OBAMA EXPLAINS IT! A second liberal blogger gets fooled about Clinton—and Obama explains the whole thing: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2007
YESTERDAYS POST TODAY: Snow day Wednesday for jury duty—but our selfless service continues today. Meanwhile, the ice and snow delayed this post; our techies werent able to get from their dorms down to our sprawling Outreach Center. So yes, youre seeing this post a day late. Dang! With so much spin breaking!
PENN CENTRAL, BANKRUPT AGAIN: Why wont Hillary Clinton call her vote on the war resolution a mistake? We dont have the slightest idea—nor do we really understand why some voters care so much. (The notion that she should apologize strikes us as utterly silly.) But in Patrick Healys Monday report, he quoted a major Clinton adviser explaining the thinking behind Clintons stance. We groaned, then said: It figures:
HEALY (2/12/07): Some advisers believe the issue of her vote will fade with time; even so, they emphasize that she is taking a principled position of responsibility for it.We dont know if that is the real explanation. But only Penn could ever come up with this sort of tortured reasoning. Only Penn would advise a client: Dont speak English for the next several years.
For the record, Penn was canned from the Gore campaign early on, in September 1999. Indeed, one of the dumbest passages in Joe Kleins Politics Lost concerned Penns firing, which Klein found deeply disturbing. Did Gore always do what consultants told hm? This has made for a pleasing tale. But early on in his campaign, Gore showed this wordsmith the door. Oh, sorry—he showed him la porte.
WATCHING BAMBOOZLEMENT GROW: It seems official. Neither David Kurtz nor TPM plans to retract, recant or repudiate that misleading post about Hillary Clinton (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/12/07). No one has called the post a mistake. It seems no one plans to apologize.
Fair enough; the gentlemen in question see no reason to correct their blatant misstatements about someone who deserves their respect. Normally, Kurtz does excellent work—but we think our point from last week has been made. The press corps has played the public for fools regarding Clintons actual statements about her vote for the war resolution. In the process, the public has surely gotten bamboozled. Kurtzs post—which he wont recant!—stands as Exhibit A.
Indeed, the bamboozlement only seems to be spreading. On Tuesday, along came liberal blogger Michael Sean Winters, apparently fooled by Chris Cillizza. Heres the first paragraph of Winters post at The New Republics blog:
WINTERS (2/13/07): In New Hampshire on Saturday, Senator Hillary Clinton got visibly testy when a voter asked her if she would admit, without nuance, that her vote to authorize the Iraq war was a mistake. Her reply began with the tired claim that she had "taken responsibility for that vote." Which means what? "Taking responsibility" in contemporary political discourse means you want to change the subject. And, her demeanor suggested that, only three weeks into the race, she is already tired of defending her Iraq war vote.Winters linked to Cillizzas report in the Washington Post—the same report we criticized Monday. But sadly, Winters seems to have been misled by Cillizza. Hes been bamboozled, not unlike Kurtz.
Whats wrong with that passage from Winters post? Most significantly, Winters is simply wrong on his facts when he says that Clinton began her reply with the statement about having taken responsibility for that vote. That is not how Clinton began—although you might may gotten that impression from reading Cillizzas report in the Post. Heres the actual answer she gave. Note again how she actually started:
CLINTON (2/10/07): Well, I have said, and I will repeat it, that, knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for it. But I also—and, I mean, obviously you have to weigh everything as you make your decision—I have taken responsibility for my vote. The mistakes were made by this president, who misled this country and this Congress into a war that should not have been waged.Knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for the war resolution. That was the first thing Clinton said. And no, that statement isnt vague or unclear, unlike the murky statement Winters quoted—completely out of context.
Why did Winters think that Clinton started with the statement he quoted? We cant mind-read, but that was the only part of Clintons statement cited in Cillizzas report. Indeed, Winters offers the very reaction we warned you about in Mondays post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/12/07). At THE HOWLER, we rarely quote ourselves. But heres what we said about Cillizzas report—the report which seems to have Winters bamboozled:
DAILY HOWLER (2/12/07): From reading that passage [by Cillizza], do you have any real idea what Clinton actually said to Tilton? Do you have any idea what Clinton has said about this matter in the past?...All we get from Cillizza is this: "I have taken responsibility for my vote. Thats a remarkably murky clip—seven words which tell us next to nothing.One day later, it was just as we called it. Winters, linking to Cillizza, mistakenly said that Clinton began with that statement. He then complained that the statement was hard to decipher: Which means what? he harrumphingly said. But everyone knew what the statement meant when they actually saw Clinton make it. They knew because they had seen her full statement—not the misleading clip Cillizza offered.
In short, Cillizza quoted the third thing Clinton said—but he omitted her first remark, the remark which explained what that statement meant. And sure enough—Winters came along and complained that Clintons remark was unclear!
If wed only seen Cillizza quote Clinton this way, we might have thought that his odd bit of editing was just another dumb-ass mistake. But all last week, we showed you, again and again—the boys on the bus have simply refused to report what Clinton has said on this topic. Result? On Sunday, Kurtz didnt seem to have any idea what Clinton has said about her vote. Two days later, up jumped Winters. He complained that her statement in New Hampshire was murky—but he didnt seem to know what Clinton had actually said.
CILLIZZA (2/12/07): I think the one concern that she does have, and it came up again and again, is with the war in Iraq.Once again, Cillizza followed the formula perfectly. Employing his own murky constructions, he explained what Clinton didnt do and say in New Hampshire. She didnt recant that vote, he said (whatever that means). And she refused to apologize. But nowhere did he ever report what Clinton did say about her vote. May voters might take her actual statement as something resembling a recantation. (We took it that way in October 04, when Clinton first began making such statements.) But they wont get the chance to decide. NewsHour viewers were never told what Clinton had actually said.
What happens when reporters like Cillizza edit this way? Once again, go back and read the Kurtz/Winters posts. When reporters refuse to report what a hopeful has said, the public gets misled in the process. They remain ignorant of what the hopeful has said. They think shes been vague when she actually hasnt. And they persist in asking questions (see Kurtz) which have long since been answered.
The journalistic principle here is simple: Before you pen your own murky accounts of a candidates conduct, you have to report what the candidate said! Duh! A slow fifth-grader could grasp this point. Is Cillizza too dumb to play this game? Or is Cillizza—one of the Hardball boys— playing this game all too well?
OBAMA EXPLAINS IT: During delays in our jury service, weve been reading The Audacity of Hope. (More later.) At one point, Obama explains the transaction involved in the press corps editing of Clintons statements. In 2005, the senator says, he spoke with maybe fifteen to twenty thousand people during 31 town hall meetings. But the press corps blows such numbers away. Continuing, Obama says this:
OBAMA (page 121): In contrast, a three-minute story on the lowest-rated local news broadcast in the Chicago media market may reach two hundred thousand people. In other words, I—like every politician at the federal level—am almost entirely dependent on the media to reach my constituents. It is the filter through which my votes are interpreted, my statements analyzed, my beliefs examined. For the broad public at least, I am what the media says I am. I say what they say I say. I become who they say Ive become.Obama is a superlative writer. I say what they say I say, he says, describing the power of the press corps. In this passage, Obama explains perfectly—in advance!—what the corps has been doing to Clinton. Regarding her vote on the war resolution, she has said what they say she has said—at least for two bamboozled bloggers.
As Scott Lemieux correctly says in this post, there are plenty of questions to be asked about Clintons vote for the war resolution. (Ditto Edwards.) But before you can sensibly ask such questions, you have to report what the candidate says. And no, you arent allowed to report only the fragments which make the candidate sound vague or evasive. You dont get to skip the main thing she said, so that you can show something to the rubes which makes her sound much dumber.
We tried to warn you last week. The mainstream press has largely refused to report Clintons statements about that vote. Kurtz and Winters then came along to show us the wages of flim-flam.
ITS ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE: For the record, Winters also fell for the foolish notion that Clinton tied Iraq to 9/11 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/7/07). Hes full of contempt for Clintons statements—but doesnt seem to read very well.
Earlier this week, we saw Harvards new president, on the NewsHour, boasting about her schools brilliant students. We turned to our analysts and mordantly asked: What happens to their wondrous skills after they get out of college?