New Rules

by digby

eriposte at The Left Coaster discusses the journalistic malpractice exposed in this exchange from the last debate:

Here was an exchange from the Oct 30 Democratic Presidential debate (emphasis mine):

Russert: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up, because in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave? Because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012.

Clinton: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there. And they are move, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that. Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as its circumstances and processes demand.

Russert: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?

Clinton: Well, that's not my decision to make, and I don't believe that any president or first lady ever has. But, certainly, we're move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.

eriposte points out that even though president Clinton subsequently explained that his request (from five years ago) was to speed up the release of documents, NBC stood by its biased and misleading question which implied that Senator Clinton was hiding something. What a surprise.

But an astute reader pointed something else out to me about this question:

Correct me if I'm wrong........has anyone asked a VP running for the presidency to disclose his confidential communications with the president? Did they ask Bush I to talk about his conversations with Reagan?

I don't recall in 2000 Gore being asked to asked to reveal all of his conversations and official papers relating to his position as vice president either. Or Mondale in 1984. Or any other VPs, who are always running at least in part on the basis of their experience in a former administration.

Even weirder, what Russert is asking for is papers relating to personal advice she gave to the president, which I don't recall anyone ever asking from any candidate who had once worked in former administrations or who had a personal relationship with a former president. Cheney wasn't asked to release all of his correspondence with Bush Sr from when he was Sec Def. Bush Jr was never asked, as far as I know, to reveal records of his personal conversations with his father, (although I'm fairly sure if he had been he would have told the questioner to go Cheney himself.)

The fact is that relationships with former presidents, whether as members of the administration, or as close associates, are taken at face value. If the former president thought you were someone worth listening to, the press didn't demand that you reveal exactly what was said. The voter is expected to evaluate that endorsement on the basis of how they felt about the one who gave it --- the former president -- rather than demanding to judge each piece of advice for itself. If you liked Reagan, then you assumed that James Baker and George Bush Sr were your kind of guys too.

Not so for Clinton. Apparently, the thrill of examining every single aspect of that marriage, from sleeping arrangements to pillow talk, is of unending interest to the Village biddies. Why else would they demand that President Clinton release the records for Hillary but not for Al?

Finally, one can only gasp at the extreme irony of Russert pressing Clinton like she was a criminal for allegedly trying to keep some mid-90's advice about welfare reform a secret. Right before his eyes is an administration that has made a fetish of secrecy to the point where we are now waging wars and torturing people which, short of revolution, we can't seem to do a damned thing about. But for some reason Tim doesn't see a problem with that, at least as far as I can discern. He doesn't have problem with the president commuting the sentence of one of his felonious henchmen, and he doesn't have problem with an administration that pretty much says the laws don't apply to him. He doesn't even ask the Republican candidates if they agree with these policies or press them on whether they would endorse these actions.

But, he's hell on seeing Hillary's memos from 1997.

Has Tim ever said one thing about the fact that this White House has taken the nearly unprecedented step of directing its former employees to openly defy congressional subpoenas, leaving the congress' only option to send the Sergeant at Arms to arrest them in their homes and hold them in a little jail in the capitol that hasn't been used in about a century? Has that been a matter of interest to Russert and the kewl kidz, because I haven't heard them fulminating about it, have you? That's the kind of "executive privilege" we're talking about with this administration --- telling the United States congress to shove it, over and over again.

But seeing those thank you notes from 1995 is something that the public demands.

Grab the Maalox kids because I can feel it in my gut. The bad breath and the sleepy eyes and the bedhead are all around us. Come 2009, if a Democrat wins the presidency, the Village press will finally wake up from its 8 year somnambulent drool and rediscover its "conscience" and its "professionalism." The Republicans will only have to breathe their character assassination lightly into the ether --- the Village gossips will do the rest. And if this new president resists in any way, a primal scream will build until he or she is forced to appoint a special counsel to investigate the "cover up" and grovel repeatedly in forced acts of contrition in response to manufactured GOP hissy fits and media hysteria. We're going forward into the past (and judging from the haircut nonsense we've already seen, it isn't confined to Clinton.)

Reforming politics isn't enough. Reforming the media is just as important. The current administration is so power mad, morally bankrupt and inept that their natural heir is a barking madman. (And some excellent reporting has been done to expose them.) But the Village kewl kidz and the queen bees who set the political agenda and dominate the coverage have never found any of that interesting or worthwhile. They care about their silly little shorthand parlor games that they think reveal politicians' "character." And their judgment of character is about as useful to the average voter as Brittney and K-Fed's.

They are a huge problem and I can't see how this country can pull out of this spiral until this is dealt with.