UPDATE: In an August 13 blog post, New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal praised Maureen Dowd for the "masterful" analysis in her latest column of a recent Hillary Clinton interview. He did not address the criticism of that column.
Maureen Dowd's long descent into anti-Clinton self-parody hit a new low last night when she managed to transition from discussing the death of Robin Williams to an attack on Hillary Clinton.
In her August 12 column following the news that Williams died in an apparent suicide, Dowd opened by recounting an interview she once conducted with the comedian, before abruptly transitioning into an attack on Hillary Clinton (emphasis added):
As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly's idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you'd have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.
I couldn't wait to play the tape for Kelly, who doubled over in laughter.
So when I think of Williams, I think of Kelly. And when I think of Kelly, I think of Hillary, because Michael was the first American reporter to die in the Iraq invasion, and Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.
Dowd's bizarre segue was immediately greeted with widespread ridicule from both conservatives and liberals.
Conservative website Twitchy -- which Media Matters agrees with very seldomly -- asked, "How does that make any sense whatsoever?" The site also highlighted criticism from numerous pundits, including NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who wondered whether "the New York Times is too embarrassed to edit Maureen Dowd anymore"; Bay Area News Group editor Daniel Jimenez, who called the column "stupefyingly embarrassing" and posited that Dowd was "destroying" the Times' brand; and Forbes contributor Tom Watson, who said the Times should "be ashamed."
Fox News contributor Mary Katharine Ham, writing for conservative site Hot Air, called Dowd's transition from Williams to Clinton "the most graceless, tacky, incoherent segue in recent memory." Referencing Dowd's ill-fated experiment with edible marijuana, Washington Examiner senior writer Philip Klein wrote, "From now on, I'm just gonna assume that Maureen Dowd writes all her columns from a Denver hotel room." (Examiner colleague Tim Carney replied, "I literally assumed there was an editing error.")
Several critics noted Dowd's tendency to turn any news event into an attack on the Clintons. Wonkette's Rebecca Schoenkopf called the piece "as glowing an example of Maureen Dowd's Hillary vendetta as any we've seen yet," while Mother Jones' Kevin Drum asked, "I wonder if there's anything left in the world that doesn't remind Dowd of Hillary Clinton?"
The answer is no. Dowd's bizarre obsession with Hillary Clinton dates back more than two decades, during which she has attacked the former secretary of state and first lady in at least 141 columns. A Media Matters analysis of Dowd's work since 1993 found that the columnist has repeatedly used popular culture references to attack Clinton, managing to link her to everything from the movie The Stepford Wives to a Picasso painting.
From the August 13 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has attempted to scandalize the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation in two consecutive columns, even as colleague Nicholas Kristof prepares to participate in the Clintons' charitable events for the sixth straight year.
Dowd's attacks on the Clinton Foundation are the latest salvo in her decades-long anti-Clinton campaign.
In her July 19 column, Dowd baselessly criticized the "foundation dishabille" as part of the "percussive drama" that supposedly surrounds the Clintons. Dowd devoted her July 12 column to lashing out at Chelsea Clinton for giving paid speeches and donating the fees to the Clinton Foundation, an activity which Dowd described as somehow "unseemly."
The Clinton Foundation's website says its mission is "to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment." But Dowd baselessly smeared the Foundation as a phony organization intended solely to benefit the Clinton family, claiming that Chelsea Clinton was "joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc." by giving her speaking fees to the Clinton Foundation rather than donating the proceeds to "some independent charity not designed to burnish the Clinton name as her mother ramps up to return to the White House and as she herself drops a handkerchief about getting into politics."
Dowd's criticism raises questions about The New York Times' position on the Foundation given Dowd colleague Nicholas Kristof's involvement in Clinton charitable events through the Clinton Global Initiative. Founded by President Clinton in 2005 and merged into the broader Clinton Foundation last year, CGI brings together global leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors to help solve pressing international issues.
Kristof has participated in CGI's annual meeting in each of the last five years, either by delivering remarks or moderating panels. In a 2010 "CGI Stories" video, Kristof praised the group, saying, "There has been a bit of a change in how global poverty and global health is perceived and I think what's happening at CGI both reflects that and also helps shape it."
In an interview with Media Matters, Kristof said CGI events give him "a chance to meet people who converge from around the world" that are focused on issues that interest him, such as global women's rights, development, and education. He said that he plans to attend the group's annual meeting in September if he is invited. He declined to comment on Dowd's work.
The Times also declined to comment on the tension between Dowd's campaign to scandalize the foundation and Kristof's continued relationship with it.
The paper's Ethical Journalism handbook suggests that the paper has not institutionally adopted Dowd's critique. It states that Times journalists "must consult with the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor" before addressing "groups that might figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise, especially if the setting might suggest a close relationship to the sponsoring group." It also bars them from accepting "invitations to speak where their function is to attract customers to an event primarily intended as profit-making."
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who criticized Chelsea Clinton's speaking fees as "unseemly," brings home less than half as much as the former first daughter for her own paid engagements.
American Program Bureau, one of two speaking bureaus that broker speaking appearances for Dowd, said she receives an average of $30,000 per appearance, plus travel expenses. An APB agent who requested anonymity, confirmed Dowd averages at least eight to 12 such appearances per year.
Dowd's other speaking bureau, All-American Speakers, declined to release fee information for Dowd.
This is less than half of the $75,000 Chelsea Clinton receives per event according to a previous New York Times story. That article noted that all of her fees go to the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which "works to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment."
Dowd, who has a decades-long history of viciously criticizing President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, took on their daughter this past Sunday in a column that said there was "something unseemly" about the younger Clinton being paid to speak:
Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?
Dowd went on to write that if Clinton "really wants to be altruistic," she should "contribute the money to some independent charity not designed to burnish the Clinton name" or "speak for free."
Could the same be said of Dowd's own work on the paid speaking circuit? She has appeared at college campuses ranging from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to Hofstra University and the University of Rochester in the past. Her paid appearances have also spanned the likes of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Temple B'nai Abraham in Livingston, N.J.
"We don't pay all of our speakers, but in her case I am sure we did," said Dan Anderson, vice president for university relations at Elon University in Elon, N.C., where Dowd spoke in 2012.
Dowd did not respond to a request for comment seeking to determine whether she donates her speaking fees to charity.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd posited that there is "something unseemly" about recent reports Chelsea Clinton gives speeches that raise up to $75,000 per appearance for the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
A July 9 article in The Times discussed Clinton's foray into public speaking appearances on behalf of the Clinton Foundation. The Times quoted a Clinton spokesperson who explained that "100 percent of the fees" Clinton receives are "remitted directly to the foundation," and that "the majority of Chelsea's speeches are unpaid." According to The Times, "Ms. Clinton's speeches focus on causes like eradicating waterborne diseases." (The Clinton Foundation's website says its mission is "to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment.")
In a July 13 column, Dowd took issue with Clinton's speaking arrangements, writing that the former first daughter is "acting out in a sense now, joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc." Dowd also suggested that Clinton's speaking fee means she has "open[ed] herself up to criticism that she is gobbling whopping paychecks not commensurate with her skills, experience or role in life."
"There's something unseemly about it," Dowd continued, "making one wonder: Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?"
For more than twenty years, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has been attacking Hillary Clinton from a shallow well of insults, routinely portraying the former secretary of state and first lady as an unlikeable, power-hungry phony.
Media Matters analyzed 195 columns by Dowd since November 1993 containing significant mentions of Clinton for whether they included any of 16 negative tropes in five categories (listed in the below methodology). 72 percent (141 columns) were negative towards Clinton -- only 8 percent (15 columns) were positive. The remaining 20 percent (39 columns) were neutral.
For example, Dowd has repeatedly accused Clinton of being an enemy to or betraying feminism (35 columns, 18 percent of those studied), power-hungry (51 columns, 26 percent), unlikeable (9 columns, 5 percent), or phony (34 columns, 17 percent). She's also attacked the Clintons as a couple in 43 columns (22 percent), many of which included Dowd's ham-handed attempts at psychoanalysis.
Dowd's latest column discussed Clinton's book tour for her new memoir Hard Choices. In a tortured comparison, Dowd compared Clinton to Elsa from the popular Disney movie Frozen. Dowd concluded, "Those close to them think that the queen of Hillaryland and the Snow Queen from Disney's 'Frozen' have special magical powers, but worry about whether they can control those powers, show their humanity and stir real warmth in the public heart."
Dowd described Clinton's memoir as "a testament to caution and calculation," an accusation she has lobbed at the former secretary state for decades. Dowd called Clinton "scarred and defensive" and asserted that she lives in an "ice palace." The Frozen comparison is one of dozens of pop culture references Dowd has invoked in her writing about Clinton.
Dowd has stuck to this script for over two decades now, and shows no signs of letting go.
Maureen Dowd wants to feel young again.
Already looking ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign, the New York Times columnist wrote on Sunday that elections are supposed to make you feel "young and excited." But Dowd fretted that that's just not possible if Hillary Clinton is one of the nominees.
Dowd insisted it was the prospect of a Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush battle that drove her to distraction: "The looming prospect of another Clinton-Bush race makes us feel fatigued," she wrote. But as the column made clear, it was Hillary who caused the pundit the most grief, especially the prospect of "dredging up memories of a presidency that was eight years of turbulence."
It's a familiar press refrain. The Los Angeles Times recently wondered if "lingering fatigue from the serial melodramas of Bill Clinton's administration" would hurt Hillary's possible presidential chances. And The New Yorker's 's Jill Lepore suggested documents recently released by the Clinton presidential library would reignite old "concerns" about Hillary's "unethical" behavior.
Please note the pundit-voter disconnect.
"Democrats appear overwhelmingly eager for a Clinton candidacy," as the New York Times noted last week in an piece analyzing the results of a new poll. But D.C. pundits and Beltway media insiders are another story. Unconcerned with the desires of voters who traditionally pick leaders based on who they think will make America a safe and prosperous place to live, pundits fret more about "fatigue," as if would-be candidates are stars on a long-running television series.
The irony is that if anyone's creating Clinton fatigue this year, it's the same journalists who claim she's already played out. For the week of February 10-16, the three all-news cable channels aired more than 400 minutes of Hillary coverage, according to Mediaite. And here's a sampling of the Times' recent Clinton coverage from just a recent three-day window:
So yes, I can see why some journalists are complaining about fatigue. The odd part? They're the ones firmly committed to relentlessly covering someone who hasn't announced whether she'll run for president, and for an election that won't be held for more than 900 days. Journalists are complaining about a Beltway ailment that they alone can cure: Stop acting like there's a presidential election in three months.
Clinton Fatigue, heal thyself.
Just days after the government shutdown came to an end, and with public opinion polls continuing to show that the Republican Party paid a grave price for its radical and shortsighted maneuver, Meet The Press host David Gregory wanted to discuss President Obama's failure to lead.
Pointing to a mocking National Journal piece by Ron Fournier, that was headlined "Obama Wins! Big Whoop. Can He Lead?" Gregory pressed his guests about when Obama would finally "demonstrate he can bring along converts to his side and actually get something meaningful accomplished." Gregory was convinced the president had to shoulder "a big part of the responsibility" for the shutdown crisis, due to the president's failed leadership. New York Times columnist David Brooks agreed Obama is at fault, stressing "The question he's never answered in all these years is, 'How do I build a governing majority in this circumstance?'"
Gregory, Brooks and Fournier were hardly alone in suggesting that Obama's a failed leader. Why a failure? Because a Democratic president beset by Republicans who just implemented a crazy shutdown strategy hasn't been able to win them to his side.
In her post-shutdown New York Times column, Maureen Down ridiculed Obama, claiming he "always manages to convey tedium at the idea that he actually has to persuade people to come along with him, given the fact that he feels he's doing what's right." (i.e. Obama's too arrogant to lead.)
And in a lengthy Boston Globe piece last week addressing Obama's failure to achieve unity inside the Beltway, Matt Viser wrote that Obama "bears considerable responsibility" for the Beltway's fractured, dysfunctional status today (it's "his biggest failure") because "his leadership style" has "angered countless conservatives, who have coalesced into a fiercely uncompromising opposition." That's right, it's Obama's fault his critics hate him so much.
Talk about blaming the political victim.
As an example of Obama's allegedly vexing "leadership style," Viser pointed to the fact Democrats passed a health care reform bill without the support of a single Republican. That "helped spur the creation of the Tea Party and a "de-fund Obamacare" movement," according to the Globe. But that's false. The ferocious anti-Obama Tea Party movement exploded into plain view on Fox News 12 months before the party-line health care vote took place in early 2010. Obama's "leadership style" had nothing to do with the fevered right-wing eruption that greeted his inauguration.
The GOP just suffered a humiliating shutdown loss that has its own members pointing fingers of blame at each other. So of course pundits have turned their attention to Obama and pretended the shutdown was a loss for him, too. Why? Because the Beltway media rules stipulate if both sides were to blame for the shutdown that means both sides suffered losses. So pundits pretend the crisis highlighted Obama's glaring lack of leadership.
But did it? Does that premise even make sense? Isn't there a strong argument to be made that by staring down the radicals inside the Republican Party who closed the government down in search of political ransom that Obama unequivocally led? And that he led on behalf of the majority of Americans who disapproved of the shutdown, who deeply disapprove of the Republican Party, and who likely did not want Obama to give in to the party's outlandish demands?
Doesn't leadership count as standing up for what you believe in and not getting run over; not getting trucked by hard-charging foes?
The New York Times coverage of the 2008 presidential race was "decidedly stereotypical," according to a new study, whose author fears a similar "gendered agenda" may occur in the 2016 race.
"At the aggregate level, what I found was that Clinton's gender was mentioned much more so than her male competitors and that she also received less issue coverage than her male competitors," said Lindsey Meeks, whose study appears in the September 2013 issue of the Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly.
Meeks is a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington's Department of Communications whose area of specialty includes how the news media covers the gender of political candidates.
For the peer-reviewed study, Meeks performed a content analysis of a random sampling of New York Times coverage of Hillary Clinton from her official candidate announcement in January 2007 to her formal withdrawal in June 2008, as well as a random sampling of the Times' coverage of Sarah Palin from the announcement of her nomination for the vice presidency through Election Day.
Articles were coded for whether they used gender labels like "husband" or "mother" to describe Clinton, Palin, or their male opponents; whether the articles mentioned their positions on so-called "feminine" issues such as health care, education, women's rights, reproductive rights, and social welfare and "masculine" issues that included military/defense, crime, economy, and foreign policy; and whether the Times applied to each candidate character traits that are seen as "feminine," such as compassion, emotionality, honesty, altruism, and congeniality, or "masculine," such as strength, independence, aggressiveness, and confidence.
The University of Washington study discovered that the Times applied gender labels 6.5 percent more often to Clinton than to male candidates. It also said Clinton received significantly more gender label coverage than Barack Obama and John McCain. "Notably, the Times provided similar volumes of gender coverage for Clinton and Palin, 17.5% and 18.8%, respectively," the report said. "Thus, despite running for different offices, their gender was emphasized similarly."
Meeks concluded from the data that the Times was "upholding the news norm of focusing on how women are deviant in politics" and that while the emphasis "could be interpreted positively... news coverage of women's gender often sets a more negative tone and communicates to readers that women simply do not fit."
The report noted that the Times emphasized "masculine" issue coverage anywhere from two-and-a-half to five times more than "feminine" issue coverage. It added that "the most dramatic shift was for masculine issue coverage: from the first month to the rest of the election, Times masculine issue coverage of Clinton dropped in half, from approximately 58% to 28%."
Meeks writes that the focus on "masculine" issue coverage overall may have disadvantaged Clinton, stating that "the lower coverage of feminine content could have detrimental effects on women politicians' chances." She also points out that "skewing toward masculinity in news, coupled with the gender stereotypes found in society, can create a stereotyping cycle" that strengthens gender barriers for women.
The study also found that while Clinton and Palinreceived often contrasting tonal coverage, they received similar amounts of "masculine" and "feminine" trait coverage:
Clinton and Palin were very different. Clinton was seen as cold, calculating, and overly ambitious, whereas Palin was perceived as a concerned "hockey mom," known for her down-home, folksy mannerisms. Yet the Times gave these women virtually the same amount of feminine and masculine trait coverage. This suggests that no matter how different two women may be or how hard they try to portray themselves as distinctive, the press will most likely cast them in a similar mold.
Maureen Dowd launched a snide and hollow attack on the Clinton family that is lacking in substantive criticism but filled with sneering invective and attempts at witty analogies.
Dowd's animus for the Clintons goes back decades and in that time, she's never shied away from peddling conservative lies about Hillary. In 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the public editor of the Times, noted the volume of Dowd's "gender-laden assault on Clinton" which was the focus of "28 of 44 columns" written before June of that year.
The absurd premise of Dowd's latest effort in her anti-Clinton campaign is that "if Americans are worried about money in politics, there is no larger concern than the Clintons." Dowd's claim jumps off a flawed New York Times article earlier this week that unearthed nothing.
Forget the Koch brothers and the hundreds of millions they spend directly influencing in the political process. Never mind the revolving door from K Street to government and back again. Erase the ramifications of the Citizens United decision and the avalanche of corporate money it unleashed on our electoral process from your mind. In Dowd's telling, Bill Clinton and his foundation's work around the world should be the focus of those who care about money in politics.
Like much of Dowd's work, her latest effort is calorically empty, filled with fun analogies, snarky shots, and titillating gossip, but leaving the reader no more enlightened for having read it.
Dowd devotes four full paragraphs to establishing the unremarkable fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton make money giving speeches around the world.
She invokes the "grotesque spectacle" of Anthony Weiner, but offers no explanation of how the travails of the New York Mayoral candidate and his wife connect to Dowd's central thesis of money in politics. But Dowd has never been above taking the cheap shot.
In this week's episode of Maureen hates Hillary and Bill she compares the former first family Wile E. Coyote because "something is always blowing up."
Former administration official and current Clinton Foundation executive Ira Magaziner "continues to be a Gyro Gearloose, the inept inventor of Donald Duck's Duckburg."
Dowd dismisses the work of the Clinton Foundation entirely, writing "we are supposed to believe that every dollar given to a Clinton is a dollar that improves the world. But is it?"
Yet nowhere does she mention the product of the Clinton Foundation's efforts, like the fact that "5 million people" and "500,000 children" around the world now "have access to low cost, high quality AIDS treatments." That is insignificant compared to Dowd's disgust for having to "read the words Ira Magaziner again."
She attacks Magaziner for gathering ideas for a proposal to fight climate change that "never got off the ground" but neglects to mention the annual reduction of "248 million tons" Clinton's C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is expected to achieve by 2020.
Dowd's New York Times column is the rhetorical equivalent of a Cinnabon - it has an alluring smell that draws you in, yet leaves a sick feeling in your stomach when you stare down at the greasy cardboard container and recognize the sheer amount of crap you just consumed.
And that's just the type of analogy Maureen Dowd would love to use.
It's clear in Dowd's mind the 2016 race has begun. With the majority of her recent columns mentioning the Clintons, we can expect her to repeat this pace again - yet all of her columns are united in the absence of a single critical ingredient - substance.
For the fifth time, Maureen Dowd recycled an inapt literary analogy comparing Bill and Hillary Clinton to the characters Tom and Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in her July 31 New York Times column.
The comparison has its origins in the phony Whitewater scandal in the mid-1990s, a period when much of the Washington press corps, including the Times, fell prey to an anti-Clinton fever that began with the Clintons' political enemies in the right-wing. Numerous independent investigations, several helmed by Republicans, found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons related to the decades-old land deal, yet the faulty characterization, which originated with columnist Joe Klein, author of a fictional anti-Clinton book, lives on at the Times 18 years later.
Klein's August 6, 1995, column for Newsweek focused on the Senate's Whitewater hearings, which he described as a "scavenger hunt through a sewer" that exposed "the perverse ways of this administration." He concluded with a description of "the most disturbing Whitewater 'revelation'":
It is about the character of the Clintons. They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. The Buchanans, you may recall, were E Scott Fitzgerald's brilliant crystallization of flapper fecklessness in "The Great Gatsby." They were "careless" people. They smashed up lives and didn't notice. After two years, it's become difficult to avoid a distinguishing characteristic of this administration: the body count. Too many lives and reputations have been ruined by carelessness, too many decent people have been forced to walk the plank for trivialities, appearances, changes of mind. Whitewater has been the worst of it.
Four days later, Dowd would pick up the analogy in her Times column:
As with Presidents Nixon and Reagan, the landscape is littered with aides taking the fall. As Joe Klein wrote of the Clintons in Newsweek: "They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. . . . They smashed up lives and didn't notice. . . . How could the First Lady allow her chief of staff to spend $140,000 on legal fees? Why hasn't she come forward and said . . . 'I'll testify.' "
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is mischaracterizing the aftermath of the September attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in an effort to promote her claim that Hillary Clinton's aides engaged in "obfuscation."
In her May 12 column, Dowd writes that Gregory Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission in Libya during the attacks and testified before Congress May 8, "believes he was demoted because he spoke up" about the Obama administration's characterization of the attacks in a meeting with Beth Jones, an undersecretary of state.
In fact, Hicks' change of position came after he voluntarily decided not to return to Libya; he subsequently testified that the "overriding factor" in that decision was that his family didn't want him to go back. According to the State Department, that decision took him out of the regular cycle in which Foreign Service officers are assigned, resulting in him being placed in a temporary position as a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs. According to State, Hicks retains the same rank and pay, and has submitted a preference list and is under consideration for his next assignment.
Dowd further claimed:
Hillary's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, also called Hicks to angrily ask why a State Department lawyer had not been allowed to monitor every meeting in Libya with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who visited in October. (The lawyer did not have the proper security clearance for one meeting.) Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, has been a rabid Hillary critic on Fox News since the attack. Hicks said he had never before been scolded for talking to a lawmaker.
But Hicks himself never described Mills as angry. In his testimony, Hicks acknowledged that Mills had offered no "direct criticism" of his actions, but cited the "tone and nuance" of Mills' voice during their conversation as indicating she was "unhappy" (Hicks later repeated a congressional Republican's description of Hicks as "upset.")
In painting this as part of a pattern of obfuscation, Dowd also ignored the administration's explanation for why Mills would have wanted a State Department lawyer present for Hicks' meeting with Chaffetz - a State Department official told Dowd's paperthat department policy requires one to be present during interviews for Congressional investigations.
Dowd's commentary follows that of Fox News hosts who have baselessly described Hicks as being "excoriated," "reprimanded," or "punished" by Mills - a characterization promoted by the false frame that Congressional Republicans pushed in their questioning of Hicks.
Looking back at the Senate's failure last week to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, CT., Slate's John Dickerson writes that the bill fell victim to "the structure of the Senate, its partisan makeup, and pressure from gun rights advocates."
I guess that's one way of putting it. Another way of putting it is that Republicans continued to adhere to their unprecedented, four-year campaign of obstructionism and blocked a bill, whose central proposal, expanded background checks, enjoyed a stunning 90 percent support from the American public. But that's not the story Beltway pundits and reporters want to tell.
Instead, with the political postmortems continuing to come in, it's clear the press remains committed to blaming Obama and Democrats for the failure of gun legislation. It's clear the press will not budget from its preferred storyline that as long as Republicans obstruct Obama's agenda, the president will be faulted for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior.
And yes, in recent days the level of purposeful obtuseness has reached astonishing heights. In the wake of the bitter gun bill defeat, the DC press wants to tell one story, and one story only: Obama blew it. And they're so committed to the crooked narrative that they're now willing to completely write Republicans out of the story.
How committed? Slate's Dickerson wrote a 1,000-word piece about the gun bill and never once typed the word "Republican." (Or "GOP.") For Dickerson, Republicans weren't players in the gun bill saga, and they certainly weren't the reason it failed to pass. Instead, it failed because of the "president's limitations as a negotiator." And why was that? Because Obama "couldn't master the art of politics," Dickerson wrote.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd agreed, claiming the bill's defeat represented a "glaring example" of Obama's weakness. She ridiculed the president for not having "learned how to govern."
And an April 23 front-page New York Times report offered the similar refrain:
If he cannot translate the support of 90 percent of the public for background checks into a victory on Capitol Hill, what can he expect to accomplish legislatively for his remaining three and a half years in office.
The fact is that a majority of Republicans blocked the bill, and blocked even allowing debate on the gun safety bill. But that is now deemed to be irrelevant. Obama's supposed personal and professional shortcomings last week are the real story.
Is the president fair game for criticism and second-guessing in the wake of the gun bill's failure? Of course. Is Obama the only reason the gun bill didn't pass? He is not. But boy, the pundit class and elite reporters sure like to pretend he is.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's April 21 column on President Obama and the blocking of gun safety legislation is drawing no shortage of criticism for its determined obliviousness of how DC politics actually work. Per Dowd, the votes for the Manchin-Toomey expansion of the background check system were there, Obama just needed to take a page from Aaron Sorkin's "The American President" and go on an arm-twisting charm offensive with recalcitrant Republicans and Democrats. Just a few months ago, however, Dowd wrote that Republicans would spend Obama's second term blowing off the White House and reflexively opposing his policy initiatives (including gun safety measures) in order to isolate him politically. She also mocked Obama for saying he would employ the same political tactics she now decries him for not effectively using.
Here's how Dowd saw the Manchin-Toomey debate arriving at a successful conclusion:
It's unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate. It was a glaring example of his weakness in using leverage to get what he wants. No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him.
Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls.
The White House should have created a war room full of charts with the names of pols they had to capture, like they had in "The American President." Soaring speeches have their place, but this was about blocking and tackling.
Instead of the pit-bull legislative aides in Aaron Sorkin's movie, Obama has Miguel Rodriguez, an arm-twister so genteel that The Washington Post's Philip Rucker wrote recently that no one in Congress even knows who he is.
Dowd even singled out some blue-state Republican senators whom she thought might have been vulnerable to the Sorkin-esque strategy: "He should have gone out to Ohio, New Hampshire and Nevada and had big rallies to get the public riled up to put pressure on Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte and Dean Heller, giving notice that they would pay a price if they spurned him on this." She also picked out Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) as someone who could have been swayed by a sweet-talking from Obama. But Dowd herself previously derided the idea that such tactics would be effective.
With Politico announcing that even "average Americans" are consumed with the question of whether Hillary Clinton will be running for president 40 months from now, the Beltway press corps has officially slipped into Hillary Watch mode. It's a mostly lazy and pointless variety of speculation that requires very little work and produces even less insight.
In fact, perhaps the only telling trait that's been highlighted came via longtime Clinton hater Maureen Dowd, who signaled in her New York Times column on Sunday that she's committed to rewriting the history of her 2008 campaign coverage. I assume Dowd won't be alone as pundits scramble in the face of Clinton's rising popularity to whitewash the extraordinary venom they unleashed on her during her last White House run.
When not detailing Hillary's "hot pink jacket" and new hairstyle, Dowd in her weekend column wondered whether voters will see a new and improved candidate in 2012, one without the "foolery" of 2008, as the headline put it.
"Foolery," as in Clinton acting with ambition and wanting to be taken seriously as a national leader. "Foolery," as in Clinton representing an historic female figure on the campaign trail. (Dowd hated that in 2008: "Hillary often aims to use gender to her advantage, or to excuse mistakes.")
A sizable portion of the D.C. punditocracy, led by Dowd, lost its collective mind covering the Clintons five years ago. They were so far gone that the former first lady's coverage at times represented a house of mirrors featuring manufactured smears and controversies. (See here, here and here.)
And oh yeah, the sexism.
But that's not to be acknowledged now, especially as pundits pass their time "analyzing" Clinton's future. See, according to Dowd it's not the press that needs to learn from its monumental mistakes in 2008, it's Clinton.