Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Same Story, Different Decade

Paul Krugman on what the press and its enablers are doing to Hillary Clinton.

Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.

I would like to give the press the benefit of the doubt and assume that they — the New York Times, the Associated Press, the cable outlets — don’t have it in for Hillary Clinton; at least consciously.  I am sure that they will all swear on a stack of Edward R. Murrow biographies that they are doing their level best to be objective; or at least what they consider to be objective, which is to say that “both sides do it” and that if Donald Trump is a grifter and a con artist, Hillary Clinton can’t be trusted with a BlackBerry and that’s the same thing.

That’s not malicious journalism, it’s just lazy.  There’s plenty of evidence of Mr. Trump’s mendacity and bullshit — he’s built his empire on it — and yet they’re covering him like he’s a Kardashian, not someone to sit in the same office as Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt.  Meanwhile, everything Hillary Clinton does is suspect, and there’s a full-blown right-wing industry that readily supplies the rumors, the innuendos, and the fiction to knock her down.

But lazy journalism is worse than the deliberate lies of the Hate-Hillary industry.  They have an agenda, but the press has a duty to report the facts and the truth.  As Dr. Krugman concludes,

…the best ways to judge a candidate’s character are to look at what he or she has actually done, and what policies he or she is proposing. Mr. Trump’s record of bilking students, stiffing contractors and more is a good indicator of how he’d act as president; Mrs. Clinton’s speaking style and body language aren’t. George W. Bush’s policy lies gave me a much better handle on who he was than all the up-close-and-personal reporting of 2000, and the contrast between Mr. Trump’s policy incoherence and Mrs. Clinton’s carefulness speaks volumes today.

In other words, focus on the facts. America and the world can’t afford another election tipped by innuendo.

The only problem with that is that it’s a lot easier to run with the innuendo and make it to Happy Hour than it is to actually do some real reporting.

One bark on “Same Story, Different Decade

  1. And no portion of the Media (caps intended) can tolerate a hohum election race. There has to be drama, there must be something new to reveal in order to keep selling papers or boosting the ratings to keep the advertisers happy. A blowout election is too boring and besides it’s another 64 days to fill in in the meantime. A little scandal for each contestant, a constant trickle of back-and-forth makes the medicine go down. Talk about lazy . . .

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