DROIT DE SEIGNEUR! Will Colbert King do and say anything? This past weekend, we werent quite sure: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2008
Four years later, its Bush in a landslide: This is a bit off our normal track, but we thought wed raise a point of puzzlement about last weeks exit poll. This raises a general question: How accurate are such polls?
Last weeks national exit polling involved 17,836 respondentsa relatively large sample. For CNNs presentation of the (detailed) results, just click here.
In the exit polling, respondents were asked a series of questions. At one point, they were asked who they voted for in 2004. So youll recall, that election ended with Bush defeating Kerry by 2.4 points:
Bush beat Kerry by 2.4 points. Thats why we were puzzled by one part of last weeks exit polling. Thirteen percent of respondents said they didnt vote in 2004. Of the respondents who said they did vote in 2004, this is how things broke down:
You can see this result on page 3 of CNNs presentation.
Its hard to believe that those data are accurate. Did four percent of last weeks voters really vote for someone other than Bush or Kerry in 2004? And what would explain that nine-point gap between Bush and Kerry voters? In theory, Democrats were enthusiastic about last weeks election, Republicans somewhat less so. Can it really be that 46 percent of last weeks voters voted for Bush in 2004versus only 37 percent who voted for Kerry?
All sampling is subject to error, of course. But journalists often treat exit poll data as they were handed to Moses by God. Is there some explanation for those particular data? And by the way: If those numbers are wrong to that extent, do you see why people should proceed with a bit of caution with the exit polls other numbers?
PART 4DROIT DE SEIGNEUR: We saw a lot of striking work from major pundits last weekend. Frank Richs column was typically wild, as weve already discussed. Meanwhile, in the Post and the Times, Kathleen Parker and Maureen Dowd wrote ostentatiously well-intentioned pieces about their views of racecolumns which seemed to emerge from the early- or mid-1960s. It was hard to ignore some of the formulaic constructions. For example, each column ended on the same note. People! These scribes have black friends!
Speaking of formula, Dowd still cant discuss any topic without throwing Bill Clinton into the mix. While were at it, lets pity her mailman:
Traditionally, mailmen have avoided broken stairs and snarling dogs. One cute mailman faces an additional task; he must avoid Maureen Dowd.
All that said, we may have been most struck last weekend by Colbert Kings piece in the Post.
Who should Obama thank for last weeks win? That was the subject of Kings piece, which was headlined, A Few Obama Thank-Yous. First, King noted Virginia governor Tim Kaine, one of Obamas earliest supporters. He then made a surprising nomination:
Technically, nothing in that passage contradicts anything King has said in the past. But we lost a lot of respect for King this yearand this column helped remind us why.
(Before this, wed admired King for his sharply-reported, caring pieces about local Washington problems.)
Last weekend, without a hint of irony, King thanked the Clintons for their past conduct, including their conduct during the primaries. It might be worth recalling the things the gentleman wrote in real time.
Kings coverage of Candidates Clinton and Obama began slowly in 2007but his preference was rather obvious. In late December, he penned a year-end review of his work in the Post. For some reason, he started with his thoughts about Hillary Clinton, whom he now praises so much:
As noted, King devoted little attention to Obama or Clinton in 2007. But when he reviewed the year, the familiar demonology of CDS (Clinton Derangement Syndrome) was on vivid display. Why, Hillary Clinton was laughing at King, all the way to the bankand there was no good way to know what she really believes. She was a hypocrite when it came to big moneyand a hypocrite when it came to religion.
In our view, Kings two columns about Clinton had been rather tortured. Obama discusses religion tootheres no reason why he shouldntand there was nothing obviously wrong with the interview Clinton had given the Times. But it was Clinton who had been pandering, King wrote in July 2007. And by the end of the year, his two critical columns on Clinton were very much on his mind. After that, the deluge would begin.
King praised both Clintons in Saturdays column. But he trashed them, extremely hard, all through the 2008 primaries. Heres a taste of his work in real time. This was extremely rough stuffwith very familiar demonology:
Billary Clinton will do and say anything! This formulaic denunciation drove the insider press corps war on both Clintons, and then on Candidate Gore, all through the 1990s. And sure enough! In that same January 2008 column, King quoted the work of Stuart Taylor, a 90s-era Clinton-hater. Lovingly, Taylor had thumbed his way back through a decades most deranged hits. King was happy to list them:
There we went again! Taylor had been a leading Village obsessive during the era of Clinton/Gore-trashing. Indeed, heres where hed started his tired old piecethe piece King so thoroughly loved:
Please dont make us explain how foolish that summary isthough the foolishness is built around words like corroborated and falsely. But people like Taylor love that tale as much as kittens love their mothers fifth teat. We offer that image for a reason, which well show you below.
In sad point of fact, an entire political era is built around the way Village Elderspeople like Kingfell in love with a string of such tales about both Clintons, and then about Gore. And this love affair was still going strong as the Clinton-Obama race started. King was still reciting the tired old phrases his cohort had used against all three vile Dems. And he was tortured by the problems which lay ahead. Two weeks after he told that world that Billary will do and say anything. he was worrying about the problems Hillary Clinton would have in signing up a vice president:
Cute. And theres that fifth teat.
At any rate, King kept trashing Clinton and Clinton all through the Democratic campaign. Thats his perfect right, of course; we thought he tended to go overboard, but that is a matter of judgment. By way of balance, we thought King wrote one of the most arrogant columns weve ever seen in Septemberthis time, a piece which trashed both Palins. This was part of what he wrote, as he explained why a man of his station cant relate to such under-class losers:
Darlings! He doesnt have a degree! In our view, this column only gets worse if you read longer excerpts.
We lost a lot of respect for King this yeara year in which we came to see that hed always been a reliable Villager when it came to Clinton Derangement. Last weekend, it was almost nauseating to review his earlier workincluding the tragic column he wrote in October 2000, explaining why Candidate Gore was the lousiest Democrat the party had ever nominated. (He even explained why Mondale was better! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/18/08. Scroll down.) But you see, insiders like King drank the Kool-Aid, quite deeply, all through the 1990s. People like Taylor fell for Flowersand players like King were happy to quote them. By the end of the decade, they took turns urging readers to see that Gore was a big phony faker fraud toothat Al Gore was willing to say and do anything, just like his boss, and his boss wife, before him. During Campaign 2000, King didnt pimp this view as hard as Frank Rich did. But he condescended to Gore in October 2000 almost as much as he condescended in that column about the Palinsthe column in which he shrieked that the governors doesnt even have a college degree.
Two reactions to Kings current column:
King is entitled to his views, of course. But it was odd to see him praising the Clintons so fulsomely last weekend, after he had trashed them so hardand so predictablyall through the rest of the year. Are these guys journalistsor are they just pols? Will Colbert King do and say anything?
Beyond that, it was troubling, once again, to read Kings October 2000 column. Why has Bush spent eight years in the White House? Back in the 1990s, people like Taylor and King and Rich fell in love with a certain big-bosomed balladeerand with a string of related wild stories. And they came to a string of scripted conclusions, principal among them being this: The Clintons and Gore will do and say anything! They said it and said it and said it and said it, eventually sending Bush to the White House. How did they come to believe such things? None of them has had the decency to get off his keister and say.
Two peas in a pod, Rich bluntly said. Worst Democrat ever, a King opined. In this way, Rich and a King sent a Bush to the White House. Last weekend, the gents were thundering grandly about your most recent campaign.