This weekend, The Intercept published leaked documents from the Clinton campaign detailing cozy, lavish “off-the-record” events with top political journalists. This is an outrage. (That we weren’t invited).
The leaked emails describe in particular one off-the-record cocktail party and dinner held by the Clinton campaign last year at a Clinton strategist’s Manhattan home. Campaign documents show that this was no mere innocent bout of refreshment: a memo states that the goals of the event include “Setting expectations” about Clinton’s imminent announcement of her candidacy, and “Framing the HRC message and framing the race.”
At least 38 prominent national political reporters are listed as RSVPing “yes” to the event, including TV personalities and print reporters from ABC News, Bloomberg, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, Politico, and elsewhere.
We were not among them. Whatever.
Reading these memos, two things become clear. First, it demonstrates the exact mechanism that a political campaign uses to try to co-opt and influence the press without leaving any visible fingerprints. Reporters, desperate for any access to campaign staffers, willingly eat the food and drink the booze provided by the campaign in a carefully cultivated social setting, as campaign staffers insinuate themselves into the minds of reporters as “friendly” and “helpful” figures, all under a prearranged agreement that none of this politicking-disguised-as-schmoozing will ever be revealed to the general public, who would no doubt be revolted by the spectacle of all of these ostensibly impartial guardians of the public interest hobnobbing with the campaign functionaries they are supposed to cover in a social setting that renders the normal conventions of journalism powerless.
Second, it becomes clear we were not invited.
There is less than one month left in the 2016 campaign season. Time is growing short. To the manipulative political strategists of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, we appeal most humbly: please, invite us to a lavish off-the-record dinner. Cynically pretend to respect our opinions. Send an attractive young campaign staffer to laugh at our jokes. Whisper pre-planned, unimportant “secrets” in our ears to make us feel special. Instill in us the sense that we are your valued partners in the grand mission of American democracy before casually discarding us when we are no longer useful to you. Manipulate us with hors d’oeuvres.
In return, we promise not to go home and write down and publish every last thing that was said at your disgusting schmoozy political whore party. Nor will we pee into a potted plant, steal small items from the graceful home in which the event is held, or scrawl graffiti in the bathroom describing your candidate in crude terms that cannot be repeated in polite society. You motherfuckers.
Pass us canapés and call us your little helpers. Please!