FRAMING CLINTON! On Monday and Tuesday, celebrity pundits hammered a frame around Clinton: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2007
WERE ALL JIM NICHOLSON NOW: In various ways, weve all been affected by the crackpot discourse of the past fifteen years. But ouch! To see fiery liberals playing the role that was formerly played by the RNC, just consider two posts at well-known liberal blogs—and their slams against Hillary Clinton.
In the past, the RNC would take the lead in creating bogus attacks on the Clintons. Now, we liberals do it ourselves! Lets review how this process worked.
The whole things started with John in DC at AMERICAblog. John was very ticked at Clinton—and was instantly misstating facts:
JOHN IN DC: A lot of people didnt notice that Hillary gave an interview last week about Iraq that read like George Bush at his worst. Not only did she lecture Democratic voters about how Iraq is tied to September 11—which it most certainly is not—but she then one upped herself by chastising the other Democratic candidates, and we presume their supporters, over the fact that SHE was alive on September 11, and apparently we weren't.Sounds bad. John linked to an AP report (by Mike Glover), from which he pulled a five-paragraph excerpt. He highlighted the third paragraph, just as we do here:
GLOVER (1/27/07): Attention focused on Iraq and her vote to authorize the use of force ahead of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Presidential rivals such as former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards now say the vote in support was a mistake.With all due respect, that's a load of crap, John wrote. He also lived through 9/11, he complained—and he ended with a further, tougher gripe about that highlighted paragraph. Invoking September 11 when asked about Iraq is unconscionable, he wrote, slamming Clinton. It is pure Dick Cheney, and an outright lie.
Unconscionable! And an outright lie! Claims like that were once the stuff of fact-challenged screeds from the RNC. Soon, Atrios linked to the AMERICAblog post, noting (twice) that Clinton was in DC on 9/11. Its unclear why he stressed this point, since Clinton never said anything different in the statements under review. But you know what liars those Clintons both are! Atrios then reinforced Johns larger complaint. Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11, never has, never will, he wrote. It's historically inaccurate and, frankly, racist to suggest otherwise.
Wow! Were so old that we can remember when we needed Ken Mehlman for this sort of work! Clinton said something in Iowa last week, and, by the time we liberals got done, one of us was clearly suggesting that she had lied about her whereabouts on 9/11—and he even raised the specter of racism. Another savaged her outright lie. We used to need Lucianne for this sort of thing. But now, we can do it ourselves!
Whats wrong with these screeds by John and Ate? Lets start with a basic factual point: Clintons highlighted comment doesnt come from the interview to which John refers; according to Glover, it comes from a presentation she made at a meeting with state Democrats at the party's headquarters. We can find no transcript of this event, and we get no real idea, from reading Glovers story, exactly what Clinton had been asked or had said just before the highlighted statement. Did Clinton suggest, when she spoke with those Iowa Dems, that Iraq had something to do with 9/11? That would be extremely odd, since—like every other Dem on the planet—she has long said otherwise. (Beyond that, this comment would surely strike most Dem party leaders as being quite odd.) But Glovers article doesnt give us the context of Clintons highlighted comment. We dont think Glover did anything wrong in putting this simple report together. But nothing he wrote can fairly suggest the conclusion John drew from it—the conclusion Atrios seemed to affirm. We can recall when we needed Sean Hannity to crank such attacks against Major Dems. By now, though, were all Sean Hannity (or Jim Nicholson). We can slander our own hopefuls now!
Have we learned nothing in all these years? Readers, you cant rely on a perfunctory AP report to provide a perfect account of someones statements at a political meeting. Glover doesnt say that Clinton tied 9/11 to Iraq; John simply drew this inference from Glovers report, and Atrios soon was thundering with him. And presto! Spin-o! Just like that, Clinton stood accused of telling an outright lie about Iraq and 9/11; seemed to be accused of lying about her whereabouts on 9/11; was said to be just like Cheney; and seemed to be hit with a vague charge of racism. Its sad to see such familiar work coming from our own major bloggers. Such work became familiar when we heard it from Drudge. Now, we produce it ourselves!
Here at THE HOWLER, weve wasted nine years trying to knock down such claims, showing extremely poor form in the process. But these claims used to come from the RNC, and from the RNCs mainstream handmaidens. Now, they comes from us, from ourselves; it seems that we have become Jim Nicholson. So someone really should call Mike Duncan, the RNCs new chairman. Hey Mike! You can join Mehlman down in Cancun! The RNC is no longer needed! We are all Jim Nicholson now.
FRAMING CLINTON: As we said a few days ago, we want to see Clinton, Edwards or Obama elected. (Or Gore, if he enters the race. Or Richardson, Biden, Kucinich or some other, if a miracle occurs.) Without intending any disrespect, none of the Big Three is the candidate we would design in a lab. But you go to election with the hopefuls you have, not the ones you can dream or imagine. Franklin D. Roosevelt wont be running this year. We need to win with the hopefuls were given.
And frames will be built around these candidates—frames which can later be used to defeat them. Last night, a panel of pundits got out their hammers and continued to build a frame around Clinton. In this case, the hammering happened on the cable show, Tucker. Tucker Carlson spoke unwisely with ex-Lieberman aide Dan Gerstein:
CARLSON (2/6/07): Last night the Senate voted against debating the non-binding anti-war resolution, put forward by Senator John Warner of Virginia. It was a blow to sincere anti-war Democrats, like Russ Feingold, but a new survey by the Politico shows that nine of the 18 senators who voted in favor of the Iraq invasion continue to stick by their choice.That account of Clintons stance is just bogus. But no one in the four-member panel challenged what Gerstein had said.
Does Clinton still say it was the right thing to go to war? Plainly, no, she does not. All the way back in August 04, she said, on a small program called Meet the Press, that there would have been no basis for the war if wed known there were no WMD (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/18/07). She said there wouldnt even have been a vote if wed known this in the fall of 02. Just a few weeks ago, she repeated this statement—and specifically said that she would have voted against the war resolution if shed known there were no WMD. Some senators do take the stance which Gerstein described; they say the original decision would have been right even if wed known about the WMD, but the wars execution has been flawed. (That is Liebermans stance, for example.) But that plainly isnt Clintons position, though pundits reinforce this inaccurate notion night after night after night.
(Were sorry if it seems like poor form to call attention to such minor quibbles.)
Gersteins account is plainly false, but a panel of four TV savants affirmed it. And yes, such notions gets hammered out night after night, building a convenient framework around the Dem front-runner. On Monday night, it was Matt Continetti who took out the hammer and nail-gun. The gent was playing a bit of Hardball with a Clinton- and Dem-trashing talker:
MATTHEWS (2/5/07): We are back with the washingtonpost.com`s Chris Cillizza and the Weekly Standards Matt Continetti. Matt, you haven`t been here in a while so tell me this [tone of exasperation]: What is Hillary—what is her position on the war in Iraq?Night after night, we hear the same frame. Hillary Clinton wont repudiate/renounce/retract her vote on the October 2002 war resolution. As a matter of fact, she wont even recant! Finally, Matthews expressed it in the most childish way possible: Why wont she say she was wrong?
Why wont Clinton voice the specific words, I was wrong? We have no idea (nor do we much care). On Sundays Washington Journal, Chuck Todd offered a speculation; her campaign may think that a woman will be treated more harshly than a man if she admits to having been wrong. We dont know if that is the thinking—but Continettis answer to Matthews question shows the way a particular frame is being built around Clinton. What is her position on the war? he was asked—and, essentially, he chose not to answer. In his initial nugget response, he didnt say the obvious relevant things—that she has insisted that Bush must bring the war to an end; that she just said she will end the war if Bush doesnt. He didnt say that she signed on to standard Democratic anti-war frameworks when they were developed last summer. Instead, he took out his hammer and started pounding. Clinton wont repudiate her vote, he replied. Its what makes her different from Edwards.