If President Hillary Clinton were to have an enemies list like Richard Nixon's, which singled out 50 writers and media companies for malicious attention by government agencies like the IRS, who would be on it?
This is a frivolous exercise, mind you, because the disclosure of Nixon's list by his chief counsel burned the lesson into every politician's conscience. Guessing at a President Trump list would be too daunting since it would include most of America's political establishment and media and nearly every world leader except Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
But President Clinton's would be small, unless she added the denizens of the alt-right that gin out conspiracies that have had little effect on her standing. None in the Arkansas media would make it, our incursions into her affairs back in the '70s and '80s seeming now to be trivial.
Her list would start and perhaps end with the New York Times. The Washington Post might join it. Her huge untrustworthiness quotient in the polls owes largely to the seminal reporting and commentary in the Times or the Post, in spite of the fact that both have been considered part of the liberal media and that a few of their columnists and unread editorials take her side.
One of those Times columnists, Paul Krugman, the Nobel Laureate economist, took the Associated Press to task this week for a damning story about Hillary Clinton visiting with dignitaries from around the world in her first two years as secretary of state after they or their governments had made gifts to the Clinton charitable foundation. Krugman said the meetings sounded ominous but were, in fact, perfectly harmless, there being no evidence she did or said anything to advance whatever interest the visitors had. Meetings on the same terms occur in every quarter of government, especially Congress.
His point was that the AP and other media that write stories about the foundation or her emails are filled with innuendo but carry no damning facts. He compared it with the scant media attention given to Trump's seeming bribes to attorneys general in Florida and Texas to prevent their joining an investigation into consumer fraud by Trump University. Trump's foundation illegally funneled $25,000 to the Republican attorney general of Florida, who was deciding whether to join the Trump U. probe (she didn't). He lied about it on IRS forms and paid a fine to the IRS. He gave $35,000 to the campaign fund of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who was running for governor, after Abbott halted his own consumer division's plan to sue Trump for $5.7 million for defrauding Texas students and operating a phony university in the state without a charter.
What Krugman did not say was that it was the Times that started the Clinton Foundation fool's errand and keeps it going. In 2013, the paper assigned a reporter to do nothing but look into the affairs of the likely presidential candidate. The Post followed suit. Voluminous stories about foundation gifts from royalty, foreign governments, corporations, autocrats and rank-and-file folks followed. There was no evidence of quid pro quo, but articles said the gifts for the foundation's charitable work in Africa and elsewhere raised "questions" about potential improprieties. The Wall Street Journal, the Post, the AP and other media picked up the refrain.
It was the Times' sniffing through Benghazi testimony that turned up Clinton's private email server, and the paper has led the unceasing search for fresh angles on that particular Clinton folly. Though the Times is the world's greatest and most pervasive news source, it was the obscure leftist journal Mother Jones that actually plowed through the FBI report on the emails and concluded that it largely affirmed Clinton's accounts.
Mother Jones reported that Clinton, not former Secretary of State Colin Powell, was truthful about their email discussions back in 2009. Powell, who insinuated that Clinton was blaming him for her decision about a private server, had said that their exchange about emails, in which he advised her to avoid email correspondence subject to public disclosure, occurred a year or more, not two days, into the Obama administration. The FBI report pinpointed it as Jan. 23, 2009. Powell advised her to avoid having her emails made part of the record. "Be very careful," he wrote. "I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data."
But the Times' role as Clinton's Javert-like antagonist goes back to 1992, when its investigative writer Jeff Gerth came to Arkansas to see who this rube running for president was. An old Republican source from his foray into Arkansas to expose perfidy by the Stephens family in Little Rock sent him to Jim McDougal, who had gotten the newly married Clintons in 1978 to borrow money for a foolish speculative venture called Whitewater on a remote Ozark mountain and was sore that the Clintons had not bailed him out and wouldn't give him a state job when he fell on hard times.
McDougal also told Gerth about Hillary's lucky speculation in the futures market the same year. These weird little stories captured the imagination of Washington Republicans, and the Times' reporting, nasty columns by William Safire and the paper's editorial writers produced the biggest political snipe hunt in history and nearly all the Clintons' crises. She aided them by her obstinacy in sharing her law firm's billing records or much else about all the public things she considered personal.
She might go on the list.