January 29, 2013

Morning Line: Hyping for Hil


Sam Smith - Having been raised on the now disappearing notion that journalism was meant to spread facts rather than political propaganda, I am a bit confused over the recent coverage of Hillary Clinton, from which I gather she has been a fantastic Secretary of State and is about to be our inevitable next president.

To be sure, she and her husband are no longer running a real estate scam called Whitewater where, thanks to the sleazy financing, about half the purchasers, many of them seniors, lost their property. And her appearance before a congressional committee on Benghazi was far more impressive than the time she appeared on more personal matters and swore she couldn't remember, didn't know or similar things 250 times.

It is true that she and her husband, compared to their past, have behaved far better in the past decade, but I think of them more as, say, recovering alcoholics or retired Dixie junta members, than as role models for a nation struggling to stay afloat politically, economically and culturally.

I know I'm in the media minority on this. That's nothing new. What Hillary Clinton (and quickly the media) would call a "vast rightwing conspiracy" actually began on the left during the 1992 campaign when the Progressive Review joined a small number of journalists in reporting on what would become known as the Clinton scandals. The first information I got, incidentally, came from a progressive student group at the University of Arkansas. Our stories outlined a score of dubious connections and events that would later finally attract mainstream press and legal attention.

Hillary Clinton was also repeatedly presented as introducing female professionalism to the White House, with nary a mention of Lady Bird Johnson who had been president of a broadcasting company that had bought five stations for $41,000 and sold them for $150 million.

But time moves on, and after their less than admirable tour in the White House, the Clintons finally realized that respectability was their new key to success.

The media bought right into it, creating a show business image for the pair, that reached a peak as the purported hugely successful Secretary of State moves on from that job.

Which raises the modest question: what has she actually done? I read all the stories I could find to see if any journalists bothered to explain and was disappointed until the establishment PR firm known as CNN published an article by David Rothkopf, CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, which is a sort of the motel bible for the foreign affairs crowd:

She actively worked to reshape the American international agenda for the 21st century, focusing on emerging powers, new technologies and populations -- like the role of women worldwide -- long neglected by the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

She led the way for the United States to be more active in Libya, to manage unprecedented international sanctions against Iran, to stand up to the Chinese in the South China Sea. Indeed, perhaps most importantly, at a time when the U.S. faced distractions and new constraints at home and a national desire to avoid military entanglements worldwide, she recognized that our greatest tools going forward would be active diplomacy and repaired alliances, and she restored them to centrality in U.S. foreign policy.
Leaving aside the fact that Rothkopf was an under secretary in the Clinton administration and former managing director of Kissinger Associates, the eulogy falls flat on a number of counts.

For one thing there is no mention of Hillary Clinton's support for illegal wars, torture, indefinite detention and other unconstitutional policies of the Obama administration.

And there is no mention of the fact that none of this has worked that well, anyway.

Finally, there are few signs the world is any the happier about it all. For example, according to the Pew pollsters, confidence in Obama himself declined from 2009 to 2012 by six percentage points in Europe, nine in Muslim countries, and 24 percent in China. As for America's reputation, Japan and Russia are the two countries with improved views while in Europe, Muslim countries, China and Mexico, our ratings declined. Finally, the approval of Obama's international policies have gone down from 15 percent in Europe to 30 percent in China.

Hardly a sterling record for a purportedly spectatular Secretary of State. But in a society where news and propaganda are now inseparable, who cares?

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