When a leading Republican presidential candidate was targeted last week by a sloppy hit piece that claimed he was lying about an effort to recruit him out of high school to West Point, commentators with long memories recalled that Hillary Clinton used to tell a story about trying to join the Marines when she was in college.
Few in the media has ever seemed interested in vetting this story. They have another opportunity to do so, because Clinton brought it back this week, just in time for Veterans Day.
“He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you,'” Clinton said on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, as reported by CNN. “And I said, ‘Well I am 26, I will be 27.’ And he goes, ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.’ And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘Maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army.”
— New Day (@NewDay) November 12, 2015
Local news station WMUR posted video of the diner chat where Clinton told this story, which begins about 1:30 into the video clip.
“Clinton has repeated her Marine anecdote a few times over the years, dating back to at least 1994 when she was first lady,” CNN writes. “Each time, critics on the right have raised questions about why a fervently anti-war college student – who worked on the anti-war presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern – and just moved to Arkansas to marry Bill Clinton, would have tried to join the military.”
The report goes on to note that “Clinton’s telling of the story comes as Right-leaning blogs are highlighting it in the wake of the scrutiny Republican candidate Ben Carson is facing for saying he was offered a full scholarship to West Point despite the school having no record of the encounter.”
Good Lord, they’re already trying to frame this as a “Republicans say…” story to dismiss it, and pump a little helium into the deflated Ben Carson hit to boot.
Shouldn’t everyone be skeptical of an improbable claim advanced repeatedly for nakedly political reasons? Isn’t “raising questions” about such an unlikely anecdote part of the job description of all reporters? Why did we need media embarrassment over a failed character assassination attempted against a top-tier Republican candidate to make the mainstream press start asking basic questions about Hillary’s Marine story?
Shouldn’t the press ask the Marines if they have any record of this conversation taking place, and if they say no, gravely note that Hillary is “facing scrutiny for saying she attempted to join the Marines, despite the Corps having no record of the encounter,” the same way they’re reporting on Ben Carson?
The Washington Post also made a little hay about the return of Full Metal Clinton, struggling mightily to give her only two Pinocchios, even though their “fact check” admits there’s little reason to believe the story is accurate as Clinton tells it.
A far more likely scenario, based on “hazy” recollections from Clinton’s friends at the time, is that she might have swung by the Marine recruiting office to conduct a “test” of “access to various careers seemingly closed to women.” In other words, it was a bit of activism designed to get the Marine recruiter to say “no,” so that Clinton could complain about the lack of opportunity available to women in male-dominated fields.
That explanation wouldn’t address the alleged response of the recruiter, which the Marine Corps politely described as improbable in a 1994 statement recalled by the Post: “We won’t attempt to dispute the first lady’s recollection, but if she was ill-treated by a Marine recruiter in 1975, it certainly is unfortunate, unprofessional and a mistake we regret.”
The WaPo fact check invests considerable effort in portraying the Left-media as skeptical of the story since 1994, which will come as news to CNN, which thinks only “critics on the right” have been raising questions about it.
Indeed, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times did a good job of summing up the reasons for skepticism when the story was first reported: “So, if she was talking to a Marine recruiter in 1975 before the marriage, was she briefly considering joining the few, the proud and the brave of the corps as an alternative to life with Mr. Clinton, who was already being widely touted as a sure thing for Arkansas Attorney General?”
There’s really nothing about Clinton’s life at the time that makes it even faintly plausible that she would have seriously attempted to join the Marines, or that a Marine Corps with plenty of spots for lawyers would have dismissed her application out of hand. It’s much more believable that she visited the recruiter to make a feminist political point, but that’s not at all the story she’s been telling voters from 1994 through today.
The question of media coverage is not whether anyone in the press ever said they found the Marine story hard to swallow. The point is that she’s never been hit by anything close to the typhoon of skepticism flung at Carson, who was essentially called a liar and challenged to either prove he isn’t, or get out of the presidential race. The perfectly reasonable suggestion that Carson got a few details wrong when recalling a decades-old event, which occurred when he was an excited young man experiencing his first great triumphs in life, cut no ice with his assailants.
They’re still smearing him as a liar for using the word “scholarship” to describe the West Point offer, because it supposedly doesn’t offer scholarships… when the institution itself uses that term.
They smeared him as a liar for supposedly claiming he applied to West Point, or was accepted before changing his mind… claims he never made. An admission of fabrication from his campaign was invented and touted as headline news, until it was debunked and stealth-edited out of the stories. The media horde didn’t miss a step when the West Point hit fell apart – they just invented the story they really wanted to tell. They were so eager to rip Carson limb from limb that conservatives who should have known better than to trust liberal media outlets were swept up into the frenzy, pronouncing Carson toast within hours of the “fabrication” story breaking.
Can we expect a comparable rush on Clinton, with vigorous efforts to lock down the details of this story once and for all, with the same guilty-and-good-luck-proving-you’re-innocent attitude displayed toward Carson? Or, as with Clinton laughing while a supporter fantasized about strangling Carly Fiorina, should we just accept there are gigantic double standards in the assumptions our media uses to frame its coverage?
The fame for Clinton is that she’s a compassionate champion of women’s rights, so of course it’s just harmless good fun when some guy jokes about assaulting her female Republican rival. Democrats are taken seriously by default, so it’s no big deal if some details of her Marine recruiting story can’t be verified, or the whole thing sounds highly improbable.
The Deeper Truth is how much Hillary Clinton wants to Serve America – either as a hard-fighting underpaid Marine, or a pampered politician with hundreds of millions raked in from a dodgy “charity” and high rollers looking to curry favor with her political dynasty, it’s all the same, really.
The frame for Republicans is that they’re extremist interlopers who have no business in government, and represent people who deserve no voice in Washington, so their every use of hyperbole is a sign of violent intolerance seething under their skins, and their every mistake is a “lie” that must be exposed quickly and dwelled upon forever.