Jim VandeHei, on the cusp of launching a new media enterprise that promises to be as disruptive as Politico.com was when it launched, joined me this morning to discuss the venture, and we ended talking about MSM bias in Campaign 2016:
HH: I’m joined now by Jim Vandehei, one of the founders of Politico.com. He’s left Politico. He’s getting ready to launch some super-secret new transformational website or bureau or service. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I wanted to talk to him about it and what’s going on. Jim Vandehei originally of the Washington Post, then of Politico, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, Jim, good to have you here.
JV: It’s great to be here. How are you doing?
HH: I’m great. I have Aaron Rodgers as my fantasy football quarterback. I see you’ve got the Green Bay Packers logo on your Twitter account, Jim.
JV: Yeah, I saw you had Paul Ryan on yesterday. He probably has views very similar to mine, but it’s a hell of a good pick.
HH: He is very happy with my pick. I just, I am a little worried that Jordan Matthews is not at 100%, and therefore he hasn’t got his targets. But that’s neither here nor there. Jim Vandehei, what can you tell us? There was a story about what you are up to, but it was rather mysterious. Are you keeping this under the hat for a while longer?
JV: Yeah, you know, we’ve just wrapped up funding. There’s a story this week that we got NBC/University, Ken Lerer, others are backing our new venture. We haven’t said a lot about it. We probably won’t say a lot about it for the next couple of months not necessarily to be super secretive, but you’re thinking about like a very competitive media market. We’re trying to be very focused on producing something that can break through at a time where everyone is really distracted. So I think the challenge for us is going to can you put together a really talented team of people that can tell really smart people things that they don’t know in a way that’s really useful? I think this campaign has shown like how much faith people have lost in media, and how frustrated people are at trying to figure out what can they trust and what can’t they trust? And how can they get smarter in a world that’s growing more and more complex? And I think if we, I think we have a solution to that, and if we do, I think it could be not only great for journalism, but I think it could be a great business.
HH: We will cover it extensively when it launches, like I did Politico. I’m still proud of the show I did with Mike Allen on the first week of Politico’s launch, because I thought it was going to revolutionize journalism, and it did. Let me ask you about this. The presidential forum on Wednesday night, I thought the reason Hillary Clinton was upset is that not Matt Lauer, I think he did a fine, workman-like job, it’s very tough with 30 minutes, and you’ve got questions from the audience, etc. to run that kind of an interview. I don’t know that you fact-check Donald Trump. That’s a left-wing critique, and he fact-checked himself yesterday. But she was upset because Lt. John Lester stood up in the audience and hammered her on the handling of classified information. And Jim, I want to read the beginning of an email I got from a former AUSA, assistant United States Attorney, who I’ve known for many, many years, absolutely legit guy, and have been tracking down bad guys for a long time. He’s married to an FBI agent. It reads:
“Now that the contents of that first FBI summary have been released, my wife tells me that Comey has lost all credibility in the FBI. Remember he’s a DOJ veteran, not a Bureau veteran, and that makes a difference with the troops. My wife, a 25 year agent, tells me that since that document became public, and based on what’s in there Comey decided to not recommend prosecution, his name among the agents is dirt. The most practical reason for that feeling is that they all know stories about agents or other federal employees who have befallen similar circumstances, and some have been prosecuted while just about all others have been fired. And the issue with the missing Blackberrrys, IPad, AND the Apple Laptop and Thumbdrive that had ALL her archived emails on them, is just unbelievable to agents who work on matters involving classified information.”
I, Jim Vandehei, have heard this complaint over and over again. I held all the clearances in the Reagan years. And I always said the short end was if I left anything in my desk, I’d be disciplined. If I took it home, I’d be fired. If I gave it to someone, I’d be prosecuted. Have you heard this refrain yourself?
JV: It’s interesting that you say that, and I think, yes, is the answer. And I think where the disconnect is, is are you in a military family? And do you know people in a military, or in your case, people who are in the Justice Department or the FBI? I have two brothers-in-law who are serving, and I was in a wedding this past weekend in Kerrville, Texas, where lots of Marines were there. And people who would be inclined, I think, several that I was talking to, to be inclined to support Hillary Clinton, and the only thing that they focus on, and the reason that they could never find themselves voting for her, is this very reason. They either themselves or know other people who have been sanctioned or had issues for doing far, far less than what they believe Hillary Clinton did with classified material. And I think if you’re not talking to people in the military, if you don’t have family members in the military, you don’t have deep enough appreciation for how much focus they put on this, and how much they tie it to your character and to your performance. And so I think what you’re pointing to is very, very legitimate, and that’s why you see the numbers that you do among a lot of the members of the military and who they’re supporting. They don’t, you talk to these members of the military, it’s not like they like Donald Trump, or they think Donald Trump is going to be a superior commander-in-chief. They just can never find themselves settling for Hillary Clinton.
HH: So yesterday, she has her first presser in 270 days. She does not get one question on the emails, even though John Lester, the lieutenant, nailed her on this thing. And people conclude that the media is complicit. I also wonder, Jim, do you remember when George W. Bush was alleged to have worn a wi-fi backpack at the 2004 debate? It was nuts. It was a crazy conspiracy theory.
JV: Right, right.
HH: I don’t know if Hillary had an earbud yesterday, but the media’s not investigating that, either. Is there, is the MSM all in for Hillary?
JV: You know, you and I have talked about this in the past, and I tend to be a defender of the media. And I tend to think that it’s overblown, what people think just lots of bias. I have a much different view this year, like having been starting a company and taking a little bit of a step back from looking at the politics moment by moment, particularly if you pay attention to Twitter. The number of mainstream media reporters who are out there expressing their explicit opinions, that tend to be decisively pro-Hillary and anti-Trump, to me is scary. I don’t, listen, Donald Trump gives you a lot things to fear and a lot of things to dislike. But you cannot, cannot, cannot as a reporter be taking sides in a public forum whether it’s on Twitter or whether it’s on email or whether it’s on TV.
HH: You’re absolutely, you are absolutely right, Jim Vandehei. Come back when the new effort launches. Great to talk to you, my friend. @JimVandehei on Twitter.
End of interview.