The Blowjob that Shall Not Be Named

Politico has a festival of stupidity on yesterday’s release by Obama of his long form birth certificate. The varieties of stupid in the article include:

  • Ignoring the real precedent of the blowjob that shall not be named
  • Blaming birtherism on the InterToobz, and not cable TV
  • Conflating correct doubts about Bush ignoring warnings about al Qaeda with 9/11 Trutherism

The central argument of the piece relies on Robert Gibbs’ claim that “we’ve crossed some Rubicon” into a realm in which “there are no arbiters of truth.” And while Politico reports Obama’s advisors trace this new era to, “the decline of traditional media and the rise of viral emails and partisan Web and cable TV platforms,” Politico labels this new era simply “the Internet era.”

It’s the hippies’ fault, apparently, and not that of the traditional press (or even the cable news channels) themselves.

As a result, the argument goes, Obama faces a new challenge to rebut claims like birtherism that no one before him did.

And to sustain that claim–to sustain the claim that Obama faces something Clinton didn’t, to sustain the claim that we are only newly in an “era of public life with no referee — and no common understandings between fair and unfair, between relevant and trivial, or even between facts and fantasy,” Politco drones on for over 1600 words with no more than indirect allusions to the fact that, in an era when the NYT still reigned supreme, a President was impeached over a consensual blowjob with the enthusiastic complicity of that arbiter of truth, the traditional press.

It takes some work for Politico and those it quotes to avoid mentioning that blowjob precedent. Politico muses,

It’s hard to imagine Bill Clinton coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster— never mind official rulings of suicide — were wrong.

But it doesn’t consider the discussions by very serious arbiters of truth that maybe we need to see which direction the President’s penis curves to confirm or refute claims about the President’s sex life. It doesn’t consider that the Village cherished a certain semen-stained dress like the holy grail.

Because all that happened in an era when the press had a clear consensus about what was fair and unfair, relevant and trivial, you see.

And rather bizarrely, Politico quotes the man who might have preempted that blowjob impeachment by doing what Obama did, a man who has admitted to me publicly that he wanted to come out and say it was just a consensual blowjob between adults:

Marcy Wheeler: So, finally you get to the point where, yes, Clinton did not, was not completely forthcoming about a consensual blow job. The other thing that I think could have happened is that a lot of people said but, fundamentally what happened was a consensual blow job between consenting adults. I think it’s between Bill and Hillary and Monica Lewinsky. And again, that didn’t happen. So those are three things that might have short-circuited the story.

Joe Lockhart: I will say this. I spent two and a half years with great discipline not once using that phrase, and you won’t get it out of me today. I think it, I agree with you, but it’s just, it’s a mental block. You have no idea how many times I wanted to say exactly that from behind the podium. It’s just a goddamn [grimaces face]. I completely agree with that.

Yet in his extensive quotes for this story, Joe Lockhart doesn’t mention the blowjob directly either.

Joe Lockhart, who was Clinton’s White House press secretary, said: “You’ve lost the ability to starve a story to death. So what you have to do is raise the price of those who are making the charges. If Donald Trump is out there saying this, you’ve got to make him pay a price for throwing a bomb before too much collateral damage is done.”

The days of not elevating an opponent or refraining from punching down are gone.

“You literally can’t laugh anything off,” Lockhart said. “There’s nothing neutral in politics. It’s either helping you or hurting you. You’ve got to make sure it’s helping you or you’re going to lose.”

[snip]

“The political discourse is much worse now, but that’s not always to the detriment of the so-called victim,” [Ari Fleischer] said. “In this case, President Obama came out looking better.”

Lockhart agreed, recalling some of the conservatives who tormented his boss.

“Look at the rogue’s gallery of Clinton accusers,” he said. “Most of them blew themselves up.”

And Lockhart noted that even now, the most hardcore of the birthers still won’t be satisfied.

“They’ll probably ask for the first diaper,” he said. “They’ll want to see the DNA.”

It seems to me the blowjob impeachment is proof you haven’t been able to “starve a story to death” for well over a decade, long before the InterToobz purportedly ruined the consensus about fair and unfair, relevant and trivial.

The other really fascinating thing is the way the Politico strives for the false balance that is one of the culprits for this problem by claiming this has affected Democrats and Republicans equally. To do so, they conflate two claims made against Bush.

George W. Bush, likewise, was never tempted to take to the Rose Garden to deny allegations from voices on the liberal fringe who believed that he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.

The “fringe” accusation, of course, is that al Qaeda did not cause 9/11, the US government did; it’s not a distinctly partisan accusation in the least, nor is it one that was ever treated at a level in the press like birtherism. The very mainstream accusation, however, is that George Bush received a briefing on August 6, 2001 warning that “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” told his briefer he had covered his ass, and then continued to blow off people like Richard Clarke and George Tenet trying to do something about it. And sure, Bush didn’t take the Rose Garden to deny that; he sent Condi to try to deny it to the 9/11 Commission.

Finally, there’s Politico’s curious treatment of the TANG scandal, which is a precedent where, like Obama, an Administration directly addressed a controversy.

Democratic professionals, meanwhile, may not have publicly embraced the controversy over alleged gaps in George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard, but they enjoyed it when liberal commentators waved that flag.

Not only did they address it, they succeeded in having Dan Rather fired for reporting on it.

Perhaps Obama isn’t trying hard enough to force Fox to fire Roger Ailes and all the Presidential candidate-Fox hosts that validate birtherism publicly? Because that would likely end the birther controversy more effectively than releasing his birth certificate will.

And somehow also gone missing, like that blowjob that shall not be named, is the traditional media’s long embrace of Swiftboaters, further proof that Presidential level figures really do need to rebut false claims early and have had to do so for years.

In any case, with its suggestion that AZ’s circumcision law doesn’t have direct precedent with Bill Clinton’s blowjob, Politico ignores some of the real underlying causes of this problem, which has a lot more to do with a well-funded scandal industry that plays all type of press successfully, from Drudge and viral emails to the NYT, than it has to do with more recent changes in the media.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. Phoenix Woman says:

    And somehow also gone missing, like that blowjob that shall not be named, is the traditional media’s long embrace of Swiftboaters, further proof that DEMOCRATIC Presidential level figures really do need to rebut false claims early and have had to do so for years.

    Fixed it for you.

  2. MaryCh says:

    “Most of them blew themselves up.”

    Did Lockhart grimace when he said that?

    …and what PhilP said.

      • scribe says:

        Glad you like it. We try to keep things above the desktop here.

        And, FWIW, Obama does know how to terminate these things. Remember the terrorist fist-bump, which got big play on Fox (and a New Yorker cover, IIRC) until he sat down with Murdoch for a heart-to-heart in a NYC hotel? And then never saw the light of a cathode-ray tube again? So, one has to conclude Obama deliberately let this Schande play on until he decided he’d derived enough political benefit from it.

        • fatster says:

          I figure this (long overdue) thing will be terminated, however, and quickly.

          Justice Department may reopen Malcolm X murder investigation LINK.

      • lefty665 says:

        It’s the hippies’ fault

        It probably is our fault, but I don’t believe we actually invented blowjobs, although it certainly seemed like it at the time.

        Why didn’t O provide the original years ago? He’s given the nut jobs and teabaggers (do I repeat myself?) a free ride for years of paranoid agitation. That corrosiveness has done damage that won’t just blow away. O sucked on habeas, he sucked on health care, he’s about to blow Boner on SS and Medicare… aw hell you know the tune. He knew his birth certificate was legit all along, why did he choke on that for more than 2 years? BO=BS. No more Change=Same. Real Change in ’12. Tax the rich. Put real people to work making real things right here in the USA. Bring our troops home alive and whole. Tell the running blue dogs to go hump someone else’s leg. C’mon hippies, get it on one more time. We left work undone in ’74 and we’re paying the price now. We owe it to our country and ourselves to make things right before we croak.

  3. Citizen92 says:

    I’m conflicted about Joe’s comments to you, Marcy, so here are both thoughts.

    “Oh my, Joe, that’s quite intellectually honest of you.”

    “Joe, apparently what’s good for the goose is good for the gander given you affinity for a member of the FLOTUS support staff. I don’t remember any podium statements about that.”

  4. Mauimom says:

    It’s the hippies’ fault, apparently, and not that of the traditional press (or even the cable news channels) themselves.

    Yeah, because as soon as “teh tubes” were invented — and particularly when all that “social media” stuff came along — the “traditional media” and cable news outlets disappeared from the earth, never to be able to write an investigative piece again.

    Is it time for The Wedding yet?

  5. hcgorman says:

    ahhh, a blog without reference to wikileaks so I can read and respond…what a great country.
    Getting back to a response I left a few days ago about my conversation with GW Obama before he decided he was presidential material— after I listed a bunch of his votes which were beyond the pale he looked at me and said “Oh, I know….you’ve been reading the blogs.” As though that somehow would explain his votes…..
    But anyway that was me in 2006, I wasn’t reading blogs (I didn’t realize then that they could be more informative than anything I would ever pick up in a “news” paper-) and I looked at him like he was crazy and I said “I don’t know about blogs but I get every single one of your votes emailed to me.” He didn’t get it….that someone (a constituent) actually was paying attention.
    Shortly thereafter I learned about blogs (thank the gods….).

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The meme that there are no arbiters of truth is an old GOP one that dates back at least to Nixon’s wars with the press. LBJ wanted that claim to be true when Walter Cronkite reported from Vietnam after the Tet Offensive and told the American public this was a war the US cannot win. LBJ bowed, instead, to the inevitable and chose not to run for re-election.

    The press and whoever leaked to it helped convince Nixon to resign, a point the GOP considers its nadir. Reflecting on it was one of the few things that can make Cheney seem alive.

    It was a constant theme of Karl Rove and his mentor, part of their program to discredit press power and the facts themselves, which is the foundation for the false equivalency of the “he said, she said” journalism that plagues us today, a journalism that, like Obama, sits in the middle regardless of how much truth is on one side and how many lies sit on the other.

    Politico, Fox Noise, cable talking heads exist in large part because of the success of those programs. Luckily, so do blogs, which refute their targeted propaganda every day. Thanks, Marcy.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    When you have an opposition staffed by Lee Atwaters, Karl Roves and gofers like Tim Griffin (now a Congressman fergawdsake) – for whom the only lie or dirty trick they won’t use is the one they haven’t though of yet – you can’t starve their voices or drown them out in the din of your own self-praise.

    You have to respond, but not be refuting them point by point; that gives them the success they crave. You respond by refuting their role, their sources, their purposes and methods, by refuting what and who they stand for and by declaring what and who you stand for – and by walking that talk. Rude? You bet. Necessary? Absofuckinglutely.

  8. Ironcomments says:

    Politico- sub department of the Ministry of Truth. The place where web designers can pretend they are journalist. Winston Smith was probably their last great editor.

  9. lsls says:

    George W. Bush, likewise, was never tempted to take to the Rose Garden to deny allegations from voices on the liberal fringe who believed that he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.

    “liberal fringe”???????? Not.

    Why didn’t he take to the Rose Garden no matter who said it?

  10. lsls says:

    It’s hard to imagine Bill Clinton coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster— never mind official rulings of suicide — were wrong.

    What he did do was have his staff ask influential “professional” people to write letters to the editor in support of the official rulings of suicide. People who were unfamiliar with Foster or his mental status. Source: Me (just leave it at that)

  11. EternalVigilance says:

    The Blowjob that Shall Not Be Named

    Monica’s Secret Service code name: “Hole de Mort.”

    • onitgoes says:

      Ya didn’t? Well YOU, as a taxpaying citizen, got *pay big bucks* for Ken Starr to get his rocks off learning that ever-so-necessary & damning information. It was in the Starr report, which cost just shy of $30million taxpayer dollars:

      http://articles.cnn.com/1998-04-01/politics/starr.costs_1_cost-estimates-investigation-starrs?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS

      All sorts of salacious, but totally “necessary,” details showed up in gambling addict Kenn Starr, the Czar of “Ethics,” fabulous report on the Blowjob that Shall Not be Named.

      Rightwingers have no problem wasting tax dollars on useless and senseless “reports” if it’s all in the name of damning someone who is alleged to be “Democratic.”

      Hat tip to the title, Marcy; it’s excellent.

      • wendydavis says:

        Well shiver me timbers, onitgoes; seems I don’t spend wisely. Or maybe the curvey Johnson images mighta haunted my dreams… TMI, perhaps?

        I do remember getting a solicitation from Linda Tripp, begging for money for being such a sterling citizen. I taped one thin dime to the letter and sent it back to her. ;o)

  12. liberalarts says:

    There have been several excellent documentaries about the presidency and American politics generally, curated by real historians, even, and unequivocally, the press has often been rabidly partisan, outrageously wrong headed, and vicious beyond today’s rather tepid by comparison popular imagination. Glance over the Burr Hamilton vendetta, just the lowest of the low points, and you’ll get the rancid flavor. We’ve actually gotten better. Depressing thought, isn’t it.

  13. perris says:

    the real story to me, obama got down on his knees and pleasured trump, got his quite visible marionette strings tugged, was told to get to the back of the bus, got up to move in the back

    • Petrocelli says:

      I’ll respectfully disagree … this is a shrewd political move designed to get Dem supporters out to vote in 2012. And to push the ReThugs further right, so the Dems can recapture Middle America.

    • liberalarts says:

      I have some large doubts about Trump and at the top of the list is his Republican conversion. Funny, that.

    • onitgoes says:

      I agree. I figure Trump will do just about anything anymore. It’s Trump’s “style.” Plus Trump has always been a media whore. I’ve always figured that Trump has been well-paid for his, uh, trumped-up birfer b.s. Someone somewhere wanted this long-past-it’s-due-date fairy tale to be pushed out in front of the serfs yet again.

      And it seems to me that the PTB were tired of Palin, so they pulled Trump outta the hat to do it.

      • endtimesgal says:

        You’ve got something there. I just thought to myself yesterday, “Trump is the new Palin.” The totally worthless nutty ass that the media now follows every burp and fart from. No chance of being prez either-but a great show. It’s all bread and circuses they don’t even pretend any more do they?

  14. MadDog says:

    OT – From CREW’s report (5 page PDF) on the missing John Yoo emails comes an official DOJ statement concerning something we’ve all wondered about:

    …Finally, JMD [Justice Management Division] determined that during Mr. Yoo’s tenure at OLC, no employee had either a classified email account or access to such an account, meaning Mr. Yoo cannot explain away the absence of work-related emails as due to his use of a classified email account…

  15. pataphysician says:

    Scaife’s Pittsburg Tribune-Review, a newspaper that’s existed since 1889, created the whole Vince Foster was murdered story. So how was this not a traditional press story?

  16. cregan says:

    I totally disagree on the basic premise here.

    first, “birthers being crazy” is such a good issue for Obama that Obama is at his lowest Gallup numbers.

    Except for the fringe right, who promote it, and the fringe left who see some advantage in it, it is a nothing issue either way and never will be. It gives no advantage to anyone of any side except in some fantasy world.

    A total, stupid waste of time for any side.

    After a few more days, it will die the death it should have a while back. And would have died if Obama had just released the long form when the question first came up.

    And, then, we can get back to Gitmo being still open, Libya going nowhere, unemployment being high, no public option and the other issues Obama wants discussed.

  17. TarheelDem says:

    Politico worrying about crossing a Rubicon where there is no arbiter of truth!!! Politico!!!

    Bwahahahahahahahaha!

  18. kitcarson says:

    There are several reasons on why the country had to listen to the BJ for so long. One is that the press is controlled by very few players (in 1982 – 52 corporations, in 1992 – 26 corporations, in 2011 – 5 major corporations). We have a right wing media.

    With fewer owners it was easy to repeat this over ad naseum.

    The GOP was hoping to educate there base about the value of a BJ.