It would appear that the New York Times and MSNBC, in focusing on Hillary Clinton's speaking fees, are, after many months of serving as virtual Clinton campaign mouthpieces, beginning to hedge their bets in the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. This information has been available since last spring, but only now is it being seen as geuinely troubling. Why wasn't seen as a big problem when it was first revealed?
In May of last year, Times reporters Maggie Habermann and Stephen Eder conceded that the speaking fees charged by Mrs. Clinton and her husband Bill, which have averaged roughly $250,000, "could create challenges for the former secretary of state as she tries to cast herself as a champion of everyday Americans in an era of income inequality." My, how the tone has changed now that Mrs. Clinton's coronation has become less than seemingly certain.
The May Times story reassured readers that "The speaking circuit has enriched many well-known Washington figures and former presidents, but the exorbitant pay for light work can distance them from the realities most Americans experience at their jobs." So as long as Mrs. Clinton could prove that she's still one of us, which those at the Times would believe is a given that they would partially manufacture on her behalf, the speaking fees would be no big deal.
Nicholas Confessore's Thursday story, which made the Friday print edition's front page and was co-written with Jason Horowitz, now concedes that they are a big deal (bolds are mine throughout this post):
... her paid speeches are now emerging as the central line of attack in an increasingly bitter primary clash with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. In Sunday’s debate in South Carolina and at a series of campaign appearances in Iowa this week, Mr. Sanders has argued that Mrs. Clinton is too personally beholden to Wall Street to effectively rein in the industry’s excesses.
The Times could have raised the "beholden" issue in May, but didn't. The pair of reporters on that story only vaguely wrote that "the couple has also faced criticism for giving highly paid speeches to certain groups, particularly the financial industry," without telling us why anyone should care.
Now that Sanders is going beyond "beholden" while becoming genuinely competitive, the Times, which many leftists believe has given Sanders very short shrift during most of his candidacy, is allowing him to get his message to get through to its readers:
In Iowa on Wednesday, Mr. Sanders went even further, seeming to mock her sizable speaking fees as borderline bribes from a powerful industry. “You got to be really, really, really good to get $250,000 for a speech,” he said.
The attacks have become one of Mr. Sanders’s biggest applause lines in Iowa, where the median household earns about $52,229 a year. And Republican strategists are testing how to turn Mrs. Clinton’s speaking fees against her in an election defined by rising economic inequality and stagnant middle-class wages. Even some of her supporters are questioning the wisdom of accepting the fees when she knew she might run for the presidency again.
Gosh, were all those "supporters" hiding from the Times last year? These "supporters" sound like they're creating an excuse to jump ship if it looks like it's in danger of sinking.
Setting aside Sanders' delusional socialism for a moment, the applause lines over Mrs. Clinton's outlandish speaking fees are an indication of just how viscerally so many people on the left have despised her all along. The Times writeup demonstrates that the establishment press has finally decided to push back, after downplaying her fees while blackballing Sanders' reference to them for months.
Confessore's appearance on MSNBC Thursday with host Craig Melvin confirmed that the paper's reporters and its liberal cheerleaders at MSNBC are now attempting to build distance between themselves and Mrs. Clinton:
Transcript (beginning at the 0:58 mark):
MSNBC HOST CRAIG MELVIN: You know, this was eye-opening this morning, my friend. You write that the Clintons earned a whopping $125 million in speaking fees since leaving the White House. A fifth of that money — $30 million in speaking fees — in the last two years.
This is what struck me, Nick. You would think someone would have said to Hillary Clinton, someone who's thought about running for President a long time, someone may have said, "You know what? Maybe it's not the best idea to go out and take millions of dollars from the financial industry if you're considering a run."
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE: Well, you know, I think some of her own supporters are wishing they had said that to her before. I think at the time it wasnt 100 percent certain that she would run for President and they told themselves, "This is the most innocent way you can make money as a former government official."
The problem is the scale of the money, Craig — a quarter of a million dollars to chit-chat for 40 minutes — is just unbelievable to most people. It seems almost obscene. And I, in the story I quote the former governor of Pennsylvania, who is a supporter of Hillary Clinton saying, "You know, for a family that makes a quarter of a million dollarS in 7 to 10 years combined, it's just seems very weird."
I think it's a very potent line of attack, because people just don't understand how she gets all that money.
CRAIG MELVIN: Even people who earn a decent wage in this country, they can't get their heads around why anyone would get a quarter of a million dollars to give a speech. We should note that a lot of this money was for giving speeches to people who make a lot of money. It's not like, you know, she was giving speeches just to -
The video I found cut off there. I almost wish the excerpt had gone on, given that Mrs. Clinton has sometimes charged her exorbitant fees at universities, which could only pay her out of their endowments or general funds.
Confessore's reference to "Pennsylvania's former governor" was to Ed Rendell. Why Confessore wouldn't mention his name is what's really "weird." Confessore also failed to accurately quote his own story. In the actual Times story, Rendell, who was named, said that "it looks ridiculous" as he discussed Mrs. Clinton's speaking fees.
Melvin, who demonstrated weakness in math ($30 million is much closer to one-fourth of $125 million than it is to one-fifth), acted as if he had just learned about the size and scope of Mrs. Clinton's speaking fees in the past 24 hours. He's been with MSNBC for 4-1/2 years, apparently spending quite a bit of that time in blissful ignorance.
As noted earlier, I contend that Thursday's Times story wouldn't have appeared unless the Old Gray Lady's managers and editors were not genuinely worried that a too-close association with Mrs. Clinton might hurt them. I would aruge that it's far too late for that, but leftists are known for having extraordinarily short and selective memories.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.