SON OF SEELYE! Patrick Healy finds a way to type a treasured word: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2007
THE SOUL OF YOUR PRESS CORPS: Patrick Healy—the current perfect press droog—got off to a fast start this morning. On the front page of the New York Times, he reports on the Clintons decision to convert the assets in their current blind trust to cash. By their action, the Clintons eliminate any possible perceived conflicts of interest for Hillary Clinton, a White House candidate. As usual, Healy starts with a bang:
HEALY (6/15/07): Concerned that their personal finances might become a political liability once again, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in April sold the millions of dollars of stocks held by their blind trust after learning that those investments included oil and pharmaceutical companies, military contractors and Wal-Mart, their aides said Thursday.Its a classic type of gruesome journalism; before Healy reports what the Clintons have done, he gives you his version of why they have done it. The Times was criticized for this type of reporting during Campaign 2000—in the Columbia Journalism Review, no less.
Yep! Before he even says what theyve done, Healy tells you why they have done it! And Healys view of the Clintons motives is, shall we say, highly nuanced. Passive aggression is in the air as he considers the thought that the Clintons personal finances might have become a liability once again. Spit! Hiss! Hiss-spit! Me-owww! The Times tomcat gets his claws in fast—before he even bothers to tell you what it is that the Clintons have done.
(In paragraph 2, the framing continues. Healy hiss-spits a reference to the fact that the Clintons owned stock in Rupert Murdochs News Corp. The Clintons had no knowledge of that fact, of course. They had no knowledge of, or control over, the investments that this blind trust included. But so what? Hiss! Hiss-spit! Hiss-spit! Mee-ow! The Times great glassy-eyed Son of Dowd was hissing and spitting quite nicely.)
Yes, Healy has been proving himself our most perfect current press droog. But even our analysts came out of their chairs at what he would go on to offer this morning. Again, the Clintons have decided to dissolve a blind trust to eliminate any possible perception of conflict. But uh-oh! This act reminded Healy of something! When we reached his remarkable paragraph 7, we gazed on the soul of our press corps:
HEALY: Their decision to cash out their holdings was a reminder of their history with investments that, fairly or not, came back to haunt them politically, most notably the Whitewater real estate affair that dogged them through Mr. Clinton's presidency.Incredible! With his glassy stare and his empty soul, Healy is the perfect droog. (And with his nuanced phrasing: cash out.) That remarkable paragraph—approved by an editor—lets us gaze on the soul of our press corps.
Go ahead! Just laugh at what this scribe has done—and fear for the state of your nation.
What has Healy done in paragraph 7? Frankly, his construction is so odd that its rather hard to describe it. He tells us that the Clintons decision is somehow a reminder of Whitewater—of the iconic, decades-old real estate affair in which the Clintons did nothing wrong. But in what way is this current decision a reminder of that earlier matter? For whom is this decision a reminder? Maybe were clueless, but Whitewater didnt enter our heads as we read the Washington Posts front-page report on this matter (and no, the Post didnt mention it). Obviously, the Clintons decision was a reminder for Healy—and perhaps, for his editor. Indeed, if Healy were forced to write straightforward prose, his news report might have said this:
HEALY REVISED: The Clintons decision reminded me and my editor of the Whitewater matter that dogged them through Mr. Clinton's presidency.And lets face it—if Healy were put on truth serum, todays clowning would turn into this:
HEALY ON TRUTH SERUM: Their decision gave me and my editor a chance to mention Whitewater—the pseudo-scandal that began with baldly dishonest reporting on the front page of this very paper.No, the Times has never explained the hoax it constructed through Jeff Gerths dishonest reporting. Today, Healy picks away at the scab—and shows you the soul of your press corps.
Funny! As noted, the Post did a front-page report on the Clintons decision—but the Post didnt mention Whitewater. The Associated Press sent out a report on this matter today—but the AP didnt mention Whitewater either! But Healy has emerged as the new perfect droog, and he saw a chance to mention this topic! He oddly said that the Clintons decision was a reminder of what went before.
As we told you yesterday: The Times seems to have an endless supply of these baby-faced propagandists. If Action A reminds them of Past Event Z, they feel entitled to let you know it—and theyll come up with odd constructions to work their thoughts into their news report. The Clintons decision didnt seem to be a reminder for anyone else. But the thought popped into this youthful droogs head. And his editors said he could print it.
But then, the New York Times has worked this way for at least the past fifteen years, going back to the hoaxer Gerth and his original dishonest stories. (Just check that appendix to Fools for Scandal to see what Gerth chose not to report.) Another paper might be embarrassed to revisit so grisly a chapter in its own history. But not the Times! At the Times, Healy has an empty stare—and hes the soul of your upper-end press corps.
SON OF SEELYE: Scribes like Healy find ways to work preferred points into their news reports. This morning, Healy wanted to say Whitewater. So he let his memory—his free associations—serve as his single source.
Sadly, this makes him a Son of Kit Seelye. After they marveled at Healys work, our analysts recalled her laughable news report from June 2, 1999. At the time, Seelye was already working hard to warn the votes about Vile Gore, the loathsome man who made babies cry and made poor Tom Mulligan grumble (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/07). She was already doing whatever she could do to diminish every word Gore said, to put the kibosh on all his actions. And sure enough! When Gore appeared with Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton at a rally for womens groups, Seelye tried to drop the old kibosh by—well, heres the utterly comical framework she hammered around this event:
SEELYE (6/2/99): Today's event was notable, too, because it united three figures—Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper—who by their assemblage brought to mind the absent fourth.That made perfect sense, did it not? Three people were actually present that day—and that made Seelye think of someone else, who was not! Do you mind if we translate that paragraph for you? Seelye wanted to discuss Bill Clinton—tortured by the thought of his blow jobs, Seelye always wanted to do that—and so, like Healy, she simply let free association serve as her guide. Three people brought to mind a fourth; therefore, she stopped reporting an actual event and told us instead what she knew we should hear. Here was her fuller passage, as she let herself muse and dream about the absent fourth:
SEELYE (6/2/99): Today's event was notable, too, because it united three figures—Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper—who by their assemblage brought to mind the absent fourth.As usual, Seelye could tell what everyone was thinking. She could tell what the Gore campaign wanted to signal. She could tell what Gore was really doing—and, as always, she could see that he was a faker. (As usual, she was puzzled by the distinction between Bill Clintons personal misconduct and his public policy work.) But only the Times would ever dream of publishing such laughable work, in which Seelye mused at length about Clinton—because he wasnt there. Clinton was only mentioned in passing, she said. Still, he loomed in a contradictory way!
Go ahead! Just laugh out loud at the way the Times frames these reports.
Only the Times gives you nonsense like that. This morning, it was an eager Son of Seelye who let his own free association source his news report. Somehow, hed been reminded of that Whitewater thing. So he took this thing which he had thought—and it formed his news report.
For a fuller treatment of Seelyes piece, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/26/99.
AND ALWAYS, THEY LIKE TO WORK DUMB: Meanwhile, enjoy a good solid laugh as Healy goes on, at considerable length, about the stocks the Clintons will sell. He devotes five or six paragraphs to lists of these stocks; meanwhile, the Times provides a separate box detailing more of the Clintons holdings. Disclosed Assets, the headline darkly says—and the accompanying chart lists 35 stocks the Clintons are going to sell.
Is anyone but the Times this dim? As Healy explains, the Clintons didnt choose these stocks, or even know that they owned them. These stocks had all been purchased by others, under terms of their existing blind trust. That said, what could possibly be the point of listing these stocks in such massive detail? You might as well go through the phone book and list other people whose names start with C. And dont worry—at some point before this is done, the Times will probably do that.
But its long been part of our modern press culture: The higher you go, the dumber it gets. Farther down the journalistic chain, practitioners still feel some obligation to elementary questions of relevance. At the Times, though, theyre masters of their domains. Theyre brilliant novelists—and their thoughts are such pearls that they must be expressed upon receipt. If something even pops into their heads, theyre sure that we all should know it.
SOLOMON GETS SMOKED: At the Post, John Solomon did the front-page report on this topic—and he wasted only two or three paragraphs listing the stocks that the Clintons didnt buy or know that they owned. (Nor did the Post provide any charts.) But well guess that Solomon thought hed been slick, too. Here were his third and fourth paragraphs:
SOLOMON (6/15/07): The former president has also derived substantial income from speeches to companies and interest groups as his wife runs for the White House, earning nearly $6 million in the first five months of this year on top of the $40 million he earned over the previous five years, the documents show.Question: Is the Boys and Girls Club a company or an interest group? At any rate, Solomon writes, much later on, that Bill Clinton commands as much as $350,000 per [speaking] appearance. So why did he list one cut-rate appearance right there in paragraph 4?
Duh! You know the narrative this is meant to suggest: Clinton over-charged the Boys and Girls Club! Fairly clearly, thats why Solomon placed that random fact so high. And dont worry: Well bet the Solomons house that it gets mentioned this evening on Tucker.
Solomon thought he was being slick—but good lord, how Pat Healy smoked him! Up in New York, they saw the real hook. Once again, they could type that sacred word. Omigod! they said to themselves. We can type up Whitewater again!
VISIT THEIR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Bill Clinton over-charged for a speech! Almost surely, Solomons piece will spawn that narrative. That said, we strongly recommend this May 23 report by Media Matters about a similar, earlier narrative. In that case, John Edwards charged too much for a speech—and Rudy Giuliani got a pass, although hed charged a great deal more to a similar institution. Here at THE HOWLER, we heard a lot about Edwards speech—and nothing at all about Giulianis. Even money: That Edwards greed will be recalled as Clinton is punched out for his.
THE SHAPE OF OUR HISTORY: We had planned to finish our report on Carl Bernsteins new book today. But Healys propaganda today was so perfect, we thought we should lament it in full. Todays Times shows us the soul of our press corps. Coming Monday: The shape of our history.