Clinton, Rubio and the media

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 26, 2015

For his first few years at The New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman was my punching bag. His dishonest, hack columns were perfect material for easy rabbit punches that had a devastating effect. My takedowns of his dishonest columns received widespread notice in a variety of national publications and in conservative Washington circles.

Then the Times put him behind a paywall where only the like-minded were willing to venture and Krugman lost a lot of his influence. He's never really regained it.

Ron Fournier is no Paul Krugman

I don't want to make National Journal's Ron Fournier my new punching bag. First, he's not a complete partisan hack like Krugman is. Second, he's not worth the twice-weekly effort I was putting in to put Krugman in his place.

Where Fournier does have a problem is in his knee-jerk reaction to bad news for certain Democratic politicians named Hillary Clinton. Too often, the Clinton's misdeeds can't be allowed to stand on their own. Instead, they must be compared and contrasted with similar evils on the GOP side of the aisle.

Clinton, Rubio and the Media

Which brings us to this tweet on Friday from Fournier comparing GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio and the Democrats' Hillary Clinton.

This puzzled me. What story about Rubio was Fournier talking about?

Which led to this response:

And finally this one from me:

Fournier did explain what he meant to another individual on Twitter.

The problem is, the strategies really aren't the same.

The Rubio articles

First off, unlike Clinton, Rubio was unable to get the Times to change its story with a phone call.

US Senator from Florida Marco Rubio addresses the audience at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on August 30, 2012 on the final day of the Republican National Convention (RNC). The RNC will culminate later today with the formal nomination of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as the GOP presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the US presidential election.   AFP PHOTO Stan HONDA        (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)
US Senator from Florida Marco Rubio addresses the audience at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on August 30, 2012 on the final day of the Republican National Convention (RNC). STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

Second, Rubio never noted a mistake per se in either of the New York Times stories about him. In the article investigating Rubio's finances, the criticism focused on the Times smarmy condescension about Rubio spending 10 percent of an $800,000 book advance on a "luxury speedboat." Something that even Fournier, at the time, zinged the Times for.

In places like southern Florida and my homestate Michigan, an $80,000 fishing boat is a reasonable middle-class aspiration. Call it a "luxury speedboat" and you're swimming home.

The Rubio camp's criticism in the first story was focused on the fishing boat. The concerns about Rubio's finances that Fournier claims Rubio was deflecting were old news—most troublesome being his use of a Republican Party credit card for personal expenses. All of that had come out when he was running for Senate against Charlie Crist. The Times led with the new "news" which was the fishing boat and, frankly, lame.

The Rubio camp's response to the other New York Times story was mostly derision. I think even Fournier would acknowledge that the Times' effort to make Rubio look bad by combining his traffic citations with those of his wife was a dishonest, partisan move by the Times reporters and editors.

Are either of these two stories really damaging? The first migh possibly be to some GOP primary voters who aren't familiar with Rubio's Florida background. The second is undoubtedly not.

The Hillary article

The saga of Hillary Clinton's private email server is on a whole different level. A fact that Fournier acknowledges even as he peddles his Democrat-Republican-a-pox-on-both-their-houses equivalency.

Hillary Clinton lies to the press about her private email server during a press conference at the United Nations earlier this year.
Hillary Clinton lies to the press about her private email server during a press conference at the United Nations earlier this year.

The Times article notes that despite Mrs. Clinton's claims that, as secretary of state, she never sent nor received classified documents or information on her privately maintained home email server, that was not true.

Exactly how much classified information Mrs. Clinton had on the server is unclear. Investigators said they searched a small sample of 40 emails and found four that contained government secrets. But Mr. McCullough said in a separate statement that although the State Department had granted limited access to its own inspector general, the department rejected Mr. McCullough’s request for access to the 30,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton said were government-related and gave to the State Department.

This opens Clinton up to criminal charges under a GOP administration. I have no doubt that President Obama and his Attorney General Loretta Lynch will do nothing at all to truly investigate a fellow Democrat's malfeasance. To do so would also be to acknowledge there was a "scandal" in Obama's "scandal-free" (if you don't count the IRS, Fast and Furious gunrunning, Benghazi, the Veterans Administration's secret waitlists, etc.) administration.

It shouldn't need saying that Clinton's cavalier treatment of national security secrets likely led to them being now in the possession of our enemies. It shouldn't need saying that this should disqualify her from ever holding another position of public trust in the United States government.

But apparently it does.

Comparing the methods

After making his first clunky comparison between Clinton and Rubio, Fournier noted that these scandals are very different in degree. Instead, Fournier wanted to emphasize that he wasn't really talking about the scandals themselves, but how the two campaigns took a similar tack in responding to them (despite the fact that they really didn't).

Fournier's problem is that his instinct when presented with a scandal is to note that both sides do it. In doing so, intentionally or not, he equates the two, even when one is the equivalent of stealing a candy bar from a 7-Eleven and the other is stealing all the gold in Fort Knox.

Hillary's scandal would disqualify her from the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, if the Democratic Party had



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