Cokie's Law renewed by acclamation
As we rush headlong into the first of what are sure to be many "Clinton Records Scandals" (it's a perennial) I just thought I'd remind everyone of one thing: Cokie's Law, in which she proved that truth and facts are rarely the issue when it comes to arcane Clinton scandals:
"At this point,it doesn't much matter whether she said it or not because it's become part of the culture. I was at the beauty parlor yesterday and this was all anyone was talking about."Once people are talking about it, it's a legitimate news story. So they publish stories that imply something or other "doesn't pass the smell test", the news media get weirdly excited about it, convey that to the people and then we're off to the races.
Liberals are all aflutter this morning over this e-mail scandal. They have no idea if it's true or what specifically is wrong with it other than it allegedly "shows bad judgment" but they are very upset. Moreover, I have no idea why I'm supposed to be so shocked, appalled that it's time to run for the hills and beg Jim Webb to come to the rescue. But that's what I'm hearing. And it's as predictable as the sun. Maybe there's something truly nefarious going on. I'm open to believing it. But at this point what I see is that Villager hysterical impulse asserting itself once again.
There are excellent reasons to oppose Hillary Clinton. She has a long history of DLC centrism, mixed with a record of hawkishness both as a Senator and as Secretary of State. If people oppose her on the merits I cannot argue with them. But this scandal mongering has always been a facile and tawdry way for Villagers to express their belief in their own sense of moral superiority by complaining about the Clintons' characters. (In his case being "undisciplined" and in her case being a soulless "control freak.") It's always about some Shakespearean flaw rather than the policies, mostly because this is what the Village press corps really wants to talk about. Politics are boring. And I might actually believe some of it except for the fact that aside from a few furtive blowjobs in a hallway, none of the so-called evidence they presented to prove it ever panned out.
I don't think the country is in good enough shape right now to afford that shallow, faux muckraking. Perhaps Clinton really did sell America's national security to foreign leaders to feather her own nest. I hope the proof emerges quickly, if that's the case. But Villager handwringing over how it doesn't really matter if it's true or not because "it's out there" and it "exposes her character", is cheap and shallow journalistic masturbation. What these scandals inevitably reveal is the character of the American press corps more than anything else.
Update: Andrea Mitchell said this morning that it turns out that Colin Powell did the same thing but it was different because this all feeds into a "narrative" that the Clintons are secretive.
Chris Cillizza agreed that it plays into the notion that the Clintons "operate under their own set of rules" and are "very political" and are surrounded by "enablers." Also too it was different for Powell because he wasn't a "defacto nominee".
Ruth Marcus agreed that this all feeds into the pre-existing narrative.
Update II: The new MSNBC straight news show with Thomas Roberts teases the story and announces that they are featuring the Artist who painted the "shadow of Monica Lewinsky's blue dress" in the official Bill Clinton portrait.
Shoot me now.
Update III: Michael Tomasky did some actual journalism:
It looks bad for Hillary Clinton—again. This New York Times story alleging that she might have violated federal rules by using a personal email account instead of an official government one for her communications seems to raise all the old questions about Clintonian corner-cutting and is sure to make Democrats flail their arms and cry, “Oh God, this again?”
But let’s hold on a second. A close reading of the Times piece reveals one potential big hole in the case. I’m not saying the Times is wrong here. It’s still a foggy situation. I am, however, saying this: You have to know how to read these things, and if you do know how to read them, there’s a big question here that could—potentially—exonerate Clinton to some or maybe even a considerable extent.
The article says that there were “new” regulations that Clinton was supposed to abide by. It notes that one past secretary of state, Colin Powell, who served from 2001 to 2005, sometimes used his personal email account “before the new regulations went into effect.”
So, a key question would seem to be this: When did the new regulations go into effect? If 2007 or 2008, then Clinton would appear to be in direct violation of them, depending on what precisely they said. If later, it gets a little murkier.
Oddly, the Times article doesn’t say. It doesn’t pin the new regs down to a specific date or even year.
Now, I know enough about reporting to know how this works. If you’ve got an airtight case, then you lay it all out there. You include the date. Indeed you emphasize the date, you put it high up in your story. The fact that it’s not in there is a little fishy.
Well, this might be the explanation: The new regs apparently weren’t fully implemented by State until a year and half after Clinton left State.
Here’s the timeline: Clinton left the State Department on February 1, 2013. Back in 2011, President Obama had signed a memorandum directing the update of federal records management. But the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) didn’t issue the relevant guidance, declaring that email records of senior government officials are permanent federal records, until August 2013. Then, in September 2013, NARA issued guidance on personal email use.
Not that it matters. "It's out there." And besides, it's "feeding the narrative". Waddaya gonna do?
As Tomasky adds:
[T]his seems like a good time to remember another pattern of behavior: namely, that of the Times. I remember clear as a bell reading that initial Jeff Gerth story on Whitewater back in March 1992. It seemed devastating. It took many millions of dollars and many years and many phony allegations before important parts of Gerth’s reporting were debunked. But they were. The Clintons did nothing wrong on Whitewater except to be naïve enough to let themselves by chiseled by Jim McDougal.
If they had done something wrong, with all the prosecutorial firepower thrown at them by a prosecutor (Ken Starr) who clearly hated them, don’t you think they’d have been indicted? Of course they would have been. But Starr couldn’t turn anything up on Whitewater and was about to close down his investigation empty-handed until he got wind of a gal named Monica.
So that’s a pattern too. The Times, for those with short memories, has never loved the Clintons. Remember Howell Raines and his ceaseless, thundering editorials against them. And today, it smells like the Times may have been rolled by the Republican staff of the Benghazi panel. And hey, great work by them and Chairman Trey Gowdy to use the nation’s leading liberal newspaper in this way.