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KORNBLUT’S MEAT! Clinton is “the other white meat,” smarmy Anne Kornblut now says: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2007

ALL RIGHT, WE WERE WRONG: Before we offer serial apologies, let’s examine a letter in this morning’s Post. This letter—about the past two White House campaigns—defines an ongoing problem:
LETTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (8/16/07): In his Aug. 14 op-ed, a love letter to Karl Rove, Grover G. Norquist whitewashed the "dirty tricks" Mr. Rove used in the 2000 Republican primary campaign and the 2004 presidential campaign to get his candidate elected.

In both campaigns, Mr. Rove used the output of his own "527" groups and other forms of misinformation to assassinate the characters of Sens. John McCain and John F. Kerry.

There is no doubt that Mr. Rove is a political genius. How else could you explain the electorate believing that a man who safely sat out the Vietnam War was stronger on defense than two veterans of the same war, one of whom spent years in a prisoner-of-war camp and the other a volunteer who received commendations for bravery in battle?

[...]

M— L—
Gaithersburg
From a certain “liberal” perspective, that letter is technically accurate—though we wouldn’t make its claims ourselves. (For example, were Rove and Bush involved in the South Carolina sliming of McCain? Some journos said this, and we don’t doubt it—but no one has ever shown it.) But what is most striking about that letter? To appearances, ML believes that two candidates had their character assassinated in the past two White House campaigns—and neither one of the two is Al Gore! This illustrates the way we liberals and Dems have failed to help voters understand the current facts of political life.

That in mind, let’s get ourselves started on a long chain of apologies.

First, an e-mailer suggested that Tuesday’s post was unfair to Digby. Let’s be clear: We thought the Digster’s focus was slightly skewed in her recent post about Chris Matthews and Erin Burnett. But we didn’t mean to suggest that Digby has failed to address Matthews’ long chain of gender-based insults against Hillary Clinton. In our view, the liberal web was quite permissive when Matthews was directing these insults and jibes at Clinton. (He has toned it down in recent months.) But we didn’t have Digby in mind when we said that, and we wouldn’t you to think that we did.

Even more stupid was yesterday’s post about surprise, one-day HOWLER bete noir Matt Yglesias. An e-mailer suggested that we had misread his meaning and for all we know, that may be the case. As a general matter, there has been a serious problem with career liberal writers who refuse to deal with the problem Matt identified—with the pernicious effects of the stupid “pseudo-issues” which Matt said are now deciding our elections. But it was especially stupid to put this on Matt, although the text of his post was somewhat unfortunate. It’s easier to assess the motives of groups rather than the motives of specific individuals. We haven’t studied Matt’s work in this area, and, of course, we have no idea what is happening in his fruitful brain.

One brief word of self-defense, which takes us back to that letter.

If we don’t want to see such intemperate posts, we have to stop talking about spending our time in ways we find appealing when our analysts are around. Poor analysts! They’ve spent more than nine years on earth tones and haircuts—on the most inane pseudo-issues the human mind knows how to create. And no—they haven’t spent their time on these topics because they find them interesting or appealing. Omigod! Each night last week, the youngsters snuck off for an hour to a Barnes and Noble; with the AC cranked, they worked with David Bodanis’ Einstein-made-easy book, a tome they revisit every few years. In some ways, it’s the clearest of the Einstein-made-easies—but then again, that’s not saying much. We’re fascinated by the fact that these writers can’t explain this science—and we’re even more fascinated by the fact that they don’t seem to know it. Of course, reviewers are always ready to type reviews which say things like this (by Parade, from Bodanis’ web site):
Even people who approach physics and mathematics with trepidation will be fascinated and enlightened by this dazzling book....This is a clearly written, astonishingly understandable book that celebrates human achievement.
Astonishingly understandable! Completing the hat trick, we’re slightly intrigued by the endless reviewers who may even believe such a thing.

At least Bodanis is trying to explain history’s most advanced and challenging science. By contrast, our political reporters are trying to explain why John Kerry got Swiss on his cheese-steak and why Al Gore wore those three-button suits. Their sheer stupidity is stunning too; it may be as startling as Einstein’s genius. But uh-oh! Our analysts began to bounce off walls when they read Matt’s words about spending his time in ways he finds appealing. We can’t blame them (or Matt, God knows); for nine years, they’ve returned to the drudgery of John Edwards’ haircuts because, to quote Matt’s accurate words, “the issues (or, more likely, pseudo-issues) that are most important in deciding elections tend to be the issues that are least important in substantive terms.”

That statement by Matt was right on the mark. Ditto Atrios, seeming to say (on Monday) that the press corps’ misconduct in Campaign 2000 ended up dooming us to Iraq. But then we look to letter-writer ML—and he doesn’t seem to have heard about this. Yes, the issues involved here are mindless. But omigod! These mindless issues decide our elections. And so many of us have failed to say this that writer ML hasn’t heard.

Final note: The human mind longs for conventional wisdom. ML expresses the standard journalistic view of the past seven years—McCain and maybe Kerry got slimed. It easier, by far, to keep saying this. It’s easier—and it leads to new wars. Do you really want to take your chance with a President Giuliani?

KORNBLUT’S MEAT: We’ve been puzzling about it all week. How to deal with Anne Kornblut’s strange “Outlook” piece—with this odd report from Sunday’s Post, which attempts to imagine what Campaign 08 will be “about?” We’ve been asking ourselves a question all week: Is this piece really as incoherent—as intellectually immature—as we thought the first time we read it? And then, there’s that groaning opening paragraph, to which Atrios—link above—has already briskly replied.

We finally decided to wait till Friday, when we’d tackle her report all at once. But today, the nasty Post scribe offers this grim report. We thought that we’d better get started.

Kornblut reports from darkest Iowa, where she observes Giuliani and Clinton as they visit the Hawkeye state fair. As often happens when this scribe reports, the incoherence seems to be everywhere. “Clinton was mobbed for the entire visit,” she says, fairly late in her piece. But earlier on, the puzzling scribe has offered this assertion:
KORNBLUT (8/16/07): Giuliani came with less of an entourage [than Clinton] but attracted slightly more attention from passersby.
We’re always amazed when scribes can tell us who got “slightly” more attention. But can anyone parse the logic here? If Clinton was “mobbed for the entire visit,” how did Giuliani get more attention? It’s hard to guess, but puzzles like this drive a good deal of Kornblut’s output. Let’s look at her fuller passage for another example:
KORNBLUT: Several hours later, Giuliani came with less of an entourage but attracted slightly more attention from passersby. Unlike Clinton, who gave her set stump speech and did not invite questions, the former mayor actively sought to engage, talking to a gathered crowd for only a few minutes before soliciting questions and stopping to talk at length with any reporter who asked.
Unlike Clinton, Giuliani “actively sought to engage.” This passage extends the invidious comparisons which drive a fair amount of this piece—Rudy tried to engage, Hill didn’t. Funny, though—a few grafs later, Kornblut is telling us this:
KORNBLUT: Clinton steered further from substance, her goal, even more than Giuliani, to show her human side. Women in particular flocked to meet her. Jeanne Rutz, 80, said she was proud to stand in the sweltering heat to meet the woman who would become the first female president. "Is there anyone else?" she asked.

Not all were so pleased to see Clinton, whose husband never campaigned in Iowa and who remains divisive as a political figure in her own right.

Christie Vilsack, who with her husband, Tom, the former Iowa governor, was part of the Clinton entourage, spent much of the more than two-hour tour introducing the candidate to familiar voters.
First we’re told that Clinton didn’t “seek to engage.” Later, though, we’re told that people “flocked to meet her,” that she was “mobbed for the entire visit,” and that Vilsack spent much of her time introducing Clinton to voters. Meanwhile: “Clinton steered further from substance, her goal, even more than Giuliani, to show her human side?” Is that sentence written in English? We frequently asked ourselves such questions when we read Sunday’s “Outlook” piece. And yet, this is the way our White House campaigns get reported at the top of our press corps. This represents the very best work our mainstream press corps can do!

(By the way: Clinton’s husband “never campaigned in Iowa?” It makes a nice hiss-spitting addition to this strange, hiss-spitting report. But the statement, as written, is simply false; don’t make us explain the particulars, which are tired, dull and pointless. This statement appears for one reason only—to drive the image Kornblut wanted, in which Clinton is an uncaring outsider, much less a mensch than Giuliani, a man who Clinton happens to lead in almost all nationwide polls.)

In short, Kornblut’s report is poorly reasoned, in a way that is becoming her trademark (more tomorrow). And her report is built around the snide, know-it-all attitude which drives so much of this cohort’s work. In Kornblut’s silly, childish construct, Giuliani and Clinton are both “city slickers,” “members of a coastal elite.” At the fair, they’re trying to make voters think that they’re actually “normal people.” In this report, there is no evidence that any Iowan thinks these things about either candidate. But so what? The slickers “share an uphill battle”—a battle the scribe can imagine:
KORNBLUT: Stylistically, though, Giuliani and Clinton share an uphill battle—namely in convincing voters that they are normal people, rather than visiting members of the coastal elite with occasionally gruff manners and sharp partisan elbows. So during her midday visit, Clinton flipped pork patties. She stopped at a food stand and ordered ice cream on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts.
No doubt, Clinton was trying to avoid “engaging” when she stood there flipping those patties. But Kornblut builds this novelized piece around a familiar press corps construct. These foppish pols aren’t normal people. We’ll tell you which ones really are.

So which one is the normal person? To Kornblut’s eye, it’s clearly Rudy who is more normal, as one can discern from reading this piece. This brings us to the part of this report which ought to alarm every Democrat.

Omigod! They’re back from the grave! The souls of Ceci Connolly and Katherine “Kit” Seelye are lurking about in Kornblut’s piece. In 1999 and 2000, these auteurs told us, again and again, that Candidate Gore just wasn’t quite human. Reinventing facts, reinventing “quotes,” this pair of children kept typing their tales—novels which sent George Bush to the White House. And this morning, Kornblut seems to be sampling their work. Gore wasn’t quite human during Campaign 2K. And Clinton isn’t quite human now:
CONNOLLY (6/23/99): [T]he man best known for his statue imitation finally appeared to relax in public.

With a "hallelujah" here and a hug there, Gore temporarily shed his stiff-guy armor and displayed a long-rumored but rarely seen human side...He even giggled like a girl when one man predicted he would win the 2000 presidential race.

KORNBLUT (8/16/07): Clinton steered further from substance, her goal, even more than Giuliani, to show her human side. Women in particular flocked to meet her. Jeanne Rutz, 80, said she was proud to stand in the sweltering heat to meet the woman who would become the first female president.
Giggling like a girl, Gore showed his human side—and Clinton shows her human side now! Later, Kornblut marvels at Clinton’s “near-spontaneity”—another favorite theme of Gore’s mocking coverage—and she delivers the kind of hiss-spitting comment that is going to drive this campaign’s coverage unless Democrats get off their keisters and find a way to make Kornblut stop:
KORNBLUT: Yet Clinton was mobbed for the entire visit, in contrast to the muted reception given another Democratic candidate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), who was also at the fair. For Clinton, there were even some moments of near-spontaneity.

She marveled at an apple-slicing machine that produced a candied apple dish for her. At the Iowa pork producers stand, she donned a specially made apron with her name and "The Other White Meat" emblazoned on it. Clinton's top Iowa strategist, veteran political operative Teresa Vilmain, practically glowed as she ate a hamburger, then a pork chop, watching her candidate become the fair's main attraction.
“There were even some moments of near-spontaneity,” Kornblut meowed. And then, amazing! Clinton becomes “The Other White Meat” in this hiss-spitting piece of near-porn.

Hillary Clinton—The Other White Meat! Why, Rush is laughing about it already! And let’s face it—anyone who has followed the work of this mainstream “press corps” will know the pleasure this passage brings—with its evocation of the juvenile gender-jibes people like Kornblut so love. And readers, Kornblut had to work fairly hard to give you the pleasure of that luscious jibe. The hard-copy Post includes a large photo which shows what it actually said on that apron. At the top, the apron said this—and Kornblut knew she must edit:
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Not a blah cook
Oops! In no way would a smarmy hustler like Kornblut type an upbeat phrase like that! (It would make Clinton sound like a human!) Below that, on an oval blue background, we see those treasured words: “The Other White Meat.” Underneath that, even more ignored text: “Don’t be blah.” In the photo, former governor Tom Vilsack stands next to Clinton—and his apron says the same thing (minus the name). He’s “the other white meat” too. Ditto for another man, on Clinton’s other side.

The childish, empty boy Chris Matthews was having this kind of gender-based fun in the early months of this race. (Clinton’s supporters “giggle like girls,” he memorably said at one point. Just like Gore!) And the nasty, stupid gender jibes will be typed by the Kornbluts for the next fifteen months—unless Dems make her stop. They did this to Gore throughout Campaign 2K—and these brain-dead, broken-souled losers are ready to do it again.

Hillary Clinton—The Other White Meat! Kornblut’s prose is often incoherent—more on this problem tomorrow—but this sweet comment rang out loud and clear. (Rush is laughing.) And Kornblut’s snide jibes will drive this campaign as long as we permit it. In the general election, she’ll think it’s her job to snidely tell us which of the hopefuls is actually human. If recent history serves as a guide, we know which one will be which.

TOMORROW: Good grief! If ninth-graders handed you prose like this, you’d figure you faced a long year.

FOR THE RECORD: Again, here’s what the t-shirt actually said. And here’s what Kornblut recorded:
WHAT THE T-SHIRT ACTUALLY SAID:
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Not a blah cook
The Other White Meat
Don’t be blah.

WHAT SMARMY KORNBLUT RECORDED:
Hillary Rodham Clinton
The Other White Meat
She knew which part would be smarmy.

WATCHING THEM REASON: It’s hard to believe, but the Washington Post’s political scribes are currently doing dumber work than their counterparts at the Times. Yesterday, we reviewed Balz and Baker; this morning, it’s political newcomer Alec MacGillis. Where do they go to find the people who reason as poorly as this?
MACGILLIS (8/16/07): This week Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) offered what many believe is his strongest argument for his candidacy against that of Hillary Clinton: that he is a less polarizing figure on the national scene.

In making this case, Obama can find both affirmation and reason for concern in an intriguing nugget in the Washington Post-ABC poll on the Democratic presidential race released late last month. Simply put, independents and Republicans seem to recognize that Obama has the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base—but Democratic voters themselves don't yet seem to be taking that fully into account.
Huh! According to MacGillis, “independents and Republicans seem to recognize that Obama has the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base.” But how did he reach that judgment?

First, let’s note what is painfully obvious: All the Democratic candidates “have the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base.” MacGillis’ statement is so vague that it’s utterly meaningless. But for the record, here’s the “evidence” from which MacGillis drew his fuzzy conclusion:
MACGILLIS (continuing directly): Asked which Democratic candidate would have the "best chance to defeat the Republican nominee in the general election," 54 percent of Democrats polled said Clinton, compared with 22 percent who said Obama.

But when the same question was put to independents and Republicans, they had a notably different view: 35 percent of independents said Clinton would have the best chance, and 29 percent said Obama would; 37 percent of Republicans said Clinton would have the best chance, compared with 33 percent who said Obama. What to make of this 17-to-19-percentage-point gap in the estimation of Clinton's general election prospects between Democrats and other voters?
Do you follow that? In this poll, independents and Republicans said that Clinton has a better chance to be elected than Obama. Somehow, this tells MacGillis that “independents and Republicans seem to recognize that Obama has the potential to appeal to voters outside the Democratic base.” And this is the way the reasoning works at the upper end of our press corps!

We don’t mean this as a comment on Clinton and Obama; for ourselves, we don’t have the slightest idea who would do better in a general election. (Neither do those voters, of course.) We mean this as a comment on MacGillis; this is pitiful “reasoning.” But “reasoning” like this has been driving the Post, and it will likely continue.

Most of us are accustomed to thinking of political reporting in terms of its “bias.” Less commonly recognized: One of this press corps’ defining traits is its remarkably hapless “reasoning.” Yesterday, Baker said Clinton is just like Rove because she likes to stay on message. Today, non-Democrats say Clinton will more likely win—and it means something good about Obama.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit Kornblut in “Outlook” as she bumbles along, often semi-coherently. It’s amazing to think that work like this defines the top of our press corps.