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POST PATTERN! Yardley says that Sidney was right. But so what? He trashes him anyway:

MONDAY, JUNE 16, 2003

THE CASE OF THE CROTCHETY COURTIER: Jonathan Yardley could almost serve as Sidney Blumenthal’s press agent. His review of Blumenthal’s book, The Clinton Wars, appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post “Book World;” in fact, it was the cover story. (He also reviews Hillary Clinton’s Living History.) And in his review, Yardley says that Blumenthal is right on almost every topic of the past decade. Whitewater? Sidney is right:

YARDLEY: Blumenthal may well be right that Whitewater was a “pseudoscandal”…as assertion Hillary Clinton echoes in her own [book].
Amazing! After all, Whitewater lent its name to a political decade—and Blumenthal rejects the matter as a press-driven hoax. He’s right, Yardley seems to be saying. But then, Blumenthal is also right about the press corps’ modern culture:
YARDLEY: Hillary Clinton pretty much leaves the press alone—its good will is obviously important to her political future—but Blumenthal is happy to wade in with all Uzis firing...[H]is basic points are valid.
Wow! Yardley quotes several passages from The Clinton Wars in which Blumenthal describes the modern press corps’ voracious nature. “Blumenthal is right about that,” he repeats. But then, Blumenthal is basically right about Ken Starr as well. “As for Kenneth Starr and his 452-page account of l’affaire Lewinsky, Blumenthal’s verdict on its is smart and witty and deserves extended quotation.” True to his word, Yardley quotes it.

One can hardly overstate the significance of these judgments. If Whitewater was a “pseudoscandal,” then we have lived through a political decade that was largely driven by press corps hoaxing. But you know the way this press corps works. Despite the startling judgments he makes, Yardley’s review of The Clinton Wars is a slam! You see, Jonathan Yardley is a press corps bootblack—a store-bought slave to prevailing press power. We’ve tried to tell you, again and again, that the modern press is really a mafia—a hard interest group which pursues its agendas. Yardley serves that interest group—and within that interest group, all know the law: Sidney Blumenthal must always be slammed. He was right about Whitewater; right about Starr; right about the press itself. But it’s Hard Pundit Law—he must be savaged. Here’s the way Yardley achieves it:

YARDLEY: [T]he plain fact is that his main role in the White House was directing the below-the-belt campaign against Starr, Newt Gingrich and all those women who elbowed each other for air time to tell their lurid tales of sexual encounters with Clinton. Blumenthal; knows how to use his own elbows, and he used them with a vengeance, serving Clinton faithfully as “good soldier, first night” in the campaign to discredit Monica Lewinksy, Paula Jones and the rest.
This is a truly remarkable passage. In The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal goes to great length to deny the charge that he played any such role in any such “below-the belt” effort. This is a major part of his book. Yardley never really mention that disavowal, but tells his readers that it’s a “plain fact” that Blumenthal did engage in such conduct. Meanwhile, he doesn’t provide a shred of evidence to support his ugly assertion. This nasty assertion is “plain fact” for one reason—because Yardley wills it to be.

We’ve seen many odd reviews of Blumenthal’s book. Add this nasty, strange brew to the mix. And add it to the long list of work in which pundits project their souls on their rivals. At one point, Yardley slams Blumenthal as a “courtier.” Look who’s talking, we masterfully said.

THE CORRUPTION OF THE COURTIER CLASS: We’ll admit, we’re tired of stooping to discuss these reviews. But just how strange is the insider press corps? Consider one passage from Yardley’s treatment of HRC’s Living History. Like Margaret Carlson before him, Jonathan Yardley is driven mad when Clinton yaks about serious issues. In particular, he rolls his eyes as she wastes our time with those maddening foreign trips:

YARDLEY: One of the most frustrating aspects of her highly uneven book is that just as she grants us a brief moment of intimacy such as this one, she retreats into the public persona, with the state dinners and the air kisses and the endless overseas travel (“I left South Africa well aware of the challenges…I later met with a group of women…I left Harare feeling dispirited…”) and the incessant wrangling over health-care reform and welfare reform and children’s rights and all the other causes to which she turned her single-minded attention and formidable intelligence. [Yardley’s ellipses]
Like Carlson before him, Jonathan Yardley is driven mad by these “incessant” discussions. Let’s put it simply. Your insider press corps is quite well off, and it couldn’t care less about people who aren’t. Press corps courtiers tear their hair when asked to consider real people’s real needs. In particular, Yardley’s oddly clipped quotes in this passage provide a look at the Modern Press Soul. What “air kisses” was Clinton dispensing? Here is the fuller passage from which Yardley clipped his “quotes:”
CLINTON (page 402): I left South Africa well aware of the challenges its leaders faced, yet optimistic about its future. But in Zimbabwe, its landlocked northern neighbor, I found a country whose great promise was being stunted by disastrous leadership. Robert Mugabe, the head of state since the country’s independence in 1980, had grown increasingly autocratic and hostile to his perceived enemies. President Mugabe said little during my courtesy visit with him in the presidential residence in the capital, Harare…I left believing he was dangerously unstable…

I later met with a group of women in politics, the professions and business at an art gallery in Harare. They described the tension that exists between the rights they hold on paper and the ancient customs and attitudes that still prevail. They recounted stories of women being beaten by their spouses for “bad manners” or wearing pants. One woman summed up the problems they faced: “As long as you have a law that a man can have two wives but a woman cannot have two husbands, you are not dealing with reality.”

I left Harare feeling dispirited at the deterioration of services and facilities and the manifest failure of a leader who had stayed too long in power.

Where exactly are the “air kisses?” Yardley’s description—like his bizarre and insulting pseudo-quotes—is stunningly disingenuous. Let’s just say it—your insider press corps couldn’t care less about the problems of people like these, and they will roll their eyes, crab and complain every time they’re asked to consider them. Last week, we saw Carlson’s weird complaints when the Clintons tried to make her listen to talk about health care and welfare reform. Today, we see Yardley’s mocking account of Clinton’s meeting with this “group of women.” Your insider press corps is deeply corrupted—uncaring, unfeeling, untruthful, unknowing. Go ahead. Read those insulting clipped “quotes” again and marvel at the soul of your “press corps.”

TOMORROW: Our thrilling conclusion (part 4) to “Margaret’s choice.” First, though, a telling prequel in “Howler history,” below.

Howler history

THEY’LL HAVE FUN, FUN, FUN: In Anybody Can Grow Up, Carlson explains the lousy coverage aimed at Gore in Campaign 2000. Bush had better food on his plane, and besides that, scribes liked him better. “It’s a failure of some in the press,” Carlson writes, “that we are susceptible to a politician directing the high beams of his charm at us. That Al Gore couldn’t catch a break had something to do with how he was when his hair was down.” Needless to say, that is an astounding confession of press corps dysfunction. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/03.

For the record, Carlson had explained Gore’s lousy coverage in real time, in a way that was even more revealing. On Tuesday, October 10, 2000, Carlson appeared on Imus in the Morning to discuss press coverage of Bush and Gore’s first debate. As she noted, Gore was being slammed as a liar because of a few trivial misstatements. Much larger howlers were being ignored—misstatements by Bush about policy matters. Speaking with Imus, Carlson explained the press corps’ apparent double standard:

CARLSON (10/10/00): Gore’s fabrications may be inconsequential—I mean, they’re about his life. Bush’s fabrications are about our life, and what he’s going to do. Bush’s should matter more but they don’t, because Gore’s we can disprove right here and now. We can’t disprove that there’s going to be a chicken in every pot.
According to Carlson, the press had focused on what was easy. She explained in a bit more detail:
CARLSON: You can actually disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get in the weeds and get out your calculator or you look at his record in Texas. But it’s really easy, and it’s fun, to disprove Gore.
It was “fun” to disprove Gore’s errors! Carlson took her presentation through one more startling iteration:
CARLSON: I actually happen to know people who need government, and so they would care more about the programs, and more about the things we kind of make fun of…But as sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us. And we can disprove it in a way we can’t disprove these other things.
What an astonishing presentation! According to Carlson, the press was pursuing Gore’s trivial errors because it was “greatly entertaining” to do so. And why had they ignored Bush’s errors, which she found more significant? Because they weren’t as easy to disprove! According to Carlson, the press agenda had been set by what was “easy”—and “entertaining” and “fun.” It was “sport.”

Part of what Carlson said this day was, of course, simply inaccurate. In fact, there was nothing hard about “disproving” some of Bush’s Debate I errors; the press corps simply preferred not to do so. But part of what Carlson said to Imus is clearer now because of her book. What did Carlson mean when she said, “I actually happen to know people who need government, and so they would care more about the programs, and more about the things we kind of make fun of?” To all appearances, she was talking about her brother Jimmy, who was born with severe brain damage. In her book, Carlson notes that her brother found “a fulfilling career” because he was given “a set-aside job” at a navy depot. “The American with Disabilities Act is a godsend,” she says. To all appearances, it was this powerful personal tie that helped Carlson understand why people might care about those “government programs”—“the things we kind of make fun of.” But there she was, telling Imus that it was “more fun,” “greatly entertaining” and “sport” to trash Gore for trivial errors.

Given her life experience, it must have taken a powerful force to make Carlson take part in this kind of “sport.” Her book suggests what that force may have been. We finish our profile tomorrow.