AGAINST AUTHENTICITY! Why can Hillary seem a bit guarded? Amazingly, Dems still dont know: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2006
HOWLER HIATUS: Were off to clear the pasture spring. Well return toward the end of next week.
AGAINST AUTHENTICITY: Having praised Josh Marshalls twin sites to the skies, well take strong issue with this M. J. Rosenberg post—a post Kevin Drum unwisely semi-seconded. To gaze on a rare blown call by Kevin, you know what to do—just click here.
Heres the heart of what Rosenberg said. It concerns Hillary Clinton:
ROSENBERG (12/21/06): I just watched Hillary Clinton on "the View." And I realized something. Every time she lets go a little (like when she jogged into the room), she is very appealing. And every time she discusses things like engaging in "a national conversation" about whatever the hell it was, she is terrible.In this passage, we see a writer at a smart liberal site getting into the press corps favorite game—making judgments about appearance and body language, and about what is very appealing. Needless to say, he had a judgment about Obama too—and a thought about (groan) authenticity:
ROSENBERG (continuing directly): Barack Obama, on the other hand, never seems programmed. Did you see him on Monday Night Football? If not, check out Youtube. My favorite part is when he da-ta-ta-da's the MNF theme. He could have looked like an idiot. He looked great.For liberals, this sort of thing is spectacularly foolish. Heres why:
First and most obvious, such judgments are almost completely subjective. Indeed, our own reactions to these TV appearances were virtually opposite to Rosenbergs. We thought Clinton was superb on the Today show this Monday (to Chris Matthews, she seemed like a stripper, of course)—and we thought she looked unappealingly awkward when she jogged onto the set of The View. In general, we thought her presentation was much better on Today. Meanwhile, we didnt like Obama on Monday Night Football; we thought he took himself extremely seriously in the presentation, which cuts against his general appeal. Nor were we the only ones; Jason Zengerle was bummed by it too.
Again, when we talk about what is appealing and authentic, we enter extremely subjective territory. And oh yeah—we validate the type of discussion the mainstream press corps is eager to have. Once we allow this type of discussion, they can create any novel they want about whos authentic and who isnt. And surprise! As an upper-class and corporate institution, the press corps will increasingly tend to judge that Republican candidates seem authentic—and that the Dems do not. Indeed, thats precisely the way this group has called it in our last two White House campaigns—Bush and McCain were authentic straight-shooters, the hideous Gore and Kerry were not. As a general matter, they will continue to make such judgments—if we validate the type of discussion this addled crew hopes to have.
Having studied the 2000 race in detail, we cringe when intelligent liberals adopt the authenticity meme. That silly theme is the press corps meat. Once we let them start making such judgments, theyll quickly craft the story they like—and whatever it is, theyll recite it in unison. And again, their judgments—which will be too subjective to be meaningfully disputed—will tend to favor Republicans. Even now, with Bush having nearly destroyed the known world, they havent quite walked away from their Republicans = authenticity judgments. They will soon return to these themes in force—if we stoop to the silly place where they want our discourse to go.
Here at THE HOWLER, we dont really have a favorite between Obama, Clinton, Edwards and others. We say this—let them battle it out. But its extremely easy to criticize Clinton (and Gore before her) for being somewhat guarded in public. During Campaign 2000, for example, why did Gore sometimes seem to measure every word and gesture, calculating whether they will get him into trouble? Simple! He seemed to do that because he had to—because, the way the game was being played, if he got one syllable out of place, the press corps would land on his head like a mountain, turning it into a vast referendum on his deeply disturbing lack of character. Hillary Clinton has also had to play by these gong-show rules. She has absorbed an astonishing amount of abuse in the past fifteen years, and (like Gore) she has done a miraculous job of soldiering on despite it. Obama has not had to deal with such inanity—indeed, lets hope he never has to. But its easy to maintain your WTF posture when the whole world is singing your praises. If you doubt that, observe Gores widely-remarked casual attitude in An Inconvenient Truth. That was not a different Al Gore, as fatuous pundits quickly judged. That was the same Al Gore—in a circumstance where he didnt have to consider the pseudo-scandal that every pointless gesture could cause.
To this day, people like Rosenberg fail to grasp why Clinton and Gore have at times seemed guarded. In doing so, they fail to grasp the most elementary way our politics has worked in the past dozen years. For reasons we cant begin to grasp, we liberals seem determined to do this. We cant run fast enough to adopt themes our opponents have hatched.
If Dem and libs have an ounce of sense, we will resist the press corps desire to craft discussions about authenticity. Its just a cover they adopt—one which lets them lower our discourse to the place where they can type their novels. And, as an upper-class, corporate cohort, they will always tend to say that the Republican is really the authentic person. If youre a Democrat or a liberal, Hillary Clinton has died for your sins. That doesnt mean she should be the nominee, but she deserves your respect, as does Gore. Each has taken a ton of shit—while our liberal leaders have stared into air.
Which of the hopefuls is most authentic? We have an answer to that: STFU! If we Democrats have an ounce of sense, well steer the discussion toward serious topics—topics which are less subjective. In the past fifteen years, the public has generally agreed with Dems on the vast range of major issues. For that reason, Republicans wants to talk authenticity—and so does your script-reading press corps.