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Boehlert writes: "Not content with what-if columns, articles and panel discussions, the press increasingly spends significant time and energy conjuring up what could go wrong if Clinton ran."

Is the press out to get Hillary Clinton? (photo: AP)
Is the press out to get Hillary Clinton? (photo: AP)

How the Press Turns All News Into Bad News for Hillary Clinton

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America

04 December 13


n a seemingly never-ending hunt for bad news about Hillary Clinton and her political prospects, the New York Times recently published a front-page article about how the former first lady is busy trying to mend fences between herself and African-Americans, "the constituency that was most scarred during her first bid for the presidency."

Under the headline, "Eye on 2016, Clintons Rebuild Bond With Blacks," the Times claimed the turbulent Democratic primary from 2008 left deep wounds and assumed Hillary Clinton's appearances before black audience this year represented a pointed effort to fix that.

Usually when trying to assess a voting community's perception of a politician or public figure, reporters consult polling data. In this case the Times did not. Certain that Hillary needed to "rebuild" a "bond" with black voters, the Times chose to ignore all the polling data that indicates she currently enjoys extraordinary support among black voters. Indeed, including polling results in the article would have completely undercut the premise. (Why would you "rebuild" a bond that's amazingly strong?)

Instead, the Times omitted any reference to a Quinnipiac poll from this summer that found 88 percent of black voters view her favorably. The Times also ignored the recent NBC/WSJ poll that found in a hypothetical match-up against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Clinton would receive 83 percent of the black vote, versus Christie's four percent. As Political scientist John Sides noted, "Among black voters, any negative feelings about Hillary Clinton were erased long ago."

As for Bill Clinton, a Fox News poll from this year revealed that 90 percent of "non-whites" view the former president favorably.

The Times piece seemed to be little more than an attempt to pick at a five-year old political wound, while glossing over the fact that the abrasion's been healed for years. It was the Times trolling around in search of a conflict and justifying the creation of a dedicated beat devoted to the former secretary of state when, in this case, no conflict exists. (What's next for the daily, a look at how Clinton has to "rebuild" her bond with middle aged women?)

The baffling Times article was just the latest, and perhaps the most egregious, example of a new school of commentary that's cropped up around the Clintons, and specifically around speculation regarding Hillary's presidential plans in 2016. Not content with what-if columns, articles and panel discussions, the press increasingly spends significant time and energy conjuring up what could go wrong if Clinton ran.

Despite Clinton's enviable position with regards to her sky-high name recognition, a proven ability to fundraise, and her strong favorable ratings, the starting point for much of the Clinton coverage lately is She Might Be Doomed. (The New Yorker's Amy Davidson has already declared Clinton's 2016 campaign to be a "predestined" "train wreck.") Does anyone remember two years worth of He Might Be Doomed coverage for George W. Bush when he emerged as the clear Republican front runner well before the 2000 campaign?

That's not to suggest that Clinton is off limits from tough, skeptical coverage and commentary. She's not. But pretending she has to rebuild a relationship that's not broken? That's not skepticism, that's just spin.

It's possible that boredom is driving the creative coverage. Specifically, the media fear of being bored during the Democratic primary season if Hillary Clinton were able to easily secure the nomination. It's certainly possible that, if she runs for president, a significant primary challenger could emerge, as happened in 2008. But anxious for a replay of the bruising Clinton/Obama stand-off, the press seems eager to preemptively knock Clinton down a few pegs before she even announces her campaign plans.

Part of the problem is we've never seen this kind of constant, and mostly pointless, speculation about a presidential campaign that's still three years away. But writing about what "could" happen in 2016 seems to be very appealing to pundits and reporters. And since they set the agenda, endless click-bait speculation reigns. And for some reason the speculation often emphasizes the rough waters that await Clinton.

For instance, a Times article last week claimed "some people close to Mrs. Clinton worry" that her accomplishments as secretary of state are being eclipsed by current events. Yet the article didn't contain a single quote from anyone "close to Mrs. Clinton" expressing that sentiment.

The same piece featured this telling construction [emphasis added]:

But the fact that her supporters are eager to defend her tenure -- and connect her work to Mr. Kerry's -- suggests a level of concern about her legacy should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Wait, what? Clinton's allies are eager to defend her tenure as secretary of state, so that means her allies are concerned about her tenure as secretary of state? That's illogical. (If they were reluctant to defend the tenure, the Times' premise might make sense.) But that's what happens when reporters strain to cast every Clinton morsel in a dark, unforgiving light.

And then there's the recent theme pushed by both the Washington Post and the Times that the Democratic Party is suddenly experiencing a dramatic liberal shift, which, naturally, means more bad news for Hillary.

From the Times:

This task has taken on new urgency given the Democratic Party's push to the left, away from the centrist politics with which the Clintons are identified.

And the Post:

The push from the left represents both a critique of Obama's tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party's presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner.

But if there's been a big liberal swing inside the Democratic Party and away from Clinton's "centrist" agenda, somebody forgot to tell Democratic voters, who overwhelmingly tell pollsters they prefer Hillary to be the party's next nominee. And that includes a strong majority of self-identified liberals.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey released last week, 63 percent of "strongly liberal" voters picked Clinton as their top choice in 2016; 68 percent of "somewhat liberal" voters did the same.

That's good news for Clinton if she becomes a candidate. But the press insists on flipping the script. your social media marketing partner


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+4 # brux 2013-12-04 10:55
Hilary Clinton give me tons of ambivalence. One the one hand she talks like a Liberal and has a good chance of rallying enough political support to get elected, and to get in power.

On the other hand, she is not really that bright personally (not that she cannot surround herself with those who are) and she is not as far left as we really need to get real change - which seems lightyears off, not to mention most things seem to be going in the wrong direction.

Someone from the mainstream is not going to get the job done, and someone too far left may not get elected. What do you do .... two alternatives neither one is very good, and meanwhile de facto the criminals still run the prison. The loonies still run the nuthouse.

I want Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders to get a shot. I want their ideas and enthusiasm for what is right to be heard by Americans. I am tired of Bush, and Clinton, and usual suspects being talked about the usual talking heads that all completely miss the point and are paid off by people we do not see and who did not get elected to anything.
+4 # je proteste 2013-12-04 17:38
"he's not as far left as we really need to get real change"?
No one on the political right is far enough left.
0 # je proteste 2013-12-04 17:39
Sorry I screwed up my intended quote, but I stand by the comment.
+9 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-12-04 11:05
Bernie Sanders panders not, to the 1%. In other words, he is different from Hill the Shill, the same wannabe pres. who, as was outed in Wikileaks, does the pol puppet whore thing and bows down to AIPAC (well known as the most potent lobbying group, with endless bought off pols.).

No big surprise that, while still Sect. of State, Hill the Shill entered a formal objection to entry of a deposition of Hon. Brigitta Jonsdottir, member of Parliament in Iceland and one who assisted and protected Wikileake' Julian Assange. Hillary certainly wants no serious looksee into her support of war, war, war for $$$$$, all in accordance with zionist Israeli AIPAC demands.

We Dems. need to wake up as to what is going on, and refuse to be MSD'd (manipulated, spun, distracted) by bought off politicians' highly questionable 'polling results' and other caca. Only true people servers must be nominated. Run, Bernie, Run!
0 # NAVYVET 2013-12-21 17:56
We need to set fire to the pants of the Democratic Socialists of America, and inspire some of the young ones to run grassroots candidates at ALL levels. There's a good chance of local wins, then anything can happen! This should have been done years ago. Both the Dems and the Greens are has-beens and I don't trust either. The Repubs, of course, are unspeakably corrupt.
0 # Johnny 2013-12-04 11:11
The worst thing that could happen to the United States if Hillary Clinton ran for president would be that she won. She and her husband have proven repeatedly and quite openly that their only loyalty is to the expansion of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the native population of Palestine. If that means the destruction of the United States, that's fine with Hillary and Bill.
+4 # Activista 2013-12-05 00:55
Agree - Hillary AIPAC Clinton records on Libya and Syria - aka Friends of Syria - very pathetic ....
0 # NAVYVET 2013-12-21 17:51
It's not the ONLY thing she and Bill support that I object to!! How about those "free" trade agreements?
+10 # Inspired Citizen 2013-12-04 11:30
Normally I agree with everything E. Boehlert writes, but this time he's propping up a corporatist. We've had enough corporatists elected president (all of them); it's time for a populist like E. Warren or Bernie Sanders.

ABC: Anyone but Clinton.
0 # Saberoff 2013-12-04 11:49
Question: Who is Hillary Clinton?
Answer: Somebody's wife.

Outside of her opening salvo as carpet bagger, and money launderer, what has she done?

And who is Eric Boehlert? And who cares about polls anymore? Polls are for people who don't know, within themselves, if the music/art is any good; they just can't determine, they need to be told (common contemporary malady).

And Boehlert invokes Bush! Someone should tell the guy those elections were stolen! Front-runner my ass!
-5 # Regina 2013-12-04 12:22
The good ol' boys are running scared. After suffering 8 years with a black man whom they did not succeed in delegitimatizin g, they're throwing fits over the newly real possibility of a (gasp!) woman. Some are even pushing Elizabeth for president in 2016 rather than Hillary, despite the fact that Elizabeth would generate the same roar of opposition if she ran (that's only the old divide-and-conq uer routine). What;s actually more important for 2014 is getting the House and Nancy back.
+3 # Billy Bob 2013-12-05 11:29
I really don't think people like Elizabeth Warren because we don't want a woman to be president. I want Elizabeth Warren because I consider her the most qualified potential candidate. By the way, she's also a woman.
0 # NAVYVET 2013-12-21 17:49
This is a very confused post.
+1 # Activista 2013-12-05 21:30
Think of Hilary when the news of killing by "friends of Libya" or "friends of Syria" hits the news ... kidnapping of nuns, murder of US teacher in Benghazi ... this woman has no morals.
0 # NAVYVET 2013-12-21 17:48
I'm a Socialist, a military veteran, an opponent of war, military-indust rial complex corruption, and extremist fake religion--and a grandma who doesn't want my grandchildren to drown or starve from global climate change. I COULD ADD A LOT, LOT, LOT MORE OBJECTIONS ABOUT WHY HILLARY CLINTON SHOULD NEVER BE PRESIDENT, as I expect many of you can.

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