Psychotic Fireman

Before I have to listen to another Clinton supporter talk about how unfair the press was to her, maybe they should keep this anecdote in the back of their mind:

On February 10, Clinton finally fired Solis Doyle and moved Williams in—but did not heed calls to fire Penn, enraging Solis Doyle’s many loyalists. At this crucial point, long-simmering feuds burst into the open. On February 11, Williams’s first day on the job, Phil Singer, Wolfson’s deputy and a man notorious for his tirades at reporters, blew up in Wolfson’s office and screamed obscenities at his boss before throwing open the door to direct his ire at the campaign’s policy director, Neera Tanden, an ally of Solis Doyle. “Fuck you and the whole fucking cabal!” he shouted, according to several Clinton staffers. In the end, he climbed onto a chair and screamed at the entire staff before storming out.

The same day, Philip Bennett, the managing editor of The Washington Post, sent Williams a letter formally complaining that Singer had maligned one of his reporters by spreading unfounded rumors about her (apparently in retaliation for an accurate—and prescient—story that had noted, long before anyone else, Clinton’s tendency to burn through money). Fearing for his deputy’s job, Wolfson intercepted the letter, though Bennett eventually got a copy to Williams. Singer disappeared and was presumed fired. But a week later, he made amends and rejoined the campaign. “When the house is on fire, it’s better to have a psychotic fireman than no fireman at all,” Wolfson explained to a colleague.

Reporters are, of course, human beings, so when a campaigns chief media contact, and indeed the campaign at large, makes it a policy to attack, berate, and smear reporters over stories that are both accurate and prescient, the press is going to react, and it’s not going to be in a way that helps the campaign. Maybe that’s not objective or professional, but there are obviously limits to those qualities in humans. It may sound untoward, but ultimately election campaigns are about manipulating people, and not smearing a reporter over a story you know to be accurate is just common sense. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t win.