Today’s cover piece in the New York Times Magazine is “Hillary’s War”. Let’s take a look at it, shall we? We’ll start with the cover and lead before moving to the content.
The cover image: Unfortunately, the online version of the image doesn’t show up well, so I can’t show it to you. It has the words “Hillary’s War” in an enormouse font. The coloring of the letters goes from red to blue, a timeline is printed below and there is a key showing that the red indicates “Support war authorization” and blue represents “Supports war deauthorization”. Cleverly done, especially the red (GOP) and blue (Democrat) color choices, just in case it was unclear which party was on which side. The central message is unavoidable. She was for the war, then against it. She was with the Republicans, then the Democrats. Hillary is a flip-flopper. She changes with the wind. The whole image is constructed to transmit this one thought as clearly as possible.
Well, that’s not true, there’s another thought even more clear. “Hillary’s War”. It’s her war. That’s right, not Bush’s war, but Hillary’s. Not Roves, or Powells, or Blairs, or Tenets, or Rices, or Kristol or Kagan or Krauthammer or Safires, or Hasert or DeLay or Frist or McCains, but Hillary.
Subheads: The first subhead, “An examination of the senator’s voting, thinking and maneuvering on Iraq.” is not too bad, though the use of the word “maneuvering” is already painting the picture. The online lede is “Hillary Rodham Clintonâ€™s decisions on Iraq may point to what sort of president she would be,” and inside the article the lead is, “Her support for the Seante resolution giving President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq remains a problem for the Democratic Party’s base. The way she arrived at that decision – and at subsequent decisions on Iraq – may point to what sort of president she would be.”
Only a little of that is true. There’s not one word in the article that points to what sort of president she would be. There isn’t an even an attempt to show how her thinking on Iraq points to what sort of president she would be. It simply raises the question. And by raising the question, it answers it – There’s something funny there. No, we’re not going to tell you what, but something stinks.
Before we even get to the meat of the article, the framing is clear. Hillary is a manipulative flip-flopper and she’ll do anything to be president. How many people see the cover of the New York Times Magazine? (Sunday circulation is 1.6 million.) How many of those ever read the first word of the article, much less read it all the way through? Much less.
The content: The content isn’t bad. It is highly factual, and avoids most of the poisoned phrasing that’s been laid out already. Still, it suffers from some serious problems, so let’s go through some of the main points.
1) Why didn’t she read the entirety of the National Intelligence Estimate, the definitive intelligence assessment of the Iraq situation? That’s a good point, she should have. On the other hand, only six senators did. So why single out Hillary?
2) She voted for the war. So did 77 other Senators, including all the leadership of the Democratic party.
3) She hasn’t apologized for her vote. I just find this weird. She has explained her vote, several times, and it hasn’t been reported. I’m glad Edwards did his mea culpa, but I don’t require it of every candidate. Again, why aren’t the asking the same question of other Senators? Oh, because she’s running for president, so she has to get on her knees and beg the public for forgiveness first. Grow up America.
4) She still voted for the war, even when some protesters asker her not to! One whole section is devoted to this incident. I have no idea why. The description of the group is that they “intended to ridicule the Bush administrations color-coded terrorism security alerts.” Anytime the word “ridicule” pops up in a groups mission, you can safely ignore it.
5) She voted against an amendment that would force diplomacy before invasion. Again, a good question, but 75 other senators voted against it also. Why single out Hillary? Amendments votes often don’t make sense unless you know what other amendments are out there and the context of the legislative rules. We aren’t given any of that information.
6) She’s a manipulative shrew, joining in the anti-war movement is dishonest ways. The strongest facts are against her here, putting her name on a measure at the last second when it looked good, and a couple other incidents like that. Still, it doesn’t add up to much.
Look, Hillary has always been more hawkish than the Democratic base. She bought into the administration line for too easily. That doesn’t mean she was the only one. Except for Russ Feingold, this article could have been written about any major senator. Like many others Hilary never foresaw what Bush would do with the authorization, she has since come out clearly against her previous stance, and there is just no reason to keep raking her over the coals like this. This was Bush’s war, plain and simple.
So, is this a hit piece? It’s a split decision. The article has a double-standard, but it is certainly fair to examine Hillary’s history with the war. Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr do a good job of laying out lots of facts, and there are many positive bits that I didn’t comment on. However, the editors who wrote the ledes and approved the cover unquestionably transformed this into yet another smear job by the New York Times on a Clinton. What else is new.