Politico made a lot of noise with an anti-Clinton rumor, and Chris Cillizza can’t resist anti-Clinton speculation. Plus Donald Trump goes full sexist. (More)

“I have no idea what they’re talking about or who they are talking to”

Last night Hillary Clinton responded to the latest Politico gossip in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow:

MADDOW: Politico-dot-com, just this afternoon, just published something that says that there’s changes in the works, and there’s always these sort of campaign gossip stories but they say they are citing a half dozen people with direct knowledge of the situation. … Are you planning some sort of shakeup like that?

CLINTON: Yeah somebody showed that to me. I have no idea what they’re talking about or who they are talking to. We’re going to take stock but it’s going to be the campaign that I’ve got. I’m very confident in the people that I have. I’m very committed to them; they’re committed to doing the best we can. We’re going to take stock, what works, what doesn’t work. We’re moving into a different phase of the campaign. We’re moving into a more diverse electorate. We’re moving into different geographic areas. So, of course it would be malpractice not to say, “OK, what worked? What can we do better? What do we have to do new and different that we have to pull out?”

The rumors were peddled by Glenn Thrush and Annie Karni:

Hillary and Bill Clinton are so dissatisfied with their campaign’s messaging and digital operations they are considering staffing and strategy changes after what’s expected to be a loss in Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire, according to a half-dozen people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Clintons – stung by her narrow victory in Iowa and shocked by polls showing her losing by as much as 20 percent here – had been planning to reassess staffing at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters after the first four primaries, but the Clintons have become increasingly caustic in their criticism of aides and demanded the reassessment sooner, a source told POLITICO.

News Flash: an enterprising reporter could write that kind of story about any candidate, any time. Any fully-staffed presidential campaign is a fairly large venture, with scores or even hundreds of staffers, interns, and volunteers. And as with any large venture, a reporter can always find at least a half-dozen or so who aren’t happy. That’s especially true if the reporter promises anonymity, as Thrush and Karni did here.

Is there “tension in the Clinton campaign?” Of course. If there weren’t, the staff would be foolishly complacent. There’s also “tension in the Sanders campaign,” and in the campaigns of every GOP WHannabe.

So this is just Thrush and Karni offering some night-before-primary spin, framing the Clinton campaign as “rudderless” and “lacking message discipline” because – just as expected – Bernie Sanders is poised to do well in two exceptionally white, exceptionally liberal Democratic contests. After that, as Clinton said, “We’re moving into a different phase of the campaign. We’re moving into a more diverse electorate.”

“My guess is that…”

Over at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza also does some rumor-mongering:

I generally take Clinton at her word when she describes what her speeches were about: Recounting high-profile events and her role in them. “I probably described more times than I can remember how stressful it was advising the president about going after bin Laden,” she told Todd on Thursday night.

That makes perfect sense to me; if you are paying several hundred thousand dollars to hear someone such as Clinton speak, what you generally want to hear is what it was like to be her in a variety of big or important moments. These speeches, I bet, are largely just a string of anecdotes by Clinton. “I remember when …” and “So I said to the president …” and the like.

Why not release them, then? Wouldn’t they reaffirm Clinton’s argument during the nomination race that she has been there and done that at the highest level of national and international diplomacy?

My guess is that in the speeches, Clinton acknowledges her various friends and acquaintances at Goldman Sachs (and other Wall Street firms) and praises them for the work they are doing. “You guys get a bad rap but …”

The key phrase is “My guess is that….” This isn’t reporting. It’s pure speculation.

It’s just as likely – and perhaps more likely – that Clinton didn’t “praise them for the work they are doing.” Instead, she might merely have said “I want to thank my good friends [name] and [name] for inviting me to speak with you today.” That, too, would be given the same spin Cillizza then offers:

Yes, it’s standard-issue small talk. But it could look really, really bad in the context of the campaign. Imagine a transcript of Clinton speaking to some big bank or investment firm, thanking a litany of people she’s “been friends with forever” and praising the broader enterprise for “all you do.”

As for his conclusion – that Clinton will never release the transcripts of her speeches – she has already promised to release them if all of her opponents release transcripts of their paid speeches to private audiences. They won’t, and she should not be the only candidate of whom that’s expected. But expecting all candidates to be held to the same standards of disclosure is “tone deaf and disingenuous” because … well … because she’s Hillary Clinton.

“She just said a terrible thing”

And at a rally yesterday, Donald Trump echoed a supporter’s sexist insult of Ted Cruz:

Trump was criticizing Cruz for, in his view, failing to offer unequivocal support for waterboarding in the debate on Saturday night. Trump then interrupted what he was saying to point out what a woman in the crowd had shouted.

“She just said a terrible thing,” Trump said. “You know what she said? Shout it out because I don’t want to – OK, you’re not allowed to say, and I never expect to hear that from you again. She said – I never expect to hear that from you again! – she said he’s a pussy. That’s terrible. Terrible,” Trump said, throwing up his hands.

Trump has similarly in the past amplified derogatory comments while at the same time insisting that it’s not him who made the comment, or that he didn’t really mean it.

Trump made a pretense of being offended:

Trump continued by providing a mock “reprimand” of the woman in an effort to belay comparisons to a rally in September when he failed to correct a supporter who said President Obama was a Muslim and not an American.

“For the press, this is a serious reprimand,” Trump said after asking the audience if the woman could stay.

An honest media would press Trump on why he uses sexist attacks such as implying that Ted Cruz is less than fully male. If he wins the WHannabe race and faces Clinton in the general election, will he say her refusal to authorize torture proves that women are too weak to be commanders in chief? And when he claims he was merely repeating a statement from the audience – and scolding her for it – an honest media would dismiss that excuse and keep pushing.

But I don’t expect that from our media. Their rule seems to be that any excuse must be accepted at face value, no matter how transparently facile …

… unless the speaker is Hillary Clinton. For her, expecting the same standard of disclosure as other candidates is “tone deaf and disingenuous.”

Because liberal media bias. Or something.


Photo Credit: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)


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