The WikiLeaks email trove is revealing more than the servility of “objective” reporters trying to please Hillary Clinton and her aides. It’s revealing the press strategy of Clinton and her aides — how they seek to praise reporters, even as they arrogantly stonewall them.
One internal campaign email exchange is salient. It discusses Clinton speaking at a Syracuse University event for the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, which is so named for the deceased liberal New York Times political correspondent Robin Toner. Clinton had been invited as a keynote speaker.
Her aides discuss how she should try to please the journalists she’d been ignoring by mocking her tendency to avoid journalistic scrutiny. Press secretary Nick Merrill liked the draft of jokes that was sent around as a strategy that never surrenders, saying, “What I liked about it is that it provided a rare opportunity for her to show some contrition and self-awareness but do it under the guise of humor so as not to cede any ground.”
The Clintons never cede any ground and never relinquish their kung-fu grip on their own narrative and imagery. “Guise of humor?” Their contempt for their friends is astounding. The media may not like this, but it doesn’t stop their never-ending cooperation, hence the contempt.
Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri proposed that they “pretend everyone in the audience is a serious, on the level journalist trying to get the story right and cover serious issues in an absurdly difficult environment where speed and mass appeal are over valued.”
And she scripted the rest of the media-pandering approach: “Have her commend them on how hard they all work in this difficult environment to tell the facts, unearth important stories … if (Clinton) acknowledges that and says she and all thoughtful people appreciate the struggle the reporters in the room face, and how (important) it is that they keep at it, how needed they really are — (I) think that would go over really well.”
Clinton did exactly that. First, she admitted she was a control freak with the press, saying, “My relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated.” And she proclaimed: “I am all about new beginnings: a new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account. Why not a new relationship with the press? So here goes. No more secrecy. No more zone of privacy.” She joked that they all had a nondisclosure agreement from her lawyer under their chairs.
Clinton slathered on praise. “You are facing fundamental questions that may not fit into 140 characters but are nonetheless vital to our democracy,” she said. “Too many of our most important debates occur in what I call an evidence-free zone, ideology trumping facts, made-for-cable shoutfests, Twitter storms, drowning out substantive dialogue and reporting that often leads to shallower more contentious politics and even no, or not the best, public policy.”
Clinton closed her remarks with a pitch for the media elite. “We need, more than ever, smart, fair-minded journalists to challenge our assumptions, push us toward new solutions and hold all of us accountable,” she said.
The result? A standing ovation.
Never mind that the Clintons resist at every turn any half-hearted efforts to hold them accountable for all of their scandalous behavior. The only journalism they really respect is the “journalism” that rips their enemies apart or blatantly promotes them as they dishonestly see themselves — as incredibly smart and compassionate public servants with no moral flaws worth noticing.