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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

 
The wrecking crew even trying to loosen regs on Equifax

by digby




Seriously:

Even as millions of consumers grapple with fallout from the Equifax data breach, Republican lawmakers are quietly backing legislation to deregulate credit agencies and make them even less accountable for wrongdoing.

Bills are pending in Congress to limit class-action damages for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and to give credit agencies more latitude in profiting from identity theft protection products.

The legislation is part of sweeping efforts by Republican lawmakers to reduce oversight of banks and other financial-services firms, and to cripple or eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has notched a successful track record of holding industry players accountable for unfair and illegal practices.

Democrats, for their part, introduced a bill Friday — the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act — that would require credit agencies to allow people to freeze and unfreeze their files at no cost, and that calls upon the CFPB to play a greater role in overseeing the companies.

Consumer advocates say the Equifax breach should serve as a wake-up call for Americans that the three leading credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are focused primarily on earning cash from people’s personal information, not keeping such information under lock and key.

“Consumers are not customers of these companies — they’re commodities,” said Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. “We have no say over what they do with our data.”

Ironically, the Republicans’ credit agency bills came up for a hearing this month by the House Financial Services Committee on the same day Equifax revealed that hackers may have gained access to the credit files of 143 million people.

Equifax’s shocking announcement was followed by reports that senior execs sold off shares in the company before the breach was made public and that consumers might not be able to sue because of an arbitration clause in Equifax’s terms of service.

The company subsequently clarified that the arbitration provision applied only to its credit monitoring, not the security breach. It then waived the arbitration clause in its entirety. Meanwhile, it was reported Monday that federal authorities are investigating the stock sales as possible insider trading.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), who chaired the recent hearing by the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit subcommittee, said the bills would “streamline regulatory requirements and eliminate inefficiencies” for credit agencies.

“The legislation discussed in the subcommittee today will better allow financial companies to serve their customers,” he declared.

Not really. What the legislation would do is reward credit agencies with greater regulatory elbow room and diminished accountability for screw-ups.

The FCRA Liability Harmonization Act is particularly noxious. Authored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), the bill would cap actual and statutory damages for class actions involving credit agencies at $500,000, and completely eliminate punitive damages.

Loudermilk said Friday that his bill “is aimed at curbing frivolous class action lawsuits against businesses under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” which contains many of the rules for credit agencies.

When he introduced the legislation in May, he said that “a small technical error, turned into a lawsuit, can affect everyone in a business, including employees, customers and vendors.”

What Loudermilk ignores, however, is that a “small technical error” by a credit agency can have disastrous consequences for consumers — particularly if the agency, as is so often the case, shows little interest in fixing things.

Take the case of Oregon resident Julie Miller, who said she repeatedly reached out to Equifax from 2009 to 2011 to correct errors in her credit report. They included accounts she never opened, uncollected debts she never ran up and even a Social Security number that wasn’t hers.

Atlanta-based Equifax apparently had merged Miller’s file with that of another woman with the same name and a similar Social Security number. Yet the company shrugged off Miller’s complaints.

In 2013, a jury awarded Miller $180,000 in compensatory damages and a whopping $18.4 million in punitive damages, reflecting a sense among outraged jurors that Equifax just couldn’t be bothered to help a distressed consumer.

A federal judge subsequently reduced the amount of punitive damages to $1.62 million, citing the precedent of earlier cases. Nevertheless, U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown ruled that Equifax “engaged in reprehensible conduct.”

Under Loudermilk’s bill, Miller’s compensation would have been limited to the $180,000 in compensatory damages, with no punitive damages possible.

The second bill under consideration by the House is the Credit Services Protection Act, introduced by California’s Ed Royce (R-Fullerton). This one isn’t as shameless as Loudermilk’s legislation but nevertheless contains pitfalls for consumers.

The bill would undercut an existing law known as the Credit Repair Organizations Act, intended to prevent so-called credit repair firms from fleecing consumers with exaggerated promises of being able to boost a sagging credit score.

Among other things, the Credit Repair Organizations Act prevents such firms from demanding advance payments before rendering a service.

Royce’s legislation would exempt credit agencies from the act and allow them to demand payment upfront. They’d also be able to keep “reasonable value for services” even if the consumer cancels within three days.

In other words, a credit agency could still pocket a consumer’s cash just for having opened a file in that person’s name.

There's more. It's unbelievable.

Perhaps they will be too embarrassed to push this thing through after the Equifax breach. But I wouldn't count on it. They live in an alternate universe with alternate facts and they will simply tel their voters that they fixed the problem and if they have a problem it's Obama's fault. And their voters will believe it.











 
The Kimmel Test

by digby


























Kimmel went deep. I hope it makes a difference:





Earlier this year, Kimmel talked about the wrenching experience of seeing his son go through open heart surgery, and he talked of the importance of lower and middle class families having such coverage in the event of such an emergency. After seeing the monologue and using the term "Jimmy Kimmel test," Cassidy appeared on his show.
But Kimmel said that Cassidy "just lied right to my face" when he was on the show, noting that he had said that his plan would not allow insurance companies to impose annual or lifetime caps on coverage. 
On Tuesday, Kimmel said that "this new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, but a different Jimmy Kimmel test. With this one, your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs — if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed." 
He called for Cassidy to stop using his name "cause I don't want my name on it." 
Then he addressed Cassidy directly. "There's a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you, it's called the lie detector test. You're welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime," he said. 
Kimmel then posted his monologue on Twitter with the number for the Capitol Hill switchboard.
Call.

.
 

"Execrable"

by Tom Sullivan

The Graham-Cassidy health bill in a nutshell, from the Washington Post Editorial Board:

The latest bill, from Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), is about as execrable as the others that GOP lawmakers previously failed to approve. The process by which Republicans would pass it would be as sloppy and partisan as the one to which senators such as John McCain (R-Ariz.) objected earlier in the summer. The outcome would be no less destructive.
The gory details are as unimportant as they are limited. Even Vox has an explainer that doesn't explain a lot, details being so scant. It comes down to fewer Americans with insurance being "baked into the structure of the legislation."

Besides, "You could do a post office renaming and call it 'repeal-replace' and 48 Republican senators would vote for it sight unseen," one GOP aide told Axios.

Jimmy Kimmel minced no words in responding to Cassidy's last appearance on the show. Cassidy promised that any bill he would support had to pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test," which Kimmell summarized as "no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it." He went on:
“This new bill actually does pass the ‘Jimmy Kimmel test’, but a different ‘Jimmy Kimmel test.’” Kimmel continued. “With this one, your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel.”



If there is principle behind this rush job, it is good, old American, "every man for himself," as evinced in a tweet yesterday by CNBC’s John Harwood. White House economic adviser Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation provided the conservative view on this whole health care business:

It is why In God We Trust is on the money because screw everyone else. Americans shouldn't rely on one another in Moore's America.

No doubt Moore has passed on his insights into how pooled risk works to even duller tools in the shed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But Graham, Cassidy, et. al. need no schooling. They know just what they are doing. Their bill redirects Affordable Care Act monies to Republican states that refused the Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

John Cassidy of the New Yorker continues:

The authors of the bill probably thought that this was a clever wheeze, but it could end up backfiring. Some Republican-run states that did expand Medicaid stand to lose out, including Louisiana, Cassidy’s home. On Monday, Louisiana’s top health official, Rebekah Gee, wrote an open letter to Cassidy saying that his bill could cost the state $3.2 billion in federal funding through 2026, “making Louisiana the 8th biggest loser of those states affected by the Legislation, and by far the poorest and sickest state affected by these cuts.”
Indeed, Republican governors in states that did not are balking at Graham-Cassidy. The Washington Post calls the proposal a "policy disaster."

One would think the western hemisphere has had enough natural ones this summer without Republicans creating more man-made ones. Mexico has had two earthquakes and three(?) tropical storms in the last month. The U.S. has had Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with Maria hitting Puerto Rico this morning to destroy what remains of the U.S. territory's power grid after Irma's visit. And all Republicans can think of is denying millions health care?

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

 
Oh heck. Does this mean Trump's a Republican after all?

by digby




After all that nonsense abut Trump being an independent, transactional pragmatist who wants to work across the aisle because he has so much more in common with Chuck and Nancy and really "likes" them, it appears everyone just wanted the Democrats to take the heat for passing bills the wingnuts knew they needed to pass and now the Republicans are all on the same page again:
House Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House have informed Senate Republican leaders that they oppose a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare being written in the Senate, according to Trump administration and congressional sources, in a clear bid to boost the Senate's prospects of repealing the health law.

After Senate Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare in July, talks began on fixing the law rather than dismantling it. The dose of cold water from senior GOP officials will put pressure on Republican senators to back a last-ditch bill to gut Obamacare before a Sept. 30 deadline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed that approach publicly on Tuesday.

Republicans say that while the bipartisan talks between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) initially seemed promising, many in the GOP fear providing money for Obamacare but offering little for conservatives — especially after Republican lawmakers have been throttled by President Donald Trump and the GOP base for failing to repeal the health law.

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the Trump administration is all-in on the latest repeal effort, flying to Washington with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to deliver a message to the Senate GOP on repeal: "This is the moment. Now is the time," according to a pool report. Ryan and Trump called them during the plane ride as well.

Yeah, thinking the Republicans want to do anything in a bipartisan manner unless it's to benefit them and only them, is foolish. If they need to Dems to get something off the table that causes them problems with the base, fine. They can blame the hippies. But there is no other reason they will work with Democrats unless Democrats are ready to completely capitulate on every point. Even then, I'm not sure they wouldn't reject it.

This is really bad, people. Call McCain's office and lie your ass off. Tell him that you have admired him all your life and his legacy will be decided by him fulfilling his reputation as a maverick who doesn't play politics and a hero who always does the right thing. Say this whether you believe it or not.

Krugman:







 
The Mexico earthquake was terrifying

by digby




Jesus:










More here

There are at least 44 dead, obviously there are many more. When building collapse like that ...

.


 
Trump the peacenik

by digby


























This is working out well:
President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday to "totally destroy" North Korea and its "Rocket Man" leader, warned the "murderous" Iranian government that it cannot endure, and declared that much of the world is "going to hell."

In his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Trump also urged nations to band together to fight "evil" — even as he extolled the virtue of respecting national sovereignty and insisted that America isn't looking to impose its "way of life" on others.

The at-times contradictory remarks were filled with soaring rhetoric that touched on everything from "God" to "chaos," and the dark tones were reminiscent of Trump's inaugural address, in which he promised to bring an end to "American carnage." The singling out of a handful of "rogue" nations also seemed to borrow from former President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech.

"The scourge of our planet today is small regimes that violate every principle [on which] the United Nations is based," Trump said. "They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries. If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph."
The rest of the world now believes that scourge of our planet is us.

I wish I understood why people persist in seeing his rhetoric as isolationist. He sounds to me like a Bond villain announcing that he seeks world domination. Of course he always issues disclaimers that he doesn't. But it's obvious that he believes the US has the right to dictate how the world works and has no respect for multilateral institutional or international law or treaties.

It's not the "madman" theory. It's the "Goldfinger theory." And that's not exactly he same thing.

He's itching for war. You can feel it.



 
GOP and their little friends BFFs forever

by digby




Greg Sargent points out that Russia may sabotage the next election, too and asks, "What will Trump and Republicans do about it?" His piece points out that he hasn't done jack so far and there's little evidence that the Republicans in congress are taking the threat seriously either.

They don't want to do anything about it because they are laboring under the illusion that it will always help them. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. But unless it hurts them personally they are fine with it. After all, that's how they are with everything. Empathy is for losers and winning is for winners, period. 

.



 
The new woman in Trump's life

by digby




My Salon column today:

On Sunday night's Emmy awards show, many people were dismayed to see former Fox News chair Roger Ailes mentioned in the "In Memoriam" segment, given that he was a truly odious human being who ran a brothel that doubled as a news network for decades. His legacy is hardly confined to his reputation as a cable news pioneer and unique television talent.

I think the Emmys could have skipped the tribute, but there is no doubt that Ailes changed the face of television and was, not incidentally, one the most influential political figures of the last 50 years. We are all living in a political world at least partially created by Roger Ailes.

Dylan Matthews at Vox.com recently reported on a truly frightening study published in the American Economic Review showing that "the Fox News effect translates into a 0.46 percentage point boost to the GOP vote share in the 2000 presidential race, a 3.59-point boost in 2004, and a 6.34-point boost in 2008; the boost increases as the channel's viewership grew." The study's authors say this alone explains nearly "all the polarization in the US public's political views from 2000 to 2008." You have to assume that this effect only grew during the Obama years.

The other networks had no such effect in persuading people to vote Democratic. Indeed, during the early 2000s they moved right as well, although they didn't have much luck persuading anyone of anything. Whatever the secret sauce was in Ailes' formula, it didn't translate to any other entity. Ailes understood his audience and knew how to draw others into it.

So Fox is a hugely important feature of our political life. But it is also a hideous hellhole for women, as has been amply demonstrated by dozens of sexual harassment complaints against Ailes himself, as well as many of the network's top executives and on-air talent. On Monday, The New York Times reported that yet another woman, Scottie Nell Hughes, filed a lawsuit claiming that she was sexually assaulted by anchor Charles Payne and then blacklisted by the network after she came forward. The most shocking thing about that story is that it's not shocking. There are a few on-air female personalities who never complained but many who have, including such major stars as Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, both of whom left the network.

None of this dissuaded one female conservative star from joining the network, however:


Ingraham obviously has no problem with men committing sexual harassment in the workplace, since her own failing website Lifezette, originally billed as the right-wing answer to Huffington Post, is reportedly yet another abusive sexist cesspool and she apparently doesn't care.

Ingraham had been courted by the Trump administration for months and has apparently finally said no. You may recall that she gave a passionate endorsement of Trump at the Republican Convention and as one of talk radio's top anti-immigration zealots, fervently supported him in the election campaign. Immediately after the election, Trump very much wanted an attractive woman in the press secretary job and had offered it to her and later to Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News' "The Five."

Ingraham claimed to be considering joining the administration early on, saying, "If your country calls you, if God opens that door, you have to seriously consider it. If I can really help, it is hard to say no to that. If I think I can help, which I think I could." God opened the door but she closed it: "I’m not sure if that’s the role I would pick for myself, but I have a legal background, strategic, you know, political communications planning. I’m not sure the press secretary thing is something I’m dying to do.”

It was clearly beneath someone of her stature to do such a menial task. All those previous presidential press secretaries like Bill Moyers, George Stephanopoulos, Tony Snow and Jay Carney must have felt so embarrassed at having lowered themselves to that level. But it all paid off for Ingraham. She will now have a job that's truly worthy of her talent: nightly Fox News host.

This hire puts to rest any thought that Fox was going to shift to a less ultra-conservative editorial line after Ailes' departure and the toll of all the scandals. The network has lately seemed to be in perpetual turmoil, losing both their visionary leader and their biggest star, Bill O'Reilly (due to yet another sexual harassment scandal). While it has generally maintained its lead in the ratings, it has not been as dominant as it once was. Some people thought that with the rise of Breitbart and the direct supervision of Rupert Murdoch and his sons, the organization would change gears and become more mainstream. Ingraham's hire puts that notion to rest. There are very few people in the media business as hard right as she is.

Think Progress compiled just a few of her greatest hits:


"On her radio show, Ingraham has attacked the pope for talking about climate change, railed against affirmative action, said “the Muslims” never support “the conservatives” on anti-LGBTQ issues, called Planned Parenthood a criminal organization, said many minorities voted for Obama because of his race, and suggested the U.S. should shoot undocumented immigrants who want to re-enter the country, among a litany of other hateful and fact-challenged takes."

I also recall her "comedic" riffs using the "yo quiero Taco Bell" commercial to demean child refugees at whom she railed, “Oh no, you won’t. This is our country. Our borders matter to us, our way of life and our culture matter to us, our jobs and our wages matter to us. No, you won’t.”

Laura Ingraham will now be on Fox for an hour every night, carrying on Roger Ailes' legacy, spreading all that ugly rhetoric to millions of people as the network has always done. But she'll really be speaking to one special Fox viewer, the man who records all his "programs" to watch late at night when he's alone: the president of the United States, for whom nothing is real if it isn't on TV. Laura Ingraham just became one of the most influential women in the world.

.

 

Run like a business

by Tom Sullivan

A quick refresher from Wikipedia:

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.
SLAPP suits are now illegal in twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia, but there is no federal prohibition. (We'll get to that.) Several federal anti-SLAPP bills, like the latest, have never made it out of committee. Here are a few examples from Texas and more via the Ohio ACLU. Typically, the suits are brought by individuals, or by corporations against consumers.

In June, Murray Energy filed what looks for all the world like a SLAPP suit against HBO, Jon Oliver, Time Warner and the writers of Last Week Tonight for a segment satirizing the coal industry that mentioned Murray and its CEO by name. In what looks even more ironic this morning, the Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff wrote, "Parts of the complaint read like it had been written by President Donald Trump."

And here we go (Associated Press):
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct.

Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records.

Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests — taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.

The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it’s becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics.
Do you insist government be run like a business? Enjoy. Then again, if you are an authoritarian, you probably do. So far Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has not sued the Kansas City Star over its FOIA requests for emails pertaining to his participation on the president's voter fraud commission. His office simply asserts he is not bound by the new Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) because he is serving on the panel as a private citizen.

“Secretary Kobach’s personal emails concerning the Commission are therefore not subject to KORA, since he is not conducting public business on behalf of the State of Kansas while serving on the Commission,” said a spokesperson.

Max Kautsch, a Lawrence attorney who served on a state panel that helped draft the 2016 law, called the private citizen dodge, “obviously totally insane.”

And your point is?

* * * * * * * *

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Monday, September 18, 2017

 
America 2017

by digby



"We were torn apart in the Civil War - brother against brother, North against South, party against party. What changed?" Moore asked in footage provided to The Hill by a Republican monitoring the race

"Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What's going to unite us? What's going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It's going to be God."

Moore's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his language.

The judge is no stranger to controversial comments - reporters have dug up a handful of eye-popping comments from Moore's past, even as his campaign sits in strong position ahead of next week's Senate GOP primary runoff.

Last week, CNN reported that Moore implied that the 9/11 terror attacks could have been caused by a lack of religious faith.

Moore leads Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in all recent public polling of the runoff. The winner of that contest will advance to the general election and be expected to beat a Democrat to serve out the rest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions's term.

He's just standing up for our cultural heritage.

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The biggest hands in the whole wide world

by digby



I'm awfuly glad we don't have a warmonger in office right now. This isolationist peace president is so refreshing.





He is a four year old.


 
Get on the phone people

by digby



From Indivisible:

We knew we weren’t completely out of the woods on TrumpCare, but we got good news on September 1, when the Senate Parliamentarian (basically the referee on Senate rules and procedure) announced that the legislative vehicle that Republicans were trying to use for TrumpCare would expire on September 30.

Nothing motivates Congress like a deadline. Senate Republicans are whipping votes and moving things around the Senate calendar to make room for one last push—a bill known as “Graham-Cassidy”—and they are as close as they’ve ever been to passing it.

Go here to get the full kit that includes what you will need to do. This is serious. Goddamit.



FYI:  I agree with Indivisible's policy director, Angel Padilla, although it's all spilled milk now ...

“Early on in September, we said, ‘Look at how crazy jam-packed this month is. This is going to be a tough month for them to do anything.’ But that deal that Schumer and Pelosi cut made it a lot easier for Republicans to pursue what they really want, including this.” 

They could have demanded something from the deal and at least strung out the negotiations on the debt ceiling and the disaster relief until the end of the month and it was too late for them to use reconciliation. Democrats keep having premature victory parties. Over and over and over again. They love to celebrate themselves and this is almost always what happens.

The Republicans brought back their monstrosity in the House and passed it and it had several lives already in the Senate. Why the Democrats continued to take chances with this I'll never understand.

Anyway, here we are. So lets hope this finally kills the zombie for 2017.  Jesus...

By  the way, if you live in a big blue state they really stick it to you. That's one of their features.


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The Mean Girls of DC High

by digby
























I'm not going to review Hillary Clinton's book "What Happened," since there are approximately 12,576 reviews out there already, with more to come. But I do want to discuss one issue that came up in the book that has been addressed in a couple of those reviews. That would be the fact that the press regularly and tiresomely slags Clinton for her failures in the 2016 campaign but have still completely failed to acknowledge their own.

There are many aspects of this story that are unique to Clinton. As Politico's Jonathan Allen, then of Vox, wrote at the beginning of the campaign, there was an establishment media groupthink about her that was obvious, although the press itself seemed completely oblivious to it. (I wrote about this on Salon in real time as it unfolded and after the race was over. )

Allen put it bluntly:

The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.

Indeed they did. (As it turns out, maybe some members of the Russian government did too.) And one aspect of the coverage verged on outright corruption: the "deal" The New York Times and The Washington Post made with a Steve Bannon associate to publish excerpts of a book of lies called "Clinton Cash" that set the tone for much of the coverage to come.

The Atlantic's James Fallows addressed the press obsession with the Clinton email story in his review of "What Happened":

No sane person can believe that the consequences of last fall’s election — for foreign policy, for race relations, for the environment, for anything else you’d like to name (from either party’s perspective) — should have depended more than about 1 percent on what Hillary Clinton did with her emails. But this objectively second- or third-tier issue came across through even our best news organizations as if it were the main thing worth knowing about one of the candidates.

David Roberts at Vox took on the subject by analyzing in depth the way the media reported one particular incident in the campaign: Hillary Clinton's alleged "coal gaffe," which he described as "navigating a hall of mirrors." Her comment about putting coal miners out of business was poorly phrased, but as it was reported, it was also truncated and taken out of context. The way her response was then distorted by the GOP and the press as an illustration of Clinton's disqualifying character flaws was the real crime, Roberts writes:

Mainstream news outlets should stop treating “how it looks” as though it’s some fact in the universe that they discover. They are the arbiters; they decide how it looks. They build and reinforce narratives. They seek out confirming evidence and ignore disconfirming evidence. They amplify some voices and not others. They direct attention, which is the coin of the realm in modern politics. If they draw attention to a bullshit scandal, they are the ones ensuring that it damages the campaign. If they play along with the ludicrous notion that Clinton loves firing coal miners, they are sanctioning and disseminating misinformation. They are not doing their jobs.

Whether you are convinced by these arguments or not, it's tempting to write them all off as something that only pertains to Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that the narratives spun around her in the campaign and for years prior were informed by systemic sexism. The press is no different from the rest of society in being unable to grapple with that reality. But in fact, this wasn't the only time this happened.

The coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign, and to a lesser extent the 2004 campaign as well, had similar characteristics. In the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the media mercilessly abused the latter with a series of shallow character attacks that were both unfair and untruthful. Roberts' analysis of Clinton and the "coal gaffe" is exactly the same sort of prejudicial coverage the media gave Gore for his "I invented the internet" and "Love Canal" gaffes, among a dozen others.

One vivid illustration of journalists' collective disdain for Gore was reported in Time's article about an early New Hampshire debate between Gore and his Democratic primary rival, Sen. Bill Bradley:
The 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out. Whenever Gore came on too strong the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of fifteen-year-old heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.
Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank explained why the press corps was so hostile:
Gore is sanctimonious, and that’s sort of the worst thing you can be in the eyes of the press. And he has been disliked all along, and it was because he gives a sense that he’s better than us -- he’s better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he’s better than us as reporters. Whereas President Bush probably is sure that he’s better than us -- he’s probably right, but he does not convey that sense. He does not seem to be dripping with contempt when he looks at us, and I think that has something to do with the coverage.

Reporter Margaret Carlson explained in her book that one of the reasons the media gave Bush such good coverage was that he served Dove bars and designer water on the press plane, while Gore only offered granola bars and sandwiches.

As far as I know, the media have still never given their coverage of that campaign a second thought. Four years later, John Kerry was mocked for ordering the wrong cheese and drinking green tea and otherwise being a snobby New Englander without the common touch of George W. Bush, originally of Kennebunkport, Maine. And then there was 2016 and "her emails."

None of this is to say that these candidates weren't flawed or bear no responsibility for the outcome. The point is that the press corps made a collective decision that they didn't "like" these people and obsessively covered them in a trivial manner, as if they were running for Prom Queen instead of President of the United States. With fake news and social media and foreign propaganda distorting our democracy the press has got to grow up and stop behaving like the mean girls of DC High.