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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trouble in Hillaryland

The Inevitability Express has run into some heavy traffic.

Hillary Clinton is scraping off the bottom of her shoes after a debate performance Tuesday night that pumped energy back into some campaigns that were seemingly headed to life support.

Clinton stumbled by being for New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to allow undocumented aliens to get drivers licenses before she was against it (or was she against it before she was for it?)

It was an uncharacteristic move for the seemingly flawless campaign machine that was running up double digit leads on its foes.

And in a heart beat, it brought back all those nagging questions about the former first lady who entered America's conscience by not being Tammy Wynette and by not baking cookies.

America's lack of love affair with Hillary was immediately rekindled -- in personal conversations and in print.

There's something about Hillary that feels like nails against blackboard, even for progressive (heck, liberal) men and women. Maybe it's the difference between Bubba's good ol' boy personality and Hillary's colder, frostier demeanor.

It's just hard to warm up to her, even after a number of stories, particularly by Mark Leibovich in The New York Times, showing her calculations the product of maturation -- a step that seems to have eluded the current occupant of the White House.

I'm in that camp. I see the flaws but I also see parts of my own growth in her story. But I have been in a "heart says Barack, head says Hillary" mode for most of this year. I've been frustrated by Obama's inability to turn that soaring and hopeful rhetoric into a strong campaign.

And I've been worried that the reservoir of hatred for Hillary would prevent the Democrats from liberating the White House and return America to the people.

Clinton's stumble over drivers licenses will likely become the defining moment of the 2008 campaign. The safety valve has been popped and the anger and resentment, the fear and loathing will be released.

Barack Obama's and John Edwards' attacks in the days ahead will not come close to what the Republican Fear and Smear Machine (you know, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) have in store for Clinton.

She will either weather the storm and emerge as a truly unbeatable candidate. Or she will have a lot more time to bake cookies. For those of us who desperately want a change in the Oval Office, it's better to have this happen now than one year from now.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

Hey, you know her Senate term lasts until 2012? On the off chance she loses, she could still be Senator for a while. She's a policy wonk with a tremendous knowledge about the institutions of government in America. She doesn't have to retire if she loses.

So, Mass Lib, what's your opinion on the way mainstream reporters like Anne E. Kornblut treat Hillary Clinton in stories? For example, Kornblut writes of Hillary's "equivocation", but Kornblut never bothered to write down Hillary's actual words. Is Kornblut providing readers with facts to clarify, or merely repeating whatever spin is out there?

I saw that clip from the debate, and what Hillary said was basically that Spitzer's idea wasn't perfect, but he was going with a good policy to compensate for bad policy at the Federal level. Her answer was rational, i.e. don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Have you read Clinton's response? How did it seem like doubletalk to you?

November 01, 2007 2:14 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Her answer reflects the complex and convoluted nature of the issue. Your characterization is a good one. But frankly, her answer is not important.

And that's because we are now in the middle of the script -- the part where it says the front runner stumbles. That is the story line that reporters were pursuing.

Campaigns spin reporters and reporters fight back, mainly by following the script.

Kornblut was hired by the Post because she has a history with and knowledge of Clinton. In the current permanent news cycle that is more important than mere stenography. She has a foundation for interpreting Clinton's words and that was what she was doing.

Reporters, rightly or wrongly, now serve the purpose of the men with cigars in the backroom. They test the candidates, put them in make or break situations and decide who will survive. That's the context of the Philadelphia debate.

That said, I'm not enamored of the game, which is why I got out of the political reporting business.

November 01, 2007 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

"Campaigns spin reporters and reporters fight back, mainly by following the script."

There it is.

I've wondered for several years now why media figures like Anne E. Kornblut will publish inaccurate statements about politicians, and not bother to correct themselves. It never occurred to me that they see the narrative as their security blanket. It's no wonder they can't see the harm they are doing to America, despite years of ridicule from people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

November 01, 2007 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

I've been going back and re-reading your response.

I understand what you mean when you declare Hillary's actual answer to be unimportant.

But this kind of reporting with an absence of facts is one of the behaviors that helped bring down the Gore and Kerry campaigns, and helped bring up an unnecessary war and an unnecessary impeachment.

Liberals can't let this stuff slide.

November 02, 2007 3:23 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

I feel your pain (sorry I couldn't resist).

It's a problem that I fear has no real solution. Conservatives have stacked the deck so badly against the so-called "liberal media" that reporters are going to feel compelled to prove their "objectivity" by dishing it out against liberals.

The problem can only be solved at the journalism grassroots -- teaching young reporters whether in school or on the job. But the competitive pressure is such the lessons don't take.

I'm trying to use this blog as a way to make that point. So spread the word. But I'm not counting on having much of an impact.

Cynical? Perhaps. But it's more realism, the truth as I have observed it (and participated in) over the years.

November 02, 2007 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Colder, frostier demeanor," 27 cookie references--and here I was worried that some of the anti-Hillary sentiment was driven by good old fashioned sexism, considering how much the Top 3 seem to have in common, substance-wise. It's good that you acknowledge in the comments that her answer was reaonable considering the question, but your journalistic past is coming out in the same old same old lazy CW spin and talking points.

November 03, 2007 3:52 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

I truly prefer to think of it as a dose of a reality check that comes from experience :-) I'm not going to stop pointing out reporter screw-ups, but this post was never intended to be one of them.

Nope, this is what happened since the backroom boys with the cigars lost power. Reporters got this vetting role by default. It's up to party activists to reclaim their roles.

In the meantime, I think this brouhaha will ultimately serve to create a strong Democrat, whether it is Clinton or someone else.

November 03, 2007 5:24 AM  

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