Honest and Unmerciful: An Open Letter to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone Magazine

Hi Matt, 

I've been a follower of yours for some time now. This past Wednesday, when your boss Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone published his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, I knew that you'd have a response in defense of your own personal candidate of choice, Bernie Sanders. To your credit, you were able to respectfully disagree with your boss' endorsement (the respectful part is key) and lay out the reasons why you feel young people are not fully supporting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. As a millennial who is supporting Hillary Clinton, I found your reasoning to be so unconvincing, uninformed, and untruthful that I felt compelled to respond to you in an effort to correct the record. As you did in your response piece, I too will do my best to present my argument in an enlightening, yet respectful, tone.  

First off, like the majority of journalists covering the election, you grossly exaggerate the support that Bernie Sanders has among millennials. Millennials are not a monolith; we exist across racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic boundaries. To say that Bernie Sanders is "winning under-30 voters by consistently absurd margins" is a gross miscategorization of what the vote totals have said thus far. The truth is that Sanders is doing well with White millennials while he is still struggling to make inroads with people of color. According to South Carolina exit polls, Clinton won 46% of the under-30 vote but 86% of the African-American vote. In Texas, she won 40% of the under-30 vote but 73% of the non-White vote. In Florida, she won 35% of the under-30 vote but 74% of the non-White vote. I know that you tried to defend Sanders' lack of non-White support by saying he is "making gains" but when you cite the fact that he only lost the non-White vote of Michigan by 30 points what you're essentially saying is that this is a large segment of the population that Sanders is struggling to connect and, as you fail to realize, is a segment that includes large numbers of millennials within their ranks.

Numbers aside, the next part of your article focused on several critiques of Hillary Clinton you feel millennials are justified in having. Let's look at some of these, particularly your critique of Hillary Clinton's Iraq vote. You may be shocked to learn that this vote was not "one of the easiest calls ever" as you implied but was rather a difficult and drawn out decision that every single member of Congress mulled in both an extensive and exhaustive manner. In fact, had you done a little independent research, you would have been able to read the transcript of Hillary Clinton's speech on the Senate floor in October of 2002 where she calls her vote "probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make." It was not a slam dunk vote as you implied but rather a complicated one with far-reaching implications. In fact, several progressive icons voted in favor of the bill including then senators Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein, Chris Dodd, and John Kerry. If it was such an easy call, why did so many progressives drop the ball, so to speak? 

To answer this, you imply that these Democratic senators didn't want to appear to be anti-war. However, you have also stated that you don't personally buy Hillary Clinton's justification for her vote. What is it about her justification that you find so "ridiculous"? Hillary has called her vote a mistake yet she has also offered insight into why she voted the way she did. At the time, Clinton believed that a yes vote would be a strong piece of leverage that would ensure that the negotiation of weapons inspections between the United Nations and Saddam Hussein would be completed before the United States took further action. In that same speech Clinton said that her vote was not "for any new doctrine of preemption or for unilateralism or for the arrogance of American power or purpose." Clinton, along with 76 other senators trusted George W. Bush to do the right thing and stay true to his word. Unfortunately he did not and the result was America's worst foreign policy decision since Vietnam. This was not about Democrats "supporting a wrong war" as you implied but instead was about a president accepting the trust placed in him by Congress and then abusing that trust to promote his own personal disastrous agenda.  

In addition, you also seem critical of Hillary Clinton's role as First Lady by implying that she was responsible for her husband's policies. Last time I checked Matt, a First Lady is supposed to be an advocate for the administration unless you personally believe every First Lady should take on the role of Claire Underwood in House of Cards and use the position to promote her own personal political agenda. However, since you seem to believe that a First Lady is a major policy player let's take a look at your criticism of her in that role, focusing on the 1994 Crime Bill. Like most Hillary critics, you took aim at her out-of-context quote taken on young African-American men who became known as "super-predators" at the time. If you had done even a tiny bit of research, you would have realized that not only did Clinton use this term a single time but she used it to specifically describe gang members and not all African-American males. The fact that you took this smear as being factual shows that you, like many others in the media, were duped into believing something that simply was not true.  

Speaking of smears, you've also jumped on the bandwagon of criticizing Hillary Clinton over her Goldman Sachs speaking fees, a smear started by Glenn Greenwald over at The Interceptand you have implied that her accepting these fees is "repugnant" to young people. Here's some shocking news you might not be aware of: people pay good money to see the best in their respective fields whether it is an athlete, musician, performer, and yes, even politician. Companies like Goldman Sachs are willing to pay top-dollar for someone like Hillary Clinton so that it makes the company look good and makes the employees feel good about themselves. It's a PR move, plain and simple, and it goes a long way in both the retention as well as potential recruitment of employees. Goldman Sachs is willing to pay top dollar for Hillary Clinton because she has been the most admired woman in the world a record twenty times. She and her husband are top draws on the speaking circuit and they can command top dollar for their work. There is nothing wrong with using the opportunities presented to you to help further your cause. And, despite what you may believe, that cause is not simply lining Hillary Clinton's own pocket but rather the multitude of charities that she and her husband gave $18 million to over the course of their time on the speaking circuit. If you think someone helping to raise $18 million for charity is "repugnant" then I don't think that word means what you think it means.  

Also, you also seem frustrated by what you see as Hillary Clinton's "flippant attitude" when it comes to her emails. Let's take a closer look at this, shall we? Because first off, Clinton has never been "flippant" even though she has been repeatedly asked about this issue at debates, town halls, late night shows, and Sunday talk shows. However, after having dealt with the issue for a long time there can be no doubt she is annoyed by the situation. And why shouldn't she be? Numerous legal experts have stated an indictment is unlikely and it has been a fact since August that none of the emails she sent on her private server were ever marked as 'classified.' Clinton has even pointed out that her predecessors Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell also used private email in the exact same role. Had there been any actual concern that there would be legal repercussions for her email server, Joe Biden would have joined the race early on to serve as a potential fallback to a Clinton candidacy.

But let's give you a practical example of this situation. Let's pretend, Matt, that you were the designated driver for a Rolling Stone holiday party. You ended up having a few drinks at the party just to be social but you know your limit so you were prepared to stop by the end of the night and take your friends home. Let's pretend that on the way home, there was a DWI checkpoint and the officer made you get out of the car and take a breathalyzer where you blew a .07. You realize that what you did wasn't illegal but it also was something that could have been potentially bad. You make a vow going forward to being more careful when driving after having a couple drinks and you finish off the evening by safely taking your friends to their respective dwellings.

However, your next day at the office, your friends who were in your car that night end up telling everybody about what happened. Rumors spread that you tricked a cop, paid him off, or even that you sped away past the security checkpoint a la Grand Theft Auto. People start calling you "Wild Man" and "Matt the Maniac" and folks you've never talked to give you a high-five in the corridor. You are even called into Jann Wenner's office and you have to explain to him what actually happened because he's concerned you might have a drinking problem. From that point forward, people will come up to you and will ask you if you really did successfully avoid a DWI and, if so, how you did it. Do you think, Matt, that after six months of this happening you might become a little annoyed anytime someone asked you about that particular incident?  

I rest my case. 

But lastly, Matt, you wrap up your criticism of Hillary Clinton by again repeating the age-old smear that she is untrustworthy. Like everyone else in the mainstream media, Matt, you've successfully bought twenty-five years of Republican smears designed to give you this impression. You're the type of person who assumes Clinton is hiding something in her Goldman Sachs speeches because it seems like something she would do. Yet what you fail to realize is that Clinton has actually been recognized as the most truthful candidate running and is even more truthful than your candidate of choice, Bernie Sanders. I know that's gotta sting a bit, Matt, but like your peers in the media you have been brain-washed into thinking everything Clinton does or says is somehow manipulative. However, when you look at her actual words and not the false impression you might have of her, you realize she is a knowledgeable candidate with extensive expertise in a number of areas who presents her case to the American people in manageable, realistic goals.  

And it is that last part, Matt, where your criticism of Hillary Clinton falls flat. Your entire premise is that Hillary Clinton is part of a corrupt system and is "part of the problem" as you yourself stated. Yet the only reason you see her as being part of the problem is that you are too dense to see beyond what you believe to be true. You perceive her to be untrustworthy and so you and a multitude of so-called "journalists" pursue this narrative without any reservations. You've fallen victim to a classic strategical trap where opponents of a political candidate turn that candidate's greatest strength into a weakness. Those that know Hillary Clinton personally will tell you she is one of the most trustworthy individuals they have ever met. Ask Jon Favreau who wrote of his experiences working beside her in the Obama Administration. Favreau tells of an honest and open person, doing her best on a daily basis to try and help to leave a positive impact in this world.  

But you can't see that, Matt, because it doesn't fit your worldview. You see Hillary Clinton as being part of a system you see as inherently corrupt. What you fail to see is that she has been fighting against this system for forty-five years. From enforcing school integration in the south to fighting for health care reform in the mid-1990s to helping pass legislation that got 7 million children health insurance to being a co-sponsor of the Dream Act in the Senate to becoming a worldwide inspiration for women in saying that "human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights," Hillary Clinton has been a voice for the voiceless. This is not a person who is "part of the problem" as you claim, Matt, but rather the only person who can be part of the solution that helps keep an extreme Republican out of the White House in 2016. You were correct in your article when you said that millennials were thinking about Hillary Clinton. However, their thinking, much like your own, is not based on facts but rather a false narrative constructed solely to discredit a leading presidential candidate.

If you were a true journalist, Matt, you'd be able to tell the difference.


Trevor LaFauci

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