Commentary: The media vs. Hillary Clinton
Exactly why the Washington press clique has always had it in for Hillary Clinton has never been entirely clear. Only that their collective sneer has been the single constant in her political career ever since she and Bill Clinton descended upon the capital from darkest Arkansas more than 20 years ago.
That and her own dislike and mistrust of the press, which she makes only a perfunctory effort to hide. And boy, has she earned it.
Legend has it that Mrs. Clinton’s problems began after the arriviste first lady turned down an invitation from Sally Quinn — wife of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and czarina of the city’s cocktail party circuit.
Maybe so, maybe not. Then after Hillary’s husband got caught with his pants down, the Post published Quinn’s condemnation of his lowdown ways — an article so smugly righteous as to make one almost sympathize with the big dope.
“He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place,” sniffed the late David Broder, expressing “Establishment Washington’s” outrage.
Everybody pretended to forget the author’s own history as a successful Monica Lewinsky. Bradlee’s disarmingly frank autobiography tells how his and Sally Quinn’s office romance ended his previous marriage.
All hick towns work that way. Everybody knows what nobody says.
Possibly you also recall the great Whitewater “scandal,” a manufactured hoax from the get-go. The shoddy reporting was a product not of Fox News, which didn’t yet exist, but of the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, Time magazine, etc.
I’ve never asked, but I doubt Clinton’s forgotten the December 1995 episode when ABC’s “Nightline” all but accused her of perjury on the basis of a shamelessly doctored video clip. She’d actually said almost the opposite of what the clip implied. Even so, damn near every big-time Washington pundit cited the phony quote repeatedly — some to predict her forthcoming indictment.
The story’s told in Joe Conason’s and my book, “The Hunting of the President.” Anyway, how “Establishment Washington” also works is that if the media organization falsifying the evidence outranks its critics, corrections and apologies will never come.
That’s pretty much how the U.S. ended up invading Iraq.
But let’s get back to the latest spate of Hillary gossip, shall we?
The current political situation looks like this: As long as Clinton sits tight, insisting that she hasn’t decided if she’s running for president, potential Democratic challengers are checkmated. So dominant is her lead in opinion polls that nobody else can raise money.
With the electoral map trending strongly Democratic in 2016 and Republican infighting making it appear that the party will nominate either a right-wing crank or a nonentity masquerading as one, the presidency appears to be hers for the asking. Unless she decides not to run, which I doubt.
Hillary deciding not to run may not be good for the country. But it’d be terrible for anybody selling political melodrama as infotainment. Hence the unprecedentedly early rollout of what my friend Bob Somerby calls “The Narrative,” a full 29 months before the election, i.e., a media-dictated “conceptual framework through which a presidential campaign will be discussed.”
Never mind that 29 months is several eternities in politics, and that everything could turn completely upside-down by 2016. The Washington Post in particular has set the terms. As Somerby summarizes in his Daily Howler blog: “Hillary Clinton is too damn rich to be running for president!”
Following ABC’s Diane Sawyer, a celebrity journalist earning more money than LeBron James — a reported $20 million a year — the Post spent last week belaboring Bill and Hillary Clinton’s lofty income, often without doing the most basic kinds of due diligence.
“Clinton’s rarefied life could be a liability in campaign,” was the headline above Philip Rucker’s June 23 report. It expressed concern that the former Secretary of State’s Washington home is “appointed like an ambassador’s mansion.”
Which, um, is precisely what it used to be.
A few days later came “How the Clintons went from ‘dead broke’ to rich.” Rucker’s third effort complained about the “grotesque” and “obscene” amounts Hillary earns giving speeches — money which, the Post neglected to point out, most often goes directly to The Clinton Foundation, the family’s widely praised charitable endeavor.
Indeed, if you visit the organization’s website, you’ll learn that President and Secretary Clinton are currently matching all gifts, “dollar for dollar.”
Nevertheless, columnist Ruth Marcus demanded that Hillary “Just. Stop. Speaking. For. Pay.”
“You don’t need any more (money),” she explained.
If you go on TV, you can see multimillionaire pundits — some of whom inherited their jobs from famous parents — explaining that Hillary Clinton can’t relate to somebody like you.
But did she say that she wasn’t “truly well off” with all this loot?
No, what she said was that unlike a lot of fat cats she wouldn’t name, the Clintons do pay ordinary income taxes.