In what I like to think of as the post-Cleveland era here at Attytood (most of life, actually, can be viewed as either pre-Cleveland or post-Cleveland), there have been a few simple themes on the blog. Press freedom rocks. Donald Trump is completely unfit to serve as America's president, but Hillary Clinton must not get a free pass into the Oval Office.
But some days, you have to stand things on their head -- give Hillary a little credit for doing something right, and, related, in a way, point out that while the media really does deserve a Bill of Rights, journalists also have a responsibility...not to show horrible news judgment and write dumb stories.
It's hard to say what's the worst thing about the 2016 campaign -- there's so much to chose from -- but one of them is the lack of substance. Trump is all over the place, Clinton has positions but no one knows what she'd actually do about them, and the media -- especially cable news -- is all too happy to cover the third-grade insult of the day.
A rare issue that I've heard both conservatives and liberals do say they went to hear more about is mental health policy. After all, so much of what you hear on the news may have a mental-health angle: Is the issue linked to mass shootings in schools or the workplace? The soaring levels of suicide among middle-aged men. Homeless vets. Isn't there more that government do on this issue, even if it's just to raise public awareness?
Yesterday, Clinton took a deeper dive on this issue than I can remember from any prior candidate for the White House:
Hillary Clinton on Monday released a sweeping agenda to deal with the mental health problem in the United States, including a call to convene a White House conference on the issue during her first year in office.
"Recognizing that nearly a fifth of all adults in the United States — more than 40 million people — are coping with a mental health problem, Hillary's plan will integrate our mental and physical health care systems," the Democratic nominee's campaign said in a statement. "Her goal is that within her time in office, Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health when it comes to access to care or quality of treatment. Hillary has been talking about mental health policy throughout her campaign, since hearing directly from American parents, students, veterans, nurses, and police officers about how these challenges keep them up at night."
Well, that ought to lead every paper and....WHOA! Did you get a load of that Anthony Weiner!!!
Hey, as someone who's spent 30 out of 35 years in journalism writing for tabloids, I can tell you, sex definitely sells. And I'm not going to pretend that the randy ex-congressman's crotch shots have zero news value. Weiner's political career may be over (ya think?) but he remains a pop culture force with a documentary and a reality show and all other trimmings of our post-Warholian world where a lot of folks are (unfortunately) famous for more than 15 minutes. But given what's at stake in U.S. presidential election, not to mention various other world hot spots like Syria, the media's 24/7 Weiner roast seems waaaay over the top.
And who would have guessed that the worst news outlet of all would be the New York Times, which seems to have radically redefined that whole "All the News That's Fit to Print" thing.
Really? A cloud?
Now, Mr. Weiner's tawdry activities may have claimed his marriage — Ms. Abedin told him that she wanted to separate — and have cast another shadow on the adviser and confidante who has been by Mrs. Clinton's side for the past two decades. Ms. Abedin was already a major figure this summer in controversies over Mrs. Clinton's handling of classified information as secretary of state and over ties between the Clinton family foundation and Mrs. Clinton's State Department.
Mr. Weiner's extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons' own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton's much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin's choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton's handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.
Actually, the only people who reminded me of Monica Lewinsky were these two reporters for the New York Times. Look, I think it was Sigmund Freud who once said that sometimes a Weiner is just a Weiner. It's hard to know what really goes on in someone else's marriage, but to blame Huma Abedin for her now-estranged husband's sexting when she's out on the campaign trail is grossly unfair -- if not just plain gross. (And I've seen this notion in lots of other places besides the New York Times -- a pox on all of their houses.)
And to blame Hillary...I can't even.
I can't say with 100 percent certainty that this is dumbest story the Times has ever written, since I'm not 168 years old. Maybe there was an item about a hog auction in 1859 that was more stupid than this. But it's the worst piece of political analysis I've ever seen in the Grey Lady in my adult lifetime.