City Mouse finally squeaks: You may remember Aesop's fable involving the City Mouse. He fails to put food away for the winter, unlike his more industrious cousin, the Country Mouse.
(Actually, the fable in question concerns an Ant and a Grasshopper. We prefer to tell the story with the characters played by mice.)
This morning, in the New York Times, a City Mouse has finally arrived on the scene. We refer to Paul Krugman's new column, which arrives sixteen, seventeen or even just ten or twelve years too late to serve its intended purpose.
Don't get us wrong! Krugman's column is perfectly accurate. We know that because it's fairly clear that he got his column from us.
The problem is this: Few readers will have any idea what Krugman is talking about. The City Mice of our own hapless team have refused to tell the story he tells for the past seventeen years.
With electoral winter 39 days away, Krugman is telling the story. But very few readers will have any idea what the Sam Hill he's talking about. His industry comes extremely late in a very long, death-dealing game.
Please note: Krugman's new column follows on this earlier column from September 5. Yesterday, we critiqued a new blog post by Krugman. As it turns out, that blog post was the basic framework for this morning's column.
Also note this: Krugman's column is basically accurate, at least as far as it goes. The problem is its extreme late arrival, which constitutes an indictment of every liberal or alleged liberal in the career mainstream press.
If you're a liberal, a progressive, a Democrat, a centrist or just a fair-minded American, you've been badly failed by the journalists who have refused to tell this tale. Krugman is telling the tale today, thus validating its accuracy and its obvious relevance.
Why is it being told so late? You need to consider that question today. Over the course of the past sixteen years, we've begged career writers to tell this tale. A wide range of high-living City Mice have refused to do so, and have thereby failed you, right to this very day.
In his column, Krugman complains about media treatment of Candidate Clinton. He's puzzled by her drop in the polls over the past few weeks.
What happened to her lead in the polls? Krugman asks the question, then starts his answer like this:
KRUGMAN (9/30/16): [A]s recently as August Mrs. Clinton held a commanding lead. Then her polls went into a swoon.Krugman says Candidate Clinton is "getting Gored." He says that's what happened to Candidate Gore. Few readers will have any real idea what Krugman is talking about.
What happened? Did she make some huge campaign blunders?
I don’t think so. As I’ve written before, she got Gored. That is, like Al Gore in 2000, she ran into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media, which treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air.
Meanwhile, her opponent’s genuine scandals and various grotesqueries were downplayed or whitewashed; but as Jonathan Chait of New York magazine says, the normalization of Donald Trump was probably less important than the abnormalization of Hillary Clinton.
Due to a massive code of silence, career liberals have barely written a word about the mainstream press corps's treatment of Gore in the two years of Campaign 2000. For that reason, few people have ever heard that the mainstream press corps "treated relatively minor missteps as major scandals, and invented additional scandals out of thin air" during that historic campaign.
Few people have ever heard a word about that. Many will wonder why they're hearing such unlikely-sounding claims now.
(Note to Krugman: The behavior of which you speak occurred over a twenty-month period in 1999 and 2000. When you use the term "in 2000," you start your brief by cutting the press corps' misconduct in half.)
Krugman's citation of Chait is especially galling. In his 2007 book, The Big Con, Chait gave a description of the press corps' coverage of Campaign 2000 that was about as disingenuous as anything we've ever read.
His account of the work by the New York Times was especially ludicrous. Given the fact that Chait is smart, it's very, very hard to believe that his work was done in good faith. On the brighter side, he occasionally gets things published in the Times, or gains the occasional scrap of citation, as he does today.
(Meanwhile, check the first paragraph in Chait's most recent post, in which he declares that "the Clinton Foundation has created appearances of a conflict of interest, and the Clintons’ policy of accepting speaking fees from any source as long as the check would clear the bank has tarnished her image." This is precisely the type of imprecise, scripted attack about which Krugman's complaining.)
In Campaign 2000, did Al Gore "run into a buzz saw of adversarial reporting from the mainstream media?" If you peruse the comments to Krugman's column, you'll see that very few people show any sign of knowing what he's talking about. Presumably, that's because they've never heard a word about the twenty-month press corps war which sent George Bush to the White House.
As Krugman continues, his work becomes almost silly. To his credit, he names real names in the passage shown below. But his basic analysis is almost daft:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): This media onslaught started with an Associated Press report on the Clinton Foundation, which roughly coincided with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide. The A.P. took on a valid question: Did foundation donors get inappropriate access and exert undue influence?Did that AP report on the Clinton Foundation "roughly coincide with the beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s poll slide?" Yes, but so did a losing streak by the Baltimore Orioles!
As it happened, it failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing—but nonetheless wrote the report as if it had. And this was the beginning of an extraordinary series of hostile news stories about how various aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s life “raise questions” or “cast shadows,” conveying an impression of terrible things without saying anything that could be refuted.
The culmination of this process came with the infamous Matt Lauer-moderated forum, which might be briefly summarized as “Emails, emails, emails; yes, Mr. Trump, whatever you say, Mr. Trump.”
I still don’t fully understand this hostility, which wasn’t ideological. Instead, it had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd. Sexism was surely involved but may not have been central, since the same thing happened to Mr. Gore.
The claim that some media onslaught "started" with that AP report resembles a piece of misdirection. The onslaught in the current campaign began in the early summer of 2014. The onslaught about the emails—an onslaught Krugman specifically cites in his admirable critique of Lauer, who he names—started in March 2015.
The onslaught about the Clinton Foundation was well underway when the New York Times published its 4400-word report about the scary uranium deal. That was easily the most ludicrous "news report" in the entire media onslaught against the Foundation.
It was published in Krugman's own New York Times—in April 2015!
Did that recent AP report help drag Clinton's numbers down? Everything is possible! But Krugman's evidence in support of that claim is slight, and he weirdly says he doesn't understand the hostility against Candidate Clinton.
Dude! It's part of a pattern which goes back decades, as your central reference to Candidate Gore rather plainly suggests.
At the end of that passage, Krugman again refers to the press corps' treatment of Candidate Gore. He says, correctly, that Candidate Gore was treated with "hostility" during Campaign 2000, with press corps conduct which "had the feel of the cool kids in high school jeering at the class nerd."
That is certainly true. After the first Gore-Bradley debate, three major journalists, Jake Tapper included, said the 300 reporters in the press room had hissed, booed and jeered at nearly everything Gore said!
"The reporters were hissing Gore," Tapper said a few weeks later on C-Span, "and that’s the only time I’ve ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event." The Hotline's Howard Mortman, a former staffer for Bush the Elder, offered a more sweeping description. "The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something," Mortman said on the Hotline's own cable program.
Krugman's statement about the "hostility" toward Candidate Gore is perfectly accurate, but very few people have ever heard this historical matter discussed. Just last week, we discussed that remarkable press room event with a group of federal managers in Aberdeen, South Dakota. As best we could tell, it was the first time any of them had heard of that astounding event, which would have been discussed for years (as it should have been) if the hissing, jeering and booing had been directed at Candidate Bush.
Conservatives would have screamed about that. Our corrupt pseudo-liberals did not.
It isn't Krugman's fault that liberals have refused to discuss that event, along with the million similar episodes from that historic campaign. That said, Krugman must share the mountain of blame, despite a few notes in his columns, down through the years, concerning the treatment of Gore.
On a few occasions, Krugman has briefly noted the press corps' treatment of Candidate Gore. That said, the "abnormalization" of Candidate Clinton started more than two years ago in its present iteration, not with that recent AP report, unfortunate as it was.
That incompetent AP report was the reliable norm, not the start of something new. The current wave started in June 2014. We began to sound the alarm at that time, but our City Mice—people like Krugman—twitched their tails and sat silent.
Krugman's column includes one more reference to Campaign 2000. Few readers will have the slightest idea what he's talking about:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): In any case, those of us who remember the 2000 campaign expected the worst would follow the first debate: Surely much of the media would declare Mr. Trump the winner even if he lied repeatedly. Some “news analyses” were already laying the foundation, setting a low bar for the G.O.P. nominee while warning that Mrs. Clinton’s “body language” might display “condescension.”Earth to Krugman: No one has the slightest idea what you're talking about. No one knows why someone "who remembered the 2000 campaign" would have expected that "much of the media would declare Mr. Trump the winner even if he lied repeatedly."
No one knows how Campaign 2000 relates to the claim that some journalists "were already laying the foundation" for that declaration by "setting a low bar for the G.O.P. nominee." (For the record: very few mainstream journalists proceeded to claim that Trump won this week's debate.)
With respect to Campaign 2000, we've described the lowering of expectations for Candidate Bush in great detail. Presumably, that's where Krugman got his hook. But people who read Krugman's column today had no idea what he was talking about. That's because of the code of silence which has long been observed by the likes of Chait and Josh Marshall and their numerous ilk.
Krugman has to share a bit of that blame. At long last, he's naming names and directly complaining about mainstream press conduct. But he's complaining about a long-running syndrome which has already done enormous damage around the world, with barely a peep from him or from the many careerist colleagues who have kept their pretty traps shut.
The code of silence has been astonishing down through these many years. The Chaits, the Dionnes, the Marshalls, the Robinsons, the Maddows, the Hayeses and so many more—all of them have played this game, thereby preserving and sustaining their precious, all-important careers.
Today, their silence has us within a few points, and within a few weeks, of a President-elect Trump. Very, very late in the game, one of the City Mice has thereby started to stir.
That particular City Mouse has been the press corps' MVP over a great many years. But he too failed to prepare for the current mess, which is in part the obvious fruit of decades of "liberal" sloth and self-dealing.
Just this month, he has started to stir; that puts him ahead of the other fine mice. The other Corporate Mice are still quiet, and they always will be. Rachel was laughing and having great fun on her program this week.