By Curtis Houck ~
In the introduction for CNN’s book Unprecedented, CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley fawned over Hillary Clinton as “an avenging Joan of Arc” with an “appearance of elitism” losing to “a P.T. Barnumesque lead figure in Trump.”
A book that fetched comment from President-elect Donald Trump, Brinkley also had plenty of scorn for Trump and praise for Bernie Sanders, spinning that Sanders “rose above the temptation to join Republicans in calling into question her previous use of a private e-mail server.”
The best-selling author began the eight-page introduction by arguing that, upon riding Las Vegas’s High Roller Ferris wheel after the final presidential debate, “Las Vegas was the new Washington” because “[n]o longer did the U.S. celebrate war heroes like Theodore Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower, but we had made a national fetish of celebrities for celebrity’s sake.”
Ignoring the role the media played in creating this world of boosting “Super Bowl halftime shows” as “the new moon shot,” Brinkley spun the general election match-up this way:
With blazing lights, bling, whistles and razzmatazz, the square-off was indeed the Greatest Show on Earth. Central casting had a P.T. Barnumesque lead figure in Trump and an avenging Joan of Arc in Clinton. In a country where elaborately choreographed Super Bowl halftime shows have become the new moon shot, where Ivy League excellence has been run roughshod by Jerry Springerism and where facts are less important than drama, the comingling [sic] of Las Vegas and Washington was inevitable.
As a true historian would, Brinkley lamented that 2016 didn’t measure up to “the wonkfest” of John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon in 1960 and mixed in partisanship with this bit: “In 2016, voters were offered a ceaseless wasteland of unfiltered WikiLeaks, 3 a.m. tweets and a behind-the-scenes “Access Hollywood” video.”
Gee, I wonder why CNN would want us to believe that the WikiLeaks e-mails were part of “a ceaseless wasteland?” Perhaps it had to do with the fact that a contributor was exposed as having shared questions with the Clinton campaign. Could it also have been how a spouse of a CNN executive shared polls with the Clinton camp? You be the judge.
When he arrived at the main source of concern for Clinton, Brinkley first noted that her campaign website and policy proposals were so impressive that they came across as “the 900-pound gorilla” that “underscor[ed] her point that she was ready to lead the country.”
In the end, voters didn’t buy that argument as worth of their time. Instead, Clinton’s e-mail scandal was what the American people had on their minds. Naturally, Brinkley summarized it as a “pitfall” with the FBI having “dogged” her for much of the race:
The pitfall in the Clinton candidacy was the uncertainty surrounding a private email system that she had gone some trouble to install during her years as secretary of state. The appearance of elitism and the possible misuse of the office infuriated those opposed to her. On an official level, her campaign was dogged by congressional and FBI investigations.
Clinton also was haunted late in the campaign, with the release on October 27 of a new letter from FBI Director Comey announcing that the bureau was investigating a new trove of emails related to Clinton’s years in the State Department.
Meanwhile, Clinton faced a billionaire whose rhetoric Brinkley described as something “Americans just weren’t used to” in how “blunt” and “bigoted” Trump’s words were that didn’t disqualify him from securing the Oval Office.
Following a few paragraphs on the Democratic presidential primary and a far-more-expansive Republican narrative, Brinkley did make a minor factual error as he claimed that FBI Director James Comey announced he wouldn’t be recommending charges for Clinton in the e-mail scandal on July 12 when it was really July 5.
Turning to the end of the race, the publishers allowed Brinkley to slip in a claim that Clinton “had turned the Democrats into a coordinated force” on a “person by person” and “precinct captain by committee chair” level. That certainly didn’t pan out come election day when it came to Democratic turnout!
Instead of a climatic victory for Clinton, “the wild ride” ended on November 8 with Trump’s upset victory and thus “it was time to move on…but that would not be easy” seeing as how 2016 “only deepened the gaps among the populous” and “reflected American society at large.”
Brinkley began winding down by foolishly lamenting the influence of money in the election despite the fact that Clinton’s campaign spent just under double what Trump mustered ($450.6 million to $238.9 million, according to CNBC):
The new president was, of course, a product of twenty-first century America’s hypersaturated media culture as well as the influx of billions of dollars into candidates’ war chests.
What I realized from my Ferris wheel perspective was that once the 2016 presidential campaign was over, America would struggle in 2017 to recover from the anger and distrust the race engendered. Just as the casinos never close, the story of Clinton vs. Trump will live on for years to come.
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center.