Atrios has written a very important post today on why we should be alarmed at this latest breathless girly gossip about Hillary Clinton. I have received a lot of emails and comments to the effect that Hillary is a (fill in the blank) and so deserves itand therefore we should all be happy that the New York Times is doing God’s work by destroying her candidacy. This is a very short sighted and historically clueless way to look at this. We call these "Clinton Rules" but they are not really about the Clintons — it’s about the press corps and the way they treat Democrats.
[T}he broader issue … is that the mainstream media has long had multiple conflicting and inconsistent standards when it comes to the private lives of public figures, especially politicians and members of their own club. More than that it presents yet another mainstream media corrupt habit of making something news for no particular reason and then pretending that the story just appeared out of nowhere, even when in this case there is literally no semi-legitimate hook for it. In this case it’s doubly corrupt because it’s The Paper of Record, which as we all know is liberal, so that gives additional license for the rest of the corporate press to jump on the story. There’s also the little issue of the press’s history with the Clintons, where at some point there was no personal detail, no matter how poorly sourced, which was not considered to be legitimate news. One would’ve liked to have thought that post-Monica Madness this little habit was beaten out of them, that maybe they even had a few regrets, though it’s clear again that it’s not the case. The Clinton Rules of Journalism never left us.
And, finally, it puts on display the utter vapidity of the press corps we’re dealing with. If Dean Broder, who has been covering Washington since 1820, can’t sit through a 45 minute speech on energy policy, and the press on Air Force One would rather watch King Kong than the Hayden hearings, while they devote their time and resources to a long 50-source article about how often the Clintons are getting busy, then we have a problem, and it’s not something we’re going to clear up at a blogger ethics panel.
And I would add that there is another equally pernicious dimension to this. This tabloidization of political news is almost exclusively focused on Democrats and gives the impression that the left is unserious. John Kerry’s butler and his strange, wealthy wife. Dean’s flinty personality and odd, reclusive wife. Gore’s pathological lying and his phony manhood. The list goes on. It’s all very "entertaining" but it makes people associate Democrats with celebrities in the most shallow sense.
I do not believe this comes out of nowhere. There has long been a cottage industry of GOP operatives who pass along these juicy tidbits to the press (and I assume the entire social network in DC) who eagerly open their little beaks and swallow it. This Hillary story on the front page of the NY Times seems to have come completely out of nowhere. There’s no new hook, yet the story says that "prominent Democrats" are all atwitter wondering about the state of Clinton’s marriage and what it might mean. Well gosh, if they weren’t before they certainly are now. The whole beltway high school circle jerk society are suddenly beside themselves.
I would remind people of a little story from the 2000 election as documented by the Daily Howler. Here’s Margaret Carlson:
Gore’s fabrications may be inconsequential—I mean, they’re about his life. Bush’s fabrications are about our life, and what he’s going to do. Bush’s should matter more but they don’t, because Gore’s we can disprove right here and now…You can actually disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get in the weeds and get out your calculator or you look at his record in Texas. But it’s really easy, and it’s fun, to disprove Gore.
What this does is trivialize liberals. The press corps projects its own shortcomings on to Democrats and then attacks them for it. The silly, insubstantial (idea-less) tabloid mentality is pasted to the Democratic image which allows the Republicans to present themselves as the serious ones (even mental midgets who say things like "is our children learning" or "OBGYN’s can’t show love to their patients.") The "grown-ups are back" meme, which was very successful for Bush and Cheney in 2000 would have been impossible without the press having spent eight years covering the white house like Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee lived there.
That was the mentality of the DC press corps as it existed up to the 2000 election when suddenly the coverage became all about Bush’s tremendous integrity and seriousness. And the shot across the bow from the NY Times this week (and the giggly reactions among the chattering class) tells us that the Clinton Rules are in full effect.
For those of you who missed this peek at the patented seventh grade Mean Girl style of the kewl kidz, check out the transcript for Chris Matthews this past Tuesday. He spent more than half the show squealing and giggling with his guests like he had the latest copy of Tiger Beat in his hands. He, like Broder and the New York Times also breathlessly passed along the name of this canadian politician whom we are all apparently supposed to assume is servicing Bill Bill’s needs these days.
I particularly liked this bit, aided and abetted by none other than good guy Bob Herbert who apparently thinks it’s just fine for the news media to decide who can and cannot be elected president:
HERBERT: I can make one other point. The fact that we‘re talking about the Clintons‘ marriage here I think is just that kind of discussion, the story in The Times today is really harmful for Hillary‘s presidential chances, because I think that there is a real hunger for change in this country politically, and I think if we keep harping on that, and I think it is a legitimate story, but I mean, if the media does keep harping on that, there will be a tendency among the electorate to say, you know, enough already. We‘re going to move on. We may move in a different direction.
MATTHEWS: It may be like putting on the old bad tire that you‘ve gotten fixed a few times on your car. We‘re back again where we started. Do you think there is a fatigue out there of the Bushes and the Clintons together like for years we‘ve had the Bushes, we had Nixon all the time, now we‘ve got the Clintons all around us, do you think, Michael, that people are tired of this bunch?
The old Cokie Roberts defense: "It doesn’t matter if its true ot not, it’s out there" is back with a vengeance now that Democrats are becoming relevant again. And the New York Times put it "out there." It seems they’ve decided for us that Hillary won’t do. Perhaps we could skip all this unpleasant untidiness with elections and whatnot and they can just tell us now who we are allowed to have as candidates and we can save some money. And if, as I suspect, John McCain has been chosen by the journalistic pooh-bahs to be the it-boy of 2008, it’s better to know this in advance so that we can do what we have to do to tell the whole story.
If you read the entire transcript (or saw the show) you’ll notice that Chris quite obviously holds up his marriage as being superior to the Clintons. I sure hope he doesn’t have any dirty laundry he doesn’t want all over the internet. There was no blogosphere the last time these puerile panty sniffers had a go. There is now.