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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

 
For The Record

by digby

I wrote a post the other day discussing Tim Russert's question at the last debate, calling out Clinton for Bill allegedly refusing to release documents from the National Archives. Bill Clinton later explained how the claim was off base and called it "breathtakingly misleading." NBC was very arrogant, standing by Russert, and the MSNBC crew, especially Matthews, has been whining for over a week about how ridiculous it is to be critical of the Village high priest and his dim acolyte, Brian Williams', conduct in that debate. (Apparently, it was also very important to get to the bottom of Dennis Kucinich's position on UFOs.) [Update: Here's Matthews on the archives story]

Turns out Russert --- shocking, I know --- was wrong, after all.

Here's FactCheck.org:

Correction, Nov. 8: In our original version of this story, we found Clinton’s response regarding the Archives to be “doubly misleading.” We have since concluded that we were wrong, and have rewritten the section as you see it above.

Two days after this article was first posted, Bruce Lindsey, who is Bill Clinton’s designated representative for dealing with the National Archives, issued a statement that said, in part, “Contrary to recent reports, Bill Clinton has not asked that records related to communications with Senator Clinton be withheld.” It also said that “Currently, none of the FOIA requests [the Archives] has processed and provided for my review involve Senator Clinton. On the same day, the former president responded to a reporter’s question about the issue. Hillary Clinton “was incidental to the letter, it was done five years ago, it was a letter to speed up presidential releases, not to slow them down,” Bill Clinton said at a stop in Redmond, WA.

These statements prompted us to dive back into Bill Clinton’s 2002 letter to the Archives and similar letters from his two immediate predecessors, and to talk to some more experts in this small crevice of the law. We realized that the area of confusion for us – and perhaps for other journalists – was the wording of this sentence: “[I]nformation should generally be considered for withholding only if it contains…..” The section goes on to list eight categories, one of which involves his communications with his wife as well as with his family and his wife’s.

We originally read the sentence as putting a lock on the documents. That isn’t the case, as we note in our revised section in the body of the article above. The bottleneck is at the lightly staffed Archives. It of course remains possible that Bill Clinton could yet block the release of any or all communications between himself and the First Lady, but that hasn’t happened yet. It remains to be seen whether any of this material will surface before the election.

But Russert was wrong, and so were we. Bill Clinton, in Redmond, called Russert’s question “breathtakingly misleading,” and we now agree. Russert did not respond to requests for comment.


Why not?

In any case, one of the points I made in my earlier post was that no other presidential candidates who were running as successors to a former president (as all Vice Presidents are) or worked in the White House or had a close relationship with a former president were asked to release their personal correspondence or records during the election. Not Bush Jr, Gore, Poppy, Mondale or any of those who came before.

And this question was especially rich considering that in 2001 Junior had issued an executive order pretty much sealing all presidential records unless a researcher or historian could show a "need" for the documents and the president in question felt like releasing it --- an executive order that was deemed unlawful, by the way as an “impermissible exercise of the executive power" nearly a month before Russert asked his question.

I realize that just because Bush does it, it doesn't make it right for others, and if Clinton had done something similar it would have been equally wrong. But Russert has never, to my knowledge, been remotely interested in this topic when it concerned the royal blue blooded Bush Dynasty. Indeed, he and the rest of the Village behaved as if they'd witnessed a rightful Restoration when Bush seized office. (Ex-Republican Kevin Phillips even wrote a book about it called American Dynasty : Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush --- not that anyone in the media gave a damn.)

Russert needs to issue a correction and an apology. It wasn't the only reason Clinton faltered in that debate to be sure --- her evasive answer on the driver's licenses was more damaging. But this misleading question of Russert's is a good example of these smug journalists behavior toward all Democratic front runners and eventual nominees. This innuendo, likely fed to them by GOP oppo researchers, gets out into the ether and becomes part of the CW even though it is later proved untrue.

This is not about Hillary. All you have to do is read The Daily Howler's archives to see that the press ran the same game on Gore, to an almost comic degree, and we all watched them help the Republicans turn John Kerry into a "phony soldier." They'll do it to Obama, to Edwards or any of the rest --- they've already laid the groundwork on all of them. This is nothing personal. The Clinton Rules apply to any Democrat. It's just the way the Village does business.

BTW: If you want to see the definition of chutzpah check this out:


Grover Norquist, one of America’s most influential Republican activists, aims to turn the question of dynasty into a campaign issue.

“It will be ridiculous to have Mr President and Madam President in the White House,” he said. “We’re the United States of America. How can we say to President Mubarak [of Egypt], ‘You can’t hand off the presidency to your son, it’s got to be your wife’ or, ‘Hey Syria and North Korea, you’ve got to knock this stuff off and be like us’.”

Norquist has commissioned lawyers to draw up a constitutional amendment that would ban family members from succeeding one another to elected and appointed office. If passed, it would not apply to the Clintons as a Bush was elected in between them. But Norquist believes that it will alert voters to the perils of dynasty. “Americans don’t like to go back,” he said.


Here's a nice chart about the Bush dynasty from uggabugga:




Now that's a Dynasty. Since the Bush's have worn themselves out for three straight generations plundering the treasury for themselves and their aristocratic brethren, it's time to outlaw dynasties lest the riff-raff gets the idea that just anyone can have one.


Update: A reader emailed this. You can't help but be suspicious about where Russert got that misleading question.



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