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THE FIVE PERCENT CONFESSION! Five percent of white voters confessed. No, they won’t vote for Obama: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2008

JOSH GREEN’S BIG NOTHING-BURGER: We don’t know when we’ve been more underwhelmed than we were when upon reading Josh Green’s latest snore-bore. The piece, of course, had been massively ballyhooed. But good lord! What a prime nothing-burger.

We may go into more detail next week; there’s a great deal of nothingness there to discuss. In the meantime, be warned about this:

On Sunday, Politico’s Mike Allen posted this murky overview of Green’s forthcoming piece. Green’s piece hadn’t yet appeared—and surely, everyone knows how gruesome Allen’s work is. But so what? On the basis of Allen’s murky account of a piece they hadn’t yet seen, many of our brightest liberals swung into furious action. They clucked in fully predictable ways—about a report they hadn’t yet seen. Let’s repeat the basic point: Our brightest liberals leaped into print on the basis of work by Mike Allen!

Allen seems like a nice enough guy, but everyone knows what a fly-weight he is. (His recent interview with President Bush was widely described as one of history’s most embarrassing fawn-jobs.) And now we know the truth about that oddly murky report he posted. His report was basically wrong, from its headline on down. But then, why should that be surprising?

Warnings:

Allen’s headline is basically wrong. So is the claim in his opening paragraph—the claim with which he leads his piece. And he seems to work fairly hard in this piece to keep you from knowing a basic fact—he’s quoting a memo from early 2007 in that opening paragraph. If you’re even dimly alert, you can imagine a motive for that—though it may have been simple ineptitude. But at any rate, Allen omits the date of that memo—and he omits some basic buzz-kill from the memo itself.

Did scripted Democrat ogre Mark Penn “tell Clinton to portray Obama as foreign?” (We’re working from the Politico headline.) Here’s the leading buzz-kill in the memo in question—a memo which appeared roughly a year before anyone thought Clinton began playing rough:

PENN MEMO (3/19/07): We are never going to say anything about his background.

Oops! In that memo (whose date disappeared), Penn told Clinton that she shouldn’t discuss Obama’s background! And this is one of the two worst memos Allen could find in Green piece! But children of the liberal world have always enjoyed their silly-bill stories. In this case, a hack named Allen omitted such buzz-kills—items which might kill our party.

Truly, our side is run by children; it’s one of the major reasons we lose. When Allen spoke, the children squealed. There are many things to observe about the snore-some piece Josh Green has produced. But people! Even Mike Allen can drive our discussions! Is there anyone our side won’t channel if he says things which leave us well-pleased?

Something worth discussing: Last night, on Countdown, former Edwards aide Chris Kofinis hit on something Dems should discuss about Green’s snore-bore snark-job:

KOFINIS (8/13/08): The part that, I think, troubles me the most is not simply the question of shake-ups—it’s the leaking. In particular, that—when you saw during, you know, during the Clinton campaign, you know, it seemed like some of their advisors were willing to fight out every single battle on the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post.

It just makes you wonder what it would have been like had they won the White House. It would have been, I think, a terrible thing. They did a great disservice to Senator Clinton, choosing to fight her battles not internally but externally. That’s the unfortunate thing but that’s how it works sometimes in campaigns.

This has been a gigantic problem for Dems—and of course, we never discuss it. These self-dealers did the same thing to Candidate Gore. In the process, they “did a great disservice” to the nation—to the world. (If it makes you happy, Mark Penn—fired by Gore in the fall of 1999—seemed to be involved in much of the backbiting aimed at that Dem candidate.)

Except for the rare bird like Kofinis, our side doesn’t notice or care.

One example: We were told, long ago, by a journo who would know, that it was Gore campaign staffers, not the RNC, who first sent around the “dirty parts” of Naomi Wolf’s books, thus fueling the month-flap about Wolf—a flap which did gigantic damage to Gore. (Happy with the outcome?) They did this as part of an internal turf war, we were told. They wanted to diminish Wolf’s role within the campaign, thereby raising their own.

You see those self-dealers on TV—and they behaved the same way this time. They continue to do so, funneling private memos to Green, embarrassing Clinton and creating stories that can only do harm to Obama. “They did a great disservice to Clinton,” Kofinis said. That barely begins to touch it. And, except for the rare bird like Kofinis, no one on our side will say this.

We would rather tell children’s tales—tales we get from losers like Allen and Green. Our liberal world is very soft. Our team is very soft-headed.

The color of Green: As late as 2004, Green was still beginning reports with throw-aways about what a dissembler Gore was (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/04). In particular, he was still aggressively defending the claim that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. People like this have their ears to the ground—and they have their lips locked around approved narratives. This same process plays in his new nothing-burger. These people are adjuncts to the mainstream press—the press corps we all claim to despise. Get a clue, people! When you channel the work of fellows like Green, you’re riding with Cokie Roberts.

Special report: Race and the race!

PART 2—THE 5 PERCENT CONFESSION: Will Obama win in the fall? We don’t know. But Peter Beinart’s piece in this morning’s Post helps show you why Dems struggle so.

Beinart is all fired up today concerning the subject of race. And omigod! The fiery fellow even tackles the press corps, right in his opening paragraph! Conduct like this is unheard of:

BEINART (8/13/08): Barack Obama has a problem. He really, really doesn't want this campaign to be about race. He wants it to be about change, President Bush, the economy, gas prices, Iraq, Afghanistan—almost anything else. But it is going to be about race, at least in part. That's the lesson of recent weeks, when the McCain campaign brought up race (on the pretext that Obama had brought it up first). The Obama campaign tried desperately to change the subject but couldn't. Once the chum was in the water, the media sharks went wild.

Which “media sharks” does Beinart mean? He wanted to say, but he didn’t have time! But surprisingly, the fiery fellow bats the press corps around at several other points in his column. Every time Republicans “light the match” of race, “the press will create a forest fire,” he predicts. Later, he goes there for the third time: “Obama can't make race go away by ignoring it, especially because the GOP and the media won't.”

Let’s face it: We’ve lived to see a very new day when Peter Beinart appears in the Post smacking the press corps around.

Beinart, you see, is the long-time editor of The New Republic—a “liberal journal” which stared into air during his tenure as Dem hopefuls got devoured by the press. By the mainstream press, that is; more particularly, by the very same Washington Post for which the fiery scribe now types. (Did silence help get him hired?) Starting in March 1999, for example, this same Washington Post waged an astonishing war against a Dem named Candidate Gore. Beinart became TNR’s editor late that year—and kept his lips shut about this war for the rest of that fateful campaign. Go ahead. Just try to find Ceci Connolly’s name in that fiery liberal journal. Across the pond, they discussed her Gore-trashing work. (The Financial Times: Connolly was “hostile to the campaign, doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate.”). Not a word in TNR!

The wages of silence are sometimes advancement. On Sunday, Michelle Cottle (TNR) wrote a predictably snore-some op-ed piece in the New York Times. Today, Beinart (TNR) presents his monthly piece in the Washington Post. Just a guess: In part, they reached these stations thanks to their silence—about that war on Gore, for example. Sure, we got Iraq as part of the deal. But two “career libs” won their wings!

So forgive us for rolling our eyes a bit as Beinart assails that vile press corps. In fact, three of our analysts choked on their bagels while reading his second paragraph:

BEINART (continuing directly): Obama should take that as a warning. Race will be central to this campaign because McCain needs it to be. He simply doesn't have many other cards to play. And it will be central because every time Republicans light the match, the press will create a forest fire. Race is just too titillating to ignore. The history of post-Vietnam presidential elections is littered with Democratic nominees who thought they could run on policy and ignore symbolism. This year, the symbolism will be largely racial. Obama can't avoid that. He needs to control the race debate instead.

Gore and Kerry were two of those Dems—and Beinart largely stared into air as the pair got hammered. Quite clearly, the press corps was “creating a forest fire” in 1999 and 2000—and the editor kept his lips tightly shut. Today, Beinart arrives at the scene a bit late, while offering a solution for Obama. Before we scan his rescue plan—which he may have spent five minutes devising—let’s scan his view of Obama’s problem. Almost surely, this problem is real—though something else needs to be said:

BEINART (continuing directly): Already, there is reason to believe that race is weighing Obama down. A survey this year by CBS and the New York Times found that 94 percent of respondents would vote for a black presidential candidate. But when asked if "most people" would, the number dropped to 71 percent. Notre Dame political scientist David Leege estimates that 17 to 19 percent of white Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents will resist voting for Obama because he is black. That's far more than the percentage of Republicans who may vote for Obama because he is black. And it's a major reason that this election—despite Obama's myriad advantages—remains close.

“Estimates” by “political scientists” aren’t always worth the pixels they use—and we aren’t quite sure what Beinart means when he suggests that 17 percent of white Dems will “resist” voting for Obama. But it seems fairly clear that Barack Obama will lose some votes because of his race. Before we discuss Charles Blow’s attempt to estimate how many votes that might be, let’s consider the closing part of that graf by Beinart.

Why isn’t Obama farther ahead in the polls? Why does this election “remain close?” We’ll take a guess: To some extent, Obama isn’t farther ahead because his opponent, John McCain, has received a dozen years of fawning publicity from the mainstream press corps—fawning publicity Beinart’s journal has rarely done much to address. Mainstream journalists—at the Post, for example—have made fools of themselves through the year, gasping at the sanctified solon’s many unmatchable virtues. A progressive outlet would have challenged this clowning—but such push-back might keep young journalists from sinecures at the big news orgs which helped make McCain such a saint. Could that be what held Beinart back? Needless to say, we have no idea. But in the last sentence of that paragraph, Beinart almost suggests that some other Dem might be farther ahead at this point. We know of no reason to think that is so, and we think we should all ponder why.

According to Beinart, race is “a major reason that this election...remains close.” That may well be true. But would Hillary Clinton be farther ahead if she were the presumptive nominee? We know of no reason to think so. Would John Edwards have been farther ahead, even without his sexual affair? If Al Gore had gotten into the race (as some libs pleaded), would he be farther ahead at this point? We doubt that—because, as everyone knows, there has been something massively wrong with every Big Dem (except, perhaps, Obama) over the past dozen years. Hillary Clinton was and is evil; Al Gore was a fake and a liar; Edwards was the Breck Girl. The same press corps which Beinart scolds pushed all these narratives down through the years—even as they broke their backs making saints of McCain and Giuliani. (His middle name was “America’s Mayor.”) The New Republic sat and stared—and Beinart appears today in the Post. Race may well be hurting Obama. But trust us, it has always been somethin’. And TNR rarely complained.

This morning, Beinart has a rescue plan for Obama—an action plan on which he has lavished perhaps five minutes of thought. The plan puts Beinart on “the right side” of everything, as insiders measure such things: He’s against racism, and against racial preferences, and he isn’t required to name the media players who are creating that storm about race. Would his action plan help Obama? Does his action plan make sense? We have no huge view on either question, partly because his plan is so vague. Which “race-based preferences” should Obama replace? Most such preferences aren’t under the control of the president—and some of these preferences make decent sense. Beinart gets on the right side of everything—but he doesn’t waste time on the details.

So let’s put Beinart’s plan to the side and return to the problem he describes. Could Obama lose this election because some white voters reject his “race?” Charles Blow discussed the same possibility in Saturday’s New York Times. Yes, he bungled that elementary statistic (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/08). But these were the basic data he cited from the most recent Times/CBS survey:

BLOW (8/9/08): According to a July New York Times/CBS News poll, when whites were asked whether they would be willing to vote for a black candidate, 5 percent confessed that they would not. That’s not so bad, right? But wait. The pollsters then rephrased the question to get a more accurate portrait of the sentiment. They asked the same whites if most of the people they knew would vote for a black candidate. Nineteen percent said that those they knew would not. Depending on how many people they know and how well they know them, this universe of voters could be substantial. That’s bad.

Welcome to the murky world of modern racism, where most of the open animus has been replaced by a shadowy bias that is difficult to measure.

Good for Blow, for noting the fact that matters like this are “difficult to measure.” How many votes might Obama lose because some whites won’t be “willing to vote for a black candidate?” In the poll, a five percent confession occurred; five percent of white voters said they wouldn’t vote for a black candidate. (Uh-oh! Six percent of black voters told the Times the same thing!) But if those five percent are all Republican voters, Obama wouldn’t be losing their votes. As Blow says, this world’s somewhat murky.

Beinart has done his good deed for the month. Luckily, he didn’t speak on behalf of Gore—so we get to enjoy his brilliance today! But Blow explored a murky world—a “shadowy bias” that’s hard to measure. As he limned the Times polling data, how well did he fight through the haze?

TOMORROW—PART 3: The 19 percent accusation.

Yes, that’s what they said: Yes, that’s what the poll reported. Six percent of black respondents said they wouldn’t vote for a black candidate. We have to guess about what that means, for reasons we’ll discuss on the morrow.

To peruse the Times poll, just click here. For that question, see page 27.