Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Clinton Double Standard

Michael Tomasky, Paul Waldman and Paul Krugman have all written excellent pieces about how the media in this country have been focusing hard on Hillary Clinton's scandals, while at the same time, turning almost a blind eye and a deaf ear to Donald Trump's. It's as though one candidate is operating under a different set of rules from the other. Tomasky, for his part, didn't mince words. He actually titled his piece, "Yes, There Is A Clinton Double Standard." To which I would agree.

The truth is when you look at both candidates objectively and from a quantitative perspective, there are a lot more skeletons in Trump's closet than there are in Clinton's. But the media tends to over saturate the Clinton scandals while barely scratching the surface of Trump's. Walkman explains:

The big difference is that there are an enormous number of reporters who get assigned to write stories about those issues regarding Clinton. The story of something like the Clinton Foundation gets stretched out over months and months with repeated tellings, always with the insistence that questions are being raised and the implication that shady things are going on, even if there isn’t any evidence at a particular moment to support that idea. 
When it comes to Trump, on the other hand, we’ve seen a very different pattern. Here’s what happens: A story about some kind of corrupt dealing emerges, usually from the dogged efforts of one or a few journalists; it gets discussed for a couple of days; and then it disappears. Someone might mention it now and again, but the news organizations don’t assign a squad of reporters to look into every aspect of it, so no new facts are brought to light and no new stories get written. 
The end result of this process is that because of all that repeated examination of Clinton’s affairs, people become convinced that she must be corrupt to the core. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of negative coverage of Trump, because of course there is, but it’s focused mostly on the crazy things he says on any given day.

Tomasky even delves into the media's double standard over Hillary's connection to the Clinton Foundation and Colin Powell's connection to his own foundation. He writes,
America’s Promise was headed by Alma Powell while Colin was secretary of state in the early 2000s and, according to Matthew Yglesias, got money from disgraced Enron CEO Ken Lay while the State Department was helping Enron resolve a dispute in India.

Why the difference in coverage? Yes, I know a lot of people would say because Colin Powell is clean and the Clintons are corrupt. I say the answer is more likely that Colin Powell didn’t have a Judicial Watch poking and prodding into every aspect of his life trying to make him look dirty and send him to jail. He also didn’t face an industry of “book” authors willing to print the most fantastical lies about him, lies gobbled up by hundreds of thousands of readers.
Walkman goes onto list the number of Trump scandals that, if the media actually did its job, would have led to hundreds of pieces being written about them. For example, while it's generally known that Trump filed for bankruptcy four times, the print media in this country have barely delved into the details of how those bankruptcies occurred and why. Curious that a candidate who is running on his business acumen hasn't had to explain at a single press conference why he so royally screwed up, not once but four times.

And then there is the matter of Trump University. A federal judge - the same judge that Trump slandered only a few months ago - last month rejected a motion by Trump's lawyers to dismiss a lawsuit against the university and is allowing the case to move forward. It was reported in The New York Times. While I'm sure other news agencies carried the story, the point is you would've had to dig pretty deep to find it. Just type in "Clinton", "email" and "foundation" and see what pops up.

Krugman points out that the Clinton Foundation has received an "A" rating by an independent watchdog, while the Trump Foundation was fined by the I.R.S. for making an illegal campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was investigating Trump University at the time. Spoiler alert, Bondi elected not to seek an indictment. Funny how that works.

Not only hasn't there been any coverage of the the former; the latter received only one mention, and in passing. Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson asked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about it. After Christie threw a hissy fit, Dickerson dropped the matter altogether. Now that's what I call testicular fortitude.

Of course there are many who would point out that Trump has gotten plenty of negative press over his incendiary comments along with his stance on immigration and "The Wall." But I would counter that placing a microphone and a camera in front of the most xenophobic presidential candidate in the history of the country is not journalism; t's the definition low-hanging fruit. Real journalism requires more than just scratching the surface; it requires a willingness to dig deep in order to find the story.

Look, I've been critical of Hillary over the use of her email server and the appearance of impropriety regarding the Foundation, and deservedly so. But the simple truth is that she has not committed any crimes regarding the former, and there's been no evidence of quid pro quo regarding the latter. Yet, while the media conveniently forgets to mention the above, it goes out of its way to report how these scandals are driving her unfavorables up. As Tomasky observed, there is a direct correlation between the amount of negative press Hillary gets and her increasing unpopularity, from "barely underwater" last summer to a present day "minus 15 to 17" depending on which poll you consult.

This negligence on the part of the media is not without precedent, but its timing in this case could not be more critical or potentially fatal. Hillary cannot stand idly by without calling attention to it. She and her campaign need to push back more aggressively, not by denying the truths about her conduct, but by pointing out how much good both she and the Foundation have done. They also need to start hammering Trump on his scandals, and fast, since it's clear the media has no stomach for it. Continuing to point out how racist and xenophobic Trump and many of his supporters are is like drawing water from the same well. Sooner or later they're going to run out of fresh water.

I realize such a policy has its risks. Voters may not like the pushback and could interpret it as a deflection. And the media, already "showing every sign of falling for each and every breathless Judicial Watch press release that lands in their inboxes without the least bit of skepticism and scrutiny," could turn on her but good. They might not like what Trump represents but deep down they've always despised her. But I would submit she doesn't have much of a choice. Right now she has become a human pieta, not just for the Far Right, but for most of the country. If she can't stop the bleeding she will lose in November.

These next two months will be critical for team Clinton. Expecting the main-stream media to do its job has, sadly, been the epitome of wishful thinking for more than two decades now. This November, its dereliction of duty could well prove to be the epitaph of the Republic.

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