Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whitewater II already?

Digby has been staying on top of the Establishment press treatment of the Rod Blagojevich dorruption case as a "problem for Obama". Even though there's no evidence whatsoever that Obama had any [Cheney]ing thing to do with it.

This is where the mainstream media went with the Whitewater pseudo-scandal.

I remember when Dubya took office, I re-read Theodore Draper's A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs (1991), because I feared that the Iran-Contra scandal could become a model for a similar scandal during this administration. I had no idea that it would become a template for their entire foreign policy.

So maybe Democrats should start off the Obama Presidency by reading or re-reading a couple of classics on the massive malfunctioning of the Establishment press during the Clinton years. A malfunctioning which has only gotten worse since. I'm thinking of Gene Lyons' Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater (1996) and the later book by Lyons and Joe Conason, The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton (2000). There is also a documentary movie based on the latter, also called The Hunting of the President (2004).


Historian Sean Wilentz was ahead of most liberal writers in looking at the press pathology in Will Pseudo-Scandals Decide the Election? The American Prospect 11/30/2002. He observed, "Although the focus of today's pseudo-scandals is primarily political money, the direct historical antecedent is the media-friendly demagoguery pioneered by Senator Joseph McCarthy."

Neal Gabler noted that particular strain of the political ancestry of today's authoritarian Republican Party in The GOP's McCarthy gene Los Angeles Times 11/30/08. But it's vital to remember that in the case of Whitewater and many more inane pseudo-scandals ("Al Gore said he invented the Internet!"), it was the "quality" press that took the lead in flogging these themes, though Republican encouragment was never in scarce supply.

For more on Politico's pumping up this story as an Obama scandal, see Memeorandum.

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