Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Corruption: Trump, Clinton and journalism

I just read the WashPo Bill Clinton-Laureate story and while it makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little, as I read about the incestuous network of logrolling ultra wealthy spreading their tentacles across the world, and Bill C's opportunism in exploiting it to harvest tens of millions of dollars over a decade and a half (all the while saluting himself for doing well by doing good), there is no scandal there. There is disappointment that Bill could not follow the Carter example in his ex-presidency but that was never his style, nor Hillary's.

What is scandalous is that all of this logrolling is legal, and regarded as ethical in the circles that practice it. But now consider the Trump record, as Paul Waldman does:
But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:
  • Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
  • Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
  • Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
  • The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
  • The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
  • Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
  • Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
  • Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
  • Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination
  • Trump’s connections to mafia figures involved in New York construction
  • The time Trump paid the Federal Trade Commission $750,000 over charges that he violated anti-trust laws when trying to take over a rival casino company
  • The fact that Trump is now being advised by Roger Ailes, who was forced out as Fox News chief when dozens of women came forward to charge him with sexual harassment. According to the allegations, Ailes’s behavior was positively monstrous; as just one indicator, his abusive and predatory actions toward women were so well-known and so loathsome that in 1968 the morally upstanding folks in the Nixon administration refused to allow him to work there despite his key role in getting Nixon elected.
And that last one is happening right now. To repeat, the point is not that these stories have never been covered, because they have. The point is that they get covered briefly, then everyone in the media moves on. If any of these kinds of stories involved Clinton, news organizations would rush to assign multiple reporters to them, those reporters would start asking questions, and we’d learn more about all of them.
That’s important, because we may have reached a point where the frames around the candidates are locked in: Trump is supposedly the crazy/bigoted one, and Clinton is supposedly the corrupt one. Once we decide that those are the appropriate lenses through which the two candidates are to be viewed, it shapes the decisions the media make every day about which stories are important to pursue.
I continue to wonder whether the relative lack of hoohah coverage of Trump scandals these days (not the stupid, angry, hate-mongering things he says, but his actual four decades long record of business failures, dishonesty, fraud, bankruptcies, racial discrimination, mob ties, etc.) is because media outlets fear being targeted by one of his 3000 plus lawsuits. The costs of defense can be crippling, even if you are Jeff Bezos or the NYTimes, and no one wants to be gawkered. Think about how Melania is suing the UK Daily Mail and a Maryland blogger.

However, the media obsession with Clinton 'scandals' dates back decades, independent of fearing Trump lawsuits---remember that Mena airport? Vince Foster? Travelgate? Maybe the Clintons reminded reporters of the Tracy Flicks in their past; maybe watching the first few reporters spin nothingburgers into journalistic acclaim made the rest of the pack look for more; maybe they finally got to be the mean girls they also feared and envied (and yes, many men, deep down, want to be mean girls).

This is all armchair speculation. And perhaps Trump is scandal proof, since people who plan to vote for him are supporting his swagger and attitude, his aura of success and celebrity, not his policies or his past. But it is time, long past time, for cable news to stop airing Trump rallies live, to stop giving Trump endless airtime, including countless hours of pundits pondering the latest stupid thing he said, lest the infection spread. And I hope Waldman's piece shames the pack into turning its reporting toward Trump. There is a ton of rotten meat there.

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