Diary

How The New York Times deceived itself

The New York Times explains so much, without ever realizing that they have done so:

‘They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President’

Covering Hillary Clinton’s campaign from before it started to the very last moment.

By Amy Chozick | April 20, 2018

Things were already looking bad when, several people told me, Chelsea Clinton popped the Champagne. It was just after 9 p.m. on election night and she was having her hair and makeup done in the family’s suite at the Peninsula hotel. She stopped to pour what someone said was Veuve Clicquot into everyone’s glasses, figuring that in a couple of hours Donald Trump’s run of early victories in red states (West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama) would end and the map would turn back in her mom’s favor.

Three hours later, the Rust Belt was awash in red, and somebody had to tell Hillary Clinton.

Robby Mook, the drained and deflated campaign manager, told his boss she was going to lose. She didn’t seem all that surprised.

“I knew it. I knew this would happen to me,” she said, now within a couple of inches of Mr. Mook’s ashen face. “They were never going to let me be president.”

Why would Mr Mook, or anyone else, have to inform Mrs Clinton of this; didn’t she already know from the election returns as they were being reported?

There’s much more at the link, but the part quoted above is the biggest single point taken from Amy Chozick’s OpEd piece. The bookstores are awash with election postmortems, written by the people involved and the journalists who covered the candidates, and if it seems that the 2016 election has produced more of them, part of that is explained by Hillary Clinton having tried to do so herself with “What Happened.” Mrs Clinton’s odious book tour — hey, she’s got to sell books to make money now!¹ — has been covered ad infinitum, leading people to ask why she just won’t go away

That Mrs Chozick has chosen to write another such book is unsurprising: she’s a journalist, someone who makes her living by writing, and this is another way to make a few dollars. It was reading not her book — I don’t have it to read — but her OpEd piece which led me to ask, just who is Amy Chozick.

In the article, she tells us that she was assigned to cover not just Mrs Clinton’s 2016 campaign, but her campaign of 2008 as well. Jill Filipovic wrote about Mrs Chozick’s assignment back in 2015:

I move back to New York, it’s 2007, and John Bussey calls me and says, “How would you like to go to Iowa with Hillary Clinton?” Iowa was as big a culture shock to me as Japan, and American politics was also totally foreign — I remember not knowing what a caucus was. John Bussey’s theory was that fresh perspective brings a different kind of story. Everyone knows people hook up on the campaign, but no one had written that story. I was in 48 states that election cycle. I was with Hillary when she cried in New Hampshire, I was with her when she came out in Ohio and ranted, “Shame on you, Barack Obama.” What’s great about covering her is she is so disciplined and so on message that when something unexpected happens, it’s really significant. I covered her through May, when it became obvious she wasn’t going to get the nomination, and then they moved me to Obama’s traveling press.

That was really different. Obama is super charming and charismatic speaking to 50,000 people, and Hillary is charming and charismatic speaking to five. The campaigns were very different because Hillary’s was in turmoil. She gets criticized for having drama in her campaign, but any losing candidate has drama. When I went over to Obama, there was a lot of talk about “no drama Obama” — which wasn’t true, he had plenty of drama, but he knew his message. In 2008 “hope and change” was exactly what the country was looking for, and they stuck with that, and Hillary had to find her own message. When I started covering her in 2007, I was like, “I’m riding this beat to the White House,” and then saw her fall.

It’s all part of what the blurb for the Cosmopolitan article noted, “Amy Chozick’s life is almost entirely dictated by Hillary Clinton.”

From the Times again:

In July 2013, Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times, put me on the “Hillary beat” ahead of the 2016 election. It was 649 days before Mrs. Clinton would announce she was running for president again, 1,226 days before she would lose to Mr. Trump.

While Mrs Chozick has had some other notable journalistic jobs and assignments, it’s fair to say, in a variation of Miss Filipovic’s assessment, that the most important part of her career is Hillary Clinton, always Hillary Clinton.

I figured that if anyone knew whom Mrs. Clinton was referring to with that insidious “they” that, like some invisible army of adversaries (real and imagined), wielded its collective power and caused her to lose the most winnable presidential election in modern history, it was me.

They were the vast-right wing conspiracy. They were the patriarchy that could never let an ambitious former first lady finally shatter “that highest, hardest glass ceiling.” They were the people of Wisconsin and James Comey. They were white suburban women who would rather vote for a man who bragged about sexual assault than a woman who seemed an affront to who they were.

And yes, they were political reporters (“big egos and no brains,” she called us) hounding her about her emails and transfixed by the spectacle of the first reality TV show candidate.

It’s dizzying to realize that without even knowing it, you’ve ended up on the wrong side of history. Months after the election, every time I heard the words “Russia” and “collude,” this realization swirled in my head, enveloping everything.

That Mrs Clinton called the political reporters “big egos and no brains” pretty much shows the contempt the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee had for almost everyone; as we noted previously:

Elizabeth Drew, who wrote a review of Mrs Clinton’s book “What Happened” that was published in the hard-left political journal The Nation, said:

Hillary the author, like Hillary the candidate, indulges in more than a little self-pity. She complains about the criticism that she’s too remote from the public. She interprets this as meaning that her critics think she should reveal more about herself. She doesn’t seem to get that she can come across as sealed off by layers of caginess, self-protectiveness, and caution, with a tincture of arrogance. (She knows she’s special.) Partly what bewilders her is that when she’s not onstage, she can be funny, fun-loving, thoughtful, and warm—when she chooses to be; otherwise, wearing a puffer coat in her presence might be advisable.

It was those four words in the parentheses, “She knows she’s special,” that caught my eye. Every politician is arrogant; to put yourself up for a position in which you are saying ‘My judgement is superior, and should be used to speak for my constituents’ is not exactly a humble thing. But the best politicians manage to conceal their arrogance — Mr Trump is a very special exception to this — in a sort of humble, aw, shucks sort of way. Without the charisma of Mr Trump, Mrs Clinton needed that aw, shucks demeanor, something at which her husband was a master, and she just couldn’t manage it. Her entitledness, her arrogance, her I’m-better-than-you attitude all came through in the 2016 campaign. It has been said, with some merit, that many of Mr Trump’s votes were more votes against Mrs Clinton than votes for him, but I have to wonder just how many votes Mrs Clinton received which were more votes against him than votes for her. Apparently, not everyone finds her quite as special as she does herself.

One thing is clear: while perhaps not everyone finds Mrs Clinton as special as she finds herself, Mrs Chozick does. Yet even Mrs Chozick managed to find the dispiriting weakness of the Clinton campaign:

When I started covering Mrs. Clinton in 2007 for The Wall Street Journal, she’d been a hands-on senator constantly in touch with her upstate constituents. But by her second campaign, she seemed like Rip Van Winkle, awake again after her stint as secretary of state to find a vastly different country. She’d missed the rise of the Tea Party. She’d missed the Occupy Wall Street movement and the rage over health care and bank bailouts and the 1 percent.

And in early 2015, when her advisers told her that people no longer wanted to be called middle class — a data point that seemed a fundamental shift in the American psyche and as clear a sign as any that there was something stirring in this election — Hillary Clinton saw only a linguistic challenge.

I had previously predicted that Mrs Clinton would not be a candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign, due to her poor health. As it turned out, my prediction was wrong, but my reasoning was entirely correct: Mrs Clinton’s physical health weighed down her campaign,³ and now, from Miss Chozick’s description, it seems that the candidate’s mental health had lagged as well. It was probably not an actual mental illness — who can say anything about that? — but Mrs Chozick has described a mental fatigue, a tiredness that persisted throughout. Though a year younger than her opponent, she was much less energetic physically, and apparently mentally as well; she was simply stuck in the past.

Mrs Chozick described a campaign which the reporters called “Hillary’s Death March to Victory,” saying that the “long-suffering feminist heroine would make history not in a festooned lovefest but in a dreary, mechanical slog.” That was something I failed to see, because the credentialed media were not very active in noting what I was seeing in the conservative blogs, that Mrs Clinton was speaking to groups of 200 or fewer, while Mr Trump was addressing wildly cheering crowds of 20,000 or more. It was not that the media didn’t note Mr Trump’s huge campaign rallies — they did — but that the press was extremely reticent to mention how little public enthusiasm Mrs Clinton was generating. Bias is not manifested by false reporting, but upon the editorial decision-taking on what is reported, and how it is presented.

Finally, there was this:

(T)he traveling press — called “the Girls on the Bus” since on any given day, of our cohort of about 20 regular reporters, as many as 18 of us were women . . . .

That was almost a throw-away line, in the middle of something more important, but it demonstrated something hugely important. In covering the first female presidential nominee by a major party, the editors who decided who would be covering Mrs Clinton chose a disproportionately female group of reporters. There are a lot of women in journalism, but they do not represent anywhere close to 90%. The editors somehow seemed to figure that they had to cover a woman candidate with woman reporters. In a campaign in which women were expected to provide the bulk of the votes in Mrs Clinton’s inexorable march to her near-certain victory, editors seemed to be choosing reporters who were more favorable to her candidacy in the first place. Had the Republican nominee’s campaign been one in which reporters saw “a dreary, mechanical slog,” would The New York Times have failed to tell us that, would The Washington Post and CNN and everyone but Fox have not told us about ‘Trump’s Death March’? Instead, we were told, over and over and over again, that Mr Trump had no path to victory, that he simply could not win.

It’s arguable that the editors for the credentialed media had little choice in selecting reporters who favored Mrs Clinton to cover her, while it was not difficult at all for them to find journalists — I was very tempted to spell it JournoLists — who were opposed to Mr Trump. But Mrs Chozick’s article tells us just how thoroughly she was invested in Mrs Clinton’s candidacy, and her almost certain victory. How can we expect good journalistic coverage of a candidate when the reporters assigned to cover that campaign are strong supporters of the candidate? Mrs Chozick is an award-winning journalist, but it seems like a poor editorial decision to send a reporter who so closely covered Mrs Clinton’s 2008 campaign right back in to cover her 2016 effort, especially as early as 3¼ years before the election?

The Washington Post has added a tagline, “Democracy dies in darkness.” Just how much darker can it get than when the reporters pull the wool over their own eyes?
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¹ – Now that Mrs Clinton is no longer going to be the next President, her speaking fees have dropped precipitously.
² – Mrs Clinton responded that “They never said that to any man who was not elected,” but neglected to mention that the men who lost presidential elections weren’t spending their time complaining about how unfair it was that they lost.
³ – If I could see that she wasn’t healthy or strong enough for a presidential campaign, without ever having met her personally, why couldn’t she see it herself?