Clinton Rules Revisited

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I feel like I’m reliving the 1990s. That big New York Times story about the criminal probe of Hillary Clinton and her private email account? Turns out it was wrong, wrong, wrong. And who pointed it out? Freaking Politico! How embarrassing is THAT?

The New York Times made small but significant changes to an exclusive report about a potential criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s State Department email account late Thursday night, but provided no notification of or explanation for of the changes.

The paper initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.”
That clause, which cast Clinton as the target of the potential criminal probe, was later changed: the inspectors general now were asking for an inquiry “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”

That whole passive voice/active voice thing is kind of tricky.

See, here’s the deal. Certain of the documents that have now classified were not categorized that way when they were received by Hillary Clinton. They were later determined to be classified. So it’s bizarre to accuse her of mishandling classified documents, much less to consider prosecuting her over them.

But facts have never gotten in the way of the Times when it comes to the Clintons. For those too young to remember, there’s one set of rules for journalism, but when it comes to the Clintons, there’s a whole set of different rules - literally, a set of Clinton Rules. I’ll let Paul Krugman explain, from earlier this year:

So there’s a lot of buzz about alleged scandals involving the Clinton Foundation. Maybe there’s something to it. But you have to wonder: is this just the return of “Clinton rules”?

If you are old enough to remember the 1990s, you remember the endless parade of alleged scandals, Whitewater above all — all of them fomented by right-wing operatives, all eagerly hyped by mainstream news outlets, none of which actually turned out to involve wrongdoing. The usual rules didn’t seem to apply; instead it was Clinton rules, under which innuendo and guilt by association were considered perfectly OK, in which the initial suggestion of lawbreaking received front-page headlines and the subsequent discovery that there was nothing there was buried in the back pages if it was reported at all.

This is why I’ve been dreading the arrival of the 2016 campaign - first with the Clinton Foundation non-story and now with the emails, the Clinton Rules are back. Like a bad acid trip (not that I speak with any experience, mind you, but so I’ve heard), the worst of the ’90s is being played out again 20 years later.

This was no innocent mistake, I assure you, but the mindset of a reporter and of a newspaper that wants to prove once and for all that it was right about those uppity Arkansas hillbillies the first time around. They were wrong then, and they’re being dangerously wrong now. At least this time, there’s a left wing infrastructure to fight back swiftly and immediately. The lesson seems to have been learned the hard way 20 years ago.  The real crime would be in letting it happen the same way again.

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