Home / General / Perhaps It’s Time to Start Treating Self-Interested Republican Assertions With Some Measure of Skepticism

Perhaps It’s Time to Start Treating Self-Interested Republican Assertions With Some Measure of Skepticism


Judy Miller 409

Earlier today, I alluded to the story published in the New York Times — a couple days after it devoted 5 out of 6 above-the-fold A1 stories in two days to James Comey’s letter informing Congress that Anthony Weiner had a laptop, which might mean Hillary Clinton was a crook — dutifully repeating the claim of the anti-Clinton within the FBI that “the hacking into Democratic emails…was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.” This decision has…not held up well. Today I was reminded that Eric Lichtbau, one of the marks reporters behind the Oct. 31 story, was also responsible for one of this Clinton Rules Classic:

A top aide to Hillary Clinton at the State Department agreed to try to obtain a special diplomatic passport for an adviser to former President Bill Clinton in 2009, according to emails released Thursday, raising new questions about whether people tied to the Clinton Foundation received special access at the department.


It’s common at this point in the Clinton Foundation pseudo-scandal cycle for the person in my position to point out that there’s no quid pro quo and no evidence of wrongdoing, and then for the skeptics to say that corruption can take more insidious forms than a quid pro quo. But honestly, what questions does this raise?

It certainly doesn’t raise the question of whether Clinton Foundation staff got special access to passports from the State Department. It answers the question. They didn’t, as the story says.

Nor does this raise any questions about conflicts of interest with donors or use of foundation resources for private gain. Bill Clinton was doing a little statesman-like work. His staff hoped that, in light of his close personal ties to the secretary of state, he could do that work with official diplomatic credentials. They were told no.

There is no scandal. There is no question. There’s only the presumption of guilt and the Clinton Rules.

On August 9th, Lichtbau went on NPR to discuss “[t]he assertion that the people at Judicial Watch…are making is that this shows that at a minimum, her people, her top advisers seem to have kept this chain of communication open and that there were discussions about favors and access and influence.” He apparently worked on the story for a while, finding absolutely no misconduct by Clinton or any of her aides, or indeed by anybody. But rather than just admit he had been sent on a snipe hunt by anti-Clinton fanatics and either not publishing a story or publishing a story clearly stating that Clinton had done nothing wrong, he and his editors just went ahead and wrote a story with a headline and lede implying that Clinton was corrupt when the facts showed no such thing.

I feel the performance of the New York Times political desk during the 2016 campaign raises troubling questions and casts troubling shadows.

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  • Bitter Scribe

    “the hacking into Democratic emails…was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”

    Um…can someone explain how those two things differ?

    • Hogan

      “We didn’t want to kill her chances, just rough them up a little, but things got out of hand, and, well . . . “

      • Gone2Ground

        “I’m not saying we won’t get our hair mussed. But 10, 20 million civilian casualties, tops.”

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “the goal was to saddle the reasonably knowledgeable and competent and not insanely stupid woman President with an entrenched right wing legislature. It turns out we over-compensated for Clinton Derangement Syndrome” – James “aw shucks” Comey, G-man Extraordinaire and Amateur Kingmaker

      • This. On the other hand, the Russian interest was the other way round: to elect Trump with as few neocon Republicans in Congress as possible. This should have left fingerprints.

        • los

          McCain and Graham have been anti-Trump for months.
          Have I forgotten any other unfaithfuls?

          And aren’t there more than a few neocons?

    • aab84

      It’s “the Russians didn’t care who won and just wanted to cause chaos. It’s just a coincidence that Clinton is the target” versus “the Russians affirmatively preferred Donald Trump.”

      One of the idiot Republican congressmen at the hearing today tried to make this point: that Russia wanting Clinton to lose didn’t mean they wanted Trump to win. Comey gently pointed out that in a two person race, the first necessarily implies the latter.

      • Hogan

        And another one wondered whether the US intelligence sources the media were relying on for these stories could be Russian operatives PRETENDING to be US intelligence sources.

        Or were they Chinese hackers PRETENDING to be Russian operatives PRETENDING to be US intelligence sources?

        Or was it the Iranians all along?

        Where’s George Smiley when you need him?

        • Davis X. Machina

          Coming out soon in a new book!

        • los

          You have no hard proof of that train of coverups, because the trail goes very cold somewhere along where the … the Inuit walrus-herders were PRETENDING to be Kilimanjaro lichen-pluckers PRETENDING to be New York Antiquarian ice skaters PRETENDING to be Antarctic Penguins PRETENDING to be …

      • Lost Left Coaster

        But isn’t there a pretty good chance that Putin was intervening to support the Stein campaign? He might have seen some of her dank memes and been moved to act.

        • ColBatGuano

          Putin is a well known anti-vaxxer.

          • los

            Other than his assertive support for Polonium vaccinations, by any method.

        • I think that he was supporting the Stein campaign to draw support from Clinton from the left, as well. Stein was as useful a stooge as Trump, appearing on RT and calling (while in Moscow) for collaboration between Russia and the US in addressing international issues.

          • los

            The Russian economy has been faltering since the sudden Jan 21 2017 price spike on the Polonium spot market.

    • los

      Bitter Scribe says:

      explain how those two things differ

      Only disrupting a Clinton win implies that Putin had assumed[1] that Clinton would become president, but Putin’s efforts would load new baggage onto the incoming administration.

      However, Trump “won”[2] and President Bannon’s anti-NATO “ambivalence” is a bonus Puitin did not expect.

      1. which btw, suggests that Putin hadn’t yet realized the effectiveness of…
      2. GOP election fraud.
      Putin now knows…

  • nemdam

    Don’t forget that after the election Dean Baquet thinks one of the big problems in their election coverage was not being nice enough to Trump supporters.

    Enjoy your subscriptions.

    • Origami Isopod


      • Stag Party Palin

        A friend gave me a three-month gift subscription and I have had to buy 245 parrots just to make use of it.

      • efgoldman

        But but but LOCAL COVERAGE!! ARTS REPORTING!!!


        (Which you can buy in book form. Times probably still gets the money, but if you don’t have a puppy or a birdcage, what do you need the paper for?)

      • los


        Involuntary human cannonballs, fired without parachutes at blank canvases! Tonight at the Colisseum!

  • kenfair

    Ah, the swirling maelstrom of inky shadows and troublesome questions…

    Perhaps it’s time for another blogger ethics panel?

  • McKingford

    I saw a comment online earlier today that suggested we have, much like the Razzies are the counterpart to the Oscars, an anti-Pulitzer award. And we should call it a “Lichtblau”.

    I award Eric Lichtblau 1000 Lichtblaus.

    • nemdam

      I thought that was the Cillizza award? Or is that for worst pundit while a Lichtblau is for the worst journalist?

    • Vance Maverick

      I award Eric Lichtblau 1000 Lichtblaus.

      The feedback loop overwhelms the award system, shorting out in a blaze of blue light.

    • Warren Terra

      I award Eric Lichtblau 1000 Lichtblaus.

      See, that’s just bad math. Award him 1000 millilichtblaus.

    • rm

      It could be called the Hearst Award, but there probably is already a non-ironic one, and there’d be threatened lawsuits and mayhem.

      So call it the Willie.

  • NewishLawyer

    1. A lot of people including many educated professionals just have a fundamental laziness when it comes to their jobs and thinking about the veracity of claims is just such a time killer man….

    2. Just taking down what a “source” says and putting it snappy prose is a form of easy journalism.

    3. I still think that there is probably a grand misconception between how journalists see themselves (as well educated professionals) vs. how we want journalists to see themselves as cynical muckrackers for the truth. But the muckrackers were always probably less common than we thought.

    • carolannie

      You, of course, are correct. There is a reason we had a term, yellow journalism (a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering or sensationalism), well before Clinton Rules

  • Joe_JP

    They didn’t learn enough from Judith Miller.

    Their obit of Jimmy Breslin was great though.

    • The Lorax

      I just heard Tamara Keith on NPR say in one of the top-of-the-hour spots that the FBI doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations. Are you fucking kidding me? What about last summer and fall? How do you not point out the falsity of the FBI’s claim? Do they think we don’t remember last year?

      • Dennis Orphen

        We are well and truly down the authoritarian/totalitarian kleptocratic rabbit hole. They do not care about the consequences, hence there must not be any possible consequences. We can’t believe a single thing they say (not the same as everything they say is false. Use your powers of reasoning to make observations. Use those observations as premises to which formal logic is applied to draw conclusions, as if you were Sherlock Holmes or something. There lies something closer to the actual truth.

  • Joe Bob the III

    Eric Lichtblau is plenty old enough to know what and who Judicial Watch is. They were a pioneer in right-wing Clinton scandalmongering industry of the 1990s. I’m trying to think of what a contemporary equivalent would be… Imagine if Milo Yiannopoulos were a lawyer and had a little cottage industry suing Democrats and filing spurious FOIA requests. It would be like that only kookier and less being outrageous for the sake of outrageousness.

    This has long been the right-wing strategy for spreading misinformation and carrying out political hit jobs: catapult the propaganda. In the Bill Clinton era the strategy would be to plant stories in British (Murdoch influenced) gossip rags, have domestic Republican publications, e.g.: The American Spectator, pick up the story, and then have surrogates try to get the story onto cable news or into the mainstream press. It was convoluted and it could take a long time for stories to percolate, but those were the avenues available.

    Now you have a front page reporter for the NYT picking up bullshit straight from freaks like Judicial Watch and doing their work for them. What the hell happened? My feeling is that the Clintons are considered Big Game in the journalistic world and being the reporter who “takes down” a Clinton would be the prize of a lifetime. Chasing big game leads reporters to take stupid risks with the truth and legitimize fringe sources who wouldn’t get the time of day if the subject were anything other than Bill or Hillary Clinton.

    • Whiley Chuck C. Johnson Esq., Suuuupergenius

    • rea

      plenty old enough to know what and who Judicial Watch is

      Well, for one, they’re the people running the “indict corrupt Hillary ad appearing regularly (still) on the front page here.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Hey, if you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then rail against them you’ve got no business blogging up here.

    • ColBatGuano

      Eric Lichtblau is plenty old enough to know what and who Judicial Watch is.

      And Liz Spayd is old enough to know that Mike Cernovich is a right wing crank who loves nothing more than releasing his flying monkeys on the MSM, but that didn’t stop her from chastising a Times reporter for a tweet last week on his objections.

    • rm

      The other day on Supergirl, Kara lost her job as a reporter because she put an inadequately-sourced story out on the internet. Her editor gave her a speech about the vital role of the press as a careful truth-checker.

      That was so unbelievable, it really took me out of the realism and verisimilitude and grittiness of the Supergirl setting.

  • dogboy

    I’m interested in the jamokes who work in the FBI NY field office, the ones who were on the verge of rebellion before the election, who were convinced that Clinton had done something, the one who got Rudi all stoked up, I’m interested in what they think now.

    They succeeded in keeping Clinton out of the White House but at the cost of electing a man with long ties to organized crime. They were so patriotic that they had no choice but help elect a foreign leader’s puppet?

    Will no one tell their story?

    • King Goat

      Oh, their story will be told. Some right wing publisher will tell it. There’ll be a press tour hitting all the stops: Hannity, Limbaugh, etc. I can’t guess the title, but the subtitle will be: How X Brave FBI Agents Tried to Warn the Country of Hillary’s Crimes.

    • farin

      I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell their sad, sad story when they’re “run out” of law enforcement by the deep state and forced to take highly-compensated no-show think tank jobs.

    • Dennis Orphen

      Another compromised platform, then. Lunatics/asylums and all that.

    • smott999

      Moles. .
      Working the NY FO to protect Russian Mob activities. Comey has lotsa problems.

  • liberalrob

    I only know Lichtblau’s name from his partnership with James Risen on revealing the NSA’s domestic warrantless wiretapping. I thought he was one of the good guys.

    From his Wikipedia entry:

    On October 31, 2016, the New York Times published an article by Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers indicating that intelligence agencies believed that Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election was not aimed at electing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.[5] It was subsequently revealed that multiple United States intelligence agencies were conducting an investigation at the time into covert aid from the Kremlin to the Trump campaign.[6][7] This has led to criticism of the New York Times coverage of the election, and speculation that the Times reporting, and the Lichtblau article in particular, contributed to Trump’s victory.[8] On January 20, 2017, the New York Times published an article by the public editor acknowledging that the Times staff, including the editors and Lichtblau, had access to materials and details indicating that the Russian interference was aimed at electing Donald Trump, contradicting the October 31 Lichtblau article, and stating that “a strong case can be made that The Times was too timid in its decisions not to publish the material it had.”[9][10]

    Daniel Pfeiffer, former senior advisor to president Barack Obama, characterized the decision not to publish the story while at the same time publishing many articles that fueled the Hillary Clinton email controversy as a “black mark” in the newspaper’s history.[11] New York Times editor Dean Baquet dismissed the controversy, stating that the public editor article is a “bad column” that comes to a “fairly ridiculous conclusion.”[12]

    I am coming to the conclusion that Dean Baquet is a fairly useless excuse for an Executive Editor. “Speaking truth to power” doesn’t seem to be one of his strongly-held beliefs.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      y’know, I just realized why I’ve never had much use for “speak truth to power”- its all wrong- it should be “speak truth to the people” and then *they* speak truth to power. but I maybe had too much sunshine earlier in the day

    • kped

      He could have that belief of speaking truth to power the way Glenn Greenwald does, which is “Dems and the media and the deep state are power too, so i can ignore the actual government and rip on them, and it’s still speaking truth to power”.

    • MyNameIsZweig

      I thought he was one of the good guys.

      When not writing about a Clinton, NYT reporters have been known to do good work in the past.

  • Bruce Vail

    So, the argument is that Lichtbau’s reporting on the Clinton Foundation was so influential that it flipped Pennsylvania, Florida, and a couple of other states on election day?

    • King Goat

      It’s part of several unjustifiable things (Comey’s revelations, publication and coverage of the Wikileaks stuff, the silly book on her Foundation by that right wing hack and coverage of it,) that did that.

      • King Goat

        No edit button…but I should replace ‘did that’ with ‘helped do that.’

    • Scott Lemieux

      So, the argument is that Lichtbau’s reporting on the Clinton Foundation was so influential that it flipped Pennsylvania, Florida, and a couple of other states on election day?

      I would recommend reading the posts before commenting.

    • MyNameIsZweig

      Yes, because as we all know, a thing either is completely determinitive all by itself, or it has no impact on subsequent events whatsoever. There is either black, or there is white, and the rumored existence of something called “gray” is a pernicious falsehood.

  • CrunchyFrog

    Today I was reminded that Eric Lichtbau, one of the marks reporters

    “marks”? Oh my, you give him way too much credit. Really, have we forgotten one of the lessons of the Clinton years? While most reporters pretended to be objective in private they were openly hostile to the Clintons, Gore, and the Democrats in general and would greet every new tidbit of info a the item that might finally be the smoking gun that would take Clinton down. In addition to the various bits of off-the-record comments that have been quoted (have you forgotten the Chris Matthews off-the-microphone-he-thought comment to Tom Delay to get him dirt on Hillary?) the whole transition from the trashing of the Clintons to the Goring of Gore could not have been so smooth were it not for a press corpse that was hired for their pro-GOP characteristics.

    No, this man is not a “mark”. He is a COLLABORATOR.

  • Happy Jack

    Heh. He’s the guy going nuclear on twitter because the Times gave a platform to noted conspiracy theorist Louise Mensch.

    • smott999

      Well Mensch, loony as she may be, ran rings around him on this one, (and doesn’t mind letting him know it).

      It does lend credence to the theory that Russian moles are in that NY office. Mostly protecting the mob, but misleading reporters when convenient it seems.

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