How many times have conservatives heard over the years reports about GWB’s love/hate relationship with the press, and heard from the Usual Suspects on how the Bush administration supposedly works “unsually hard” at controlling media access to high ranking admin officials, including the President himself? That the Bush administration’s alleged “heavy-handed” approaches over what they allow to be filtered down to the news media versus what they want to “keep secret” are “assaults” on the “independent media” and “sweeping and dangerous attacks by this administration on investigative journalism“? Quite frankly, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard such arguments, but we all know they are voluminous. The underlying implication of all of the assertions being made by these “champions of free speech” is that the Bush administration has engaged in “unprecedented” and “chilling” tactics designed to “undermine” the watchdog role of the mainstream press.
To be sure, there’s not a single politician out there who doesn’t work at carefully crafting their image and messages to the mainstream media – for obvious reasons, of course. The more favorable coverage, the less of a politician has to worry about sitting on the hot seat. But certain politicians take “controlling the message” to the extreme, and Hillary Clinton is one of the dirtiest players in the business on this front.
I just got done reading this eye-opening piece at The New Republic written by senior editor Michael Crowley on the Clinton media-control machine. Yeah, I know it’s New Republic, but considering they’re thought of by most people to be a liberal outlet, they stand nothing to gain from their readership from printing an article that is highly negative of Hillary Clinton, but they published it anyway. Not only that, but this article has to contain more than just a grain of truth to it, considering the Politico’s report a couple of months ago about how GQ magazine squashed a negative story on infighting within the Clinton campaign after a threat from Hillary to withdraw access to her husband on a future story GQ wanted to run on him.
The most illuminating part of the TNR piece is Crowley’s candid comments about why the media treats her differently than they do other politicians and candidates who have treated them less severely than Hillary has (bold emphasis added):
[…] Reporters’ jabs and errors are long remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top editors. “They’re frightening!” says one reporter who has covered Clinton. “They don’t see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process. They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game.”
Despite all the grumbling, however, the press has showered Hillary with strikingly positive coverage. “It’s one of the few times I’ve seen journalists respect someone for beating the hell out of them,” says a veteran Democratic media operative. The media has paved a smooth road for signature campaign moments like Hillary’s campaign launch and her health care plan rollout and has dutifully advanced campaign-promoted themes like Hillary’s “experience” and expertise in military affairs. This is all the more striking in light of the press’s past treatment of Clinton–particularly during her husband’s White House years–including endless stories about her personal ethics, frostiness, and alleged Lady Macbeth persona. [Note: “Endless stories”? Hardly. “Few and far in between” is more like it. –ST]
The defining quality of that machine is, simply, impenetrability. Reporting any story the Clintonites haven’t specifically encouraged can be like wading through mud. “Their rule is never to volunteer information–ever,” says one reporter who has experienced this. (Process stories are particularly verboten.) Another is a willingness to offer access to Clinton only under strictly controlled circumstances–as when she agreed to appear on the major TV networks the day her candidacy launched on the condition that the interviews be short and unedited, allowing precious little time for unrelated queries. In a testament to the enormous power of Hillary’s celebrity, her single greatest point of leverage with the media, no one refused.
And look at how she treats those who don’t shower her (or her husband) with favorable coverage:
Many reporters also suspect the Clinton camp of employing outside proxies to attack troublemakers in the media. After Hillary’s shaky debate performance late last month, the Drudge Report–whose author, Matt Drudge, the campaign has assiduously courted–quickly featured an unusual blind quote on its homepage in which an unnamed “top Hillary advisor” said debate moderator Tim Russert “bordered on the unprofessional.” Joining in the attack on Russert was Media Matters, the liberal press-watching website founded by former Clinton-hater turned Clinton ally David Brock. Many in Washington believe the campaign feeds material to Brock’s site, as when Media Matters went after New York Times reporter Anne Kornblut last July after Kornblut misrendered a quote that led to an erroneous story claiming Hillary had criticized fellow Democrats. Not only did Clinton aides fume to the paper’s editors, but Media Matters pummeled Kornblut and the Times for several days. (A count of Media Matters stories from October found 39 headlines defending Clinton, compared to 15 for Obama and just one for John Edwards. A Media Matters spokesman strongly denied favoritism.)
Gosh, I just can’t imagine why anyone would believe Media Matters would be partial to Hillary Clinton over the rest of Democratic presidential hopeful pack, can you?
It gets even more interesting:
Sometimes, Hillary even gets in the act. According to Gerth and Van Natta, Kornblut was just back from a planned vacation she took after her story appeared when she ran into Hillary in a hotel. Referring to Kornblut’s casual attire, Hillary cracked, “Anne, I thought you left Barbados”–revealing an ominous awareness of the reporter’s movements. “That’s their imprimatur,” says the Democratic strategist with presidential experience. “When there’s a story they don’t like, they seize on it and turn it back on the reporter, and make it about the reporter.” (As First Lady, Hillary called for a public “frontal assault” against The Washington Post‘s lead Whitewater reporter, Susan Schmidt, according to the Post’s Howard Kurtz, though the plan was never enacted.)
If you don’t read anything else today, please read that article in full.
Hillary Clinton started off her presidential campaign talking about how she wanted to have a “conversation” with America. Well sure she does, as long as the conversation revolves around 1) what “wonderful” things she’s done as both First Lady (all the while restricting access to the archives of the work she did as First Lady) and Senator of NY and how she’ll do even more “good things” as president, 2) as long as she knows what questions are going to be asked of her in advance, and 3) as long as the mean ol’ “boys club” doesn’t pick on her, cause if they do, her hubby will rush in to the rescue.
Rest assured that most of the same people who have relentlessly slammed the Bush admininstration’s “secrecy” with regards to the information that comes out of the WH will give La Clinton, the modern day master of controlling the message, a pass. The few who do attack her over this will do so only because they support one of her opponents.
And as far as the MSM’s culpability is concerned, are you surprised?
Tue PM Update: Just read via the Anchoress that Drudge has an item up on his site with an allegation that the Hillary campaign has sent a warning to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in advance of the Dem debate set to take place on Thursday:
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer has been warned not to focus Thursday’s Dem debate on Hillary. ‘This campaign is about issues, not on who we can bring down and destroy,’ top Clinton insider explains. ‘Blitzer should not go down to the levels of character attack and pull ‘a Russert.” Blitzer is set to moderate debate from Vegas, with questions also being posed by Suzanne Malveaux… Developing…
John Hawkins is right on the mark:
Doesn’t Hillary seem like she’s a little too delicate to handle the Presidency? After all, you can’t get all teary eyed if 2 or 3 world leaders decide to “pile on” you or if the press ramps up their normal all out assault on you a notch or two.
Yep. For all the talk about how “tough” she is, she’s proving suprisingly weak when it comes to defending her policy positions against fair criticisms. And if she can’t take the heat from mostly like-minded individuals like Obama, she definitely won’t hold up well on the national and world stage.