Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Conspiracy Of Dunces?
Bill Clinton & the Big Plot Against Democrats!

Updated: 09/29 -- Back in the pre-Lewinsky, though post "halcyon" days, of the Clinton Administration, Time Magazine published a commentary by Bruce Handy ridiculing conspiracy theorists in general, and pointedly snickering at those who were advancing governmental theories about Bill Clinton in particular.

The title, from which this piece is derived, was a play on a similar title taken from the one-hit-wonder novel by John Kennedy Toole. Yet, a bare few years later, when stories about Clinton and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky surfaced on the news aggregator, Drudge Report, it was Hillary Clinton leading the charge, in accusing conservatives and Republicans of being involved in a "vast right-wing conspiracy." By then, Bruce Handy didn't seem to recall his prior formulation. He was a bit too busy excusing the "putatively noble" President for having been a bit of a "tomcat."

For many, many years now, new media critics of what has fashionably come to be known as the "mainstream media," have prodded news outlets on the subject of bias, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, arguing that there is now and has been a decidedly left-leaning cant to the news coverage in that amorphous place we call the media marketplace of ideas, particularly with regard to political reporting. And over the years polls have repeatedly supported the sense that there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media, though liberals are increasingly likely to identify what they see as media bias as well.

If political news reporting is about anything in a representative democracy, it should be at least focused on ideas. We frequently lose sight, in the thick and intrusive fog of celebrity and personality, that what we are observing is little more than an entertaining focal plane from which politicians and newsmakers spew those ideas in order to fuel public debate, and from which the rest of us view and evaluate them.

But Bill Clinton has now jumped back into the current murky waters of conspiratorial accusations with a novel comment made today on NBC's Meet the Press with David Gregory, alleging, as the AP has quickly reported it, that the
"vast, right-wing conspiracy that once targeted him, is now focusing on President Barack Obama."
Whoever framed the question for Meet the Press host, David Gregory, either had a sense of humor, and set the boy up, or had no sense whatsoever about the irony of the question being framed in that manner.

Here is exactly what Gregory asked:

"Your wife famously talked about the vast right wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?"
The question, of course, presumes that there was such a "conspiracy." Now anyone with any memory at all will recall that Hillary Clinton made that absurd comment on NBC's Today Show in the precise context of whether her husband had committed adultery. And as we all now know, he had. And, we all know that he openly lied to the American public about it. Hillary's comment then was appropriately tagged at the time as paranoid, and once the truth came out, her comment began being openly ridiculed, just as Bill's answer to David Gregory's query today ought to be.

But that is not the way the question and Clinton's comment are being reported, not just by AP, but also by CNN, here.

They are being reported as if each -- her original accusation, and his rant today -- are both somehow legitimate characterizations of political opposition to the policies of the current President.

Here is the clip of Gregory's question and the key portion of Clinton's answer. If you wish to, you can watch the entire Clinton response to Gregory's question here.

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The original Hillary Clinton comment, as you may recall, was made in the context of the breaking story in January of 1998 that then-President Clinton had had a sexual affair with young Monica Lewinsky, which affair was alleged to have taken place in the Oval Office within the White House. Hillary Clinton went on the attack, alleging that it was all false, and that there was instead, a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that was fueling this and all false stories about her husband.

As the Washington Post reported at the time regarding her appearance on NBC's Today Show:

"First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday launched a vigorous counterattack on behalf of her husband's beleaguered presidency, declaring that the president is the victim of a "politically motivated" prosecutor allied with a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Using a nationally televised interview as her forum, she assumed a familiar and crucial role as Bill Clinton's first defender. She said she knew him better than anyone in the world, still loved him, and fully believed his denial of allegations that he had entered into a sexual relationship with a White House intern and had urged the young woman to lie about it."
Ooops! You might have thought that David Gregory and the Meet the Press staff would have access to those old Today Show clips, and that they would have eschewed the use of the much-maligned phrase!

Over time, the most potent evidence of left-leaning media bias has come from several instances of outright objective dishonesty, rather than the obvious contextual absurdity of Clinton's comment today.

In the former category, Dan Rather and Mary Mapes come to mind.* Or, Scott Beauchamp.**

Much more recently, however, we have witnessed blatant bias involving three "top" tier news gathering organizations, each climbing all over one another in an attempt at a take-down on the two young "conservative journalists" who have exposed ACORN. As documented by Joel Mobray at Big Government, three the mainstream media, including New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press were not only late to the story -- they have now all had to issue corrections for false quotations or statements they made about James O'Keefe. Scott at Powerline has more detail about the Times and WaPo treatment of the duo. Update: Scott at Powerline has drawn a bead on the pernicious offense of the Washington Post in falsely attributing a racially-charged quote to O'Keefe. Scott links to a concise explication of the handling of the false quote by the newspaper in a piece posted by Gary Larson at Human Events.

Perhaps this latest Clinton foray is an attempt to tack back a bit from an earlier Democrat-based formulation, one advanced by another former Democrat President, Jimmy Carter -- that the "overwhelming portion" of the intense opposition to President Obama's policies is based on racism -- the fact that Barack Obama is "black."

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The Washington Post story by Garance Franke-Ruta summed it up this way:
In remarks decried by Republicans, former president Jimmy Carter told NBC's Brian Williams in an interview Tuesday that he believes race is at the core of much of the opposition to President Obama.

Carter's ugly and divisive characterization has since been thoroughly rejected by the American public, with a Rasmussen poll concluding that only 12% of Americans agree with him. And, though there are many (21%) who are uncertain if race is a source of the opposition, fully two-thirds (67%) of Americans outright reject that notion. Even the President himself shrewdly has put distance from that formulaic paranoia, noting on a guest appearance on Letterman that,

"First of all, I think it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election."

So, is this new Bill Clinton formulation just the latest Democrat effort to somehow convince the public that opposition to the President's policies is really based on a political conspiracy -- just not an overtly racist one, as Carter had claimed?

David Gregory comes across as the classic "useful idiot" for having either formulated or at least asked the question in a manner that would remind people of that old Hillary paranoia.

But you really have to wonder -- why do the "professionals" at top media outlets keep getting caught at it?

Is it genuine stupidity? Group think?

Or, is it an irreconcilable sense that it just plain doesn't matter what the public thinks? One thing is for certain -- professionalism it is not!

# # # # #

* Rather, the top newsman of his day and his producer, fashioned and aired an utterly dishonest report, based on what they knew or should have known were forged documents, ones that were given to them by an utterly disreputable source, and which had been hashed over and rejected repeatedly by other news outlets. But after working and reworking the story with an obsessive zeal, Rather and Mapes aired it on CBS with the obvious intention of politically "mortally" wounding a sitting President in the crucial run-up to the 2004 election. Update: AP reports that an appeals court in New York has dismissed Rather's suit against CBS on all grounds.

As we all know, the new media -- internet blogs and aggregators, initially a web contributor with the screen name "Buckhead" -- took the CBS report apart with a blizzard of evidence, the best of which convincingly proved that the documents on which the entire report was founded, were blatant forgeries -- proof based on close technological analysis of typeface fonts in the ostensible written correspondence, ones that simply did not exist at the time recorded on the "damning" documents.

And Rather's nearly immediate defense constituted what had to have been the most risible formulation in the history of journalism -- that the documents may have been questionable, but the underlying story was true. He might as well have said the story was false but it was true. We all had a good laugh, and Dan Rather left, only to become a pathetic, comic figure desperately trying to this day to salvage his reputation.

CBS conducted their own internal investigation, the key conclusion of which was nearly as comical as Rather's "it's false but it's true" formulation. Though the expert they hired to determine if the documents were forgeries, concluded what others in cyberspace had already done -- that no such typewriter typeface existed at the time the documents were supposedly written – the report concluded that they would leave the issue open, on the outside chance that someone at some time in the future might discover a typewriter with such a typeface. Again, we all had a good laugh.

** There was so much written about the fabulist Iraq soldier, Scott Beauchamp, who published his expose "story" in the New Republic, that it is hard to know where to begin with the exposure of his pattern of lies. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit posted a pretty concise summary of them here.

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