This is exactly what we need — four more years of this crap:
Reporters who have covered the hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience. Though few dare offer specifics for the record–”They’re too smart,” one furtively confides. “They’ll figure out who I am”–privately, they recount excruciating battles to secure basic facts. Innocent queries are met with deep suspicion. Only surgically precise questioning yields relevant answers. Hillary’s aides don’t hesitate to use access as a blunt instrument, as when they killed off a negative GQ story on the campaign by threatening to stop cooperating with a separate Bill Clinton story the magazine had in the works. Reporters’ jabs and errors are long remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top editors. “They’re frightening!” says one reporter who has covered Clinton. “They don’t see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process. They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game.”
Despite all the grumbling, however, the press has showered Hillary with strikingly positive coverage. “It’s one of the few times I’ve seen journalists respect someone for beating the hell out of them,” says a veteran Democratic media operative. The media has paved a smooth road for signature campaign moments like Hillary’s campaign launch and her health care plan rollout and has dutifully advanced campaign-promoted themes like Hillary’s “experience” and expertise in military affairs. This is all the more striking in light of the press’s past treatment of Clinton–particularly during her husband’s White House years–including endless stories about her personal ethics, frostiness, and alleged Lady Macbeth persona.
It’s enough to make you suspect that breeding fear and paranoia within the press corps is itself part of the Clinton campaign’s strategy. And, if that sounds familiar, it may be because the Clinton machine, say reporters and pro-Hillary Democrats, is emulating nothing less than the model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly veiled contempt and minimal cooperation. “The Bush administration changed the rules,” as one scribe puts it–and the Clintonites like the way they look. (To be sure, no one accuses the Clinton team of outright lying to the press, as the Bushies have done, or of crossing other ethical lines. And reporters say other press shops–notably those of Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards–are also highly combative.)
So far, the strategy has worked brilliantly. In the current climate, where the mainstream media is under attack from both conservatives and liberals, Clinton may have picked the right moment to get tough with the press. But, as the murmur of discontent among the fourth estate grows–and Hillary’s coverage has taken a sharper tone since a widely panned debate performance late last month–even some Hillary supporters fear that the strategy may produce a dangerous backlash.
Assuming Clinton wins the presidency, I’d just like to thank the Clinton team in advance for providing “Candorville” with at least four years of material.