FRIDAY, MAY 16, 2003
THE WARS CONTINUE: Omigod! He criticized Sally Quinn! No wonder the press corps knickers are knotted over Sidney Blumenthals demonic new book. On page 109 of The Clinton Wars, the gentleman dares offer this:
BLUMENTHAL: Sally Quinn began as a party reporter for The Washington Post, became a clever, irreverent writer of profiles, married the Posts editor, Ben Bradlee, and moved into a large house in Georgetown, where she became an avid participant-observer in the capitals social life. Even before Clinton took his oath of office, Quinn began telling the Clintons what to do and what to say, how to shed their provincial habits and learn the ways of Washington.Blumenthal quotes condescending examples from two published pieces. To Blumenthal, it seemed odd that a person like Sally Quinn would be rattling off rules to an incoming president, elected by the American people. To the press corps, of course, such an outlook is troubling. And so, the corps scripted tribunes have swung into action. Standard Message: Do not buy this book!
Many pundits have already served, raising assorted inane objections. At the Post, for example, Al Kamen was shocked to see that a memoir of Blumenthals years with the Clintons included photos of Blumenthal and the Clintons! But then, Janet Maslin was puzzled by that matter too. Maslin writes for the New York Times. And theres nothing so dumb she wont say it:
MASLIN: Beyond his intention to set the record straight on controversies that plagued the Clinton presidency, Mr. Blumenthal has a more personal agenda. Barely mentioning others close to the Clintons, and illustrating this memoir with smiling, convivial photographs of himself in their company (though much of the book is about others, like the less lovable Kenneth W. Starr), Mr. Blumenthal sends a clear message to his administration colleagues: Mom liked me best.In all likelihood, Blumenthal doesnt have lots of shots of himself with Ken Starr. But since its not clear that Maslin has read this book, perhaps such points havent yet become obvious.
Why did Mom like Blumenthal best? Because hes a kiss-up, Maslin says, peddling the corps stalest spin-point. She starts her review with a pointless example, the kind that Moms pundits like best:
MASLIN (pgh 1): When her book It Takes a Village was published in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton was assailed for not mentioning the ghostwriter who had been paid $120,000 to help. Her aide and confidant Sidney Blumenthal is now ready to set the record straight on this Clinton contretemps and hundreds of others. His most often repeated assertion, throughout an 800-plus-page memoir and political treatise, is this: The charge was, of course, completely false.Meow! Hiss! Spit! Me-ow!! For the record, you might be surprised to learn that Blumenthal doesnt write, The charge was, of course, completely false in his brief passage about It Takes a Village. In this part of his impressive book, he is helping readers get a sense of the endless, mindless, inane attacks that pundits loved lodging against Mrs. Clinton. And Maslin seems eager to show that hes right. Blumenthal devotes two paragraphs to this incident (in an 822-page book); Maslin also gives it two paragraphsin an 1100-word review! Why is this nonsense in paragraph one? To convince you that Blumenthals book is pure trivia. But then, early reviews have tended to focus on triviathe kind our modern press corps dearly loves. Blumenthals book deals with troubling topicsmatters that ought to concern all Americans. But simpering scribes like the Times Janet Maslin are eager to turn your gaze somewhere else. They feature minor episodes to avoid discussing the damage thats been done by their class.
Blumenthals book looks at troubling mattersmatters that defined a political decade. Eventually, Maslin mentions such matters too. After saying that Mom liked Sidney best, she gives an example which does involve a great theme. How far does Blumenthals loyalty extend? This far, the lady says, shocked and ashen:
MASLIN: In discussing the first whiff of scandal to affect this presidency and, Mr. Blumenthal says, to pave the way for widespread, snowballing hysteria from the presshe recounts a conversation with the first lady. She spoke frankly, he writes, explaining Whitewaters emptiness.Maslin knows nonsense when she sees it. Such acrobatic feats of protectivenessand they are endless heretake their toll, she says.
But if you read her review, you will note a sad factshe doesnt make the slightest attempt to say whats wrong with Blumenthals statement. More specifically, what is supposed to be acrobatic or protective about calling Whitewater empty? Clearly, were supposed to gasp at this fawning remark; were supposed to see that Blumenthals loyalty extends to the point where hell even say that. But by now, almost everyone surely knows that Whitewater did turn out a hoax, even if Maslin doesnt know, or is willing to pretend that she doesnt. (The matter is thoroughly explained in the book, and Maslin keeps saying she read it.) By December 1995, for example, the RTCs Pillsbury commission had filed a lengthy official report which exonerated the Clintons of wrongdoing in Whitewater. But exoneration didnt cut it with Maslins slick crowd; on December 22 of that year, the Posts Howard Kurtz wrote a detailed piece, noting that the New York Times and USA Today have not run a word about the final report. Others had kept you clueless, too. The Washington Post mentioned the findings Saturday in the 11th paragraph of a front-page story about a Whitewater subpoena battle, Kurtz wrote. The Los Angeles Times, Washington Times and Chicago Tribune ran 400 or fewer words of the AP story on inside pages. Guess what? Your press corps didnt want you to know that the Clintons had been absolved of these charges (charges in which the corps had long reveled), and to all appearances, the vacuous Maslin doesnt want you to know it today. She simpers about the Village taleand pretends that Blumenthal is faking on Whitewater. But then, the fact that Maslins own paper drove the Whitewater hoax is one of the problems this book explores. And you should never expect her corrupt, faker class to cooperate in its defrocking.
Indeed, if Maslin knows that Whitewater was a dry holethat is, if Maslin has read The Clinton Warsshe clearly doesnt want you to know it. Later, she returns to the topic, serving this inane, clowning passage:
MASLIN: A long career in journalism preceded Mr. Blumenthals entry to the White House inner circle. As a result, he observes like a reporter. (In describing how his lubricated former friend, Christopher Hitchens, betrayed him, Mr. Blumenthal describes a meeting in a restaurant. It is duly noted that Mr. Hitchens ran up a bar bill of $18.84 before Mr. Blumenthal arrived.) And he debates like a lawyer. The proper comparison to Mrs. Clintons role in her husbands administration, he says, is not to any previous first lady but to Robert F. Kennedy.Were supposed to think that the Hitchens bar-tab detail is suspect, and that the RFK comparison is more of that pandering. But what are we supposed to think about Whitewater? Again, Maslin quotes two remarks from Blumenthals bookwhile making no effort to give us the merits. Presumably, were supposed to be aghast once again at Blumenthals condescending tone toward the press. Soon were back to catty remarks about how Sidney just loves himself best.
American citizens should be concerned by the events discussed in this important book. A serious review would try to describe them. But Maslin and her counterfeit class stopped being serious long, long ago. Maslin is part of the simpering class that created the problems this volume explores. Her class has very few things on its mind, reaching the Hamptons early Friday chief among them. Reviewers like Maslin dont want you to know that its her corrupt class that is being discussed. Dont buy this book, their reviews have all said. We strongly advise you: Consider the source. More on these topics next week.
MONDAY: Why you hear about Jayson Blairand dont hear Word One on Jeff Gerth.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: How inept is the Times Janet Maslin? When last we observed her, she had counted the footnotes in Ann Coulters book, Slander, and was raving about the scribes dogged research. New readers, of course, will assume that were joking. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02 and 7/25/02. Meanwhile, when last we looked in on the Posts Al Kamen, it was December 24, 1999Christmas Eveand he was trashing the Gore familys Christmas card! It made the vice president look phony, he said. Peddling Approved Spin on Christmas Eve, Kamen showed how far the store-bought would go in the unfolding War Against Gore. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/24/99, to convince yourself that it did happen. Believe it or not, these really are the fatuous people who steward your failing national discourse. When Margaret Carlson raps on her home renovations, these slackers understand. Theyre concerned.
ONE WHO TATTLED: In his piece about that Whitewater report, Kurtz quoted a scribe who used an old-fashioned termbasic fairness. Incredibly, one newspaper had told its readers about what the RTC said:
KURTZ (12/22/95): Weve all spent huge amounts of ink on the speculation people have had about [Whitewater], said Alan Murray, Washington bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, which on Monday was the only major paper to carry a staff-written story on the [RTC] report. We could afford to spend a little ink on a report that suggests there wasnt a problem. Basic fairness requires that you do it.Basic fairness requires that you do it! Murray, a traitor to his class, let readers know that the Clintons had been absolved. Maslinout the door for the weekendstill doesnt want you to know it.
The Daily update
MUST-READ WP: Molly Ivins current column (published in yesterdays Post) simply must be read. Highly comical, it describes a class of Shiite Republicans who are currently in charge down in Texas. Youll enjoy several good laughs at their kooky remarks. But Ivins says, Stop all yer funnin:
IVINS: Since all of yall in the North think Texas is eternally screwed up, Im not going to try to defend this lunacy (although it has causes). Im just warning you: This is about to happen everywhere. A good country song says, Lubbock on Everythang. Make it bigger, expand that. Texas on Everythang. The whole country is being turned into the state whose proudest boast is that sometimes were ahead of Mississippi.In essence, Blumenthals book describes the interaction between two distinct classesIvins group of Shiite Republicans and Maslins simpering insider press corps. Maslins class gains from Bushs tax cuts, and doesnt much care about anything else. They arent Shiite Republicans themselves, but if you want to get to the Hamptons by noon, its better to humor Molly Ivins gang of crazies. So Maslin pretends that Coulter has done Big Research, and pretends that Blumenthal is making weird statements. Then shes out the door for the weekend. But then, her type has always behaved this way. More on these topics next week.