Bill Clinton has come to his wife Hillary’s defense and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing. Clinton blames the media for not covering his wife fairly and he argues that we in the media are not focusing enough on Hillary’s experience, implying that we are holding her to a different and unfair standard. According to the former President, who has become more vocal in the campaign than anyone expected; “One percent of the press coverage was devoted to their record in public life . . . no wonder people think experience is irrelevant – a lot of people covering the race think it is.”
That’s completely untrue. From the beginning of this absurdly long campaign, Hillary Clinton has been a major media darling, along with Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani and now Mike Huckabee. What seems to be upsetting Clinton is that Hillary’s campaign is off track and they can’t figure out why. Bill and Hillary must have been beside themselves when Oprah decided to go public for Obama – which culminated in joint appearances last weekend in both Iowa and South Carolina. The most powerful media figure in the country has never endorsed a candidate, much less campaigned for one, so publicly. Oprah even opted not to support Bill Clinton in his reelection campaign in 1996.
All this frustration is clearly getting to the Clintons. Blaming the media is the oldest, and one of least effective, tactics used in campaigns. But it isn’t the media that caused Hillary to fumble badly in a recent debate, moderated by Tim Russert. When she was asked a straight forward and predictable question about New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license in New York, Russert’s job was to try to clarify Hillary’s double talk on this controversial issue. The fact that she came off sounding slippery, slick and disingenuous wasn’t Russert’s fault. It was all Hillary’s doing.
And when one of Hillary’s top national campaign officials tried to cheap shot Barack Obama by bringing up his very public admission in front of high school students of past drug use, it was classic Clintonian politics: Attack your opponent on a perceived personal weakness, but don’t do it directly. Then, make sure you disavow the attack and disassociate yourself from the campaign official, all while making sure Obama’s past drug use becomes part of the media landscape and public discourse. It wasn’t the media who engaged in such a cynical and lame ploy, it was the Clinton campaign.
The fact is, Hillary’s experience, we’re talking in the United States Senate, right – not as First Lady, has been covered by the media from day one. In a recent New York Daily News article, Dante Scala, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, stated; “For most of the year Hillary Clinton’s argument on experience has been well received – and well transmitted by the media.” Further, most ardent Clinton supporters know that Clinton’s blasting the media on the experience issue is a disingenuous diversion. They know the campaign is stumbling and they know it’s not the media’s fault.
What’s really ironic about Clinton’s argument is that it has been the Clinton campaign that has been exceedingly secretive about disclosing the former First Lady’s records when she was in the White House. Bill and Hillary want the media to focus on are only the positive aspects of her experience but won’t say a word about such topics as “Travelgate;” “Whitewater;” exactly how Vince Foster died; missing billing records; or Hillary’s role as architect of the failed effort for universal healthcare.
Does Bill Clinton really want more media scrutiny of these areas of Hillary’s so called “experience?” I don’t think so. I’m betting if we in the media focused more on these topics, Clinton would argue that the media was being unfair to Hilary. He would probably say the media was focusing on the “wrong” aspects of Hilary’s experience.
When things go wrong for the Clintons’ they have a tendency to blame others. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Hillary was on the TODAY Show with Matt Lauer, blaming the whole thing on a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” And when Hillary’s campaign sputters and her polls number drop, Clinton blames the media for his wife’s problems. One wonders when either Clinton will simply step up and take full responsibility for their mistakes without blaming the media or those who they think conspire against them. Doing so would be really presidential.
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