IT TOOK ONE DAY: “Watch the press corps beg Obama to second this high-minded strategy.” We said it yesterday–and today, it happened. You know what to do–just click here. More on this topic next week.
COLLINS AND THE CLAN: The front-page piece in todays New York Times is about as good as youll get from this clan. In a lengthy report, Katherine Seelye examines the claim that sexism played a role in the way the Democratic campaign was covered. On the merits, Seelyes piece has some flaws; wed say its roughly a C-minus effort. But if you were grading it on a curve, youd almost have to give at an A, so thoroughly do these players cover up for their own colleagues work.
(On todays Morning Joe, Gail Collins was tut-tutting and deflecting, along with the truly egregious Mika Brzezinski and the ludicrous man of deflections, Mike Barnicle. There are two words weve never used in our life; this morning, Brzezinski made us wish we could use them. I think its worth talking about whats fair commentary and whats not, Collins magisterially allowed as her ludicrous segment ended. Meanwhile: You cant say anything in this country any more without offending somebody, Barnicle said, offering variants all through the program. Instantly, Collins said this about Seelyes report: Youll note that in the article, most of the people who are mentioned are visiting commentators. Were not sure if thats accuratebut this was her obvious way of helping rhymes-with-rich avoid discussing players like Matthews and Tucker Carlson. Theres simply nothing these people wont do to cover for the rest of the clan. By the way: Collins is the mainstream press corps version of a feminist.)
In Seelyes favor, she names the names of many real journalistsand her editor includes mug shots of the twins, Matthews and Olbermann. Beyond that, she gives prominence to Katie Courics statement of lifes basic realities. But there are down-sides to Seelyes performance too. She never mentions her own papers Maureen Dowd, one of the press corps most disturbed gender-trashers. And an accompanying sampler of sexist remarks begins in November 2007. Matthews had been gender-trashing Candidate Clinton for roughly a year at that point.
Several players come off quite poorly in Seelyes piece. Lets start with a gruesome rube-runnerperhaps the most egregious propagandist weve ever seen on TV:
SEELYE (6/13/08): [M]any in the news media say that sexist episodes had little effect on the outcome of the primaries. Instead, they said, Mrs. Clintons problem was a flawed campaign.
Keith Olbermann, the host of Countdown on MSNBC, said that while there were individual, sexist, mistakes, there was no overall sexism.
Any suggestion that MSNBC was somehow out to get Senator Clinton is false and unfair, Mr. Olbermann wrote in an e-mail message. We became a whipping boy.
He said that after Feb. 5, when Mrs. Clinton went on a losing streak, her campaign strategy was to blame the news media, which he said was its only fuel.
Still, he said, there was constant reflection and analysis at MSNBC, and I must say there was constant good faith in trying to make certain Senator Clinton was not treated unfairly.
Good God! The mans an utter embarrassment. Sidebar: Once MSNBC came under attack for its relentless gender-trashing, Keith-O dropped the nightly segment in which he mocked young Hollywood women. How long will it be until this great man returns to this pleasure? We have no earthly idea, of course. But how long must young male viewers suffer?
Howard Dean comes off quite poorly too. Truly, this is pathetic:
SEELYE: Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, who says he was slow to pick up on charges of sexism because he is not a regular viewer of cable television, is taking up the cause after hearing an outcry from what he described as a cross-section of women, from individual voters to powerful politicians and chief executives.
The media took a very sexist approach to Senator Clintons campaign, Mr. Dean said in a recent interview.
Its pretty appalling, he said, adding that the issue resonates because Mrs. Clinton got treated the way a lot of women got treated their whole lives.
Mr. Dean and others are now calling for a national discussion of sexism.
Truly, thats pathetic. For the past sixteen years, journalists could say any damn thing they pleased about major Democratsespecially Clinton, Gore and Clintonsafe in the knowledge that Dem Party figures would never care enough to complain. Now we learn why this long roll-over occurred: Party leaders like Howard Dean werent regular viewers of cable! How were they supposed to know about the vile things being said? None of us are geniuses out here, but that explanation is even insulting to us. Dean would have been much better off if hed simply said nothing.
Hes calling for a discussion now! Just in time for it not to matter!
But then, you could say much the same thing about orgs like NOW and Emilys List, who come off in Seelyes piece like offspring of Rip Van Winkle. Could these people be more clueless if their lives were at stake?
SEELYE: Both the National Organization for Women and Emilys List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights, are generating e-mail campaigns to the cable channels when they see sexism. The networks have usually issued on-air apologies.
Were certainly not going to take this lying down, said Ellen Malcolm, the president of Emilys List. She said her hope was for a national discussion to focus on what is fair in the new political world of Internet, cable and traditional news coverage.
NOW is starting a campaign to highlight its Media Hall of Shame, an online project in which it points to examples of sexist language.
NOWs president, Kim Gandy, said her members would remain alert: Were going to keep watching because we think Michelle Obama will be the recipient of the same kind of attacks that Hillary was.
NOW is starting a campaign! Just in time! Seventeen months later! And by the way, could Gandy possibly have less of a clue? Almost surely, Michelle Obama will not be the recipient of the same kind of attacks that Hillary wasat least, not from the media players named in this article. (Good!) The fact that Gandy doesnt understand this fact means that shes been snoring soundly for the past many years.
Or that shes playing it dumb.
And then, the Greenfields will always be with us. Theres no way to know if Seelye has quoted him fairly. But after watching Collins play the fool, well assume that she has:
SEELYE: Jeff Greenfield, a political correspondent for CBS News, said that charges of sexism often came through a political prism. Throughout this campaign, peoples perception of the press has been in line with what they wanted to happen politically, Mr. Greenfield said. If my person lost, the press did a bad job.
We involuntarily splay our legs every time a hack like that makes such a wh*rish comment. (Partisans have been imagining this!) It may be that Greenfield was quoted unfairly. But millionaire hacks have carried this water for the clan ever since this discussion began.
Its as weve noted for the past ten yearstheyre experts at playing it dumb. Indeed, here was Collins, in her mandatory column on this subject, a column she published last weekend:
COLLINS (6/7/08): I get asked all the time whether I think Hillary lost because sexism is worse than racism in this country. The answer is no. She lost because Obama ran a smarter, better-organized campaign. Its possible that she would have won if the Democratic Party had more rational primary rules. But Obama didnt make up the rules, and Clinton had no problem with them until she began to lose.
Heres where the sexism does come in. If Barack had failed in his attempt to make history by becoming the first African-American presidential nominee, you can bet wed have treated his defeat with the dignity it deserved. Even if he went over the deep end at the finale and found it hard to get around to a graceful concession.
Did Clinton lose because of the press corps gender-trashing? Theres no real way to answer that questionand, therefore, its a great way to confuse discussions about the general subject. (See our first quote from Seelye, above. Many in the news media took this approach, Seelye said. Indeed, they love to muddy the waters by dragging this larger point in.) And by the way: The sexism didnt come in when Clinton failed in her attempt to make history. On the part of people like Matthews, the overt gender-trashing came in long ago, as soon as Clinton started her run. It then persisted for a year and a half, as Gail Collins shut her trap, saying nothing.
By the way, Collins left something out of her column. Her utterly absent-minded omission sums up all weve said:
In Collins column, we learn that the nations wounded feminists are troubled by the treatment of Clinton. We learn that Clintons supporters feel she has not been respected. They feel that she has taken a beatinga battering, abuse and insults, were told. At one point, Collins herself even seems to call Clintons campaign a battle against prejudice.
But go ahead! Read through Collins entire column! See if you find a single word explaining who has dished this abuse! If there a battle was waged against prejudice, just whose prejudice was involved? Candidate Clinton took a beating? From whom did that beating come?
Omigod! There isnt a single word in this whole f*cking column explaining who engaged in this conduct! Matthews, Carlson and Dowd? Never mentioned! But then, Collins never gets around to mentioning the press corps at all! Go aheadread the whole column! Look for a single reference.
Who slimed Clinton? Collins wont tell! The lady is covering up for the clan, as she and her colleagues have done for so long. Indeed, theyve played this game for the past sixteen yearsand career liberal pool boys refuse to tattle. Kevin and Josh, good housebroken lads, will explain the whole scam in their memoirs.
KILLING THE PIG/PENN: In our view, pundit discussions of campaign advisers are almost always pointless. (That may be why the mainstream press corps enjoys such discussions so much.) Well offer you a very small tipwhile campaign advisers may offer advice, the candidate decides whether to take it. In Campaign 2000, did advisers warn Gore (perhaps sensibly) not to stress global warming too much? We have no idea. But to the extent that they gave such advice, it would have been Gore who decided.
Will someone please explain this point to adviser-obsessed Joseph Klein?
That brings us up to the present. Yesterday, GQs Lisa DePaulo presented a long, intriguing interview with Clinton adviser Mark Penn. In the course of the detailed session, Penn made a fairly obvious point. The basic structure of the campaigna structure which he thought worked poorlywas the choice of Candidate Clinton. This critique takes form during three sets of Q-and-As. Here are the second and third sets:
Can we go back to the campaign organization for a minute? What would you have changed specifically?
If I were to do things differently, it would be that the organizational and message teams would have been together, in tandem. And in this campaign, that wasnt the case.
So were you not controlling the message?
I was head of a team of message people, but not of the political organization, the resource allocation. If I did something wrong, it was not having reset the organization in a way that could be functional, to deal with some of the problems that later occurred. And I would have had to sayand I came very close to this a number of timesthat this organization, you know, doesnt work.
Did your lack of allies hurt you?
Well, you know, obviously in [the 1996 Bill Clinton campaign], I had a team of allies. We had a wonderful functioning team that made decisions in minutes. This was not I didnt have that kind of team.
But whose decision was it to not let you have your team?
Ultimately, I think this was set up in a way that Hillary wanted to set it up.
I think she believed that diffusing things was a better way.
Do you mean diffusing power?
Yeah, diffusing authority. Letting experts in, in different areas. You know, thats why political was Harold Ickes, and you know, Patti was the manager, and Mandy was media. Im just saying that this was set up as a diffuse organization. And I think, look, again, when you look at it under Maybe a theory that this kind of creative tension would produce better advice
Theres more detail in the interview. But Penn offered a variant of an obvious point. In campaigns, advisers advise. Candidates make the decisions.
Penns interview is lengthy and detailed. He makes a wide array of claims about the way the campaign was run; about the way it was covered by the press; and about his own performance. He specifically says that some familiar, near-iconic claims about the campaign are simply bogus. But to the shrieking harpies of the mainstream press corps, under the leadership of Michelle Cottle, this interview can mean only one thingit can only provide the latest chance to further their preferred narratives. Hence, Cottle starts her post about the interview with a pander to her colleague, DePaulo. Then, she offers the kind of analysis which defines such defectives work:
COTTLE (6/12/08): GQ star Lisa DePaulo has a postmorten Q&A out today with the much-maligned Mark Penn. Couple of things struck me:
Most notably, the entire exchange comes across as remarkably self-justifying and self-aggrandizing, even for the genreand even for Penn. For all the words spoken and ground covered, Penn's analysis still boils down to: It wasn't my fault. And if all you idiots had let me run things my way, we wouldn't be in this mess.
Case in point: When pressed about his biggest regret, Penn whines that he didn't have a crack team like he had in 1996. "I wish in reality that I had a team of people, you know, who was with me, that I organized, as I had in '96." (Now, some might point out that the '96 team and strategy were principally put together by evil genius Dick Morris, who didn't get ousted for his toe-sucking tendencies until a couple of months before the fall election. But why nitpick?) More specifically, Penn lays the blame for the campaign's failure at the feet of both Patti Solis Doyle and Harold Ickes, primarily for their mishandling of money.
For starters, is her first claim true? Does Penns entire exchange comes across as remarkably self-justifying and self-aggrandizing? It didnt strike us that way; at one point, Penn is quite clear about something he bungled majorly (his failure to step down from his role as CEO of Burson-Marsteller). But its typical of people like Cottle to start with a sweeping subjective assertionone which perfectly follows the outlines of previous analyses. And please note the way she continues: In her third paragraph, she is instantly wasting everyones time with irrelevant nitpicking about ancient toe-sucking. And uh-oh! When she identifies a second claim by Pennhis claim about the handling of moneyshe goes on to trash him for saying such a thing, without remembering to let us know if his claim is right or wrong. Here is the rest of her post, an exercise in pointless name-calling
COTTLE (continuing directly): This is not a new self-defense tactic by Pennwhich is also what struck me about the piece. In a perhaps understandably sympathetic intro, DePaulo notes that, despite all the beatings he took during this race, "Penn never once defended himself, even as the Blame Penn chorus grew louder.
Um. Unless you count that period in early March, not long after Patti Solis Doyle was kicked to the curb, when Penn, nervous about growing grumbling concerning his own performance, ran around throwing Solis Doyle, Mike Henry, and Ickes under the proverbial busa display of such rank ass-covering, incidentally, that it finished shredding the campaign's once united front as outraged colleagues rushed to the defense of those maligned by Penn. (Again, can't insert link to classic LAT piece. Apologies.) Mark Penn has been many things in this race, selflessly stoic is not one of them. The man has yet to meet a piece of blame he couldn't hurl in someone else's direction.
That said, I highly recommend giving the piece a read, if for no other reason than to confirm all of your preexisting biases about what a spectacular egomaniac Penn is.
As youll note, Cottle spends much of paragraphs 4 and 5 criticizing something DePaulo has said. Then, she uses her closing paragraph to name-call Penn again. Meanwhile, something completely slips her mind. She forgets to tell us if Penns critique of the money management is actually correct. (She thereby takes the side of the anonymous sources who have been crying to her for the past several months.) She also forgets to evaluate Penns critique of the campaigns larger organization.
She doesnt say if Penns claims are right; she just name-calls Penn for making them. In fact, Penn says a great many things in this long interview. Are his claims right or wrong? Life-forms like Cottle dont stoop to that level. Instead, they name-call the people they hateand they pimp for their poor dearest darlings.
Meanwhile, the boys and girls of the career liberal world know they must fall in line for this claptrap. In this post about the interview, Kevin Drum sits at the childrens table; although its clear that he actually thinks the interview had a good deal of meat, he obediently starts his piece with a complaint about Penns obsessive self-defense. As for Noam Schieber, what can you say? His twin posts about this piece are almost purely fatuous. More on that below.
And of course, everyone knows they must avoid That One Unacceptable Topic. In Scheibers What Penn Got Wrong post, the youngster offers a low-wattage critique (which he soon had to supplement) concerning Penns comments about the campaigns failure, starting in late October. Let us hand you a tiny, small hint about what is omitted here:
First: Typically, big players like Penn dont tell the truth when asked about the press corps. (They need the press for future ventures, as do their clients. For obvious historical reasons, this is especially true of Big Dems.) That said, Penn is much more frank about the press in this interview than is the norm for his party; Cottle, Drum and Scheiber all absent-mindedly forget to cite this part of his discussion. But what actually happened in late October, the part of the campaign on which Scheiber lazers? Duh. In one long section, Pernn correctly describes this period as the campaigns turning-point. He describes the way Obama began to attack. He describes the press corps reaction:
What happened in October? How was that the turning point?
Well, October of 07 we were forty points ahead. What happened in October, or really the beginning of November, was that Barack Obama personally attacked Hillary Clinton. Called her disingenuous. They attacked her in the debate on the drivers licenses.
Ah, the driver s licenses.
Right. And until then, basically, people were declaring the race over. The message strategy had been so successful that everybody was declaring it over. And they got so frustrated that what the Obama camp did was that they restrategized. And they concluded, obviously, the only thing they could do was attack her personally. It took us a while to kind of throw off those basic attacks. And I think that it was a tough organization to respond to that. You know, the response to a lot of those attacks became Lets do the soft, personal stuff. And that didnt work.
Go back to the licenses.
What happened was, Obama announced the day before [the debate] that he was gonna go after her personally. Called her disingenuous in The New York Times. Now, at that moment, and up until that moment, you know, we had won the experience primary; we won the new-ideas primary. A lot of the leads that we would rely upon in the big states were already built up. He was fading in the national polls, and he said, Look, the strategy here isnt working. Ive gotta do something different. And Obama did. He attacked her. And a lot of the press egged him on.
But he should have. You would have, right?
I would have, yeah! But So that attack, on the drivers licenses, was then played an absurd number of times by the media.
And you didnt come back fast enough.
Well, we didnt come back. We came back in the next debate, two weeks later.
Thats a long time. She was strong. She pushed back. He got asked the very same question on drivers licenses. He hesitatedhe had to be asked, I think, two or three times by Wolf Blitzerand then we thought, Okay, were back. Weve done it. Weve shown that she can parry it back effectively and that he couldnt answer this drivers-license question either. And you know what the media did with it? Nothing. The media played it not at all.
Penn is correct about all that. And hes correct in identifying that period as the campaigns (first) turning-point.
Weve explained this obvious history before. Lets run through it again:
In the weeks before that 10/30 debate, major journos (especially Matthews) began begging Obama to attack Clinton. Time was running out, they implored. In the New York Times interview cited by Penn, Obama said he would do it.
At the actual debate, Obama shrank back from the promised attack. But Russert and Williams pounded Clinton hard, throughout the entire two hours. Lets say it again: Moderators have never targeted a candidate in anything resembling that manner, in any presidential debateever. Their conduct that night was outrageousand wholly without any precedent.
Late in the debate, Clinton gave a slightly jumbled answer about an (irrelevant) drivers license issue. For the next week or so, the pundits corps behaved as if theyd caught her robbing a bankand shooting several tellers in the process.
Two weeks later, in a truly odd moment, Obama gave an amazingly similar answer to the same drivers license question (as Penn notes). And the pundit corps completely ignored it, just as Penn says. How irrelevant was this issue, really? How fake was their initial swarm against Clinton? The pundit corps spent several week insisting that Clinton couldnt get elected with such a ridiculous stance. When Obama adopted the very same stance, they didnt say boo about it. They havent said boo to this very day, much as Penn describes.
The swarm against Clinton was utterly fake. And as everyone except Lord Scheiber knows, thats when the campaign began changing. Thats what happened in October when the campaign began breaking down.
In short, it was at this pointon October 30when the press corps began targeting Clinton actively. (We have no idea why they waited so long. They waited about ten minutes with Gore.) From that point forward, the assault was on. The campaigns second turning-point occurred near the turn of the year, when the press corps began pimping the claim that the Clintons were slobbering racists. Did pundits believe that? We have no idea. Cohen and Kinsley recently said that pundits didnt believe what they said about RFK. And John Judis said that a much larger calculation was in place with the press by this time.
Penn discusses some of this in his interviewpulling some punches, as big players do. (You know, Im not gonna blame the press, he says. Democrats always say that.) And then, the interview passes to career liberals, like the three weve already mentioned. Cottle, of course, is Quinn-in-waiting, a reliable fount of class-acceptable blather and nonsense. Kevin and Noam are well-behaved boys. Theyre sitting at the childrens table, politely eating their Thanksgiving turkeys. Someday, theyll get to the adult tableas long as they arent tattle-tales.
We now return you to Cottle. Youll find her calling Penn naughty namesand refusing to let you know if his various statements are accurate. For Scheiber, heres a shorter explanation of Penns remarks: The Clinton campaign was performing flawlesslyuntil your cohort piled on.
COULDNT BE MORE ACCURATE: On Monday, well show you the very naughtiest part of Penns inexcusable book, Microtrends. In the meantime, this couldnt be much more accurate:
When you talk about the media and the treatment of her, you know, part of itin the beginning of the campaign, back when it seemed like she was the inevitable nomineeshe was really distant from the press. Dont you think that had something to do with the fact that the press fell in love with Obama?
Well no. [laughs] The press fell in love with him, period.
The press always falls in love with the new cool intellectual candidate. You know, he is their kind of candidate. Go back through history. They didnt like Al Gore. They loved Gary Hart. They love those kinds of candidates, always have.
That couldnt be much more accurate. In the press corps novelization, Obama/Clinton was a virtual copy of Bradley/Gore. (Wed assume that Obamas campaign studied Bradleysknowing they had a much more attractive candidate, of course.) This is a very lazy group. They dont like inventing new novels.