Don Pesci: Courant for Clinton: Do media endorsements matter?

The media have lost their moral pull. The approval rating of the lowest bottom-feeding politician is several fathoms higher than that of “the media,” according to a September 2016 Gallup Poll   (


The media, even less than the current Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, simply do not give a hoot about approval polls directed at them, which are worth pausing over none-the-less.


Since 1972, Gallup has been putting the following question on a yearly basis to the great unwashed, and the graph below traces the decline in media approval from 1997 to 2015:



Any politician – perhaps with the exception of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose current approval rating, according to the most recent Quinnipiac June 2016 poll, is 24 percent, near bottom in the nation – might be alarmed by the negative drift in approval since 1997 from 53 to 32 percent.


Consider The Hartford Courant’s recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Frequent readers of Courant endorsements will understand that the paper’s rather warm embrace of Mrs. Clinton was a forgone conclusion, even in April 2015, when she first announced her bid for the presidency.

The paper’s current endorsement was, so to speak, written in the stars, and her Republican opponent simply did not figure into the paper’s endorsement calculations.  Possibly if Jeb Bush had emerged from the Republican Party primary rough and tumble as the nominee of his party, The Courant might have had a pang of conscience in delivering its endorsement to the badly tarnished Mrs. Clinton. The emergence of Donald Trump as an unexpected victor in the primary made the Clinton endorsement a slam-dunk. But the warmth radiating from the paper’s endorsement is inexplicable.


The Courant easily disposes of Mr. Trump in its editorial lead: “The problem with this election isn't that Donald Trump is racist. The problem is that we are.”


To be sure, the Courant here is not using the royal “we.” It would be a viperish untruth to conclude that the paper’s editorial board is a nest of racists. No, The Courant is subtly suggesting that what Mrs. Clinton has dubbed “the deplorables,” those who have in their heart of hearts endorsed Mr. Trump, are racists. This volatile charge lies like a scorpion’s sting in the paper’s larger proposition: We are all racists now; but most especially are those racists who, for whatever reason, will vote for the racist Republican nominee for president.


Well now, Courant simpaticos doubtless will argue, Mr. Trump, who has recklessly deployed hyperbole in his campaign, certainly has it coming to him.


But really, are all Americans racists – even those who deplore Mr. Trump’s reckless hyperbole?


Apparently so; it is difficult to put any other construction on the paper’s lead : “The problem with this election isn't that Donald Trump is racist. The problem is that we are.”


The Courant has turned a phrase made popular in 1888 by British politician William Vernon Harcourt (“We are all socialists now”) andlater deployed by Nobel economist Milton Friedman against the Keynesians (“We are all Keynesians now”) in a widely misunderstood 1966 Time Magazine article. Mr. Friedman was being sardonic, he later explained: “In one sense, we are all Keynesians now; in another, nobody is any longer a Keynesian.”


But The Courant is quite serious. The paper really does believe that “in one sense” we are all racists. And if this is true, how do we extricate ourselves from the coils of the racist serpent?


Easy: We do it by resting comfortably in the propositions put forth by Mrs. Clinton -- an unrepentant Keynesian, if not a socialist like Bernie Sanders -- whom the paper has fulsomely endorsed. An assent to Mrs. Clinton’s politics, however ruinous, marks our distance from the racist serpent. The Courant in its editorial does this with moral energy and dispatch and professes some misgivings that, considering Mrs. Clinton’s opposition, matter not at all.


Read the following with a jeweler’s eye. First come the obligatory disclaimers:


“Her track record as secretary of state is mixed. The aggressive policies that tried to force regime change in troubled parts of the world have had questionable results, arguably generating a backlash that helped fan the growth of the Islamic State. Even though she was not found personally culpable, the attacks at Benghazi happened on her watch. It is debatable whether the Middle East is any safer than it was before her tenure at the State Department.


“Mrs. Clinton has other flaws. She was wrong to use a private e-mail server in her home while working at State, and she took far too long to apologize for it. The Clinton Foundation has always been seen as a way to buy her influence, no matter how many firewalls are put up. She's taken large speaking fees that could make her feel beholden. She is too close to Wall Street. She can appear arrogant and distant — traits that do not serve a national leader well.”


This is followed by a crash of cymbals endorsement:


“But even with those flaws, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not even in the same ballpark. Critics though she may have, Mrs. Clinton is a smart, compassionate leader. Mr. Trump is a showman whose act is regrettably playing well on Main Street.”


The attentive reader will notice the micron-thin dusting of disapproval.


The “aggressive policies” that “tried to force regime change” in various unmentioned parts of the world arguably have had “questionable results.”


Arguable indeed! Some would argue that the “aggressive” Middle East policies of the Obama-Clinton administration were not aggressive enough.  Mr. Obama’s “lead from behind” posture in foreign policy was and is, in most important respects, an abdication of political responsibility.  Some Middle East nations, formerly friendly to the United States, now making cooing sounds in the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have reluctantly concluded that the Obama-Clinton “strategy” in the Middle East lacked spine and intellectual rigor. The word “tried” as used in The Courant endorsement points to a massive failure. And the “results” of the Obama-Clinton Middle East strategy, or lack of it, are not at all “questionable.” 


 Indeed, the murderous results of Mr. Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, largely the result of a diplomatic failure, are painfully obvious. The inevitable consequences of Mrs. Clinton's Libyan policy -- let’s come, conquer and kill Muammar Gaddafi – are evident in the smoldering ruins of the American Embassy Compound in Benghazi, Libya. It is the Obama-Clinton Middle East policy, the absence of a long-range strategy in the Middle East, that failed. The obvious results of this failure were predictable.

It is quite true that Mrs. Clinton’s “flaws” are not in the same ballpark as those of Mr. Trump – because Mrs. Clinton’s disastrous term as Secretary of State reveals real-time ruinous consequences flowing like a rush of blood from her character flaws, the most prominent of which is a disposition to bend reality to campaign rhetoric and to substitute campaign promises for a cogent and responsible Middle East foreign policy.


“It is debatable,” The  Courant avers in its Clinton encomium, “whether the Middle East is any safer than it was before her tenure at the State Department.”


Debatable? No, it is not at all debatable. The Middle East is soaked in the blood of martyrs, both Christian and peaceful Islamic martyrs, slaughtered by Islamic terrorists.


Homosexuality used to be “the love that dare not speak its name.” In the modern world, the name is now shouted approvingly as a boast and a challenge. We ought to be glad of it; it was entirely unnecessary to throw Oscar Wilde on the pyre prepared for him by the Marquis of Queensbury. But among those who tolerate the failed policies of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton – on pain of being called racist -- Islamic terrorism, even when it strikes its deathblows at the marrow of the core beliefs of American culture, may be the last remaining sin that dare not speak its name -- among politicians on the left. The terrorists themselves, of course, never tire of shouting their terrorism from the rooftops.


We ought to thank Mr. Trump, among others, for blowing up this dangerous pretension. Islamic terrorists and ISIS especially, much more potent now than it was when Mr. Obama dubbed the terrorist group a “JV team,” continues to destroy Christian Churches, execute both priests and so called “pagans” – death to the kafir! -- uproots the structure of the modern feminist movement, defended aggressively by Mrs. Clinton, and throws gays to their deaths from rooftops, in accordance with Sharia law. Iran adopted the extreme punishment of execution for sodomy in its 1991 Constitution: “Sodomy is a crime, for which both partners are punished. The punishment is death if the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting; the method of execution is for the Sharia judge to decide.”


It was the Obama-Clinton administration that fashioned a nuclear deal with Iran that a) will not prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons, and b) would not have been possible had not the Obama-Clinton administration paid billions of dollars in cash to a regime that hopes to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East, so that it may destroy Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, beseeched the Obama administration not to go forward with the deal. Mr. Netanyahu also warned the Congress – Sen. Dick Blumenthal in attendance – that its implementation would be a disaster for the West.


For all his pains, Mr. Netanyahu might have been Cassandra warning the Trojans concerning Greeks hidden in a wooden horse.  Iran could easily buy with the cash transported to Iran in the dead of night in a modern Trojan horse any weaponry it wishes to purchase from America’s traditional enemies, Russia and China, to wreak havoc in Israel, making full use of its proxy Hamas terrorist forces in Lebanon – poor Lebanon, a country overmastered by the friends of Iran.


A few months back, this writer took a course in fresco at St. Michael's Institute for Religious Art at Enders Island, a stone’s throw from Mystic, Conn. The teacher, a master artist in fresco and Icon writing, was Lebanese. When I said to him, “Poor Lebanon,” he said, “Yes. The Muslim terrorists in Hamas march into villages and ask you your name. If it is a Christianized name – John, Mathew, Mark – they cut your head off in the public square. It sends a message.”


Sen. Dick Blumenthal and other members of Connecticut’s U.S. congressional delegation – all Democrats who endorsed the Obama-Clinton Iran deal, which ended a successful embargo and opened Iran to the usual corporations that do not scruple to march through blood to make a profit – should have a talk with him, or any of the other Christians who have suffered a Neronian persecution at the hands of terrorist Islam. But they won’t. Every one of them knows that the number of  Syrian Christians among refugees fleeing Mohammed’s sword, blessings be upon him, and admitted into the United States is only three percent or less. Perhaps the Congressmen do not want their mercies to be read by Islamic terrorists as a crusader response.  


Mrs. Clinton’s most glaring flaws may be seen most clearly in the smoking ruins of the American embassy in Benghazi, the terrorist attacks in Paris, the rapes of German, Belgian and Swedish women, the terrorist attacks in the United States by radicalized Muslims, Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his ardent defense of Bashir al Assad in Syria, where once Mr. Obama drew a “red line” that quickly disappeared when Mr. Assad, every bit as ruthless as his father, used chemical weapons on his opponents. And Mrs. Clinton’s narcissistic flaws peek out at us like grinning devils from her e-mails, purloined by hackers and containing, despite Mrs. Clinton’s false denials, top-secret treasures that would not have been shared with the world had Mrs. Clinton, fully schooled in security matters when she was a U.S. Senator, not put the safety of her country in jeopardy by using a private server.


“But even with those flaws,” The Courant's endorsement of Mrs. Clinton concludes, “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not even in the same ballpark. Critics though she may have, Mrs. Clinton is a smart, compassionate leader. Mr. Trump is a showman whose act is regrettably playing well on Main Street.”



Bill Buckley thought that Mr. Trump was a deeply flawed vulgarian, and a video taped 11 years ago showing a younger Trump trash talking about his sexual prowess has proven Mr. Buckley right.


But given Mrs. Clinton’s record in defense of her vulgarian husband and her foreign policy as Secretary of State, neither of which can bear close scrutiny, one may agree with the paper that both are operating in different ballparks. There are no smoking embassy ruins atop Trump Towers, and Mr. Trump, despite his deeply offensive locker-room talk, never had sex in the White House with Monica Lewinskywho even today is recovering from Mrs. Clinton’s psychological bite marks. (A search on The Courant's site for a report on Ms. Lewinski's recent visit to Connecticut, where she held a talk on bullying, produces no coverage of the event.)  In this regard, Mr. Trump is a JV player; the Clintons are Big League. And if the editorial board of The Hartford Courant had its moral Geiger counter recalibrated, it might have noted in its editorial endorsement of Mrs. Clinton the differences in their ballparks.  


Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist on political and other matte