Monday, May 26, 2008

The rise and fall of Hillary Clinton, Assassi-Bitch

Interesting. What was a blog and cable-news shriek-fest on Friday night about Hillary Clinton’s comment on Democratic primaries in June and/or assassination threat had by Sunday turned into a rather sedate affair, at least among mainstream print columnists.

What happened? Here’s a big guess: People -- reporters and normal people alike -- got a chance to actually watch the video of Clinton’s Argus Leader interview.

And there was no there there.

America’s premier-league media got faked out by the Drudge Report’s spinning red siren. Again. In neuro-cognitive terms, this is called no carryover of learning. Our press is developmentally impaired.

Even has fessed up big time, although somehow the mess is still Clinton’s fault. This is Politico’s John Harris detailing the exquisite care that is taken in the high-speed delivery of really bad journalism. All emphasis has been added.
On Friday afternoon, I heard my colleague, Politico reporter Jonathan Martin, bellow in excitement as he called me over to his desk.

Martin was furiously typing away, not looking up as he told me the latest: Clinton had given an interview to the editorial board of the Argus Leader newspaper in South Dakota in which she answered inquiries into why she is staying in the race by citing the fact that it’s only May, and RFK had been shot and killed in June.
Okay, there’s the first problem: that paraphrase of Clinton’s remarks. Just a tad off-center.
Here is what I was thinking: Wow. Maybe she has come unhinged? It’s not as though such macabre thoughts have never occurred to me, but for Clinton to give public voice to such a scenario is bizarre. This is going to be a big story and is almost certainly going to shadow and quite likely accelerate the final chapter of her presidential campaign.
So, with a presumably totally whacked out Clinton now decapitating her own presidential campaign and no doubt jeopardizing her Senate seat as well, does Harris pause to think: hmmm, maybe we should get more info about this?

Fuck no -- the Drudge Report siren was spinning and the New York Post already was running with it. What more does a seasoned journalist need?
Here is what I said: Martin, quick get that item up!
And so, Martin did -- even as the Politico people briefly noted, and snickered, that the stupid Associated Press had completely missed this dramatic unhinging of a presidential candidate in its filed story on the Argus Leader interview.

I’m no journalist but that AP story just might have been a big tip-off. But what do I know, I had one course in journalism and that was in high school.
Perhaps half an hour after the story broke Martin called me back over to his desk. It turned out the Argus Leader had video of its big interview. I huddled over Martin’s computer as we watched.
Sweet Jesus, there’s always a tape.*
It was a deflating experience.

The RFK remarks were deep in a 20-minute clip of an otherwise routine conversation. Then, once we actually got to the relevant portion of the video, it was hardly an electric moment.
Hardly an electric moment. God how that keeps rolling around in my head. Isn’t it ironic. Clinton’s interview wasn’t even as electric and riveting as Keith Olbermann's best Ted Baxter delivery of his Special Comment, Hillary Clinton, Assassi-Bitch.

Nonetheless, it’s still all Clinton’s fault.
But it was also clear that Clinton’s error was not in saying something beyond the pale but in saying something that pulled from context would sound as if it were beyond the pale.
Clinton talked. She said something. She said something that pulled from context would sound as if it were beyond the pale.

You have to admit, the bitch had it coming to her.
*Bonus points for knowing what movie that line is from.

h/t to Alessandro Machi.

NOTE: This post is about journalism in general and political reporting in particular. It is not about any wonderful/awful candidate whom you may be idolizing/despising at the moment.

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