There’s no one more repentant and eager to promise reform than the town drunk coming off a week at the bottom of a bottle. Some of “the top political reporters in the country,” as they think of themselves, will be soon looking for similar redemption.
If Hillary Clinton wins the Nov. 8 election — and it’s no sure thing, according to some of the respectable polls — she should not necessarily expect to extend the passionate honeymoon with her eager bridegrooms in the mainstream media. She can expect to minister to a lot of hangovers, which is sloppy duty that any number of wives of drunks could tell her is no fun.
All those men and women who eagerly plunged into the tank with her months ago will have no further reason to pay homage to her, and can redeem themselves, even unto themselves, by ridding themselves of the scent and stain of selling out the credibility of the journals they work for. Some of them have spectacular sins to atone.
If Donald Trump is as bad as they say he is, and if the result is foreordained, as they now say it is, just why these worthies of the swollen large organs of the media keep kicking the horse they say is dead is a puzzlement. Last Sunday’s editions of The Washington Post, for example, hardly had room for anything but preening columnists and political correspondents playing the childhood game of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” The worthies fell together in a pool of polluted printer’s ink to say again — and again and again — what they’ve been saying for weeks. What’s up with that?
The latest disclosures from WikiLeaks, an embarrassment of riches for any Washington reporter eager to report and write a ripping good read, reveal just what has been going on in the tank where Hillary hangs out with her press gang.
Glenn Thrush, whom Politico advertises as “one of the top political reporters in the country,” is revealed by WikiLeaks to have apologized to John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, for writing a story he described as [human excrement] that embarrassed the Clinton campaign. In another email to Mr. Podesta, he called himself a “hack,” perhaps a reflection of harsh self-examination unusual in a Washington correspondent.
He promised Mr. Podesta that he wouldn’t do it again, and he would let the campaign chairman read his story on Hillary’s campaign fundraising, to approve it for publication lest it offend. “No worries,” he wrote in the Twitterfied prose that is replacing English on news sites, “because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I [sexually intercoursed] up anything.”
Another WikiLeaks email told of how Ken Vogel of Politico sent the entire draft of his story to the communications director of the Democratic National Committee for approval before publication. When a reporter for the Daily Caller asked Brad Dayspring, the flack for Politico, about Mr. Thrush’s exchanges with Mr. Podesta, he was told that he had no credibility to ask the questions because he had earlier gone on Twitter to call Mr. Thrush “a [sexual intercoursing] joke. Mr. Dayspring declined to answer specific questions.
Still another leaked email told how Mark Leibovich of The New York Times Magazine had assured Jennifer Palmiera, the communications director of the Clinton campaign, that she could “veto what you didn’t want” from a story to be written from an interview.
Media bias is an old story in Washington, but rarely if ever before been laid out in such cold, plain letters. Not so long ago the revelation of such stark violations of how newspapers, even web newspapers, work — and have worked in America since John Peter Zenger first established the right of the press to annoy public officials 300 years ago — would have humiliated both the reporter and his employer. Sharing an unpublished story with a source was forbidden, enforced by a kick in the pants straight into the street.
Shame will likely survive the presidential campaign of ‘16, and surviving reporters with printer’s ink for blood will be unable to resist redemption if there’s another President Clinton in our future, unable to resist the temptation to do their duty. This “nasty woman,” this “congenital liar,” this Cruella de Vil (without the Dalmatians), as she has been called, is the most corrupt candidate put forward by an American political party. She cannot escape the scrutiny she has eluded for so long. Her fellow connivers will bring it on if only to redeem what’s left of their own reputations.
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.