What Really Happened

So, What Happened, really (as it applies to both Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination and to the White House press corps’ post- 9/11 job performance)?

Of Clinton’s campaign, on the New York Times’ op-ed page, former Republican governor of New Jersey and former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman observes: “[I]t’s clear that voters and the news media still struggle with images and expectations of women as candidates.” Also in that series, in which the Times “asked 13 political experts to explain why they thought [Clinton’s] campaign didn’t live up to expectations,” Mark Penn explains why it’s not his fault. And Ana Marie Cox fingers, in part, “the paranoid style in American punditry,” that Clinton’s own paranoid, “black and white” world view “was in turn embraced by the press that covered her.” Per Cox:

If she cried, surely it was because her campaign had focus-grouped the tears. If she exaggerated sniper fire, it was only because she thought she could get away with it. And if she mentioned an assassination, well, it might be prudent to beef up Mr. Obama’s Secret Service detail. Few commentators allowed that she might be motivated by something as human as pride or as simple as unfounded optimism.

On the Washington Post’s op-ed page, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer argues that the White House press corps was not “too deferential” to President Bush after 9/11, as Scott McClellan claims. “The press was tough, plenty tough. I have the scars — and the transcripts — to prove it,” Fleischer writes. (Why, Helen Thomas asked a tough question six months before the invasion of Iraq! A question that hardly seemed to give Fleischer pause at the time, let alone “scar” ). Tough but, in Fleischer’s telling, also often misguided or unfair or…wrong.

And Dan Froomkin makes a case in today’s Post that any toughness Fleischer experienced at the briefing room podium didn’t much “make its way into the coverage.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.