Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hillary, Obama and the Media

The jury sitting on the meaning of the Iowa and New Hampshire canvasses is now in.

The Journal Inquirer

Following Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire win, the editorial page editor of the Journal Inquirer unburdened himself in the form of a “Memo to Barack: This will not be easy.”

The editorial makes the following points:

• Barack has had to fight for what he is and has, while Hillary has had both her senate seat and her senate re-election “handed to her.”

• Hillary was President Bill Clinton’s “consort.” The words “wife” or “First Lady” apparently are not in the editor’s lexicon.

• The Clintons were not civil to the newly elected George Bush.

The editorial page editor, who has been around for awhile, was uncomfortable with early Polls after Iowa showing Barack defeating Hillary by 10 percentage points.

• “You mess with the Clinton’s at your peril.”


• “The Clintons see the presidency as their due - their property. Theirs. Their whole campaign has been: Restore the monarchy.”

• The Clinton’s are ruthless campaigners: “No velvet revolution for them. Politics is a blood sport to the Clintons, and they mean to show this youngster how to play the game.”

• The Clinton campaign in New Hampshire “was the most shameless 36 hours of politicking in recent memory. At one point - the lowest point in New Hampshire - one of Mrs. Clinton's surrogates explained what false hope really means: It means, he said, that Barack Obama, like JFK, could be assassinated. Mrs. Clinton stood next to him on the podium and did not blink an eye.”

• Even Hillary’s tears were vicious: “At her most vicious, Mrs. Clinton wept, and showed us she was just a woman after all. And you know what? It worked.”

• Variously, in their careers, Hillary or Bill or both have been “feral cats,” “Big Liars,” “monarchs,” “slash and burners,” “Rovians,” “addicted to power,” and nearly as bad, if not worse, than George Bush.

This is what throwing the kitchen sink at Hillary from your keyboard looks like. And even though some rose petals were tossed in the direction of John McCain at the end of the editorial – who was wrong, horribly wrong, concerning the war in Iraq but, for all that, an honorable man – one senses that the editorial page this year will be leaning towards Obama. Of all the pieces critiqued here, the JI was by far the least fearful of presenting a strong opinion.

The Boston Globe was less fierce.

The paper thought that the results on New Hampshire showed “Experience counts.”

• Voters in New Hampshire were “diligent” and took seriously “their role as focus group for the American electorate.”

• Hillary’s superior political organization helped her to pull out a win.

• New Hampshire provided an educational experience for Hillary: “Finding herself on the defensive may well have humanized Clinton. She fought hard in Saturday's debate, rather than presenting herself as the inevitable nominee. Her campaign got a much-needed reminder that voters seek to understand the instincts and the judgment that a candidate would bring to the office, and not just th’ candidate's issue positions. Her victory speech reflected that. ‘I listened to you," she said, ‘and in the process, I found my own voice.’”

• Obama should take heed: “Obama too can draw a lesson from Clinton's performance in New Hampshire. While his Iowa victory turned him into a political rock star, celebrity alone won't win him the nomination. He will need to flesh out his lofty rhetoric with better-developed policy proposals.”

The usually perceptive George Will, in a recent column, strenuously disagrees with this last point: “The wrong question about Obama has been "Where's the beef," "beef" meaning policy substance. Policy papers in profusion can be ginned up by campaign advisers, of whom Obama has plenty. The right question is whether he is a souffle — pretty and pleasing, but mostly air and apt to collapse if jostled. Presidential politics is an exhausting, hard, occasionally even cruel vetting process — necessarily so, given the stakes — and now that he has been bumped hard we shall see if there is steel beneath the sleek gray suit.”


The Los Angeles Times

The LA Times strattled the fence diffidently.

The message of the editorial was that experience matters except in those cases when it does not matter.

• With two strong showings in what the paper calles “white” states, Obama has demonstrated that he is electable.

• Hillary’s strong show of emotion may have provided the jolt needed to win in New Hampshire: “Clinton's comments revealed the passion she has for her country and the depth of her political beliefs. "I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice tight. "This is very personal for me." She will be a stronger candidate going forward if she continues to express herself in such personal terms.”

• President Bush has given knowledge and experience a bad name, and this boomeranged on Hillary: “For Clinton, the trouble is not emotion but, perversely, President Bush. So badly has this president performed that he has discredited not just his own administration but the very idea of Washington knowledge. Voters frustrated by the war in Iraq and anxious about the economy have turned on the man who brought us those troubles and on experience itself -- and thus on Clinton. She still has time, but now she must confront an electorate that has its doubts -- and that has identified Obama with the future and Clinton with the past.”

Newsweek

Newsweek reported that the waterworks teared up on cue: “Bill Clinton felt the tide turn on Monday afternoon. 'Most of our people thought it was going to be a nightmare,' Clinton told NEWSWEEK, his eyes brimming with tears. 'I just had a hunch, though. The people of New Hampshire have never disappointed me, and they didn't tonight. But they sure did surprise me.'"

• Though wary of the press, Hillary put herself out there: “Asked who made the decision to put Hillary out there, Bill immediately responded, 'She did. It was her decision,' he said. 'The voters of New Hampshire demand it.' Wary of the press, Hillary nevertheless started interacting. At rallies she spent hours answering 25, 30 questions—far more than the two or three she typically fielded in Iowa. And at a Portsmouth coffee shop on Monday, she nearly cried. 'A lot of people who saw Hillary as one-dimensional saw her acting in a very human way, and they connected,' said Ann Lewis, a senior campaign adviser. Lewis claimed that the campaign was flooded with e-mails from women, especially young women, who 'finally' saw how a woman could be held to a different standard. 'All day long we heard from women saying, "Now I get it",' said Lewis. On stage last night Clinton seemed to get it as well, transforming her solipsistic announcement slogan—‘We're in it to win’—into something more generous: ‘We are in it for the American people.’”


The Huffington Post


John Neffinger, over at The Huffington Post, was smitten.

It was the clip showing Hillary’s soft and tender side that won his heart: “Many in the media wondered whether this was a fatal show of weakness, the emotional female cracking under the first sign of real pressure. Others, primarily conservatives, accused her of a cynically "calculated" play for sympathy. That only makes sense if you assume she is at her core a heartless ambition machine and any show of human emotion on her part is artifice. But if you understand her as a deeply committed activist who usually hides her emotions to avoid being perceived as weak, it makes sense that she might finally choose that moment to let more of her true feelings show. That decision may well have been a ‘calculation,’ but no matter how the media spun it, we saw the emotion in those images for ourselves, and it was the real deal.”

The Hartford Courant

According to the Hartford Courant, the primary campaign battles in Iowa and New Hampshire were surprising only to pollsters, who were, one again, wrong. They hadn’t counted on the fact that voters were people: “Poll-watching and premature analysis tend to reduce this quadrennial exercise in self-determination to the level of a sports contest. Thankfully, if New Hampshire is any indication, the voters take it more seriously.”

Newspaper editorials, always unsigned, also are written by people who are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, sometimes left, though rarely in Connecticut, sometimes right, sometimes cautious and sometimes spirited.

One thing is absolutely certain: In a democracy, people deserve the consequences of their votes.
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