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NAME THOSE SPINS! The spins against Clinton are already numerous. Dems need to master each one: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 2007

LIBERALS, HEAL OURSELVES: In Hillary Clinton’s Monday web-cast, she was asked about her favorite movie. All in all, it was pretty pointless stuff. Here’s the full exchange:
MODERATOR (1/22/07): Jean from New Jersey has a question on a lighter note. What's your favorite movie?

CLINTON: My favorite movie. I've had favorite movies at different stages in my life. When I was very much younger, The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie. I just loved imagining myself being there with Dorothy and being part of that great adventure that she had. Probably when I was in college and law school, Casablanca. I watched it I don't know how many times. It always was so much fun. By the time we watched it over and over again, we were actually reciting the dialogue. And I suppose in the last years, Out of Africa. I love Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Those are three of my favorite movies.
Pretty insignificant stuff—unless you happen to be a mind-reader. In short order, one such seer penned a Standard Complaint about Clinton’s character flaws—flaws which were allegedly put on display by this troubling statement. Yep! This observer called Clinton’s statement “particularly telling,” saying it showed that HRC is—what else?— “too calculating:”
UNNAMED OBSERVER (1/22/07): [I]t was her answers on favorite movies that were particularly telling, especially since she had a long time to think about this one. When she was very young, her favorite was "The Wizard of Oz." When she was in law school, her favorite was "Casablanca." But her favorite "in the last year" (she might have said "years," but it was hard to tell) is "Out of Africa." Okay, now I love that movie, but geez, that was released in 1985!

Now, one could say she's playing for classics in her movie selections. NAAAAAW, she wouldn't do that, now would she?

One of the biggest criticisms about Senator Clinton is that she's too calculating and not spontaneous enough. If anything goes to that stereotype it's her movies. It outs her completely.
“One could say she's playing for classics.” Of course, one could also say something else—that she had named her three favorite movies. To all appearances, this observer had no way of knowing that anything other than that had occurred. But she went ahead and rendered her judgment anyway. Once again, we could see that Clinton is “too calculating.” And “not spontaneous enough.”

For the record, this is familiar stuff. This observer was reciting a Standard Complaint about Clinton’s deeply troubling character. It has been said again and again; Clinton is “too calculating”—inauthentic, fake, false/phony; she just won’t tell you what she believes. But then, mind-reading pundits have lodged this complaint against almost all Major Dems for the past fifteen years. It’s the heart and soul of the pundit critique of those troubling characters, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Clinton. And every trivial action and statement seems to prove the truth of this charge. Gore was a fake when he wore a brown suit. Now, Clinton’s a fake—she’s “too calculating”—when she names her three favorite movies.

But this latest analysis wasn’t offered by a mainstream pundit. It wasn’t made by an RNC hack. No, it was made by a leading liberal at the Huffington Post—by someone whose work we normally admire! We won’t even bother to comment further. To see the full piece, just click here.

OK, we’ll offer this one further comment. It’s hard to know how we’ll ever persuade journalists to stop doing this if we’re so eager to do it ourselves. Good Lord, friends and allies—Good God! How easy it is for mainstream scribes to lodge their weird thoughts in our heads!

THE IC FACTOR: Did President Bush do something wrong when he congratulated “the Democrat majority” Tuesday night? We think the complaint is slightly tortured—and we’ll guess that many readers of the Washington Post are puzzled by today’s report describing the outrage among certain Dems. The current congressional majority is made up of Democrats, after all. We don’t think it’s clearly wrong to refer to a “Democrat majority,” although we wouldn’t use the locution ourselves. Many people will read that report will wonder why we’re complaining.

On the other hand, Bush has begun, in the past year, to refer in speeches to the “Democrat Party.” (We think this is new for Bush, although we’re not sure.) Plainly, there is something wrong with this locution. The Democratic Party’s actual name is well known. It appears on the party’s letter-head, and it’s featured at the party’s web site. Indeed, the name has been in use, unchanged, since the 1830s; people have had lots of time to commit it to memory. When Bush refers to the “Democrat Party,” he’s engaging in a familiar type of schoolyard behavior—a particular type of childish conduct that others in his party have long sponsored. It’s dumb; it’s rude; it’s stupid; it’s childish. And no, it isn’t that other locution, the one we’ve now angrily flagged.

So there we go again, dear readers! Indeed, it’s typical of the way we Dems do politics—to see us raising a flap about the locution where it’s harder to discern an offense. Let’s say it again. Many readers of the Post will be puzzled by the complaint which is detailed this morning. It’s dumb—but typical—when we take our stand on the ground where we’ll make out less well.

Elsewhere, of course, we’re often happy to get ourselves royally dumped on. On Monday night, Terry McAuliffe appeared on The O’Reilly Factor. Three separate times, O’Reilly asked questions about “the Democrat Party,” and McAuliffe happily answered each time, without even making a jocular request that his party be called by its actual name. Many viewers understood the dynamic of these exchanges; O’Reilly was sneering at our party, and a former party chairman was happily taking it. In the same interview, McAuliffe failed to challenge O’Reilly’s denigrations of George Soros and of the “smear sites” he sponsors. Later, McAuliffe clumsily seemed to say that other Dems were now going to do to Clinton “what Bush did to John McCain in South Carolina.” That may not be what he intended to say. But it is how his statement sounded.

Often, we Dems don’t play this game reel gud. Many readers will be puzzled by the strained complaint discussed in the Post. They’ll puzzle at how petty we Dems have become! As we’ve frequently done in the past, we’ve figured out how to lose one again.

DITTO THIS: On the same topic, we were surprised when we saw Michelle Pilecki make the following claim about Scott Pelley. It appeared in the Huffington Post:

PILECKI (1/19/07): CBS’ Scott Pelley irked more than a few people in his 60 Minutes interview with President Bush by his regular references to the "Democrat Party," and I've heard similar references on NPR, among others.
We were dubious, so we sent our fact-checking team into action. According to the CBS transcript, neither Pelley nor Bush ever used the term “Democrat Party” (or “Democratic Party”) during this interview. Transcripts of TV shows aren’t always accurate, so we wasted our time watching the video, and no one said “Democrat Party” there either. Late in the session, Pelley did refer to the “Democrat leadership” and to the alleged lack of a “Democrat plan” for Iraq. But that isn’t what Pilecki accused him of saying—and those usages are less clearly inappropriate than the phantom usage she put inside quotes.

Sometimes, we libs don’t play this game reel gud. No, Pelley never said “Democrat Party.” But then, as pseudo-cons have learned through the years, it sure can feel good to pretend!

Special report: A bad new idea!


PART 3—NAME THOSE SPINS: Let’s face it—our contemporary political press corps is often spectacularly stupid. Indeed, it’s a basic part of their modern culture—and Time’s hiring of Ana Marie Cox seems designed to prove it. Cox gained renown by playing the “dirty girl”—the young woman who constantly discusses her body and makes insinuations about her loose conduct. In pundit culture, of course, that’s pure gold. It led to her hiring, and to this dim-witted post which she recently offered at Time’s new blog. Cox was discussing the unsourced, vague allegation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had played some role in the recent fake story about Obama:
COX (1/22/07): Part of the stereotype HRC has to buck is that she'll do anything to win...A really smart GOP operative can put out the most outrageous dirt about a Dem challenger (or even a Republican one) and even if no one believes the dirt, having Hillary's fingerprints on it is credible. It doesn't help that Hillary's people are pretty ruthless—they're just also basically, you know honorable.
Even after reading the link which Cox provided, we didn’t understand the part about being “honorable,” But then, you don’t hire smutty-talk throwbacks like Cox because you want coherence.

Cox has little of value to say. But she does know how to memorize spin, the essential skill of the modern pundit. She knows she has to mention “flip-flop” if she types even twenty words about Kerry—and she’s right at home with the well-scripted claim that Clinton “will do anything to win.” Indeed, this has been a Standard Attack against leading Dems over the course of the past fifteen years. It was one of the basic claims in Campaign 2000: Al Gore will do and say anything! And the press corps’ halfwits will endlessly recite this claim about Clinton, until we learn how to make them stop.

How much do pundits love this claim? It’s amazing that it kept being said about Gore, given Bush’s conduct in Campaign 2000—in the South Carolina primary, for example. “Bush's slashing tactics” in the state were “ferocious even by South Carolina's down-and-dirty standards,” Eric Pooley wrote in Time, the magazine for which Cox now types. In Newsweek, Evan Thomas went into a bit more detail:
THOMAS (2/28/99): It [Bush’s defeat in the New Hampshire primary] was the beginning of a low road. Bush's first stop after losing the New Hampshire primary was at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., in the heart of the Bible belt. Before his speech, Bush met in a holding room with his top man in South Carolina, Warren Tompkins. "I know that you have done this before," Bush said. "Let's get out there and do it again." Do what, exactly? The candidate did not need to be specific. Tompkins, he knew, was an old colleague of the late Lee Atwater, the self-described "Bad Boy" of South Carolina politics...Atwater and Tompkins had been particularly effective in conjuring up demons that would frighten and energize the Bible-belt vote. George W knew all this firsthand.
“Bush agreed to do whatever it would take to win,” Pooley wrote in Time. “And in South Carolina, ‘whatever it takes’ has a colorful lineage.”

Various news orgs described the way Tompkins drove the campaign against McCain—the campaign which worked through ugly, anonymous phone calls. In return, McCain sponsored anonymous phone calls about Bush in Michigan—then blatantly lied to the press corp about them. But so what? Within a few weeks, the press corps went back to its preferred, scripted message, endlessly saying that Gore would “do anything!” Nothing dimly resembling South Carolina (or Michigan) had occurred in the Dem primary campaigns. But so what? It was Gore who would do and say anything—and Cox is prepared to repeat the same claim about Candidate Clinton today. Maybe it’s the “dirty girl’s” endless *ss-f*cking which has left her brain in this sad state.

But then, the spins against Clinton are already endless—and scribes are quite good at reciting them. With that in mind, we recommend this post by Johnson and Boyce, who start to list these Standard Claims. Hillary Clinton is fake—inauthentic. And: Clinton is polarizing—too divisive. And the claim that Clinton “will do anything to win”—the claim that Cox so happily channeled—will be widely bruited too. We’ll only suggest that libs and Dems learn how to challenge this tired old claim. In the wake of the Bush years, it’s simply astounding to see this claim reflexively used against Dem leaders. But it will be said, again and again. Until Clinton does something that warrants this charge, we need to learn how to rebut it.

But readers, of all the Standard Claims, our favorite was channeled by Howard Fineman during a recent Imus appearance. Hillary Clinton is unelectable! Should we laugh—or should we cry—when our pundits recite such fine tales?

TOMORROW—PART 4: Is Clinton unelectable? And special bonus! Did Clinton lie?