Saturday, July 26

:: Ponies on Steroids

Democratic White House will be purer than driven snow
I really don't have the time to do this, but I feel compelled to share the following exchange I had over at Shakesville. Since the main Canaries have all worked for years in the political / advocacy arena, I think its of passing interest.

Melissa McEwen, a blogger whom I enjoy a great deal, posted the following tidbit (and I totally sympathize with her):
"Well, certainly."—Former White House spokesbot Scott McClellan, when asked by Chris Matthews if the Bush administration used Fox commentators as spokespeople by feeding them talking points.

Anyone who's been paying attention knows that Fox News is the propaganda arm of the Bush White House, but it's nice to have such blunt confirmation.
I'm particularly ill-tempered today, so when I read that I immediately thought - oh no. Please let's not have progressives start demonizing talking points the way the campaign finance folks demonized so many routine aspects of political advocacy - PAC donations, for example.

So I sent off the following quick response, not thinking I was saying anything controversial:
"...Plenty of "news" people were using Dem talking points too, for a while. Map Olbermann against Axelrod and you get a perfect fit.

So is it wrong that Fox and the White House are in a permanent liplock because politicians and these pseudo-journalists shouldn't have that close a relationship as a matter of principle, or is wrong because we don't agree with the content? Because any Dem, candidate or elected, would replicate this relationship in a heartbeat and call it success.

Thus a word of caution - stigmatize the closeness between Fox and the White House now and you're just preparing the ground for conservatives to argue that the (Obama) White House is using CNN (or Olbemann, etc.) as Pravda, etc., because the WH is sending CNN press communications and there are similarities between what the WH says and what CNN is reporting."
I was very surprised to receive the following response (slightly abridged):
"...if they are repeating a WH statement without accreditation, then it is -- as has been pointed out -- propaganda. All they have to do is attribute the source to the WH -- or the Obama campaign -- and it becomes what it is: a talking point.

Sorry, I don't buy the assumption that the Democrats would do the same thing as the Bush administration. I'm too old to be that cynical."
Its cynical to assume that a Democrat would try to cultivate a media outlet in the hope they would run the Dem's talking points more or less verbatim? This would never happen? Its kind of what I was afraid of - routine press relations takes on the aspect of something shady. One edge of the double-edges sword is being sharpened... so I responded (slightly abridged):
"Everyone - conservative, progressive or other - who does this kind of work hopes to see their press materials repeated verbatim by a friendly journalist or media outlet. That is considered a marker of success - regardless of political ideology. And everyone cultivates friendly relationships with specific journos, producers or media outlets in the hope this will happen. But that's not my point.

My point is simply that the shoe is about to be on the other foot and the meme will be that the Obama White House is using (fill in the blank journo or media outlet) as a propaganda tool because the WH is sending out 'talking points." The reason conservatives will say this is because they want reporters to defensively knee-jerk criticize the Dem WH in every single story just so the reporter / media outlet can show that they're not behaving like, ahem, tools."
... realizing full well that I was now making too much of an off-hand thought, but I didn't want to be misunderstood. Among the responses I got were (again, slightly abridged):
"... the entire problem goes away if the talking heads merely say, "The White House said today that..." or whoever else dropped the talking points into your journalistic lap. That gives both the data and the source, making critical analysis of the statement more complete. It isn't the distribution of the material that is the problem, it's the pretense that it is original work by the media person in question.

And I'm confident that if Obama or any other Democrat were to do what this White House has done, the Shakers here would call him/her out on it."
And I'm confident that if Obama or any other Democrat were to do what this White House has done, the Shakers here would call him/her out on it.

That goes for me, too.
Well, I left that alone, despite the fact that those responses really surprised me. The idea that the Democrats would never do so dastardly a deed as forming a tight relationship with a reporter or media outlet... and even that the deed is dastardly... where did this come from?

Yes, Fox is evil. Yes, the White House is evil. Yes, the collusion between them is evil. But that's because of who they are and what they are saying. If CNN were working that closely with an Obama White House to, for example, raise awareness about climate change and explain the benefits of, I don't know, the Kyoto Treaty because the U.S. was about to sign on... we'd see it as acting in the public's interest. We'd see it as a positive development. Not because there is something good about the working relationship, but because the message is important and good.
I know the wingnuts will complain, regardless, that CNN or the NY Times is the propaganda arm of a Democratic White house. But do we have to position ourselves now in a way that will be diametrically opposite the one we'll adopt should the executive branch change parties? Do we have to be the ones who place a stigma on the term "talking points" just in time to be hoisted on that petard? And how did anyone miss the fact that both presidential campaigns did daily conference calls and regularly sent around talking points, and one campaign saw their messages routinely picked up verbatim by certain media figures?

Its a minor point, I know. No big deal. Just strange to me... since the utterly rude awakening of the primary process, I'm noticing more and more the ways Dem criticisms of GOP candidates and policies are hypocritical.


ladybec said...

I just read the whole exchange, and I'm not even sure where to start. I think a lot of the readers just can't separate their feelings about Fox from the larger point you're trying to make nor do many Obama supporters truly believe there was or continues to be any favorable media bias towards him (as baffling as that is to the rest of us...) And liberals (or progressives or whatever we call ourselves these days) still have that victim mindset that we'll never do anything as well as the other side, like raise political money (i.e., the campaign finance reform battle) or in this case have such strong relationships with journalists that they use our talking points, so we're better off trying to neutralize that arena than trying to do it better ourselves. But we act like we're being virtuous about it by not playing the game at all.

The irony, of course, is that Obama seems to be pretty good at it. I think there were probably several occasions during the primary where the media just used his talking points rather than coming up with any independent analysis of the race. (Not that I'm going to research that now, but I'm pretty sure I could come up with some...) And he certainly seemed to have a good week with the press last week. As is a common theme at the Canary, I don't think he gets called on half the things he should get called on by the media.

But yes, there is a larger problem that the Daily Howler talks about almost every day - the press is lazy and doesn't really do their job. They latch on to narratives and run with them, and if your talking points fit those narratives that they want to tell, it just makes their job that much easier because then they really don't have to do anything. Since I've been reading the Howler, it makes watching/reading the MSM just about unbearable because it's so appalling what passes for news coverage in this country. Thank goodness for the Internet and having more options!

But I'd love to hear our resident press guru weigh in on all this - any thoughts, Zippy?

Anonymous said...

Awww, poor baby. Hillary lost so dem criticisms are hypocritical now. STFU.

Grow up. Life doesn't always go your way. You can cry and scream sexism but it is kinda pathetic when you don't have any evidence, except for, "but I said so".

What is funny is that NOT supporting Obama is the very definition of not advancing womens rights. How pathetic are you that you can't get past your sore loser mentality to see what is obviously so clear.

Just TWO facts you should look up:

How many women serve in Congress? Now, how many are Dems? Ok, that's what I thought. Who is the most powerful woman in Cogress? And what party if she from?? Yeah, ok then, you just got shot down. Now, STFU. Thanks, effing moron.

Buffy said...

There are 91 women in Congress(75in the House, 16 in the Senate). A mere 17%. Thank you, all-knowing and benevolent Democratic Party for the crumbs you bestow up on us.

Nina Miller said...

I love how this guy writes "you got shot down," past tense, in his own initial comment knowing full well that that is a physical (as in temporal physics) impossibility - he hasn't even sent the comment yet. He's actually congratulating himself on his own markmanship before he's pulled the trigger.

If people want to be taken seriously they need to learn how to use their verb tenses correctly. No ifs, ands or buts.

On the subject of electing women, apparently quotas have worked wonders for integrating parliaments overseas. A number of countries require their political parties to include a certain percentage of women on their "lists." Its been a great way to get voters used to voting for women and seeing women in power, and its helped a lot of women establish their political base of power to continue moving up the ladder. We couldn't do it for elections because of the way our process works, but Dems could demand it for the Dem party postions. I think that's a fine idea. From now on, we want 52% of the party leadership positions, end of story. Hey, we're not the ones who said qualifications and record of accomplishments don't count. They're making the bed, they can lie in it.

But back to the nudnik at hand; I always find it amusing when someone who admits he can't recognize sexism even when its biting him the face still thinks he is qualified to lecture feminists on what's good for feminism. It would be like me walking up to an architect and telling him how many joists he needs to support a floor. Sure we can both see the house, but that doesn't mean I understand how its built or what materials its made of.

On the subject of losing, it is screamingly obvious that despite the extraordinary efforts and expenditures of the Obama campaign and its adoring fans in the media, he is still running more or less even with McCain in the national head-to-heads. And McCain is barely trying, in fact, some days it looks like he's actually trying to lose. Obama's been bringing his A-game for months and he hasn't broken through - against a guy who is practically a corpse.

That's not something I would be proud of.

Lordy, those possums* are slow.

*( in case you forgot.)

RS said...

Tangent to a tangent.

Ummm... record of accomplishments and qualifications don't count? I suppose (d-uh!) you mean Obama winning over Clinton.

OK. What are Clinton's qualifications and legislative accomplishments? Two elections to the Senate from the safest Democratic seat possible. First Lady, in-charge of bringing about universal health care. Oh wait...

Yes, there was the Beijing speech. What else? Ummmm.... Any major crusades while in the Senate? Not really. She did support the motion to use military force in Iraq... after being briefed by "experts" and the White House. Why bother to read the intelligence reports? And there were her visits to war-zones, braving sniper-fire...

As for Obama. Eight years in the Illinois State Senate. Then elected to US Senate. Massive voter registration drive in Chicago that helped President Clinton win IL. Strong proponent of ethics reform in both Senates. Made video-taping of interrogations and confessions mandatory, with support from the police and Republicans, in Illinois.
But (smacks forehead) what am I thinking? All that is ZERO experience, of course.

[Before you get fired up - Clinton might have done a lot more. But she never made that case, assuming everybody knew she deserved the nomination. Obama, on the other hand, took nothing for granted and pitched his case.]

As to the main point of the post - yeah, why are Olbermann and the others surprised? Everybody knows Fox is the Bush White House's mouthpiece. Like Olbermann is a Democratic talking head. Still, the distinction should be made between (a) independent research and (b) press releases. If someone took talking points from, oh, Ciccina on pro-choice legislation, I would expect something like "sources say..." or even "Ciccina says..." That's just simple crediting of sources (something very important in academic publishing - "ethics" I believe is the term.)

And you know my view on PAC donations... you can influence Congress and elected officials through petitions and meetings, but not with golfing trips, use of campaign jets, donations in cash or kind... The former's advocacy, the latter's bribery.

RS said...

And you might find this amusing:,0,6802141.story

Perhaps that explains why the race still appears to be tight. Apart from Obama-is-Muslim, Obama-is-Black, Obama-is-not-Clinton folks supporting McCain... [Just so you know - the three categories are mostly different, though there might be some overlap.]

Nina Miller said...

You forget that Clinton's Senate seat was previously held by Al D'Amato, Republican; that the previous governor of NY was Republican; and upstate NY has some severely Republican districts. I believe the state Senate is still GOP controlled, perhaps the Assembly - I don't recall. So definitely not an easy win in terms of its own elected representatives. Don't forget that Clinton travelled to every county in NY and did serious retail grassroots politics to introduce herself and build relationships with the upstate crowd. And now they love her.

As for Obama's huge win in the primary - not so much. Yes, he outmaneuvered her in the caucus states. But in terms of votes won it was a difference of what - somewhere between a deficit and +150k ? Out of 37 million votes cast? Considering he had the media pounding away for him and his cash advantage?

This is a persistent, problematic blindspot for the Obama campaign. They did not have an overwhelming victory. They failed to convince half of the *Democratic* voters. Since I assume they truly believed they had the nomination locked up sometime in April, they needed to start wooing Clinton and Clinton voters back then. But they were trapped in their bubble. Its part of the reason they have a problem now.

I would write more but my dog keeps putting her head down on the keyboard.

RS said...

Actually, Senator Clinton's seat was earlier held by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (for 24 years). Schumer defeated Al D'Amato.
Obama didn't have much of a money advantage over Clinton, not until much later. Clinton's money management was bad, hence the difference.
If Obama had started openly wooing Clinton's supporters in April - two months before June 3! - would you have seen it as an honest attempt at party unity, or as an(other?) attempt to force Clinton out of the race? And it's not like Obama ignored Clinton's supporters... Just that both sides remained passionately committed till the end.

Good night!

Nina Miller said...

Of course you are right - I completely forgot about Moynihan. I really couldn't stand him; sanctimonious s.o.b. Hated him. Ugh. I could go on this way for another hundred paragraphs - just grunting noises and expletives.

I'll share the point with you on the money - it is both cause and effect. About money mismanagement, I just don't know... I really haven't looked into it all because I'm so dubious about my ability to get trustworthy information. I hate "learning" things that could be entirely false, or not (but I have no way of telling). My gut says Penn sucked up a huge amount of resources for relatively little return. I think that's the big danger of using big-dog consultants - they're not hungry. Their firm will survive a campaign loss (c.i.p. Bob Shrum). They're not desperate to win.

Honestly, if Obama had reached out earlier in a substantive way - really talking about my issues, putting out some policy proposals that showed he was engaging in a meaningful way; if he had pointedly disavowed the misogyny that was being hurled at Clinton (while still saying he thought he was the better candidate) in the same context as his speech on racism; if he had refrained from implying that anyone who didn't vote for him was a racist (the whole Bradley effect canard, the accusations against Bill); and if he had refrained from the bullying 'she should drop out' that started *before* super Tuesday!; I would not feel the hostility toward him I feel now. And, in fact, if Hillary became the VP nominee I would not feel the same hostility. If Hillary were on the ticket I would *know* that my issues would not be shunted aside. Not only would she be on the case but she would bring with her staff who have considerable expertise. One thing that bothers me about Obama is this mating dance he's doing with the conservative religious community - many of whom are heavy hitters in international development. It bothers me because when a pol is thinking about reaching "common ground" the first issue they usually agree on is to set aside "controversial" "hot button" issues such s family planning and women's rights. So if something like the Millennium Development Goals discussion came up again at the UN, I don't want to see Caritas or Samaritan's Purse or the Holy See persuading the state department to side with them on, for example, blocking family planning from becoming a UN top priority issue (as happened under Bush) in exchange for supporting some "more important" domestic priority of Obama's. In this scenario, someone in the White House would be weighing the pros and cons of going either way, and if that person doesn't get how immensely important int'l family planning is, then we wind up little better than we were under Bush with his faith-based outreach shenanigans (yes that is the technical term!).

Anyway, even without Hillary on the ticket - I would still think she was the better candidate, but I wouldn't be repulsed by Obama. I didn't think Kerry was a good candidate, I didn't believe he would make any kind of dramatic change to move the country forward and I assumed he would let a lot of opportunities slip by, and his campaign left me completely cold, but I still voted for him and supported him in my own small way. I started out liking Obama just fine; it was Edwards I didn't much care for, not because I though he was a bad guy, but because I thought he had already tried to run and failed to appeal, and wasn't doing anything dramatically different this time around. If it didn't work once, why do it twice? And Biden - ugh, no. Dodd - what? Kucinich is a freakshow, and who else was there.... can't remember. Obama was my second choice.

It wasn't until the NH debate that my alarm bells started tinging, but it was the run-up to Super Tuesday that really set me off.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RS said...

I am not sure Senator Clinton's staff would be particularly useful - they would fail the message discipline and no-drama requirements of the Obama campaign. Still, Obama has already hired Patti Solis-Doyle and Neera Tanden (the latter, I don't much like - I am not for Big Brother-mandated health care).
I don't recall the Obama campaign ever raising the Bradley Effect - that was pundits and such. Anyway, the Bradley Effect predates Obama significantly. We will have to agree to disagree on the role of Bill, Geraldine et al.
I seriously doubt Obama or his aides encouraged Clinton to drop out before Super Tuesday. Now, there may have been media cries before NH; but not from the Obama campaign.

By the way, always wanted to ask you - how would you feel if Obama picked Sibelius (or my preference, Napolitano) for VP? Do you think "Clinton or no other woman"?

Anyway. Nice redesign of the site - I took a minute before realizing I hadn't strayed :-)

Nina Miller said...

Thanks for saying that about the redesign... it happened by accident, really. I was just looking at the templates, my dog was looking at the laptop, one thing led to another and I had managed to save a boilerplate template over my modified one. The last time I had backed it up was ages ago, so that didn't much help. So I figured I'd just start over. The banner I did when I was stuck on a long conference call with people who think its appropriate to share the intimate details of their travel itineraries with every single one of their colleagues.

I'm in a bit of a rush at the moment but per Sebelius and/or Napolitano... I actually don't know *that* much about either. I'd have to do a bit of research. I would be insulted if he chose either one under Ferraro's Geraldine/Gerald paradigm - not different from a lot of other governers, except they stand out because of their gender. It would indicate a very reductive way of thinking.

Some people just don't get - or refuse to get - that women (most women, anyway) weren't voting for Hillary *just because* she's a woman. She a brilliant, experienced leader with a good mix of progressive and centrist positions and she's been a real force for change on women's rights globally.

PLUS she's a woman. Its an add-on, just like Obama's "plus he's 'transformational'" (read: biracial). Its great that he's biracial, it indicates he may have some different perspectives, but that alone is not why most of his supporters like him (African Americans did not go ga-ga over Alan Keyes).

I would not vote for Liddy Dole. Or Kay-Bay. I'd have serious problems with voting for Mary Landrieu; the rest of the field would have to be pretty crap for her to be my preferred presidential candidate.

[Voters do assume, however, that female candidates are more moderate than they sometimes really are. Or so I've been told by some consultants. As in "you don't have to hammer home that Mrs. Candidate is pro-choice - people assume it."]

So unless I learn that Napolitano is actually doing a really great job, can move voters and becomes (IMO) the best of the bunch, the fact that she's a woman (and a paesan!) doesn't move me.

RS said...

Anonymous said...

Hey, are there any hillary nutjobs still planning on voting for mccunt? I meant mccain.....I was just thinking about what he called his wife in public.

Anyway, your favorite misogynist and mine decided to pimp out his wife at sturgis yesterday....whatta guy!

The rape jokes, the wife beating jokes, the chelsea clinton jokes, and now this......yikes, you'd think women would be coming out of the woodwork to vote for obama to make sure McCunt doesn't get in....D'oh, I did it again!

I would like to hear any rational response why that wouldn't be the case - what with hillary now campaigning for obama.