Times of London columnist Alice Miles minces no words in calling Barack Obama for playing the race card without merit against Hillary Clinton:
What a shame that a contest that has the world gripped, that is transforming international opinion of the United States, that has shown America in its best and most brilliant light, threatens to descend into a pathetic slanging match over race. What a shame for the centre Left, which had everything to cheer about in the stunning choice between, potentially, the first female and the first black president, that they are allowing the contest to slip into an idiotic series of unproven claims about racial bias.
On Monday Hillary Clinton called for a truce reminding everyone that “Senator Obama and I are on the same side”. Hear hear. But how did it come to this?
The thin catalogue of complaints against the Clinton campaign from the Obama campaign were unfounded, manipulative and self-indulgent. At best they called into question the oversensitivity of Mr Obama, at worst they showed him willing to play a divisive race card that is damaging the entire Democratic Party and tarnishing a great and historic electoral contest for the centre Left. The whole episode has convinced me he isn’t tough enough for the White House.
For since when has referring to somebody’s past admitted drug use – if indeed the Clinton campaign ever intended to do that, which is far from clear – been a racial slur? More racist, I would say, to equate drugs with blacks, and that’s what the Obama campaign is doing, not the Clinton one.
As for Mrs Clinton’s statement that Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality was realised only when President Johnson managed to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress? No more than fact, surely; an attack on Mr Obama’s lack of experience, certainly, but hardly a slur upon King. Mr Obama’s campaign is twisting things so that a comment about any black man is a comment about him, just as any attack on him is an attack on all black people. I ask again: who is playing the race card here?
She’s unafraid to say what we’re afraid to say in the U.S. And I think she’s right.
The other day, I poked at the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden for whining about Clinton’s campaign being not as nice to the press as Obama’s. He emailed me wondering why I gave him a slap when I argue for transparency in the press — and besides, it came in a blog — which is a fair point. But I responded: “But in there was an attitude I saw in many reporters’ notebooks and columns and analyses — other nonstories: that the campaigns should be nice to us. Where does that presumption come from? Indeed, isn’t that a little close for comfort? I’m not saying we need to be hostile. . . . But our readers really shouldn’t care about the campaigns’ skills at flacking us and about our inconvenience.” So where’s the line between whining and reporting? I’m not sure. Now I see this video from my colleague at the Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg, coming up against an Obama wall when she tries to interview campaign supporters at headquarters and at a rally and the campaign flunkies try to stop her. She calls that paranoia. Is that complaining or reporting? You decide.
Hillary Clinton won in New Hampshire. It’s as simple as that, right? No, not if you listen to the narratives around her victory in the media, where they continue to root against her.
The sexist narrative comes, shockingly, from New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who argues that Clinton won because, after the bully boys slapped her around on Saturday’s debate and her eyes welled up, women gave her pity votes: “But for one moment, women knew just how Hillary felt, and they gave her a sympathy vote. It wasn’t a long-term commitment, just a brief strike by the sisters against their overscheduled world.”
That’s a sexist insult to both Clinton and her voters. It says that women are emotional and not rational and that they’d throw away their votes and their country over a moment of reality-show drama. Sister, for shame.
The racist narrative, far more shocking, comes in the Times from pollster Andrew Kohut, apologist for his obviously incompetent profession, who argues that the head-counters and the pundits all predicted the vote wrong because poor, white voters — Yankee crackers — left to their own devices in private polling booths would not vote for a black man: “But gender and age patterns tend not to be as confounding to pollsters as race, which to my mind was a key reason the polls got New Hampshire so wrong. Poorer, less well-educated white people refuse surveys more often than affluent, better-educated whites. Polls generally adjust their samples for this tendency. But here’s the problem: these whites who do not respond to surveys tend to have more unfavorable views of blacks than respondents who do the interviews.” In short: Clinton got the trailer trash vote and Obama didn’t.
So what that says is that Clinton’s resurgence is a victory for racism. What an insult that is to her and to her voters and to the nation. That devalues and corrupts her victory.
The whining comes from the press, who complain that the Clinton campaign wasn’t as nice to them as the Obama campaign. As a fellow journalist, I suppose I should be sympathetic to them, but I’m not. That’s inside baseball. Its their job to get the story; that’s what they’re paid to do. What difference should it make to the voters and the fate of the nation that they don’t like a candidate’s flacks? I’ve seen this narrative all over in the last few weeks. The most convenient example comes from the UK, where the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden moans and mewls: “The Hillary Clinton staff excluded all foreign press from their “victory” celebration. . . . Contrast that with the Obama staff. Senior aides chatting away to big shot and small fry reporters alike. Credentials and access to as many reporters and members of the public who wanted it. Throughout the Iowa campaign, Obama volunteers would thank us for coming, accompany us to the correct entrance if we asked the way. Clinton staffers treated us as an inconvenience at best and at worst like a bad smell. As this exchange was taking place, an American reporter I know came over to us and said: “Get used to it – this is what the next eight years could be like.” Except that after tonight’s result it looks like we won’t have to get used to it after all.” And why should we care?
That is — or should be considered — an insult to journalists, who should be able to exclude their inconvenience and annoyance from their stories. But it makes one wonder whether they did.
None of these narratives says that voters voted for Clinton because they thought about it, because they are intelligent, because they cared for the country, because they agreed with her about issues, because they thought she could deal with the economy — our No. 1 issue, say the pollsters, and the one Clinton attacked most aggressively in the last debate before the New Hampshire primary. No, there has to be some reason other than those for voting for Clinton.
Now to the cynical narrative: change. Inspired by a Max Kalehof comment in my post here, I created this Blogpulse chart showing the frequency of the words “change”, “Obama”, and “Edwards” in the blogosphere in the last six months. Note the synchronous rise: the moment in late October when Obama, especially, harped on the word and the blogosphere followed.
I went to the record on YouTube to see when this change for “change” visibly and aggressively entered Obama’s campaign. Note that this video from September had no “change” signs:
But this video from October had the new “change” signage on the podium but not in the audience:
Now look at the Oprah rally in December. By then, the “change” narrative was fully in place — clearly tested and approved — and all the signs in the crowd are new from the printer. All of them scream “change”:
I’m coming to think that “change” is more than an empty word. This movement to “change” is looking more and more like a cynical act. It is an effort to pander to an audience — the young voters, the media say — with a simple, shallow idea, as if that should be enough to sway them. To say that they would is to insult them. It says that they buy candidates like they buy deodorant.
I spoke with a reporter tonight who’s writing a story on what brought out young people for Obama in Iowa and New Hampshire and she is hearing that they are seeing through “change” and making their judgments on issues. I believe that women, white voters, black voters, and young voters do likewise. Not to believe that is to dismiss their opinions and their votes.
My college-freshman thesis analyzed the coverage of Edmund Muskie’s “loss” in New Hampshire — even though he won, but not by the margin MSM had predicated and demanded, which made them declare him the loser. It was bullshit. It didn’t help that he cried. Now here’s Hillary Clinton nearing tears and I’d say it helped her. It made her human. But I wouldn’t suggest that Romney try crying.
Maybe I’m more aware of this because I’m a Hillary supporter, but it does seem as if the New York Times is taking any opportunity to swipe at her. Yesterday’s page one carried a story that was shocked — shocked, I tell you — that the Clinton campaign might actually be feeding stories to the dreaded Drudge Report.
….But it was a prime example of a development that has surprised much of the political world: Mrs. Clinton is learning to play nice with the Drudge Report and the powerful, elusive and conservative-leaning man behind it. . . .
That people in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign orbit would tip off the Drudge Report to its fund-raising numbers is in part a reflection of her pragmatic approach to dealing with potential enemies, like Newt Gingrich or Rupert Murdoch. . . .
The site is a potent combination of real scoops, gossip and innuendo aimed at Mr. Drudge’s targets of choice — some of it delivered with no apparent effort to determine its truth, as politicians of all stripes have discovered at times.
Would they be equally shocked if Rudy Giuliani or John McCain tried to get good publicity from, oh, the New York Times?
And it’s not as if the Times doesn’t benefit plenty from
Drudge. Last I checked, Drudge was the single largest nonsearch referrer to both the Times and the Washington Post. And I’ve heard executives from major publications and blogs say that they wouldn’t piss off Drudge because he sends them so much traffic.
So why are they so shocked that Clinton might try to get a favorable link? What’s the news there? Or is it an opportunity to slap Hillary while she’s up? Just asking.
No one is saying that Obama’s staff is doing this. But it could hurt him nonetheless. That anti-Hillary commercial, coming from a hidden source, smelled of a dirty trick. Somebody’s engineering lies about at least his YouTube viewership. People will wonder how much of his buzz is elusive, the effort to goose it even desperate. See Peter Hauck’s post below asking whether the honeymoon is waning. Remember, too, the unwelcome attitude many in Iowa had to the invasion by hordes of Deaniacs with accents from elsewhere. It may be easy to hack a campaign, but I doubt whether it will be effective.
Last week in California, I was talking with some people who know about these things and they thought the Obama’s numbers were bogus but didn’t yet know how to prove it. TechPresident’s Levy shows how the number of visitors and views just don’t match up. The clearest evidence of fishiness is all this is TechPresident’s own YouTube chart, which they acknowledge looks darned suspicious:
But there’s a problem with all these numbers even if they aren’t bald-faced lies. We are so accustomed to the horse-race story in politics, the narrative media loves to push, that we are in a constant hunt for new numbers and new charts that tell that tale. Beware internet numbers, though. This is not a mass medium. It is a mass of niches. And even the biggest numbers are necessarily small. It’s the sum of all those small numbers that is huge. In other words, this is not a medium of winners and losers but of coalitions. Last week, amidst the Hillary 1984 commercial kefuffle, a half-dozen reporters called me working on the exact same story (which indicates a problem with reporting, but that’s a subject for another blog), and one of them asked whether the number of negative Hillary videos on YouTube indicated a loss of momentum for her (Mo is their favorite angle in the horse-race story). I laughed, which was more polite than scoffing with scorn. One person can make 10 anti-anybody videos. A hundred can make a thousand. And all that indicates is the thinking of 100 people, not the mood and mo of the nation. The numbers of views is similarly misleading, if you let them be: I watched the Hillary commercial because it was entertaining and being talked about, not because I agreed with it. No, the press hates this, but there’s only one number that matters — the election-day tally, of course — and that’s the one scoop they can’t have; it’s ours. So whether they’re gamed or not, view all these internet tallies with suspicion. They are for entertainment only, no wagering or governing with them allowed.