Unexamined Premises

Obama v. the Clintons: Proxy War Erupts at the New York Times

Media folks have long viewed the New York Times as something akin to the Kremlin back in the heyday of its beloved Soviet Union. Times-watchers, like Kremlinologists, collect signs, signals and portents about what actually is taking place within the grim fortress near Times Square. So the recent brouhaha over Mrs. Clinton’s emails has brought Timesology roaring back to the fore:

Four days after a major error in a story about Hillary Clinton’s emails, the New York Times has published an editors’ note laying out what went wrong. The note, published late Monday night, said The Times’ initial story was based on “multiple high-level government sources,” but acknowledged that as the paper walked back its reporting, corrections were slow to materialize, and substantial alterations “may have left readers with a confused picture.”

The original story was published Thursday night. It initially claimed federal inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton’s email use during her tenure at the State Department. Over the next few days, the story had numerous changes, including that the investigation request was for a “security” referral, which is far short of a criminal investigation. In addition, Clinton was no longer named as a target.

As careful readers have noticed, there is a proxy war going on inside the Times regarding the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua. On one side is the Obama administration, most likely in the person of Valerie Jarrett, furiously leaking damaging information about Mrs. Clinton during her disastrous tenure as secretary of state; on the other are the die-hard aging Clinton partisans (the Times once was filled with them) who are quick to rise to her defense. As the newspaper noted in its “correction”:

The Times reported online Thursday night (and in some print editions Friday) that the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies had sent a referral to the Justice Department requesting a “criminal investigation” into whether Mrs. Clinton “mishandled sensitive government information” on the email account. That article was based on multiple high-level government sources.

“High-level government sources” — whoever could that be? The Clinton camp immediately swung into action.  As the CNN article linked above notes:

The Times quickly came under intense scrutiny for both getting the story wrong and failing to indicate changes had been made. Earlier Monday, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet acknowledged that readers had been “whipsawed” by the changes. “We should have explained to our readers right away what happened here, as soon as we knew it,” he said. But Baquet stopped short of blaming the reporters or editors involved. “You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” he said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

So now you know whose side Baquet is on. Back to the Times‘s “Editors Note” —

Shortly after the article was published online, however, aides to Mrs. Clinton contacted one reporter to dispute the account. After consultation between editors and reporters, the first paragraph was edited to say the investigation was requested “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled,” rather than into whether Mrs. Clinton herself mishandled information. That type of substantive change should have been noted immediately for readers; instead, a correction was not appended to the article until hours later.

On Friday, another question arose — whether the investigation being sought was a “criminal” inquiry. As other news organizations followed up on The Times’s report, the Justice Department confirmed to them that a “criminal” investigation had been requested. Officials also gave that description again to Times reporters who were rechecking their initial story. But later in the day, the Justice Department and the inspectors general said that the request was not a “criminal referral” but rather a “security referral,” meant to alert the F.B.I. about a potential mishandling of classified information. It was not clear how the discrepancy arose. In addition, the inspectors said they discovered that four emails out of a sample of 40 they examined contained classified information, although it was not marked as such.

Take that, Mrs. Clinton. As I noted in a Tatler post when the story first broke, “The Times understands something about Hillary the rest of the media, which generally has the attention span of a dog, does not: there is no end to the amount of mischief she can get up to, and get away with, if she lies through her teeth, appears to ‘cooperate’ and then drowns the investigators in an ocean of legalisms and ‘process’.” The last thing the Clintons needed at this point in Hillary!’s stumbling “camapaign” is a criminal inquiry into the activities of a woman who, let’s face it, gives ample reason for concern in the “criminal” department.

Watch your tongue, comrades

Watch what you say about Hillary, comrades

Expect to see more of the same. As Rush Limbaugh said back in April:

Here is what we’re talking about. First, Michael Walsh. This is from PJMedia.com, and his theory is that the media is begging Hillary to get out of the race before they really have to hurt her. His theory is that all of these stories about the foundation and the fraud and the selling of influence while she was secretary of state can be explained by the media saying, “Look, this is the tip of the iceberg, Bill and Hillary, and we don’t want to report what else we’ve got.

“If you don’t get out and get out now, we’re gonna have no choice and we’re gonna really have to hurt you. It’s really damaging what we’ve got. We’ve tried to hold this out as long as we can. We’ve held back, we’ve tried to cover other things, but we’ve reached critical mass, and we can’t the cover this stuff up anymore. We can’t keep it secret. So here’s the first first dump, and if you stay in, oh, my God, we can’t promise… This could end up destroying you and we really don’t want to destroy you.” That’s his story.

So you can arguably say that if Michael Walsh at PJ Media is right and the media is begging Hillary to get out — and the only reason they would do that, by the way, is if they had somebody else they like either as much or more. And they do. Elizabeth Warren. They would much prefer Elizabeth Warren to Hillary. Some of them might even prefer Martin O’Malley to Hillary… I really think it’s entirely possible that Michael Walsh is right here. That the media is going for the throat here in an effort to save the Clintons, essentially.

Look, his theory again is that they are begging Hillary to get out before they have no choice but than to totally destroy the Clintons.  Meaning, they know even more about what’s gone on with all of this stuff, the foundation, whatever, that we just have the tip of the iceberg. And they’re saying: Okay, please, Bill and Hillary, we love you, please get out of this now before we’re gonna have no choice and report the rest of what we know, and then you’re cooked.

But she didn’t take the hint, and the pushback against the Times‘s email story indicates that she’ll keep fighting, at least for a time. But what the Clintons don’t understand is that the media world has changed since the nineties, that the Times no longer has the same power to control the Narrative that it once had, and that a younger generation of Timesmen- and -women have plighted their troth to Obama. It’s a battle Hillary can’t win, but she seems to be the only person in the country who doesn’t know that.