NYT's Patrick Healy: Hillary's Toughest Foe Is...the Media?

March 12th, 2015 10:37 PM

New York Times reporter Patrick Healy's Thursday "news analysis" surveyed the splintered GOP presidential field, the barren Democratic one, and claimed that "Early In 2016 Race, Clinton's Toughest Foe Appears to Be the News Media."

Healy really does think the media has been tough on Hillary Clinton over the years. In his own previous stints as a campaign reporter, Healy snickered over Sarah Palin's simplistic patriotism in 2008, made excuses for Michelle Obama's gaffe that she hadn't always been proud of her country, and assumed racial motivations behind every criticism of Obama.

Though the Times itself may have tilted toward Barack Obama in the 2008 primary contest, it certainly hasn't given Hillary a hard ride over the course of her political career. Stephen Lee Myers gushed in a cover profile for the  Times magazine in July 2012: "What has been most striking about Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state is at once how suited for the job she has proved to be and how improbable it once seemed, even to her."

Reporter Jodi Kantor speculated in December 2012 on the political future of Hillary, who "may appear to be a figure of nearly limitless possibility....If Mrs. Clinton is not running, she is a widely respected figure whose chief accomplishments are mostly behind her; if she may be running, she glows with White House and historic potential."

Even as Healy insisted the "hectoring" press has been traditionally tough on Hillary Clinton, his opening anecdotes leave a suspicious gap:

With no other powerful Democrats likely to run against her, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s toughest adversary for her party’s presidential nomination in 2016 has now become clear. It is an opponent that challenged her in the early 1980s over her use of her maiden name -- and was hectoring her again on Tuesday over her use of personal email for State Department business.

Based on that timeline, Hillary had over 30 years of decent coverage.

More from Healy's Thursday piece, after a rundown of three questions asked at her email-controversy press conference:

Probing, persistent questions like these from the political press corps at Tuesday’s news conference are the sort that rival candidates would be expected to ask on the campaign trail or in televised debates, as Barack Obama did against Mrs. Clinton in 2007 and 2008 over the Iraq war and other issues.

Unlike then, however, Mrs. Clinton is not expected to face comparably aggressive opponents for her party’s nomination. Among the possible Democratic field, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland has shown little taste for cutthroat tactics. One can imagine Mrs. Clinton’s disarming Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, with one of her signature belly laughs. The Republican candidates, at least for now, appear too busy jousting among themselves to do much damage to her.

Which leaves the news media.

Mrs. Clinton has long had a fraught relationship with journalists, given their demands for full disclosure and her own long-held belief that public figures deserve a “zone of privacy,” as she put it during Bill Clinton’s race in 1992, or a “scope” of “personal privacy,” as she said Tuesday.

Healy denigrated his own profession:

By going before journalists to try to put an end to the email story, which was first reported by The New York Times, Mrs. Clinton all but acknowledged that she was running for president, because why else would she submit to shouted questions from so many dubious antagonists?

After pointing out that the media scrutiny could help Clinton "hone her political skills" and "strengthen her armor" in the general election, Healy concluded with gush over Hillary showing herself to be a "human being anyone could relate to," before the mean old press started in on her again.

Early in Tuesday’s news conference, she adroitly used the discussion of her personal email to try to connect with voters on issues of privacy. She noted that some of her correspondence dealt with “planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.” In that moment, Mrs. Clinton looked and sounded like a human being anyone could relate to. And then reporters started asking questions, and the jousting began.