Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Journalism 101: Hillary-bashing made E-Z

By A.J. Liebling
Media Editor

So Hillary Clinton has just won a smashing victory in New York, well exceeding expectations.  She now faces a clear path to the Democratic nomination.  She leads her likely opponent, a tangerine-faced clown in a fright wig, by double digits.  How can you spin this into a negative story about her? Let's turn to today's Washington Post, to show you how it's done.

First, let's stick on a headline that doesn't reflect the story that follows, viz:

OK, what was the great cost of her overwhelming triumph in a major state?  The lede says that her primary win took a “significant toll,” as indeed all contested Democratic nominations tend to do, at least until the electorate focuses on the golem heading the Republican ticket.

Seven grafs later, after admitting her victory puts her in a strong position for the general election and quoting some polling data, we get to the money quote, from a longtime Republican hack and mouthpiece. What's he gonna say?  Hint: anything he can to trip her up. Another GOP finagler chimes in later with even more far-fetched drivel.  For balance, the Democratic hacks quoted admit some damage from the primary campaign, but insist she can make it up.  Doesn't sound like “great cost” to any fair-minded reader.

So the correct headline would be: PARTY PROS DISAGREE OVER HOW MUCH DAMAGE CLINTON HAS SUFFERED IN NOMINATION BATTLE.  But that's not much of a story, is it?

In fairness to Dan Balz, we only give him a B for gratuitous Hillary bashing.  To get an A, he would have had to add two more bullshit tropes. Number 1 is the one that's been pushed by Maureen Dowd, who's been recycling the same crap for 20 years so efficiently that, with apologies to the BBC, she should get an award for America's leading zero-energy columnist.

According to Dowd, Hillary is bad because she defended her husband, who's a cheating dog. Stand by your man? Maureen says no way, based on her no doubt extensive experience with the vicissitudes of married life.

Bullshit trope number 2 is of course that Clinton is “plagued” by scandal, including the by-now notorious matter of her emails. Although no one has yet explained what is illegal or scandalous about the practice of Secretaries of State using a personal email address for personal or unclassified emails rather than State's klugy unclassified system, she continues to be plagued thereby, according to the Wayward Press.

To wit, a search for “Clinton email scandal” returns 419 items on The Washington Post's website.  A typical example goes something like this:
Her numbers -- particularly when it comes to the number of people who view her as "honest" and "trustworthy" have long been in net negative territory -- and the ongoing questions surrounding her private email server while serving as Secretary of State doesn't help matters.  (Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post, April 18, 2016).
What ongoing questions?  The only ongoing question anyone has is how long the Republican Benghazi hit squad will hold off on releasing their report because they know it will implode upon reading.

Don't believe me?  How about my old colleague and former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson '76, whose journalistic views have a great deal of validity?
"The issue, to me, that's at the crux is that everything that we know that was classified was classified after the fact — after the emails were sent," Abramson said on Thrush's "Off Message" podcast. "And so, you know, why is that a big deal? And the fact that she had this private email is something that, you know, I've read widely, a lot of people in the government [did]."(The Washington Post, March 21, 2016)
Better luck next time, Dan Balz.  But don't worry: when it comes to bashing Hillary with nonsense, there's always another chance.   Hey Maureen, maybe that's why Secretary Clinton is as you say so “paranoid.”

Update: Charlie Pierce, a better man than I, endured Chris Matthews handing out this stuff and concluded: “It's all a load of bollocks.”

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