Washington Blood Sports, Then and Now

In "Jillary's Wars," Noamie Emery of the Weekly Standard creates a portmanteau of the first names of Hillary Clinton and recently departed New York Times editor Jill Abramason, and flashes back to their salad days in 1990s, along with Times scion Pinch Sulzberger, all serving on the front lines of first smearing Clarance Thomas for sexual harassment, and then circling the wagons to defend Bill Clinton against...well, you remember, right?

In February, when Juanita Broaddrick’s rape charges against Clinton surfaced (too late to influence his acquittal by Congress), the Times waited six days to give them a mention, and then buried them, with an innocuous headline that gave no indication of what the story contained. As the New York Observer wrote at the time, “A rape charge against a President would seem to be very big front-page news anywhere. .  .  . But in the strange universe of 229 West 43rd Street, Ms. Broaddrick’s corroborated charge against a congenital liar was only good for page A-16 .  .  . on the bottom half of the page with a flat headline and no photo .  .  . promoted under the heading, ‘An Allegation Resurfaces’ in the small table-of-contents on page 1.”

The story was less about the charges themselves and what they might mean than the struggles of the paper as to whether to run them, with the arguments, among Dean Baquet, Bill Keller, Washington bureau chief Michael Oreskes, and deputy Washington editor Jill Abramson, being whether to run the story only “in context,” or not run the story at all. No one wanted the story presented as simply straight news. “We decided we needed to try to explain it to our readers,” Baquet said to the Observer, and as they explained it, the charges were trash. “Before the Times team of reporters and editors got to what Ms. Broaddrick had to say,” the Observer noted, “they had already likened her allegation to ‘toxic waste.’ ”

Anita Hill’s charges against Clarence Thomas were as far in the past as Juanita Broaddrick’s, and just as unprovable, but what was gospel truth in the case of Hill vs. Thomas was “toxic waste” in the case of Clinton vs. Broaddrick et al. “Toxic waste” also described Sarah Palin, picked in 2008 for the Republican ticket and as female as anyone, yet thrown to the wolves by the Times without hesitation. But by that time Hillary, caught in a bitter race with Barack Obama, found out that identity politics could also turn toxic for her.

Flash-forward to this week, and the Washington blood sports of destroying those who would dare besmirch the king roll on:

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That's a tweet last night written by Brandon Friedman, Obama administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at HUD. You can see the full series of five in Guy Benson's post at Hot Air, who writes:

He’s no fan of idle speculation, mind you.  He just can’t help but wonder if perhaps Berdahl’s platoon was “long on psychopaths and short on leadership,” offering ample incentive for them to be “smearing him publicly” today.  The soft-hearted Bergdahl’s disillusionment, you see, may have led to a technically-illegal-but-possibly-sympathetic decision to…desert the United States Army, seek out the Taliban, and allegedly help them kill Americans more efficiently.  But far be it from Mr. Friedman (who is a veteran himself, I should add) to jump to conclusions.  Even though the military conducted an investigation at the time and “jumped to” the exact same conclusion being articulated by the would-be psychotic smear artists from Bergdahl’s platoon.

Not surprisingly, Friedman has since deleted his bio there. As Iowahawk tweeted this morning:

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi's daughter is "awaiting Army investigation of Bergdahl’s ‘dysfunctional’ platoon," and we already mentioned the Politico's Roger Simon getting these talking into circulation early, dismissing "Bergdahl Detractors as Stressed-Out Soldiers," as NewsBusters noted on Tuesday.

As Byron York noted yesterday at the Washington Examiner, all of these leftwing smears could have been avoided, if the Obama White House had simply been straight with the American public this past weekend:

So why did the White House send National Security Adviser Susan Rice to the Sunday shows to claim that Bergdahl "served the United States with honor and distinction"?

It wasn't necessary. Rice, speaking for the White House, could have said something to the effect that "Bowe Bergdahl is a troubled young man who made a terrible mistake. Nevertheless, he is an American soldier, and the United States wants him back. The president had a difficult decision to make in balancing the release of the Taliban detainees with this country's longstanding policy of not leaving U.S. forces behind in a war zone, no matter the circumstances."

That would not have quieted the controversy over the Taliban trade; critics would still maintain it was a terrible precedent and will increase the danger to America and its allies around the world. And it would not have quieted the controversy over the administration's decision not to inform Congress about the Taliban release, as specifically required by law. Lawmakers -- including some in the president's party -- would still complain about that.

But it would have denied the administration's critics a devastatingly effective argument. First, President Obama himself appeared with Bergdahl's parents in rare Saturday remarks in the White House Rose Garden. And then Rice — who had been asked specifically about the circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance — said, "He served the United States with honor and distinction."

In another Sunday appearance, on CNN, Rice suggested Bergdahl had been "captured … on the battlefield" — a claim backed up by none of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers with him the night he disappeared. The military fully investigated the Bergdahl case in the months after he disappeared in 2009. The investigation reportedly concluded that he had willfully abandoned his post.

But as Hillary would say regarding the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, what difference does it make? And now Harry Reid is using the same phrase regarding Obama giving Congress his legally required one month notice prior to the Berghdal swap. "We’re one apathetic Obama soundbite away from a campaign commercial," Allahpundit quips at Hot Air. Given his waning interest in his job these days, I’m thinking we’ll eventually get it."

As Ace writes, "We are now at the point when Democrats are straight-up asking what difference it makes if they lied." And while my fellow PJM colleague Andrew McCarthy has made the case in recent weeks for the impeachment of Obama, I still think the odds of it actually happening are pretty slim. (I think Andrew does, too.) That doesn't mean, as some have speculated on Twitter, that Obama is goading the GOP in calling for it, as a way to rally the troops, as Clinton did during the 1998 midterms.

Certainly his supporters appear just as eager to go the mattresses to defend him, smearing American troops as easily as Clinton supporters such as "Jillary" smeared professional women in the 1990s.