The Washington Post acquitted itself better than a lot of mainstream outlets during the 2016 campaign, if only because of David Farenthold and David Weigel. But they really shouldn’t be let off the hook, either, because they continued to publish one of the most ridiculous purveyors of the Clinton rules, Mr. Chris Cilizza. Cillizza was, even by Beltway hack standards, consumingly obsessed with the EMAILS! non-scandal. In itself, this is damning.
But in addition to the bizarre priorities, Cillizza’s work was a near perfect-embodiment of the Clinton Rules while also being incompetent. Consider this story about an alleged “quid pro quo” between the State Department and FBI. Cillizza bungled every important fact in the story — there was not only not a quo, there wasn’t a quid and the State Department didn’t raise the issue with the FBI — in a way that was slanted against Clinton. And even sillier is his treatment of utterly banal and ubiquitous disputes between federal bureaucracies over which material should be classified as evidence of the unique perfidy of Hillary Clinton, which is ultimately the core premise of the whole EMAILS! non-story.
But, COME ON, MAN. It is literally impossible to look at those two paragraphs and not raise your eyebrows. Half of all of the nongovernmental people Clinton either met with or spoke to on the phone during her four years at the State Department were donors to the Clinton Foundation! HALF.
It is literally impossible to read this and not wonder how Chris Cillizza could be paid to write about politics. The framing of the AP story, which Cillizza swallows without a hint of skepticism, was so misleading the AP had to delete its tweet promoting it. I mean, COME ON MAN. The “more than half the meetings” premise was transparently wrong. The denominator used by the AP was ludicrously low, not only arbitrarily excluding government officials but excluding various meetings with non-government officials. And without that attention-grabbing distortion of the facts, there is nothing at all to the story — there was nothing inappropriate about these meetings and no reason to believe Clinton behaved differently than any other Secretary of State. Does Cillizza then use the aspersions he casts on Clinton based on the AP’s fake news to make presumptions of bad faith in re: EMAILS!? I think you know the answer. But, hey, Hillary Clinton, WHAT A BITCH, amirite?
Still, in writing fact-challenged stories that embody the Clinton Rules, Cilizza is hardly unique. So my favorite Fix moment of the campaign was Cillizza’s assertion that “the image of the FBI…has been sterling.” Cillizza cited two figures who embodied the FBI’s universally acknowledged history of rectitude. The first, Clarice Starling, is a fictional character who had intimate relations with a cannibalistic serial killer. The second, Eliot Ness, did not work for the FBI (although I would bet that Cillizza wasn’t thinking so much about Eliot Ness as “Eliot Ness,” the character in the DePalma/Mamet film The Untouchables, who also did not work for the FBI.) Omitted from Cillizza’s narrative about the “sterling” reputation of the FBI — serial illegal wiretapper among many other things J. Edgar Hoover.
I would like to unilaterally award Chris Cillizza LGM’s coveted “hack of the year” trophy for 2016. But other nominations are welcome.