Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Romney-ification Of Hillary Clinton

The latest media hullabaloo is, to quote Chuck Todd's "First Read" today, the "Romney-ification of Bill and Hillary Clinton." Through weeks of assiduous work, the media has done a rather elegant (if completely underhanded) two-step: Step One: Turn the Clinton Foundation, a charitable organization that has literally helped millions of people around the world, into some sort of unsavory slush fund where sketchy characters and foreign countries with bad human rights records dumped millions of dollars in exchange for entree into the Clintons' world. Step Two: Question the wealth accumulated by the former President and his wife because it was done through such unsavory ways as receiving money to give speeches (something so de rigueur among the elite class in Washington, there are agents who do nothing but book these engagements) and receiving book royalties. 

In other words, those sneaky, underhanded Clintons had the temerity to earn a living after they left the White House with millions of dollars in debt because of lawyers they had to pay fighting off an eight-year smear campaign by Republicans that was aided and abetted by a compliant Beltway media that never embraced them (David Broder famously noted that Bill Clinton "trashed" Washington). That Hillary Clinton served as a Senator for eight years and Secretary of State for four years and that her husband left behind a $236 billion budget surplus and peace and prosperity are really of no moment because you know, they made money and some people donated to their charity who are not Boy Scouts. 

And now that the narrative has locked in the Clinton Foundation as something nefarious, the knives are out because the Clintons have amassed a fortune. Ergo, the Clintons are the Romneys, because rich, or something. And while at the most general level it is true, both families are rich, both the manner in which they became that way, and more importantly, what they did with their money and what they believe in, is nowhere to be found in most media reporting. Mitt Romney accumulated his wealth buying distressed companies, outsourcing their work, stripping the valuable parts and taking the profits. His public service consisted of a single term as governor of Massachusetts and a year or so as the head of an Olympic Committee, where he did things like manufacture pins representing our country in China and deny free admission to 9/11 victims and their families. 

The Clintons on the other hand, have, in one way or the other, committed themselves to public service since the late 1970s. Hillary Clinton was an early champion of causes that are now so mainstream it is hard to believe they were ever controversial - supporting children's health care, equal pay for women, and the need for communities to help raise children. Her husband broke a 12 year run of Republican governance, did all the things the GOP claims it will do but never does - reduce the size of government, expand the economy, reduce the deficit and make government work more efficiently - before leaving office to start a foundation that has raised billions of dollars to help people in need. He has also become a sort of unofficial humanitarian ambassador when natural disasters strike and has a personal popularity among all Americans above 60%. 

But the media is expert at solidifying false narratives. So Hillary's public service is now turned on its head. After all, she hasn't driven a car in decades and has lived in a Secret Service cocoon, how could this woman possibly understand the needs of "ordinary" Americans? If this all seems oddly familiar, you are not experiencing déjà vu. The same hit job was done on John Kerry in 2004 because he married a wealthy widower (recall those windsailing photos and comments about Kerry being "vaguely French") and Al Gore, because he had the foresight to be an early investor in Silicon Valley tech companies and serve on the board of Apple Computers. For some reason, Democrats that amass great wealth offend the Beltway media even if those politicians have career-long records of supporting progressive ideas. 

Of course, after what are now months of negative reporting about Hillary, the media turns around and reports that voters do not find her honest or trustworthy, which should not be surprising considering all the media has done for the past few months is write stories about how untrustworthy and untruthful she is. It is lowest common denominator QED that also turned an earnest environmentalist like Al Gore into a phony and George W. Bush, a twice-failed businessman who got everything in life from his last name, into an everyman who the media would rather have a beer with. Once upon a time, this type of swift-boating was done by partisans who got away with it because the media failed to fact check them. Now, the media is doing their work for them. 


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