All Clintons, All The Time

ALL CLINTONS, ALL THE TIME….It’s been about two weeks since The New York Times ran a 2,000-word analysis, on its front page, about the frequency with which Bill and Hillary Clinton spend evenings and weekends together. The piece pulled off a rare feat: it was as salacious as it was pointless. There was no news; it relied on petty gossip from Clinton “friends”; and it included subtle innuendo about the former president without evidence.

Nevertheless, the Clintons are the Clintons, so a variety of news outlets jumped on the story, especially MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who was nearly driven to hysteria by the report and asked his on-air guests at least 90 questions about the Clintons’ marriage since the Times published the piece. David Broder wrote an odd column defending the article, and later said he was “getting killed” by negative reader response. The mess prompted Byron Calame, the Times’ “public editor,” to address the controversy today.

Over all, I found the article a worthwhile piece of journalism that deserved to be published in The Times. Senator Clinton’s unique relationship with the former president is certain to be on many voters’ minds if she pursues the presidency, and the article provided an update on where their complicated partnership stands. The focus, appropriately, was on the political calculations by the couple and their advisers, and the tone of the assessment of their personal lives was generally understated and evenhanded.

Perhaps Mr. Calame read a different article than the rest of us, because the defense seems to overlook the very problems that generated the angry response in the first place.

The Clintons’ “unique relationship” will be on voters’ minds? That’s highly unlikely — unless news outlets like The New York Times continue to publish front-page analyses that literally count how many weekends they’re together.

Greg Sargent has the complete take-down. I’d only add that there are some high-profile Republicans who have “unique relationships” with their spouses as well. When the Times explores those marriages with a similar level of prurient interest, it will be a pleasant surprise.