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“It’s Out There!” An Endlessly Recurring Series



Speaking of the Clinton rules, here’s a headline that appears on the virtual front page of the New York Times:

Weiner’s Texts Cast a New Shadow Over Clinton Campaign

(I don’t have the chops to do a screencap, but the linked article itself has a more anodyne title.)

The skill taken in crafting this headline is important to learn — it’s what separates us from the animals. Except the weasel. Carlos Danger’s escapades are more or less interesting gossip but they aren’t political news and they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Clinton campaign. The “casts a shadow” language neatly allows you to pretend that this is political news that raises Troubling Questions about the Clinton campaign without committing yourself to the obviously absurd underlying proposition. Rebecca Traister states what should be obvious while dismantling an odious Washington Post story along similar lines:

Here’s the thing: There is no reason for there to be political fall-out from this. There is an increased likelihood of TMZ coverage and fantastic tabloid headline puns. But nothing in this silly, sad story has any bearing on the presidential campaign. The fact that we are talking about it like it does is a result of the hungry media’s attempt to maintain the fantasy that there is any equivalence between Hillary Clinton, a competent candidate whose politics you can love or hate, and Donald Trump, a man best summed up by some of his Scottish critics as a “weapons-grade plum.” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted Monday morning that the Weiner story is a “problem for Clinton team” since after Trump’s recent hire of Steve Bannon “Democrats repeatedly pointed to Bannon’s personal past” making it “hard to argue Weiner is off limits.” But Bannon, a white nationalist media entrepreneur, is in the employ of the Trump campaign, and the personal past Haberman was referring to involved divorce proceedings in which his ex wife claimed he had violently assaulted her and also made anti-Semitic comments, Haberman later tried to clarify that her tweet was meant in reference to the Bannon divorce and was not “equating a police report with the Weiner situation.” But as with the Washington Post, this clarification didn’t help much. We are still in the fairyland of false equivalence.

Consider the contrasting situations: Donald Trump, who wants to be the president, recently hired a purveyor of white ethno-nationalism who had been accused by his wife of assault and who is alleged to have fired a woman suffering from MS while she was on maternity leave, as the CEO of his campaign. Hillary Clinton, who wants to be the president, has employed since the 1990s a woman who in 2010 married a guy who turns out to be really skeezy.

The fact that anyone is suggesting even mild political concern about the impact of this story of Clinton’s campaign is ludicrous. Hundreds of the most powerful men in this country, including a number of presidents, have been just as skeezy as Anthony Weiner. Roger Ailes built a cable news network that helped prop up several Republican presidential administrations, all while using his network’s money to help him cover up his record of serial sexual harassment; he just got paid $40 million to walk away from his job and sign on as an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Frank Bruni, meanwhile has a column comparing Donald Trump — who is the Republican nominee for President of the United States — with Anthony Weiner, who got almost 5% of the vote in the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary. (To put this in perspective, Mickey Kaus got more support in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary.) Even leaving aside the fact that what Weiner did wouldn’t rank in the top 100 of the bad things Trump has done, it’s a silly comparison. But the rule is that Both Sides Have To Do It.

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