I love it when conservatives claim that the “liberal” media is in the tank for Hillary Clinton, because the imperviousness of closed minds never ceases to fascinate. She has actually drawn more negative coverage than the other candidates, and The New York Times in particular has dogged her with overblown stories and ceaseless Maureen Dowd snark, but hey, how often does actual evidence penetrate the right-wing bubble?
And today, I’d like to share one small episode of the “liberal” media in action. It happened yesterday on “Meet the Press,” during the roundtable segment when host Chuck Todd gabs with guest pundits. (One of the pundits was Republican attack man Alex Castellanos, who was booked to provide, you know, balance.) One big topic for discussion was Clinton’s contention that Donald Trump is a “risky” candidate (the Clinton website’s word), an eminently accurate description that probably resonates with at least half the American people.
But Todd had a problem with the word. He suggested that only losers use the word:
“If you go to her website right now, HillaryClinton.com, here’s the first quick screen grab that pops up. Let me show you this. It says, ‘We can’t risk a Donald Trump presidency.’ And the word “risk,” okay, I’ll admit there are a few others who brought this up, it’s actually a word that’s used quite a bit by candidates that are usually behind.”
Todd showed video of Al Gore (loser!) using the word to describe George W. Bush in 2000, and video of Bush’s father (loser!) using the word to describe Bill Clinton in 1992. Todd and Castellanos shared a few chuckles. Castellanos ‘fessed up that he was the author of that ’92 Bush ad, and said that when a candidate describes a rival as risky, it actually validates the rival as the “change” candidate, and it’s good to be the change candidate, because voters want change. That’s bad for Hillary in ’16, Castellanos concluded, because “that’s the [race] she doesn’t want to run.”
Yeeesh. Hillary can’t even use a safe word like “risky” without getting hammered. And somehow, Todd and his Republican consultant sidekick failed to mention what happened during the presidential campaign of 1996. Probably because airing videos from ’96 would’ve wrecked Todd’s thesis that “risky” is a word for losers.
Bill Clinton, running for re-election in ’96, used it repeatedly to describe rival Bob Dole and his Republican policies. You want an ad video? I’ve got an ad video — with RISKY in giant letters. I’ve got another Clinton ad video where the word pops up at the 23-second mark. I’ve got a debate transcript where President Clinton uses the word against Dole. I’ve got another debate transcript where Vice President Gore uses the word against Dole nine separate times. Clinton-Gore won, Dole lost.
Anyway. What Todd and Castellanos also failed to mention was that, earlier in the hour, Hillary Clinton sat with Todd for an interview and proceeded to detail Trump’s riskiness:
“I do not want Americans, and you know, good thinking Republicans, as well as Democrats and independents, to start to believe that this is a normal candidacy. It isn’t. What he is advocating — look what he’s done this past week. You know, attacking our closest ally, England. Heaping praise on a dangerous dictator in North Korea. Reiterating his call to pull out of NATO, our strong military alliance. Talking about letting other countries have nuclear weapons. Advocating a return to torture, and even murdering the families of suspected terrorists. That is beyond the pale. And it poses immediate dangers ….
“I’ve had Republicans coming to tell me they are supporting me. They have different reasons. For a lot of women, it’s the divisive, demeaning comments that Donald Trump has made about women. For others, a businessman just told me yesterday in Texas, he said, ‘I’m a Republican. I’ve always voted Republican. I’m here, giving you money, supporting you, because I do business all over the world. And I’m watching what this Trump effect is doing to our standing in the world.'”
But instead of assessing the substance of those remarks, Todd framed his chitchat around one word — supposedly a loser’s word — that Clinton, in her interview, didn’t even use. So much for the “liberal” media’s deification. What I actually witnessed was trivialization.
And frankly, if you want the most substantive description of Trump’s riskiness, the best bet is to read Robert Kagan’s warning about the threat of home-grown fascism. This missive, last week, from a prominent foreign policy conservative:
“Republican politicians marvel at how [Trump] has ‘tapped into’ a hitherto unknown swath of the voting public. But what he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the ‘mobocracy.’ Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry, and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.
“…. This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes [although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence], but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac ‘tapping into’ popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.”
But I certainly wouldn’t recommend that Hillary Clinton speak those self-evident truths, lest she be accused by the media of sounding “shrill.”