Hillary Clinton has been getting such bad press lately that you’d think she was a Republican, and one can’t help wondering why. The recent revelation that she used only a private e-mail account during her tenure as Secretary of State is an important story, involving security risks and avoidance of public scrutiny and possible violations of federal law, but the Benghazi fiasco was an even more important story, involving four dead Americans and outright deceptions of the public and a galling disregard for the First Amendment, and the press was largely willing to give her a pass on that. One might attribute the Benghazi coverage to the press’ loyalty to President Barack Obama during an election years, but scandals involving Clinton have been popping up perennially over the past 25 years, and none have been covered by the more polite press organs with such scathing skepticism, so it all seems very curious.
The timing, for one thing, is downright suspicious. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State ended nearly two years ago, and the e-mail account was set up before she even began her four years on the job, so a more diligent Washington press corps might have discovered the story long ago, and the story is breaking nearly two before she assumes the presidency that the press has long been assuring us is her destiny, which suggests a few possibilities. One theory we find plausible is that someone in the White House leaked the story to complicate Clinton’s candidacy, partly out of a long held spite and partly for fear that she’ll take a politically expedient stand against the disastrous deal that the administration is trying to make with the Iranian government regarding its nuclear weapons. Some have suggested that the press is doing Clinton’s bidding by unveiling the story now so it can be long forgotten by the autumn of ’16, and any Republican complaints or investigations can be made to seem petty and vindictive. Our preferred explanation is that much of the press has simply decided of its own accord, and with the tacit approval of the Obama administration, that it doesn’t want Clinton to be the Democratic party’s presidential nominee.
If the press is trying to do Clinton’s bidding by covering the e-mail scandal now, they’ve done so to a point of killing her with kindness. The most established of the establishment press have all frankly acknowledged the security risks and the avoidance of public scrutiny and the possible violations of federal, and treated her explanations with a skepticism of the sort that Clintons are not accustomed to, and even threw mentions of all those past scandals they once obligingly downplayed. Nor is the timing at all helpful to Clinton’s presidential candidacy. The scandal might be long forgotten by election day of ’16, but now is the time that the Democrats need to be scared into finding other candidates who can start raising the necessary funds and putting together the sophisticated campaign operation that will be need by that not-so-far-off date.
In addition to all those damning stories about the e-mails, the press has also been producing a steady stream of stories speculating about possible candidates the Democrats might choose other than Clinton. Most of those pieces are frankly alarmed that the Democrats don’t seem to have many appealing options, and it would be hard to pretend otherwise. All the speculation includes Vice President Joe Biden, which always induces rubbing of palms and gleeful cackling from Republicans, and the equally ridiculous but not as widely ridiculed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who insists she is not running, and it looks as if somebody named Jim Webb, who apparently was a Senator from Virginia for a while and wrote some books and ran the Navy, is also running. Lately there’s also been a lot of talk about somebody named Martin O’Malley, who apparently used to be governor of Maryland, and who did such a swell job of it that he was succeeded by the state’s first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew, as well as some wishful thinking about Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders, who admits he is a socialist, and Deval Patrick, who admits to having been a governor of Massachusetts. It’s not an all-star lineup even by press standards, but with the old press narrative of Clinton’s inevitability out the way a knight in shining armor might yet be enticed onto the field or perhaps one of the aforementioned candidates can be transformed into one.
The press already seems somewhat smitten with that O’Malley fellow, running pictures of him looking buff and stylish as he plays guitar in some club that looks like the ones the “Friends” sit-com characters would haunt, and he’s so little-known that the possibilities for creating a legend are nearly endless. Patrick was also succeeded by a Republican, the first in his heavily Democratic state since some fellow named Mitt Romney, and he’s currently facing ethics, but he’s black, which no longer has such presidential novelty but still has some significance in Democratic politics, and he also has the advantage of being little-known outside his state. Webb’s one term as Senator was undistinguished, his books have riled feminists and his stint as Navy Secretary will surely unnerve party’s pacifists, but the press could probably do something with him. The nomination of the first admitted socialist as the Democratic party would be a generations-old dream of the press come true, but so far they don’t seem to dare wish for it. They are clearly pining for Warren, who is just as female as Clinton but even more liberal and thus far so much less known that the possibilities for her legend are endless, but it will seemingly require Clinton’s exit from the race to Warren’s entrance.
Some of the press seem to worry that Warren’s stridently populist rhetoric might scare away the big money donors required to fund even a Democratic presidential campaign, but the big money donors don’t mind stridently populist rhetoric so long as the Fed keeps printing money and interest rates are low and regulatory policies remain favorable for warding off pesky competition. Wall Street happily funded six years of bashing by Obama, the investment has paid off handsomely, and there’s no reason to believe that Warren or some similarly tough-talking candidate won’t be just as agreeable. With plenty of money on hand, and the press back to its usual job of aiming all its scathing skepticism at Republicans, and the Republicans doing their usual job of obliging the press with bone-headed mistakes, any liberal Democrat will have a good shot at retaining the party’s control of the White House. Thus the sudden realization that it doesn’t have to be Clinton.
They waited until almost the last moment, but all those reporters and pundits cloistered in the capital also seem to have realized that Clinton might well be the least likely winner among the contenders. She’s still leading in all the polls, but at this point that’s all due to name recognition, and her namely is widely recognized largely because she’s been mentioned in so many scandalous stories. She’s also been mentioned in conspicuously few stories about actual accomplishments, and her “reset” diplomacy with Russia and war in Libya and her assessment of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as a “reformer” and her friendliness toward the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of her Secretary of State years are looking about as good as her time in the Senate, and the $300,000-a-pop speeches and corporate board memberships and multiple mansions that she struggled to pay her mortgages on are going to make the “economic fairness” shtick a hard sell, and her husband’s flights on a billionaire pervert’s private plane to his island full of underage girls won’t help with the feminist pitch, and Clinton’s unpleasant personality on the campaign trail is unlikely to smooth it all over. Without the full support of the most prominent media backing Clinton, any conservative Republican might have a good shot at taking the White House, so the press has to knock Clinton out of the race early or hope that their past reports will soon be long forgotten and then back her until the end.
— Bud Norman