Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

THE HUMEAN CONDITION! Brit said Hillary can’t be believed. But guess who was mangling the facts?

MONDAY, JUNE 9, 2003

HUMEAN, ALL TOO HUMEAN: Everyone knows how stupid she was to believe what the president said about Monica! In Living History, Hillary Clinton says she was finally told on August 17, 1998 that Bill Clinton had, in fact, had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. She says this was the first time she knew. And press corps lackeys all know how to judge this. This is stupid—almost surely a lie—these script-reading stooges all say.

But then, we warned you last Thursday about what would be coming. A mountain of bullroar will land on your head as you watch the discussions of Clinton’s new book. Some of the pundits won’t know basic facts. Some of the pundits will simply be lying. But endlessly, the public will be misinformed—and Clinton’s character will be savaged. Here, for example, was the hapless Brit Hume, living large on yesterday’s Fox News Sunday:

HUME: Look, the thing in this book that strikes everybody, I think, is her saying that she was floored and devastated when, a few days before his grand jury testimony, he finally told him the truth, that something had gone on with Monica Lewinsky.

Which means that Hillary Clinton, who knew this man best, perhaps of anyone in the world, who had been along for the ride during his serial philandering, which had been the case throughout his entire career, had found it not credible that anything was going on with Monica Lewinsky all during these months, when the entire rest of the world believed instantly and without any shadow of a doubt that yes, something had happened. And the idea that she didn’t believe that is simply not, in my view, credible.

Comical, isn’t it? The rest of the world “believed instantly and without any doubt”—so Clinton should have done that too! As other pundits pondered hard, the hapless Hume continued:
HUME (continuing directly): Now, I believe she may have been upset when she first heard about this. But she clearly had made a decision that she was going to stick with him for all kinds of reasons, and I doubt that at that stage it had a whole lot to do with his personal dynamism. It had to do with the fact that he was the president of the United States, and she didn’t want to see him go down and, with him, her future prospects as well.
So she decided she would buy into the story, stay with it as long as she could. And then when it all came finally tumbling out—we are to believe, by the way, that even after the stain on the dress came up positive, she still didn’t believe it. I'm sorry, it’s not a credible story.
“It’s not a credible story,” Hume said. But there’s no one less credible than this sour, hapless man, as he proved once again with this bungled story. As we see from this latest rant, his mind-reading skills are second to none. Too bad Hume is too inept to get straight on the simplest facts.

As noted, Mrs. Clinton says she was told by her husband on August 17, 1998. (Pundits know to feign surprise, although this account is at least four years old. More tomorrow.) The hapless Hume thinks this is just stupid; indeed, the DNA test had already shown that Lewinsky had landed her man! But as usual, Hume was talking through his hat. Is it true? Had “the stain on the dress come up positive?” On August 20, 1998—three days after Mrs. Clinton says she was told—James Bennet filed this report in the New York Times:
BENNET (pgh 1): Prosecutors have demanded a sample of President Clinton’s genetic material to establish forensic proof that his relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky was sexual, a lawyer familiar with the request said today.

Mr. Clinton admitted to a Federal grand jury on Monday that he had had “inappropriate intimate physical contact” with Ms. Lewinsky in the White House.

The request by the Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, strongly suggests that the Federal Bureau of Investigation crime laboratory has determined that a dress turned over to prosecutors by Ms. Lewinsky contained DNA evidence of a sexual encounter.

In short, the DNA sample had not been tested at the time Mrs. Clinton says she was told. At best, Brit Hume had bungled again. At worst, the great newsman was lying.

This would be a minor point, of course—except for Hume’s attack on Clinton’s character. Hume’s conclusion was preordained—so he simply rearranged a few facts. But in the course of the next few weeks, pundits will issue many attacks which fly in the face of basic facts. Some of these pundits will be misinformed. Some of these pundits will simply be lying. But all of these pundits will help us see the pathology of the Washington press corps.

TOMORROW: Bend it like Carlson! Margaret Carlson hopes you’ll hate Hill. So she bends it real good in her book. Also: Covering for Willey.

CLUELESS, ALL TOO CLUELESS: Hume returned to the DNA test later in the FNS segment. As he thundered at Mara Liasson, his innocence of the facts had no end:
HUME: I don’t think there’s any reason to think she didn’t care if he was philandering.

LIASSON: I think she was hurt and outraged.

HUME: And I think there is a very good chance that when it first dawned on her that this was the case that she was hurt and outraged. The thing I can’t believe is is that it was seven months after the rest of the world had seen all the evidence and even after the stain on the dress came up positive. How do you account for that?

“Seven months after the rest of the world had seen all the evidence!” In fact, the press corps reported, all through the summer, that the FBI had not found a stain on Lewinsky’s dress. The stain-on-the-dress only came back into play in early August. And it wasn’t tested until after the president acknowledged his conduct. Hume—who is supposed to be a newsman—doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Liasson didn’t have a clue either:
LIASSON (continuing directly): When you are so invested in someone and love them, in the way she did, however mysterious that might be to the rest of the world, when he says to you over and over again, “This was a relationship that was misconstrued; I just tried to help her,” in order to maintain her own self respect, on some level she had to believe him, I think.
Meanwhile, here’s what these people will never tell you: Mrs. Clinton knew that many other sexual accusations had turned out to be bogus. Liasson, Hume and the rest of their cohort had kept you from knowing that fact all along. Starting tomorrow, we’ll review the ways the Washington press corps covered up for shaky accusers. Long after Clinton accusers were discredited, the pundit corps kept you from knowing. Mrs. Clinton, of course, did know all these facts. Meanwhile, Liasson and Hume have no current plan to inform you about these matters, even now. For their cohort, the story has been set in stone. You’ll have to come here for your info.

The Daily update

JIM AND CAL’S EXCELLENT RECITATIONS: Finally! We finally heard a major pundit describe the shape of the press spin campaign. On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, pseudo-conservatives Jim Pinkerton and Cal Thomas took turns reciting the Standard Approved Spin-Points. “I don’t believe any of it,” Thomas advised, speaking of the new Clinton book. The well-prepped Pinkerton jumped in there too. “I’m sure there’s some true stuff in it, like what year she was born,” the witty wag said. The book is “fake” and “lawyered,” the observant pair said. It contradicts two other books, and someone should go talk to Kathleen Willey! (For notes on the sheer absurdity of this suggestion, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/6/03. Or see tomorrow’s DAILY HOWLER.) Pinkerton even remembered to cite those three ghost-writers Hillary employed. Finally, amid all the pleasing recitations, Neal Gabler broke every known rule. Gabler said something that was accurate:
GABLER: Here we’ve had an example of the media reception to the book…The Republican spin machine is saying it’s all phony and it’s just part of her campaign. These are the two receptions to the book…Actually, John LeBoutillier, former Republican congressman, said, “Having not read the book, I can already tell you”—as Jim just did, who has also not read the book, as far as I know—“this whole thing is false.” So we have this whole spin machine at work right now in the media.
Indeed, Pinkerton hadn’t read the book; didn’t know what was in it; and showed no sign of knowing much about the one issue that had been discussed (more on his gong-show remarks about Willey tomorrow). But the pseudo-con caddies did know one thing—they knew their cohort’s Standard Approved Spin Points. They recited those Standard Points with aplomb—and quite stupidly, as we’ll show you tomorrow.