The feckless media falls back on old ways: The Clinton Rules

ScreenshotWell that didn’t take long. Just days after announcing an “exclusive” arrangement with Peter Schweizer for his upcoming book on Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, both the New York Times and Washington Post ran “hint of scandal” stories this past week.

The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton’s state department was one of a number of agencies that signed off on a deal transferring control of a uranium-mining company from a Canadian to a Russian company, even as the Canadian company’s chairman — and others with ties to the company — made a series of donations to the Clinton Foundation. Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal. Importantly, the report acknowledges that it is “unknown” whether there is any connection.

The Washington Post wrote that “Bill Clinton has gotten $26 million in speaking fees from groups that are also Clinton Foundation donors.” Clintons’ income shows how their wealth is intertwined with charity.

This is part of the GOP talking points that the Clintons have been “vulnerable to undo influence” — as if every other politician and his or her patron billionaire(s) is not vulnerable to undue influence. The GOP Sheldon Adelson primary is occurring this weekend in Las Vegas. GOP Contenders Gather at ‘Sheldon Adelson Primary’ in Vegas. Is anyone reporting on this “scandal”?

Finally, Reuters reported:

Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors….The charities’ errors generally take the form of under-reporting or over-reporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations entirely when reporting revenue.

Importantly, the report acknowledges that these errors are “not evidence of wrongdoing.” (In fact, many of you have also filed amended returns).

It may be time for another helpful reminder to the feckless Beltway media villagers that correlation does not always equal causation. Just because two things occurred does not mean that they are causally related. The best illustration you’ll see that correlation doesn’t equal causation -Vox.com.

All of this has led to concern over the return of the Clinton Rules in the media, as Paul Krugman describes:

So there’s a lot of buzz about alleged scandals involving the Clinton Foundation. Maybe there’s something to it. But you have to wonder: is this just the return of “Clinton rules”?

If you are old enough to remember the 1990s, you remember the endless parade of alleged scandals, Whitewater above all — all of them fomented by right-wing operatives, all eagerly hyped by mainstream news outlets, none of which actually turned out to involve wrongdoing. The usual rules didn’t seem to apply; instead it was Clinton rules, under which innuendo and guilt by association were considered perfectly OK, in which the initial suggestion of lawbreaking received front-page headlines and the subsequent discovery that there was nothing there was buried in the back pages if it was reported at all.

Some of the same phenomenon resurfaced during the 2008 primary.

So, is this time different? First indications are not encouraging; it’s already apparent that the author of the anti-Clinton book that’s driving the latest stuff is a real piece of work.

Again, maybe there’s something there. But given the history here, we’d all be well advised to follow our own Clinton rules, and be highly suspicious of any reports of supposed scandals unless there’s hard proof rather than mere innuendo.

Oh, and the news media should probably be aware that this isn’t 1994: there’s a much more effective progressive infrastructure now, much more scrutiny of reporting, and the kinds of malpractice that went unsanctioned 20 years ago can land you in big trouble now.

Charles Pierce of Esquire explains The Clinton Rules Redux:

gop-rat-partyIt appears that the “exclusive” ratfking arrangement entered into by The New York Times and Washington Post has brought us all back to the Mena Airport again, and that it has done so by strict application of the Clinton Rules, first devised in the mid-1990’s, as the nation’s elite political press turned laundering oppo research into a smoothly running machine. The very first Clinton Rule, established by most of the original reporting into the Whitewater non-scandal, is that if you can blow enough smoke, you can say there’s fire. The Post has a fine example of the modern application of the rule this morning.

Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation data. The amount, about one-quarter of Clinton’s overall speaking income between 2001 and 2013, demonstrates how closely intertwined Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable work has become with their growing personal wealth.

 First of all, holy hell. A hundred million bucks just for giving speeches? I am so in the wrong damn racket. However, a little later on, we discover the first Clinton Rule in operation.

The Clintons’ relationships with major funders present an unusual political challenge for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now that she has formally entered the presidential race, the family may face political pressure and some legal requirements to provide further details of their personal finances and those of the foundation, giving voters a clearer view of the global network of patrons that have supported the Clintons and their work over the past 15 years.

As best I can trace the lines of the conspiracy as it is taking shape, some of the countries and patrons of the Clinton Global Initiative may also have paid Bill Clinton the big money to talk to them. There’s a bit of innuendo to the effect that the Clintons may have been commingling Initiative money with their own. However, if Bill’s piling up $100 mil just for talking, and the man loves to talk, then they hardly seem to have to raid the cookie jar. But the basic thrust is that these countries and patrons one day may seek the favors of President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The multiple avenues through which the Clintons and their causes have accepted financial support have provided a variety of ways for wealthy interests in the United States and abroad to build friendly relations with a potential future president.

You’re kidding. Wealthy interests might use their wealth to “build friendly relations” with politicians? In 2015? Has anyone told Anthony Kennedy? He might plotz.

(This, by the way, is Clinton Rule No. 2 — what is business as usual for every politician since Cato is a work of dark magic when practiced by either Clinton.)

The flow of money also gives political opponents an opportunity to argue that Hillary Clinton would face potential conflicts of interest should she win the White House. Though she did not begin delivering paid speeches or join the foundation until 2013, upon ending her tenure as secretary of state, the proceeds from her husband’s work benefited them both.

“Political opponents” would have argued this had Ms. Rodham Clinton spent her pre-candidate career working with the Poor Clares. That’s why someone’s political opponents are generally found in opposition to them. That’s also why the Post formalized its relationship with a ratfker in the first place.

It looks as though the CGI, and the speaking fees, are going to be this cycle’s Whitewater, which brings us to the application of Clinton Rule No. 3 — if you have blown enough smoke, you then can claim that there is a “climate” of fire. Exhibit A here are the #inevitablehotpolitixtakez from Ron (Leadership!) Fournier, former Karl Rove life coach.

Gennifer Flowers. Cattle futures. The White House travel office. Rose Law Firm files. The Lincoln Bedroom. Monica Lewinsky. And now, the Clinton Foundation. What ties these stories together is the predictable, paint-by-numbers response from the Bill and Hillary Clinton political operation.

Actually, what ties five of the seven examples cited there together is the fact that they are absolute bullshit. (And the Gennifer Flowers business is more than a quarter-bullshit itself. Have we all forgotten that Ms. Flowers wrote about having had assignations with Bill Clinton in a Little Rock hotel that hadn’t been built yet?) Don’t take my word for it. Take Kenneth Starr’s. On November 19,1998, he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee and admitted that everything he’d investigated save the affair with Monica Lewinsky came to nothing. Barney Frank had a little fun with him.

Mr. Frank criticized Mr. Starr for failing to exonerate the President on Filegate and Travelgate in September when he sent Congress the 445-page impeachment referral related to Mr. Clinton’s affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. ”In other words,” he told Mr. Starr, ”you don’t have anything to say unless you have something bad to say.”

To single out the Clintons for having wealthy friends who might want favors later, especially in the political context brought to us by the destruction of campaign finance regulations, is a particularly laughable application of the Clinton Rules which, like the Voting Rights Act and McCain-Feingold, have been rendered irrelevant by Citizens United and its unholy progeny. I already hate this campaign, and maybe that’s the whole point.

When pundits talk about “not wanting to go through” the whole Clinton sturm und drang, this, I suspect, is what they’re talking about. It is the job of oppo-researchers and ratfkers to exhaust the country’s patience through the techniques of scandalization. It is the job of the other candidates to try and take advantage of that. It is not the job of journalism to play along, or to despair of the effects on “us” of their own creations.

Finally the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville, posts at Media Matters, Clinton Cash And The Clinton Rule:

On March 12, I posted on Media Matters to discuss what I called the Clinton Rule. The Clinton Rule is as follows: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Well this week we got the ultimate proof of the Clinton Rule when The New York Times got its hands on a copy of Clinton Cash, a forthcoming book which purportedly claims that the State Department received favors from foreign entities that donated to The Clinton Foundation. Now, I wasn’t the least bit surprised that the conservative media echo chamber immediately reverberated with cries of the “very damning” “bombshell,” of a book that “could threaten [Hillary’s] campaign.” And I say purportedly because almost no one has read the book yet.

Here’s the thing that did surprise me:

Never have we seen a more instant classic for followers of the Clinton Rule than with this latest tome. The book isn’t even slated to be released for several weeks and yet The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Fox News are in cahoots with the author — reporting on what might be inside. I’ll run you through the playbook.

Let’s start with the facts. The star of this latest instance of the Clinton Rule is the author, Peter Schweizer. He’s a discredited fringe conservative activist and former political aide to the likes of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal. That’s a trifecta that pays a high dollar for pushing right wing conspiracies. Schweizer has worked for such “reputable” publications as Breitbart.com — the same Breitbart.com that once called gun safety advocate Gabby Giffords a “human shield” for the gun safety movement. His right wing bona fides don’t end there. Schweizer is even listed as a contributor to one of former Fox News host Glenn Beck’s books.

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Here’s the deal, Peter Schweizer’s new book out May 5 is likely to have serious problems — one embarrassing error has reportedly already been found. As Media Matters noted this week, Schweizer has been called out at least ten times by journalists and independent fact checkers for getting his facts wrong in his previous articles and books. His past work has been called “incorrect,” “bogus,” and “a fatal shortcoming in journalism 101.” In short, he’s a SERIAL MISINFORMER.

Yet, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Fox News have all made exclusive agreements with Schweizer for early access to pursue “the story lines found in the book.” I’m not shocked that Fox News took the shady deal here since Harper Collins, which is publishing Schweizer’s book, is also owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and is the sister company of Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox. But I’m hard pressed to find any reason why The New York Times and The Washington Post would do the same except for the Clinton Rule.

The rule where every piece of nonsense the press can grab onto about the Clintons gets headline after headline.

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All I’m saying here folks is this: The bottom line is that mainstream media must be up for the challenge. To all the reporters wanting to push the limits and take an advance look into the claims of a guy whose history of reporting is marked by errors and retractions, I say it’s time to break the Clinton Rule. But in this case, I’m afraid the smarter bet is that we are going to see the same playbook over and over again.

Again, let me repeat what the Clinton Rule is: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for the Clintons. After the latest antics on the part of The New York Times I am forced to add to the Clinton Rule. At The New York Times when it comes to the Clintons, there are no rules.

Remember, it was the media that was responsible for giving us George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. the worst disaster in modern American history. Hold the media accountable this time, and don’t fall for their crap again.

UPDATE: During an interview on Fox News Sunday about his book, “Clinton Cash,” Schweizer suggested that Hillary Clinton approved a deal that eventually allowed the Russian government to control some U.S. uranium mines. Chris Wallace Grills Author Of ‘Clinton Cash’: ‘You Don’t Have A Single Piece Of Evidence’:

But host Chris Wallace noted that the deal was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a panel of nine different federal agencies.

“It’s not just the State Department,” Wallace explained. “It’s nine separate agencies… There is no hard evidence — and you don’t cite any in the book — that Hillary Clinton took direct action, was involved in any way in approving, as one nine agencies, the sale of the company.”

* * *

“You don’t have a single piece of evidence that she was involved in this deal, that she sent a memo to the State Department person that was on this committee and said, ‘Hey, we want to approve the uranium sale,'” Wallace pressed.

3 responses to “The feckless media falls back on old ways: The Clinton Rules

  1. And as he stated (and I give him credit for his honesty the left is trotting it’s own set of “Clinton Rules”, including (1) if an acusation is made, deny then obfuscate; and, (2) claim the Clintons are always unfairly picked on for no reason other than the hatefulness of the right.

    It’s going to be an interesting election…

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      The demonstrated facts support only one proposition, and it is not the right’s Clinton Rules. The conservative media entertainment complex is a propaganda machine where facts simply do not matter. It is journalistic malpractice for the “lamestream” media to so wilfully follow the lede of the conservative media, and fail to serve its role as gatekeeper of what is credible news.

      • I often wonder if we are seeing the same news on TV or the radion or the newspapers because I fail entirely to see this “conservative” bias you keep talking about. If anything, I detect a distinct liberal bias in it. I only wish it was more conservative.