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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Evergreen Slime

by digby

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the media's narrative about the Democratic Party -- a narrative I would have thought would have gone out of fashion by now, but which appears to have reached classic, evergreen status:

I know this is all boring, arcane history now, but it's important to note that we are seeing similar stuff happening already with respect to various "deals" that are being reported in the press about Harry Reid and John Edwards. So far they are thin, nonsensical "exposes" written by one man, John Solomon, formerly of the AP and now of the Washington Post. Solomon is known to be a lazy reporter who happily takes "tips" from the wingnut noise machine and faithfully regurgitates them. He holds a very important position at the paper that was second only to the Times in its eagerness to swallow Ken Starr's spin whole.

We are also seeing some similar reporting begin to emerge on Obama, much of it generated by hometown political rivals, just as we saw in the Clinton years. Today the LA Times implies that Obama is exaggerating his activist past. A couple of weeks ago we saw a truly egregiously misleading report on a deal he made to buy some land from a supporter.

These are patented Whitewater-style "smell test" stories. They are based on complicated details that make the casual reader's eyes glaze over and about which the subject has to issue long confusing explanations in return. They feature colorful and unsavory political characters in some way. They often happened in the past and they tend to be written in such a way as to say that even if they aren't illegal they "look bad." The underlying theme is hypocrisy because the subjects are portrayed as making a dishonest buck while pretending to represent the average working man. Oh, and they always feature a Democrat. Republicans are not subject to such scrutiny because a craven, opportunistic Republican isn't "news." (Neat trick huh?)

No single story will bring down a candidate because they have no substance to them. It's the combined effect they are looking for to build a sense overall sleaziness: "Where there's smoke there's fire"

We have another one from Solomon today. It is a thrilling expose in which it's revealed that Hillary Clinton failed to report a charitable foundation on her Senate disclosure forms.

It discusses the foundation in some depth and discloses that many people have them. They are, apparently, a common tax break for wealthy people who give to charity. But we know there just must be more to it than that. There are lots of very spicy little tid-bits in the article, like this one:

Private family foundations vary in amounts they give away each year. The Clintons have given away a quarter of their money. The family foundation of record producer David Geffen, by comparison, has been giving away most of what it takes in -- roughly $1 million a year -- leaving it with a balance of $400,000 at the end of 2005.

Do you meant to tell me that those cheap assed Clintons are refusing to give all the money away while that nice billionaire David Geffen does? What are they doing with all that money? Is that why they tried to hide it by having its address in Chappaqua?

The smaller family foundation lists as its address a post office box in Chappaqua, N.Y., where the Clintons live. Hillary Clinton is listed as secretary and treasurer, Bill Clinton as president and the couple's daughter, Chelsea, as a director. None takes any compensation.

And to which cronies and crooks are they laundering or funneling their ill-gotten gains? Oh my, this looks very suspicious:

One Arkansas recipient was the Diane Blair Foundation. Diane Blair is the late wife of James Blair, the businessman who helped Hillary Clinton with controversial commodities trades in the late 1970s that netted her about $100,000. There are two foundations in Diane Blair's name. One is a private family charity; the other funds a center for the study of Southern politics at the University of Arkansas.

The Clintons' tax form indicates the money went to the private charity, but James Blair said in an interview yesterday that the Clintons "miscoded" the entry. The check actually went to the university fund, he said.

Oh boy. Clinton is giving money to charitable foundations run by the man who helped her net $100,000 almost 30 years ago in a nefarious commodities trade that the entire press corps and even an independent counsel investigation were never able to nail down. But we know she's a crook anyway, right? She "miscoded" something saying it went to the private charity when it actually went to the University. Or did it?

I think we need another independent counsel investigation to determine why they "miscoded" the entry. let no stone go unturned. It's true there's no reason on its face to suspect anything but that makes no difference. The questions is why is Hillary Clinton donating to these "charities" in the first place? It doesn't pass the smell test.

And this, of course, is more proof of the cover-up:

"She was Hillary's closest friend," Blair said of his wife, who died in June 2000.

And even worse than the clearly suspicious "miscoding", they are obviously supporting terrorists:

At least three beneficiaries were from the Middle East,[My God!] where the former president worked to forge an elusive peace agreement during the 1990s. They include $50,000 to the King Hussein Foundation, named in honor of the late Jordanian king, who was a key player in Clinton peace talks; $50,000 to American Friends of Yitzhak Rabin, honoring the assassinated Israeli prime minister; and the American Friends of Peres Center, honoring former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.

Where there's a smoking mushroom cloud there's a terrorist sympathizer in my book.

As the article concludes:

Such omissions deprive the public of the right to scrutinize their political leaders' financial dealings and identify possible conflicts of interest, the former chief of disclosure for the Federal Election Commission said.

I certainly concur.

But now that we've seen the full rundown of the Clinton Family Foundation, what exactly was the point of this article? The reporters outline donations to charities founded by Hillary's best friend, her alma mater, some Arkansas Children's programs, the tsunami fund, and some thoroughly respectable middle eastern charities. We found that wealthy people often have these charitable foundations and that some of them, including the Clintons, don't spend every penny of the money each year. We also know that this foundation is run by a Senator and presidential candidate, her husband the ex-president of the United States and that their highly accomplished daughter is a director, which would be a dream masthead on any charity in the United States.

There is no evidence that they cheated on their income taxes or that this foundation has contributed to anything that could even remotely be construed as a conflict of interest or even slightly hypocritical. Indeed, after all this investigation, there is not even the slightest hint of irregularity in the foundation and certainly no illegality, merely that she failed to report this on her disclosure form. had she reported it, it would have reveald exactly nothing of interest to anyone.

So,why all the breathless hinting around about some unnamed nefarious deed? It's the classic bogus Whitewater narrative that never actually turns up anything but makes the country think that there just must be "something" there or the media wouldn't report it. We saw a very similar report recently on John Edwards from the same reporter and even the WaPo's limp ombudsman thought it was questionable and said "accurate stories can be misleading." It appears the editors have no intention of reining Solomon in.

One final thought: if the press had applied the Clinton Rules to George W. Bush's strangely enriching-for-him-and-losing-for-others oil business schemes during what turned out to be the closest election in history, we might not be saddled with this godforsaken presidency today. But they didn't. Why do you suppose that is?

Update: And then there's this egregious piece of garbage. Jayzuz.

My apologies for spelling Solomon's name incorrectly. It has been corrected.