics (Michelle Malkin by name) for being stalking horses for Fox News. In their report, Wes Alison and Eric Deggans asked if there wasn’t enough time for vetting (when they’ve been receiving questions for three months?):
Richard Stengel is still a newbie as the top editor at Time, but he’s experienced enough that he ought to know how to mount a challenging interview with a presidential candidate. That’s not what he did in his new Barack Obama interview. (That’s the same one Brent Baker found CBS loved. Scroll down to end.) Here are the softball questions Time published:
You've been engaging with Senator Clinton in a more direct way. Is there a danger of damaging your brand of new politics? (Obama said "you'd be hard-pressed to say that at any point we've been gratuitous, nasty, personal.")
Her campaign just issued a statement saying you had less foreign policy experience than any President since World War II. (Obama: "It seems to get less traction as people hear me talk.")
Here’s a headline that suggests an objective article will not follow: "Hillary Hatred Finds Its Misogynistic Voice." Newhouse News Service reporter Jonathan Tilove, whose beat is usually race relations, indicted John McCain, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, former RNC spokesman Cliff May, "South Park," and Facebook groups as historic forces of hatred and vitriol, putting poor Hillary through a punishing gauntlet never run by men: "Thanks to several years of phallocentric history, there is no comparably vocabulary of degradation for men, no equivalently rich trove of synonyms for a sexually sullied male." The story began:
In the coming months, America will decide whether to elect its first female president. And amid a techno-media landscape where the wall between private vitriol and public debate has been reduced to rubble, Sen. Hillary Clinton is facing an onslaught of open misogynistic expression.
On his Daily Nightly blog, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams sent his happy-birthday wishes to liberal comedian Jon Stewart. In a Wednesday blog post playfully titled "Where Have You Gone, Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz?", Williams mourned how the writers' strike has taken Stewart away from his "vital comedic work" trashing Bush. Just like Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams thinks Stewart is an American treasure:
The serious fact is that Jon Stewart and his colleagues in comedy -- along with the writers who support them -- serve an invaluable purpose by skewering the pompous and deflating the egos of the high and mighty. They function almost as a separate branch of government. We need them, and we miss them.
Laura Ingraham brought up Diane Sawyer’s umbrage at Mike Huckabee yesterday for his ad stressing he was a "Christian leader" as somehow crossing a line of decency (see Scott Whitlock's blog here), and how Sawyer pressed Newt Gingrich with Peggy Noonan’s quote that we’re looking for a leader, not a Bible study teacher. After noting that Sawyer doesn't usually find anyone crossing a line on the Angry Left, Ingraham wondered: how often does Sawyer cite Noonan? Is it usually just to prod and poke Republicans?
A quick review of the Nexis database shows that ABC’s Good Morning America has interviewed Noonan quite a bit on her expert subjects, first on her old job of presidential speechwriting, and more recently, on her biography of Pope John Paul II. But in the Bush era, on the few occasions when Noonan’s writing is quoted by ABC anchors or reporters, it’s almost always to prod the GOP.