Friday, September 9, 2016

Chris Cillizza is not Going to Like This

After hearing this, he may have to resign in protest. His own Washington Post says the email story is overhyped.

Of course if you have read Cillizza's work, you know about the only news story that will motivate him enough to actually write is the story of Hillary's emails. You know Hitler might have done the Holocaust but Hillary used private email.

For Cillizza at least those are roughly equivalent sins. Yet here is his very own newspaper calling the email furor overhyped.

"The Hillary Clinton email story is out of control."

And that's just the title. Cillizza must already feel a chilling effect as no one has worked harder to make sure it's out of control than he has.

"JUDGING BY the amount of time NBC’s Matt Lauer spent pressing Hillary Clinton on her emails during Wednesday’s national security presidential forum, one would think that her homebrew server was one of the most important issues facing the country this election. It is not. There are a thousand other substantive issues — from China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea to National Security Agency intelligence-gathering to military spending — that would have revealed more about what the candidates know and how they would govern. Instead, these did not even get mentioned in the first of 5½ precious prime-time hours the two candidates will share before Election Day, while emails took up a third of Ms. Clinton’s time."

Krugman made the point the other day that a candidates knowledge and positions on the issues tells us a lot more about their character than such overhyped scandals as the email server.

"And here’s a pro tip: 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."

Focus on facts. Seems so simple and yet, as James Fallows notes:

"These mental habits of the media included an over-emphasis on strife and conflict, a fascination with the mechanics or “game” of politics rather than the real-world consequences, and a self-protective instinct to conceal limited knowledge of a particular subject (a new budget proposal, an international spat) by talking about the politics of these questions, and by presenting disagreements in a he-said/she-said, “plenty of blame on all sides” fashion now known as “false equivalence.”

A big part of it comes down to: style vs. substance. The media focuses much more on style. This is how Beltway insiders like Chuck Todd and Mark Halperin could claim that both Hilary and Trump bombed the Commander in Chief forum to an equal degree.

Todd claimed that while Trump was bad on substance, Hillary was bad on style and so it was a wash. Part of the brilliance of saying her style was off is that it can almost mean anything. What was wrong with her style? Todd seemed to think she should 'just apologize and move on from her emails'!

I give that an exclamation because she has done that literally countless times and we are still talking about them.

It's amazing how much work her emails have done. With every latest absurd, racist, and utterly disqualifying thing Trump says or does, the media always says: 'Trump did X and then Hillary used a private email server.'

But as even Cillizza's own paper now says, this story has gone way beyond the boundaries of fact:

"In fact, Ms. Clinton’s emails have endured much more scrutiny than an ordinary person’s would have, and the criminal case against her was so thin that charging her would have been to treat her very differently. Ironically, even as the email issue consumed so much precious airtime, several pieces of news reported Wednesday should have taken some steam out of the story. First is a memo FBI Director James B. Comey sent to his staff explaining that the decision not to recommend charging Ms. Clinton was “not a cliff-hanger” and that people “chest-beating” and second-guessing the FBI do not know what they are talking about. Anyone who claims that Ms. Clinton should be in prison accuses, without evidence, the FBI of corruption or flagrant incompetence."

"Second is the emergence of an email exchange between Ms. Clinton and former secretary of state Colin Powell in which he explained that he used a private computer and bypassed State Department servers while he ran the agency, even when communicating with foreign leaders and top officials. Mr. Powell attempted last month to distance himself from Ms. Clinton’s practices, which is one of the many factors that made the email story look worse. Now, it seems, Mr. Powell engaged in similar behavior."

"Ms. Clinton is hardly blameless. She treated the public’s interest in sound record-keeping cavalierly. A small amount of classified material also moved across her private server. But it was not obviously marked as such, and there is still no evidence that national security was harmed. Ms. Clinton has also admitted that using the personal server was a mistake. The story has vastly exceeded the boundaries of the facts."

"Imagine how history would judge today’s Americans if, looking back at this election, the record showed that voters empowered a dangerous man because of . . . a minor email scandal. There is no equivalence between Ms. Clinton’s wrongs and Mr. Trump’s manifest unfitness for office."

Exactly. But until recently, no one in the media was willing to admit that this is in fact a minor email scandal.

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