Ezra Klein tweeted a shocking revelation the other day from the Vox account. He posted the results of a study showing how negatively/positively the candidates had been portrayed by the media and found:
I find this surprising. Coverage of Trump feels *overwhelmingly* negative to me, much more so than of Clinton:
Ezra is confused. Coverage of Trump falls into the train wreck observer category. Even the Political Gabfest Trio sound like they’re watching a tsunami from a different country and have that “Oh, those poor souls, someone should do something” attitude. They make references to Hitler and Mussolini but in a detached way. It’s nothing personal.
With Hillary, it is. She’s just not exciting. Oh, sure, she’s competent and everything but can we trust her?
Nobody wants to say anything nice about her. EVER.
That graph up above shows the kind of candidate the media prefers. Kasich presents as a kinder, gentler, less radical Republican. We know he’s nothing of the sort. He’s just better at being not in your face about his radicalism.
And then there is Bernie, who is attracting all of the creative class people, to which class the media types cling desperately so they don’t lose their youth and beauty.
Even Vox, after looking the evidence in the face tosses it off as just a manifestation of the media going after the perceived frontrunner. Except, we know that’s only partially true. In 2008, Hillary was the frontrunner early in the primary and she was hammered relentlessly. Then when the party refused to credit her Florida and Michigan delegates, that made Obama look like the frontrunner. But as David Plotz admitted a couple of weeks ago, the media treated him with kid gloves because they were “totally in the tank for him”.
So, frontrunner syndrome is not equally applied and Clintonistas have known this for a long time. Decades, in fact.
What happened decades ago that would have made the Clintons so incredibly unpopular with the press? From what we can tell, it all started when uber narcissist Sally Quinn, self-appointed Queen Bee of Washington establishment and party set, condescended to invite new first lady Hillary Clinton to Georgetown to meet the other DC ladies who lunch. Here’s how Hillary’s welcome to DC went according to Harry Jaffe who wrote a scathing piece called “The Not So Mighty Quinn”:
All of this reporting and writing prepared Quinn for her true calling: being a hostess and party girl. “She would go to the opening of an envelope,” says one socialite. She positioned herself as the Perle Mesta of the 1990s. She reveled in inviting the usual suspects in the political and media world to her Georgetown manse, then leaking gossip from the parties to reporters at the Post. It was a cozy relationship that depended on Quinn’s ability to reel in big-name guests, especially the biggest of all, the first couple — which brings us to the root of Sally’s beef with Hillary.
According to society sources, Sally invited Hillary to a luncheon when the Clintons came to town in 1993. Sally stocked her guest list with her best buddies and prepared to usher the first lady into the capital’s social whirl. Apparently, Hillary didn’t accept. Miffed, Sally wrote a catty piece in the Post about Mrs. Clinton. Hillary made sure that Quinn rarely made it into the White House dinners or social events.
In return, Sally started talking trash about Hillary to her buddies, and her animus became a staple of the social scene. “There’s just something about her that pisses people off,” Quinn is quoted as saying in a New Yorker article about Hillary.
Quinn’s antipathy to Hillary became the subject of a New York Observer piece in 1996 that turned the spotlight on Sally, now 56. “No longer a journalistic star, Ms. Quinn seems restless and unsatisfied,” wrote Mary Jacoby, “despite her wealth and prominence and her Georgetown mansion with swimming pool and tennis court, not to mention her house in the Hamptons.” Wondering about the roots of Quinn’s spat with Mrs. Clinton, a younger and more powerful woman, Jacoby wondered if Quinn was “frightened” that her good looks were fading and “bitter because she’s no longer on center stage.”
“There’s a very incestuous relationship between the New York-Washington journalistic elite,” says Washington columnist Chuck Conconi, who edited Quinn at the Post. “They take care of each other. It shows.”
To summarize, Sally Quinn, is the Queen Bee of Washington. The ultimate Mean Girl, she is, like all narcissists, insanely envious of people who have something that she has not. Now, what would Sally Quinn, who has “friends” and influence in DC, homes in Washington, Maryland and The Hamptons, possibly be envious about? Let’s see, Hillary is a smart and academically accomplished lawyer. Sally majored in drama at Smith College and wrote a party column in the Washington Post. Hillary was a trusted advisor to her husband, a president. Sally was originally her husband’s mistress before he reluctantly married her. Hillary plans policy with her husband. Sally plans guest lists. Who knows if Ben Bradlee had any input into that. He probably left it to Quinn as it was her little hobby.
Come to think of it, Sally was probably better off NOT having Hillary attend her soirees so many years ago before the animosity started. Hillary would have attracted a lot more attention from her other guests while Sally would have been relegated to refreshing the drinks. Here we see a sharp divide in generations. Sally is only 6 years older than Hillary but she represents a generation with a different set of expectations for men and women. Sally wanted what Hillary had: a growing respect from policy makers for her intellect, but she couldn’t make the leap from party girl and wife. So, Sally unleashed the only weapon she had available to her to take out her rage at potentially being ignored: ostracism. Better to nip it in the bud early and make sure Hillary was persona non grata than to suffer the ignominy of realizing that DC entertainer was just not that interesting to the people who came to her cocktail parties. Sally had to be the center of attention so Hillary had to be excluded. Thus began Sally’s smear campaign against Hillary.
Maybe Sally’s notorious injury from Hillary turning down lunch with her was calculated. Knowing there was no way to compete with Hillary, did Sally set her up? Did Sally pick an inconvenient day, like the time when she scheduled her son’s wedding to conflict with her husband’s granddaughter’s wedding on the same day so that wedding guests would have to choose? Did Hillary think lunch with a bunch of society doyennes was not the best use of her time because she was moving into the White House and supervising staff? Who knows? But narcissists are really good at setting themselves up to look like victims and then making sure that everyone hears about how they were slighted. They can hold a grudge forever. Note Jaffe’s comment that there is an incestuous relationship between DC and NYC media and Maureen Dowd’s viciousness towards Hillary makes sense.
But wait! There’s more. Remember Ken Starr, the independent counsel who was appointed to dog the Clintons for years without end and distract them from doing the things they were elected to do? Jaffe writes:
There’s also a reason why Sally Quinn is an apologist for independent counsel Kenneth Starr. “In some way,” she said on “Meet the Press,” “Ken Starr has become to Clinton what the evil empire, what the Soviet Union was to Ronald Reagan.” What she doesn’t say is that Ben Bradlee is indebted to Starr, then a judge, for ruling that the Post was not guilty of libel in a celebrated case in the 1980s.
There you go.
But, you say, what does that have to do with today? All that stuff happened 20+ years ago. Neil Gabler recently wrote about how it all filters down to the present day in The Media Have a Hillary Story and They’re Sticking to It. He also references the slight that Hillary dealt Sally and notes how Sally’s character assassination of Hillary has taken on a life of its own:
Still, false or not, once the virus was loose, every reporter caught it, fancying himself a would-be Woodstein. Remember Travelgate? Of course you don’t. Or the scandal over the Rose legal files? I rather doubt it. Or the Vince Foster suicide? Maybe you still think Bill Clinton pulled the trigger, which is an oldie-but-goodie being shilled to this day on righ-wing sites.Whatever you may think of the Clintons, the scandals didn’t create the meme of untrustworthiness about them. The meme of untrustworthiness created the scandals.
All, in the final analysis, were non-stories, some of them cooked up by partisans and spread by the press to accomplish exactly what the Republicans wanted to accomplish: to create a vague nimbus of guilt around the Clintons.
The operative word is “vague.” The press should have been a firewall against these allegations. Instead, they were an accelerant, not only because they didn’t like the cornpone Clintons, but because they knew the truth was likely to be far less interesting than the suspicions of wrongdoing. The media, after all, are in the reader business, not the truth business.
The bigger point is this: whatever you may think of the Clintons, the scandals didn’t create the meme of untrustworthiness about them. The meme of untrustworthiness created the scandals. The media just kept hunting for those scandals as confirmation of what they had already determined. That is how so many in the MSM work — backwards from presumption to incident. It also happens to be the surest path to career advancement for journalistic opportunists.
No, Hillary Clinton isn’t without sin. No candidate is. But she has been deliberately and unfairly abused by the press for years, her motives always impugned, her gaffes blown out of proportion, her missteps always attributed not to miscalculations or ordinary human foible but to deep character flaws. (Just Google “Hillary Clinton” and “character.”)
To be fair, the press are usually cynical about everyone — theirbrief Marco Rubio obsession notwithstanding. That is the new cool. And they would be cynical about Bernie Sanders, too, if they thought he mattered, which they clearly don’t. But the Clintons, who they do think matter, got on the wrong side of the press long ago — not haute enough for the Sally Quinns of this world — and they can never get on the right side. And besides, the idea of their nefarious misdeeds makes such good copy that any reporter would really hate to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So, there you have it, Ezra. The reason why the negativity bar goes off the chart for Clinton is because the media is relentlessly negative on her but also unaware of this tendency in themselves. It’s been conventional wisdom for 20+ years that if you want to succeed in journalism, you need to be mean to Bill and Hillary. It all started with Sally’s fit of narcissistic rage and it has ballooned into robotic bashing to the point where no one knows where assassination of character intersects with the real thing anymore. Hillary has become completely dehumanized by the media.
One thing is for sure. If Hillary ever does make it to the White House, it’s going to be difficult for her to forget how the media has treated her all these years. It will take a person of extraordinary character to treat them fairly. The media has given her no reason to trust it. You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.
But I look forward to Sally Quinn getting what’s coming to her for letting a contrived slight to her fragile inner self unleash a distracting legal firestorm that strengthened the radical right and brought misery on millions of regular Americans.
When Hillary takes office, maybe we can look forward to something like this from Sally, the drama queen:
Filed under: General | Tagged: Ben Bradlee, Dangerous Liasons, Harry Jaffe, Hillary Clinton, Maureen Dowd, media negativity, Neil Gabler, Sally Quinn, Washington Cocktail Party, Washington Post | 19 Comments »