TOMORROW: Concerning Ferraro.
THE FABULIST BAKER BOY: Its been a good week for bad journalism. First, that ludicrous column by Professor Inkblot (more below). Then, todays wonderfully comical news report by the Posts sad Peter Baker.
And yes, this is a news report. It isnt on the Posts op-ed page; it doesnt bear an Analysis tag. This is Bakers attempt to report the fall-out for Hillary Clintons campaign of Eliot Spitzers recent troubles. The comedy starts in paragraph 3. In that paragraph, Baker reports what some have thought—what they could not help but think:
BAKER (3/12/08): [Spitzers] apparent involvement with a prostitution ring has not only distracted attention from [Clintons] efforts to take down the front-runner, Sen. Barack Obama. It has brought back unhelpful memories of her own husbands dalliances in office. There on cable television again were pictures of Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky. And the image of Spitzers wife standing painfully by his side could not help but remind some of Hillary Clintons own stand-by-her-man moment.
The image of Spitzers wife could not help but remind some of Clintons earlier situation. And clearly, one of those some was Baker himself. As he continued his news report, he speculated about things which remain unclear. Then, he made the wonderfully comical statement we have highlighted:
BAKER (continuing directly): How this will play out remains unclear, of course. Spitzer has so far resisted entreaties to step down in the face of rather sordid allegations, much as Bill Clinton resisted calls for his resignation in 1998 after news of his trysts with the onetime White House intern. Spitzers reluctance to leave can only guarantee that the story will live on in the hungry vortex of cable television, talk radio and the Internet. It may be that most voters long ago discounted Bill Clintons infidelities when making their minds up about his wifes qualifications for president. It may be that voters conclude that Spitzers indiscretions have nothing at all to do with whether Hillary Clinton can effectively serve as president. And it may be that Spitzer ultimately does resign, allowing the political dialogue to move on.
Really? It may be that voters conclude that? Why on earth would voters conclude that Eliot Spitzers indiscretions bore on the question of Clintons effectiveness? The analysts enjoyed a good solid laugh at Bakers silly, Starr-era clowning. And then, bonanza! The fabulous fabulist went where these scribes often do:
BAKER (continuing directly): Yet this certainly is not the way Clinton's strategists would have mapped out this week on the campaign trail. They want voters to be thinking about that 3 a.m. phone call in terms of who is ready to handle a crisis in the White House, not in terms of where an unfaithful husband might be catting around town. And, sure enough, the late-night comedians wasted little time linking the Spitzer case to the Clintons...
Of course! The late-night comedians have been doing it! Weve told you this for years and years: Silly, fabulist boys like Baker always blame the late-night comedians for the very same things they are doing! Soon, the silly sleuth was trying to imagine things which might be said. And good lord! Just look at his description of Spitzer!
BAKER: Hillary Clinton was asked about the case late Monday and, predictably enough, tried to brush it off without comment. "I obviously send my best wishes to the governor and his family," she told reporters. Still, it is hard to imagine that will be the last time she is asked about it. She could hardly want that to be on camera, once again being asked to account for yet another man in her life who couldnt live up to his marriage vows. And what will Bill Clinton say when he is inevitably asked to comment?
Good God! According to this Starr-era sex snoop, Spitzer is yet another man in her life who couldnt live up to his marriage vows! Meanwhile, by normal standards, news reporters wait until a public figure says something; then report what the person said. Not Baker! In his idea of a news report, he asks himself what Bill Clinton might say, when hes inevitably asked. (Answer: As Baker understands, Clinton will say this: No comment. And he might say, this is sad. )
But then, Bakers a cosmically silly lad; hes been presenting this nonsense for years. As we said, its been a very good week for bad journos. In this case, we at least were allowed to enjoy a series of horse-laughs.
Discourse on method: Here we go again! Weve transcribed all these passages from todays hard-copy Post. Much of this material does not appear in the on-line version of Bakers report.
THE GOOD PROFESSORS INKBLOT: Lets take a moment to review the work of those gruesome professors.
Professor Patterson favors Obama; ex-professor Hirshman likes Clinton. But neither of these cosmic dingbats was willing to leave matters there.
To Patterson, if Texas voters broke for Clinton, well, that had to mean that they were responding to a racist sub-message. To Hirshman, if various women favored Obama (including female governors), that had to mean that they were either 1) gender traitors; 2) upper-class snobs; or 3) idiots who have fallen in love with Michelle Obamas shoes.
Neither professor could imagine a world in which decent people, acting in good faith, made a judgment which differed from theirs. And there was another similarity: Each of these esteemed professors offered dizzingly incoherent arguments. It isnt enough that theyre parlor bigots—people who assail the motives of anyone who disagrees with their views. This pair of dingbats reason so poorly that parents ought to storm the presidents offices, demanding tuition dough back.
By the way, the good professors also shared a larger method. Here it is: Take the first thought that comes into your head. Run to the Post or Times. Shout it.
Obama voters just like Jimmy Choos! White Clinton voters are bigots!
Truly, a culture is in extremely bad shape when people this daft serve as professors at its major universities. How inept—how inane—was these two dingbats work? Next time, the Post and the Times should let them sit down and deliver their lectures from inkblots.
So youll know: Through 2002, Hirshman was a professor at Brandeis. Dare we say it? A philosophy prof!
KILLERS AND SMEARS: What should Hillary Clinton have said when Steve Kroft asked her—three separate times!—to state her view about Obamas religion? We cant give a perfect answer to that. (We have written many times about the interpretive problems involved in The Cult of the Offhand Comment.) But we strongly recommend Brother Boehlerts post about the way this matter has been reported. And well recommend that you think for a moment about the third answer Clinton gave:
CLINTON (3/2/08): Look, I have been the target of so many ridiculous rumors. I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets, you know, smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time.
That was Clinton, discussing Obama. In that statement, Clinton correctly described these attacks on Obama as a smear. The next day, she repeated that language.
We will offer three observations about her use of smear.
The worlds leading expert: Clinton is surely one of the worlds leading experts on ridiculous rumors and smears. She has been endlessly smeared in the past; fellows like Kroft never seemed to be bothered. In August 1999, for example, Hardball let Gennifer Flowers spend a half-hour accusing Clinton of serial murders. (At the time, Clinton was first lady.) Result? Flowers performance was so outrageous, she quickly got a full hour on Hannity & Colmes, where she repeated her inexcusable claims—and threw in the bonus claim that Clinton was a big giant lesbo. But so what? Pool boys like Kroft forgot to say boo when their nations first lady was smeared in that manner. Who knows? Perhaps a thrill ran up Krofts leg when he saw the buxom balladeer say it. (As Peter Baker might have put it, Some will surely wonder.)
The correct term: Clinton used the accurate term. Obama is being widely smeared, and many voters are dumb enough to believe what they read in their e-mails. How can voters be so gullible? In our political culture, its considered rude to ask. Again, wed love to see Saturday Night Live tackle this important topic.
Journalists wont go there: Hillary Clinton used the right term—but dont expect your journalists to go there. Hacks like Chris Matthews sit around, cherry-picking what Clinton said. (See Boehlerts piece.) But one of the cherries Matthews wont pick is that important term: Smear. You see, admitting that a smear is underway might require him to follow its pathways—to ask about who is conducting such smears. We dont know what a search might find. But dont worry—Chris Matthews wont go there.
Why wont Matthews talk about smears? (This part of Clintons Q-and-A has been relentlessly disappeared.) Well guess: People like Matthews have been deeply involved in sixteen years of smears by this time. Sometimes, theyve been involved by looking away; frequently, Matthews himself has played alpha male in pimping smears against both Clintons and Gore. Matthews is up to his eyeballs in smears; smears have been a key part of his ministry. He super-smeared Gore for two solid years. (No one did more.) Today, he complains about Iraq.
Killers like Matthews have lived by the smear. When someone actually says the word, they tend to disappear it. Quite quickly.
Clinton used an accurate term. But in this matter, as in so many more, you hear the snippets they want you to hear. It has been their method for many years: The parts that flatter her disappear. The parts they recite sound unlovely.