The New York Times misses the story

I’m sure the spat between Bill Clinton and Todd Purdum is fascinating to Clintonologists and journalists, who are obsessed with Clinton’s sex life and obsessed with media navel-gazing. After all, Purdum covered Clinton as the New York Times White House reporter and is now the husband of Clinton’s first Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers. So people already titillated by the speculative whispering in Purdum’s article are further titillated by Clinton’s outburst and the Freudian psychodrama of the dispute.

Unfortunately, that irrelevant soap opera was so distracting that reporters couldn’t be bothered to look closely at what Clinton said, and notice that his most inflammatory words weren’t calling Purdum “sleazy” or “slimy” or a “scumbag,” but his bizarre swerve into an incoherent attack on Obama:

It’s part of the national media’s attempt to nail Hillary for Obama. It’s just the most biased press coverage in history. It’s another way of helping Obama. They had all these people standing up in this church cheering, calling Hillary a white racist, and he didn’t do anything about it. The first day he said ‘Ah, well.’ Because that’s what they do — he gets other people to slime her. So then they saw the movie they thought this is a great ad for John McCain– maybe I better quit the church. This is all politics. It’s all about the bias of the media for Obama. Don’t think anything about it.”

Look at the non sequitur. The press is helping Obama, then suddenly out of nowhere “they” had all these people standing up in this church cheering, and that’s what “they” do. “He gets other people to slime her.” It’s unclear from the audio at the Huffington Post whether he knew he was talking to a reporter/blogger, and whether he knew he was being recorded. But you have to wonder if, as he has talked to voters around the country, he has been spreading lies about what “they” and “he” are doing, only toning it down when he knows he’s talking to a reporter or knows he’s being recorded.

You also have to wonder whether he even believed what he was saying, that Obama “gets other people to slime her.” In the heat of the moment, and enraged by what he perceives as a great injustice against him and his wife, maybe he did believe it. But Clinton the tactician also knows, and even suggests in the above tirade, that the last thing Obama would want is to have another preacher ranting offensively about Hillary Clinton from the pulpit of his church. It’s depressing to think that he might not have believed what he was saying at all, and was cynically trying to spread the notion that Obama is encouraging people to personally attack Clinton, against all evidence to the contrary.

Who knows, but readers of the New York Times can’t wonder about these things, because although they wrote an entire article about Bill Clinton’s comments, they mentioned the above passage extremely vaguely, saying only “Mr. Clinton said the article was part of a pattern of media bias against Mrs. Clinton and in favor of her rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama.” So the Times reporter skipped right past most interesting part of Clinton’s outburst, when he bizarrely jumped from a complaint about media bias to a false accusation against Obama, which had nothing at all to do with the media. But you won’t read anything about it in the New York Times.

Okay, so he’s angry and frustrated and can’t control himself. This isn’t earthshattering news for anyone who’s been following the campaign so far, but for the Times to write a whole article about Bill’s day on the campaign trail and ignore the most noteworthy part of his tirade is appalling. As appalling as it is, I can’t say that it’s surprising anymore…

(The Times wasn’t alone in this, either. The Washington Post, for example, had a section on Bill’s rant in its story wrapping up the day’s campaign news, and they didn’t mention the above comments either.)

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