When I came to DC to serve in the first Clinton White House in 1993, people back home in the Midwest would sometimes ask me what I thought was the most dysfunctional thing about the legendarily dysfunctional city of Washington, DC. I would tell them it was the national press corps. There were a lot of arrogant, power hungry, self-obsessed people in this city, I would tell them, but I felt like the worst of the worst of them resided in the world of the big national media operations.
And in the media-consolidated, click-bait times we live in now, it has only gotten worse. It isn't that there aren't some individual reporters who are good people and good reporters, there definitely are. The problem is that the culture and incentive system of Big Media reinforces the tendencies toward pack journalism, media frenzies, and sensationalized stories that are much ado about nothing.
Which leads me to the Hillary health care scare. When the video of her looking shaky came out Sunday, the media got so ginned up about what is actually a pretty dull story -- a little walking pneumonia, she was up and about a couple hours later. But they turned it into the world's most hyper-stimulated process saga: why did the campaign wait so long to tell us, when did Hillary tell her own staff she was taking some antibiotics, blah blah blah.
Yeah, okay, I will grant that knowing what a bunch of click-obsessed jackals too many of these media people are, the campaign could have been smoother about how it handled all this, but the hysteria about when exactly they should have released the pneumonia news seems, well, maybe just a little overheated. Don't these pundits and reporters have anything better to do -- like report on the candidates' stands on actual issues, or how the candidates might or might not make the American people's lives better or worse? Apparently not.
You have to think the great reporters from an earlier era, like Murrow and Cronkite, must be rolling over in their graves over what the modern-day media has become. Perhaps Murrow might ask the pundits of today, "Ladies and gentlemen, have you no shame?" If they were to answer honestly, they would have to say, "No, we don't even pretend anymore."
There's one big part of this story that no one bothers to talk about: Hillary's iron will. Comedian Patton Oswalt said, "Wait, so Hillary has PNEUMONIA and she's still campaigning as hard as she is? You realize how badass that is, right?" This comes as no surprise to those of who have worked with Hillary -- the woman is as tough as nails. No one I have ever known has ever matched her for sheer determination and hard work. She gets sick; she keeps working. She is attacked mercilessly by her foes; she keeps working. She runs into a brick wall on an issue; she finds a way around it.
Contrast that with Donald Trump, who whines about everything. The polls show him down, so he says the election is rigged. The debate timing and format, agreed to a year and a half ago, aren't good enough. A judge rules against him on Trump University, and Trump says it's because the judge is a Mexican (even though the judge was born in Indiana). Protesters show up to his events and he whines so much about them his supporters sucker punch them.
The Speaker of the House and John McCain say they don't like Trump's racist rants, and he petulantly refuses to endorse them. He whines about how he shouldn't have to release his taxes like every other candidate over the last 50 years because they are being audited, even though past candidates released them during audits. There's a reason comedian Bill Maher has started referring to Trump as a "whiny little bitch."
The real takeaway of this health incident is that Hillary Clinton got pneumonia and she stayed on the job and toughed it out. She should have rested, but she is one strong woman and she assumed she could pull through like she has a thousand times before. Can you imagine what the Donald would do if things didn't go his way for a couple of days? When it comes to toughness, endurance, and stamina, Hillary Clinton kicks Donald Trump's ass.
Big media has embarrassed itself with its coverage of this story. They have, in that delightful old phrase, truly screwed the pooch. When Hillary demonstrates her intelligence and steadiness in the first debate, those same pundits will conveniently forget how dumb they are making themselves look this week.