Interlude—Two things they’re permitted to say: When the press corps pretends to discuss its own conduct, ranking pundits are permitted to make at least two different claims:
They’re permitted to say that they try to create competitive White House elections. Beyond that, they’re allowed to chuckle about how silly and shallow they are.
Last week, on two Morning Joe programs, Mark Halperin made some rather unpleasant claims about the press corps’ long-standing treatment of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
According to Halperin, Hillary Clinton “is destined is get horrible coverage if she runs for president.” Halperin said the national press corps “loves to cover her hard.”
last week, two different Morning Joe panels pretended to discuss those claims. As they did, pundits ran to each of their permitted self-descriptions.
Let’s start with the claim that they try to create competitive White House campaigns.
Several pundits said Clinton is going to get beaten up because she’s a prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination. Below, you see a statement by Donnie Deutsch in the second Morning Joe discussion. Deutsch is piggy-backing on something David Gregory had just said:
DEUTSCH (7/25/14): But the troubling thing, and I believe in addition to what David and Mark laid out very articulately are her problems, is just simple fatigue. It's just, you know, you see her picture, and do you want to turn the page at this point? Has there been, is it 22 years? And beyond the fact of her very, very, very contentious relationship with the media, it's just, are Americans just tired of looking at her—I don't mean from a physical point of view—and I think that's the big issue.Could the right Republican candidate heat her? We’d be inclined to say yes, although we don’t make predictions.
And if that is the issue people are not picking up the book, that's going to be difficult. So if you couple that with the media laying in wait because she is so formidable and laying in wait because there is no story if she just continues this march, on top of consumers’ fatigue, the right Republican candidate can beat her.
At any rate, Deutsch turned to possible “Clinton fatigue” as he tried to explain the disappointing sales of Clinton’s book. At the same time, he accepted Gregory’s description of standard press corps conduct:
The press is “laying in wait” for Clinton, Deutsch said, because “there is no story if she just continues this march” to the nomination and the White House.
Pundits routinely offer this account of their guild’s behavior. In late September 2000, Howard Fineman offered this explanation for the way his colleagues had just invented two new “lies” by Candidate Gore, who seemed to be pulling away from Candidate Bush in the national polls at the time.
Fourteen years later, Deutsch used Fineman’s specific language about the way the press corps tries to interrupt easy “marches” to the White House. Let’s recall what Fineman said to Brian Williams in September 2000:
“I don't think the media was going to allow, just by its nature, the next seven weeks and the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign to be all about Al Gore's relentless triumphant march to the presidency,” Fineman told Williams on September 21 of that year. “We want a race, I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it's that we like to see a contest, and we like to see it down to the end if we can.”
Is that why the press corps invented those “lies,” causing Gore to tumble back to even in the national polls? We have no idea, though it’s abundantly clear that the press corps had a much larger “bias” in that race than the one Fineman described.
That said, it’s interesting that Fineman felt free to describe the press corps’ motive that way, since he was describing overt journalistic misconduct as he did so.
To state the obvious, it’s not the business of the press corps to engineer closer White House campaigns. In tilting coverage to produce that end, a journalist would be engaging in obvious misconduct.
In the case of Campaign 2000, Fineman’s colleagues tilted the race so far back that Candidate Bush ended up in the White House. According to Fineman’s real-time analysis, people are dead all over the world because his colleagues “weren’t going to allow the last seven weeks of the campaign to be all about Al Gore's triumphant march to the presidency.”
Fineman was describing murderous conduct by his colleagues in the press. But so what? Journalists always seem to feel free to describe their motives in the way Fineman did.
Gregory and Deutsch, and several others, followed suit on last week's Morning Joe panels. Clinton is getting trashed, they said and implied, because their colleagues “aren’t going to allow the next several years to be all about Hillary Clinton’s triumphant march to the presidency.”
It’s amazing to see the ease with which major journalists cop to this type of conduct.
The Morning Joe panels also engaged in that second permitted statement concerning their own behavior. At the end of last Friday’s pseudo-discussion, Mika Brzezinski and Donnie Deutsch engaged in a bit of misdirection about how silly and shallow they and their colleagues are.
Brzezinski is brilliant at this phony brand of self-denigration. As the pundits’ feigned discussion neared its end, she and Deutsch imagined a happy ending to the recent trashing of Clinton for her damnable speaking fees.
They pictured Clinton rising about the “negative coverage” which, the show's pundits all seemed to agree, has been occurring for several decades. Pitifully, this misdirection occurred:
DEUTSCH: She needs her Bill Clinton/Arsenio sax moment. I mean, she needs—you used the word “reset.”Instead of discussing their own behavior, the pundits were now explaining what Clinton should do in response. As it turns out, she needs to have an Arsenio moment, preferably with Jimmy Fallon!
BRZEZINSKI: Yes! I think she can do that!
DEUTSCH: There needs to be— And by the way, there’s so much— By the way, do a great thing with Jimmy Fallon—
BRZEZINSKI: And you’re done!
DEUTSCH: There are so many opportunities—
BRZEZINSKI: Front page! We’re shallow!
If you have such a moment, “you’re done,” Mika cried! We’ll put your triumph on the front page! We’ll do that because “we’re shallow!”
In fairness, there is no doubt that Brzezinski is one of the shallowest members of this dishonest brigade. Just consider her statement about what Clinton should have said about her speaking fees—fees which have multimillionaires like Brzezinski so worried/troubled/upset.
We return to last Tuesday’s pseudo-discussion. In the exchange shown below, Halperin drops one of his bombs about the Clinton coverage.
Somewhat coherently, Mika wanders toward an account of what Clinton should have said. To watch that whole segment, click here.
Try to believe that she said it:
HALPERIN (7/22/14): [The Clintons] are held to a different standard. Look, you could go scrutinize the personal wealth of a lot of other people thinking of running for president. But it’s just not happening now.“Mine hasn’t been positive completely about her speaking fees?” When discussing her own behavior, Mika tends to move to a personal version of pigeon English which spews the gorilla dust.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, no, we did, with Mitt Romney, and it was different. And I’ve actually, you know, felt rather conflicted because I’ve had some reactions—
We react on this show very transparently to the news as it comes past us. And mine hasn’t been positive completely about her speaking fees.
Eugene and Julie—Eugene first. I’m just wondering, because in retrospect there was one thing I thought about that actually made me feel really good about the amount of her speaking fees that she was raking in. I’m just wondering if she could have deflected positively, Eugene, and said something like, “Well, aren’t you, aren’t you happy for me as a woman? Aren’t you glad that a woman can command such unbelievable speaking fees? And what men can do that, by the way? We are in a new era and I’m at the front of that line.”
What would be wrong with talking about the role of women in society, equal pay, and also women doing as well as men and sometimes outrageously well?
As she continued, Mika mused about the mammoth fees Clinton has been “raking in.” In the process, she offered an utterly ludicrous thought about what Clinton should have said.
Go ahead—watch the tape! According to Mika, Clinton should have said this:
“Aren’t you glad that a woman can command such unbelievable speaking fees? And what men can do that, by the way? We are in a new era and I’m at the front of that line.”
We rarely ask you to imagine possible outcomes. But surely, we all know what would have happened if Hillary Clinton, of all known humans, had made a statement anything like that.
Alas! This is the type of pseudo-discussion major pundits constantly stage when their own conduct has been called into question. Tomorrow, we’ll show you how Robinson answered that ridiculous question from Mika. And we’ll show you what Julie Pace, age 30, said when Mike Barnacle, age 70, asked her to explain his own long-standing behavior concerning the Clintons. (For background, see yesterday’s post.)
By the time Pace was done, Mika and Mike were ironically praising her comments. Julie Pace, a young guild member, was earning her stripes this day in the latest pseudo-discussion staged by this lawless band.
Tomorrow: Pace earns her stripes
Middle-class Mika: As of 2012, it was being widely reported that Brzezinski was being paid $2 million per year for her “shallow” conduct on Morning Joe.
That’s how much Brzezinski “rakes in.” Needless to say, she has been troubled by the news that Clinton rakes in even more.