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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

 
Democrats In Disarray

by dday

Now that the press beat up on Barack Obama for a few days it's Hillary Clinton's turn. The WaPo runs an inside baseball piece about internal hatred among her staff, which is not really germane for A1, but certainly germane to push the narrative that this extended race is dooming the Democrats.

For the bruised and bitter staff around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tuesday's death-defying victories in the Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio and Texas proved sweet indeed. They savored their wins yesterday, plotted their next steps and indulged in a moment of optimism. "She won't be stopped," one aide crowed.

And then Clinton's advisers turned to their other goal: denying Mark Penn credit.

With a flurry of phone calls and e-mail messages that began before polls closed, campaign officials made clear to friends, colleagues and reporters that they did not view the wins as validation for the candidate's chief strategist. "A lot of people would still like to see him go," a senior adviser said.

The depth of hostility toward Penn even in a time of triumph illustrates the combustible environment within the Clinton campaign, an operation where internal strife and warring camps have undercut a candidate once seemingly destined for the Democratic nomination. Clinton now faces the challenge of exploiting this moment of opportunity while at the same time deciding whether the squabbling at her Arlington headquarters has become a distraction that requires her intervention.


I dislike Mark Penn as much as the next Clinton staffer, and certainly she has not had the campaign people she deserves in this race, but why does this matter to anyone but the most hardcore political junkie?

The media has also unilaterally decided for us that negative ads won the race (actually, since the ad buy was tiny, the media COVERING the negative ads contributed to the victories, along with in larger part the demographics and the fact that Obama's voter contact and organizing strategy diminishes in very large states), and that the problem was that Obama didn't "fight back" even though he put out a competing "It's 3 AM, you should be afraid but for a different reason" ad within a matter of hours, and sure enough, the next day a story with the headline Lesson of Defeat: Obama Comes Out Punching can be written. So the press gets the knock-down drag-out fight they demand, pushing FURTHER the story that Democrats are fighting, Clinton supporters hate Obama supporters, Obama supporters hate Clinton supporters, and nobody will show up to the polls in November. Note also the beginning of the NY Times story:

Senator Barack Obama woke up on Wednesday talking of his delegate lead and of taking the fight to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. But after defeats in two of the most populous states, he also sounded like a chastened candidate in search of his lost moment.


So here we have a story where Obama is winning but really losing, matched by a story where Clinton is winning but really losing. Message: Democrats are losers. The entire campaign is colored with this theme: it's not about how Democrats have two talented and resilient candidates, it's that they both suck, the party is weak and about to explode. Never mind the facts.

Then there's the NAFTA/Canada boomerang, with a Canadian story suggesting that Clinton's team also gave assurances to their neighbors to the north that the strident rhetoric on the trade deal was talk. Apparently phone lines from the nation's largest newspapers don't reach all the way to Ottawa, because this story, which could have been cleared up in 20 minutes, played out over the course of a week, damaging Obama and now potentially damaging Clinton. It's also contextless, since media types don't know a goddamn thing about trade policy and don't understand the difference between cancellation and renegotiation. If they did, they'd have understood that both candidates' position on trade was actually logically consistent with what they told Canadian officials, and WOULD HAVE NEVER REPORTED THE STORY.

Expect bullshit like this for the next seven weeks. And read critically.


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