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January 7, 2008

The little things
Posted by Patrick at 04:44 PM * 135 comments

[Posted from my office, where the connectivity flows like a cool mountain stream. We’ll find out this evening how it’s flowing at home.]

Hillary Clinton showed actual emotion on the campaign trail today…and, predictably enough, the knives are out. As Stephen Suh remarked, satirically, on Cogitamus:

Portsmouth, NH - Heartless, unfeeling automaton Hillary Clinton broke down in hysterical tears today while cackling uncontrollably at Portsmouth’s Cafe Espresso. Even Clinton’s supporters were surprised and not a little disturbed at the way she managed to display no emotion whatsoever while ambitiously emasculating every single male in a 150-mile radius. During the entire campaign appearance her constant tears caused mascara to run down her cheeks, like it always does when chicks get weepy.
I’ve never been a fan of Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. I’d vote for her over any of the vampires and clowns that make up the Republican field, but without a lot of enthusiasm. Still, I’m with Kevin Drum when he writes:
Am I feeling bitter? You bet. Not because Hillary Clinton seems more likely than not to lose—I can live with that pretty easily—but because of how she’s likely to lose. Because the press doesn’t like her. Because any time a woman raises her voice half a decibel she instantly becomes shrill.
Still, Drum continues:
Here’s the good news: when the better candidates got taken out in 2004, we ended up with John Kerry, a decent man but a lousy candidate. This year, if Hillary does indeed go on to lose, we’ll end up Barack Obama, a decent man and a terrific candidate. So at least we’re making progress.
Evidence for the latter proposition can be found here. Evidently Obama’s reaction to being asked to comment on Clinton’s horrifying display was to be, well, a normal decent human being about it:
“I didn’t see what happened. I know this process is a grind. So that’s not something I care to comment on.”
Whereas Edwards’ first impulse, evidently, was play the tough-guy card:
“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.”
Huh. I’ve been more or less pro-Edwards for just about the entire first year of this two-year marathon campaign, and suddenly, I’m finding it extraordinarily easy to let go.

[Yes, I know that too much gets read into these little moments of gaffe and crisis. Ed Muskie probably would have been a perfectly okay President. I also know: issue issue issue corporate-contributors policy-differences substantive this fundamental that. Still.]

Comments on The little things:
#1 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:47 PM:

I dunno. Obama and Edwards are both reacting, I suspect, with whatever reaction they think will get them the best press and public reaction right now. They could even both be right about that simultaneously. But I don't know that Obama's reaction shows that he's a more generous, decent person right now, so much as he thinks it's in his interest to look like one.

Maybe that's too cynical. But I can't really know, so I'm trying to react as little as possible to the personalities on display (as filtered through the media). Of course, there are visceral reactions that are impossible to ignore: my dislike of Giuliani goes well beyond his expressed politics (and of course lots of right-wing nuts have a similar reaction to H Clinton).

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:55 PM:

At that level, I literally don't care what's in anyone's heart of hearts or soul of souls. If Candidate Bob is secretly a fiend from hell who's figured out that the best way to get votes and support is to be consistently decent, smart, and reasonable and not stop, then Candidate Bob has my vote.

#3 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Knowing how little sleep these candidates are going on, I think it's best mostly to ignore things like Hillary's mini-breakdown and also ignore the reactions of her opponents.

#4 ::: Francis D ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:02 PM:

To be honest, I'm hoping for an Obama/Edwards ticket followed by an Edwards/Obama ticket. But whoever wins, my main hope is that all the leading Democratic* candidates sink their differences and concentrate on kicking the Republican party as far back out of power as they have ever been. (Regardless of who wins, I think that Obama and both Clintons have a lot to offer any political campaign). And they also announce how things are going to be done by giving Howard Dean some important roles. (With the explicit acknowledgement that they will make as many moves towards bipartisanship as the Republicans have since Gingrich).

And I don't even have a dog in this fight.

But yes, Obama's gone up and Edwards has gone down in my estimation over this.

* I refuse to call them "Democrats" in the way pioneered IIRC by Strom Thurmond.

#5 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Scraps @ 1. Even if both Obama and Edwards are just going for reactions that they think will work out best for their own images, I'll admit to feeling more positively about someone aiming for the image "decent" than about someone aiming for "tough, not like that snivelling crybaby WOMAN", if only because it suggests a less cynical view of the electorate.

What gets me about the ABC news story is that the only three ways suggested to interpret Cliton's "composure" are "emotional, cold or just plain tough". Because all three, especially when applyed to women (who aren't supposed to be tough, but musn't ever act emotional), can be negative. No possibility for "self-assured" composure? For "authoritative" composure, and tears that, in the context of the question, express humility about power? No?

I'm not at all sure I'd vote for Clinton, but that sort of reporting might make me want to, out of contrariness.

But as I'm not American, my opinion is largely irrelevant.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:14 PM:

She had tears in her eyes and raised her voice. If that changes your opinion of her, you should move into a cave, dress in a tacky-looking leopard skin, and change your name to Og.

#7 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Posted from my office, where the connectivity flows like a cool mountain stream.

Tainted with Giardia?

#8 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:23 PM:

What I mean is, I don't think either Edwards's or Obama's reactions tell me much about how they would behave as President. The minutiae of campaign posturing isn't worth the amount of attention the media would like us to pay.

Hell, maybe Obama simply likes Clinton more than Edwards does. A reaction can mean all kinds of things on a personal level that aren't fundamentally about decency.

Patrick, I would sign on with what you said if I had more reason to believe the "not stop" part.

#9 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:24 PM:

I dunno. Maybe the emotional caricature is about Clinton being a woman, but maybe it's just about the way the press's tendency to caricature everybody interacts slightly differently with each individual. Seems to me Al Gore was also written into an emotional straightjacket, and had his campaign tubed by hostility from the press. But both Clinton's emotional moment and the other Democratic front-runners' reactions to it seem like non-issues to me -- typical of the sort of fiddly minutiae you get when you're doing horse-race journalim rather than issues journalism -- and not likely to affect how I caucus when the time comes. Which won't be for Clinton, anyhow, not least for my dislike of the dishonesty inherent in the posture that being Mrs. President counts as executive experience.

#10 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:31 PM:

Remember when everybody was criticizing her hair during Bill's campaign? (not girly enough, too girly, blah blah blah)

Yeah. It's like that.

#11 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:33 PM:

At this point, I have to say that the candidates are behaving way better than the media.

#12 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:37 PM:

I'm sorry, but the queen of runny mascara is still and always Tammy Faye Bakker Messner.

#13 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:40 PM:

I've seen The Moment about 27 times now, and the thing I find repulsive about the whole thing is the press going "Is that real or is it calculated?"

I'm the first to say that the Clintons, both of them, can be calculating. Why am I the first to say this? Because I can see it when they are calculating.

This was not calculating. It was an honest moment, a mix of exhaustion, tension, frustration, and probably about 12 other things. I'm sorry, but only an idiot could fail to see that. Or, you know, somebody who is borderline Asperger's or something.

It has absolutely nothing to do with whether I will vote for her in my primary here. But it does increase my appreciation of what sort of hell we put these people through. You could say "What they put themselves through", of course. But we are the ones who determine how this thing will go. No matter how much we blame the media, or the pols, or the experts, or the whatevers. We are the ones who demand this of our candidates. I don't actually think it's an unfair test to require the Most Powerful Person In The World (perhaps to be) to go through, but that doesn't mean I don't have to feel for them as human beings.

#14 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:18 PM:

What Ulrika said.

#15 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:22 PM:

Wait, am I supposed to be mad at Edwards for playing the tough guy card, or for Hilary playing the tough guy card?

I'm confused.

#16 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:28 PM:

Erik @ 15:

How about both?

#17 ::: fjg ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:43 PM:

To be fair to Edwards, his second impulse seems to have been more charitable:

Later, at another campaign stop, Edwards appeared to adopt his wife's more sympathetic tone.

"These campaigns are very grueling," he said, "they're tough and difficult affairs, running for president is a tough process."

(from the same abc news link)

Given the pressure they're all under, I can't begrudge them a bit of knee-jerk nastiness about each other. I don't think this necessarily indicates any deep and fixed flaw in Edwards' character.

#18 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:49 PM:

There was a very nice moment that I saw on C-SPAN (I think it aired Sunday afternoon. Or was it Saturday?). Three young girls (teenagers) from Maine came up to the podium and gave Hillary a Maine license plate that said "NXT PRES". Hillary seemed very happy, surprised and touched and very, very real. It was one of the most, maybe the most natural and at-ease Hillary Clinton I've ever seen, and I've seen her in person (and shaken hands with her). After all these years, my sense is that public appearances, especially the endless campaign stops one after another, are still difficult for her.

I am still leaning toward Edwards, whose positions seem most like mine on most major issues, but I think Hillary Clinton's personality "issues" are a problem ONLY to the media and to those who let their attitudes be most influenced by the media, who expect presidential candidates to fall into a certain mold that, given their own assumptions and biases, a person who is both a Democrat and a woman is a tough fit for.

In a lot of ways she reminds me of me -- we have somewhat similar backgrounds (though hers was a bit more affluent, we were both raised Methodist and Republican) and personalities (note to astrology buffs: we're both Scorpios). And despite all of his faults, we both still love Bill. :-)

#19 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:50 PM:

I still don't trust the wisdom of Obama's policy-making at all - I don't see any sign that he's preparing for the no-holds-barred fight to the finish against the Republican machine that must happen before anything else other than more surrender to it can. In that regard I think both Clinton and Edwards are more realistic, Clinton favoring settling for what the machine will allow, Edwards much more ready for confrontation with it. But.

I see that Obama brought in a whole lot of people who haven't voted before. And it's not a matter of having pandered to Republicans - these seem to be genuine Democratic constituents roused to action. That impresses me a lot, and I've been saying for years that a significant increase in public participation would end up doing all kinds of good. A public with more people who think both that they can participate and that they should will end up with some imperatives of its own and may well shove the machine from other angles if the same ol' same ol' obstructionism settles in.

It's now very high on the list of things I'm watching for to see if it happens in other states.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:51 PM:

Well, given what the current president is like, having one who's an actual human being would be an improvement.

On Edwards and Obama: What Patrick said.

#21 ::: NC Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:57 PM:

All I know is, thank God the primary here is tomorrow.

At this point I want to take the phone off the hook (over two dozen polls, robocalls, and live calls today alone), and I feel as if there is a black hole forming to the west and slightly north of here about three miles (Manchester) that's sucking in all light and sound ... and I'm sitting on the event horizon.

#22 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:59 PM:

Bruce @ 19:

Obama's "reach across the aisle" rhetoric, if combined with a high level of popular support, gives him a good chance of setting the terms of debate: He may well get to decide which conservatives are reasonable and worth listening to, and which are crazy obstructionists.

#23 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:02 PM:

I find it awfully hard, myself, to get worked up over one tossed-off remark. But for those inclined to believe that this is a Deeply Significant remark revealing his True Character --- well, perhaps we should consider the political wisdom of Leo Durocher. The Democratic leadership we have in Congress right now, like the Giants team that Leo famously mocked in 1946, is full of nice guys who keep getting steamrolled. If electing something different turns out to be what it takes to get a different result, I can live with that.

#24 ::: Simon Owens ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:12 PM:

Those weren't tears. The oil that allows her neck to pivot sprung a leak.

#25 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:24 PM:

A nice riff on the experience thing:


#26 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:25 PM:

The thing is, AJ, there basically aren't any reasonable conservatives left. There may be one or two or three or so, but they're all conditioned thoroughly by now to go with the machine when push comes to shove, no matter how uppity they may talk along the way. On every crucial issue for years now, the vote is "all the Republicans, and enoough Democratic defectors to do the job". The sort of person folks tend to mean by "reasonable conservative" have all either left office or made their accommodations with the machine - they are no longer available to be reached out to, because they're not in office anymore.

I will yield on this if folks can cite specific people they're thinking of to the contrary, as I may well be forgetting someone. But this is the field as it's seemed to me whenever I've tried hunting down actual voting records.

#27 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:25 PM:

#13 ::: Michael Weholt:

Yeah, and then we complain that politicians aren't spontaneous.

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:30 PM:

Francis, #4: With the explicit acknowledgement that they will make as many moves towards bipartisanship as the Republicans have since Gingrich.

Hear, hear! I'd love to hear some statements to that effect -- that would neatly yank the rug out from under one of the major Republican attack lines. But I'm willing to wait, if necessary, until after we have a Democratic President safely elected.

Yes, I'm advocating a policy of "let 'em think they still have us buffaloed". To be underestimated by one's opponents is an advantage not lightly to be discarded.

Carrie, #10: The one I remember most vividly is how the wingnuts pilloried her for keeping her birth name -- and then, when she started using the exact traditionally-prescribed form that a married woman is "supposed" to use, the very same wingnuts turned around and PILLORIED HER ALL OVER AGAIN. As an iconic illustration of "a woman can't do anything right," it remains unsurpassed.

Bruce, #19: A public with more people who think both that they can participate and that they should...

There's a third leg to that stool: they also need to believe that their participation can actually make a difference. If Obama can bring out enough new voters to get elected (beyond the ability of Diebold to screw up), that's one thing. But if he then pulls a 2006 -- if, once in office, he goes back to "business as usual" -- it's going to do far more damage than good. And I'm still very unhappy over his apparent willingness to play footsie with the Christianists.

#29 ::: Lee sees astroturf @24 ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Hello, Simon, welcome to Making light. How much are they paying you? I'm sure it's not enough, when they're asking you to go around making such an ass of yourself.

#30 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Given the amount of spinning that the media is doing with this story, I can't see changing my position on any of the candidates. Or my position on our corporate media.

#31 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 08:39 PM:

Heaven forfend that anyone ever say in public that tears are an appropriate response to stress.

#32 ::: Simon Owens ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:00 PM:

Oh god, I know that this site pioneered the astroturf-watch, and kudos to them for doing so, but has it caused such paranoia that any joking criticism launched at a candidate is considered to be some paid drive-by from a PR flack?

#33 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:05 PM:

And the wait for the disemvoweling begins.

#34 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:16 PM:

Lee @ 28: Well, that's my concern too. Hence wanting to wait and see some. (And it's not like I'll be able to take part in the WA caucus anyway.)

#35 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:17 PM:

Jon @ 33
First the bingo game, then the disemvowelling.

Simon @ 24/32
You forgot to put in snark tags. (Mindreading is difficult via intertubez; using tags makes it so much easier.)

#36 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:18 PM:

If it is a crime to have compassion about change; if it is wrong to get emotional over serving your country; if it is a sin to cry because of personal convictions then I am just as guilty of being "shrill" and "bitchy" as Clinton. The breakdowns and emotions I (still) have from serving my country on active duty are overwhelming at time. You call that an emotional outburst or a breakdown?

You've never been to a retirement ceremony to watch a Master Chief Petty Officer relinquish his post after 35 years of service.

You've never seen a submariner say goodbye to his last sea command.

You've never personally delivered a flag to a mother who's son lost his life in the line of duty.

That was not an emotional breakdown.

I am not a supporter of Mrs. Hilary Clinton. I know we do need a woman President --- I'm just not sure if she's the right candidate.

This statement by Diana Owens makes it crystal clear to me just how much we need a woman President, "As far as being a female candidate, she's open to different descriptive adjectives — things like melting down or being too emotional — that you would not hear as much in terms of male candidates."

In a fair and equal race for election their wouldn't be different descriptive adjectives.

#37 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:19 PM:

Bruce @ 26:

I can't think of too many elected conservatives I'd call reasonable off the top of my head. But I don't think it's clear that the Republican machine is going to be able to keep its politicians in lockstep for much longer. They got beaten soundly in the last election, their base is depressed or rebelling, the broader public is still furious with them, the Democrats are close to taking the Senate, and the punditry is speculating about major political realignment.

What's more, the media landscape is changing in ways that makes it harder for them to push the sort of BS we saw in the Clinton years, even if they manage to keep their coalition from fracturing. That's probably the biggest story of the Iowa primaries: huge numbers of people simply ignored what the press told them about the candidates and the race.

I'd be willing to bet that we see the re-emergence of the "reasonable conservative" in the next few years. I hope so anyways. God knows, the conservatives whom I talk with regularly are hungry for it.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:33 PM:

I think 32 is an example of the "jeez, can't you take a joke?" spot on the bingo card.

Simon, if 24 hadn't been the first post you ever made on this site, you might have gotten away with the claim in 32. But I, for one, don't believe you.

I don't know if you're a paid driveby or not. At this point, I don't much care. If you aren't, you'll stick around and be reasonable. But to do that you have to stop claiming that WE did something wrong by thinking you were astroturf.

You botched your entrance. Act well from here on and the audience might forgive you. Try to brazen it out and you can expect rotten tomatoes.

#39 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Xopher: It might be that he's actually astroturfing (though this is a rough crowd to try that on), and that's an attempt to get away.

On the other side of the coin, it's possible he's been lurking (because an astroturfer who'd aware enough to make that defense is someone I'd presume to be smart enough to not try it here; in that manner), and just read the room poorly.

I'll suspend further judgement until there's more evidence.

#40 ::: Simon Owens ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:58 PM:

RE: Xopher

I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that this was the first time I've ever commented on this site. I wouldn't consider myself a daily reader, but I've come to Making Light off and on for at least two years.

And even if this was the first time I commented and the first time I visited the site -- Making Light is a popular blog with lots of incoming links. It's entirely probable that people come in all the time, see posts, and then comment on them. It doesn't mean they're PR drones.

#41 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:01 PM:

I'd guess Clinton just "got out of the car"... next comes the same sort of "media assassination" that took down Howard Dean. I'd love to think that she'll find some way to defend herself, but I'm not hopeful.

#42 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:02 PM:

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape."

-- Grover Norquist

Norquist is still a leading Repub strategist. Dems forget this at their extreme peril.

#43 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Simon seems to've made two previous posts which were indexed to a different URL, although it's not clear to me why those two older posts appear to be indexed separately from each other.

#44 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:20 PM:

A.J.: I'd really like to believe that the movement conservative bloc's days are over. I'm skeptical - the fundamentals of the situation haven't changed. There's still a core constituency of very wealthy people and the peripheral constituency of their various actual and would-be lackeys. They have experience in holding it together as a minority and being disruptive, plus the benefit of further experiments in what's most effectively disruptive. Their conquest of the judicial branch is basically complete, and they've so thoroughly riddled the executive that any cleaning of it to restore competency would look like a witch hunt to a lot of bystanders. The tradition of overwhelming reelection of incumbents is still in place, and likely reinforced by a lot of Democratic voters' bitterness over the betrayal of 2006 hopes. It's a bad situation in a lot of ways, and I don't see it improving a whole lot.

As usual whenever I get to doomsaying, of course, I'd love to be wrong.

#45 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:24 PM:

Xopher writes in #38:

I don't know if you're a paid driveby or not. At this point, I don't much care. If you aren't, you'll stick around and be reasonable. But to do that you have to stop claiming that WE did something wrong by thinking you were astroturf.

21 minutes after Simon Owens posted, Lee accused him of being astroturf. Paid astroturf. This was rude.

One example of a visit by Simon in February 2005.

A blog by someone named Simon Owens with the same URL as the one given by "Simon Owens," the alleged drive-by astroturfer.

TNH pointed out long ago one bad effect of astroturf: it poisons the presumption of sincerity in civil conversation. We're seeing an example here.

#46 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Of course, the best response (from Edwards or Obama, or any other candidate asked that question) would've been "Would you be asking me that if she'd been a man?"

As USA Today pointed out a few weeks ago, there are plenty of male politicians who tear up in public, but it generally doesn't get them accused of being too emotional for office. Romney's done it a couple of times recently, and the article includes a photo of a teary-eyed Dubya at a Medal of Honor ceremony last January.

#47 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:38 PM:

What Bill Higgins said. Some of us are getting way to quick to accuse people of inauthenticity, based on pretty much nothing.

I'm not without sin. I'm saying, let's cool it.

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Bill, #45: I checked Simon's View All By first. This made it look very much like a drive-by spouting wingnut talking points, hence my comment. (And his "Where's your sense of HUMOR?" bingo response doesn't help his case.)

If the View All By was incorrect because Simon has changed e-mail addresses, then I apologize. However, I don't think my initial reaction was unreasonable under the circumstances.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:54 PM:

What Lee said. I checked his VAB too.

#50 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:58 PM:

Terry @ #39: Well, it seems this supposed "lurker" didn't know about the comment archives.

By comparison with PNH's and TNH's records, Simon Owens apparently has not posted (under that name, at least) since late 2003.

Interestingly, the "view all by" doesn't seem to go back to the beginning of the blog, despite the fact that earlier posts and their comments are still reachable by "previous post". But now I want a sinople pencil. :-)

#51 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:58 PM:

Lee at #48: Checking "View All By" was, of course, a good move.

If the View All By was incorrect because Simon has changed e-mail addresses, then I apologize. However, I don't think my initial reaction was unreasonable under the circumstances.

I beg to differ. It was quite unreasonable. "How much are they paying you?"

Please consider why your posting might have caused me to form this opinion.

Please consider giving the other guy a little more of a break next time this situation comes up.

#52 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:59 PM:

And by the way, I think both Scraps and Ulrika are being, not "too cynical," but too cynical in the wrong ways.

A great deal of politics is performance. (Here the shade of D. West rattles its chains.) To the extent that I'm reviewing Obama's and Edwards's reactions to the Clinton thing, I'm noting that one of them turned in a good performance, setting a good example, and one of them acted like a jerk, helping confirm the whole misogynistic narrative. I'm not saying this proves that Obama is perfect and Edwards is evil. (I believe I'm the author of a Making Light post entitled "Barack Obama Can Kiss My Ass.") I'm saying, here's a right way to deal with a situation like this, and here's a distinctly wrong way, one that does immediate damage to the respect in which your closest allies hold you. (I'm far from the only blogger to be seriously disimpressed by Edwards over this.)

It doesn't tell us how either of them would act as President. Very few particular outbursts, quips, breakdowns, orations, stand-up moments, pecadillos, thuggish remarks, witty comebacks, or declared favorite TV shows can, by themselves, do that. That's why we have these thing called "campaigns." The presumed point is so we can see how these ambitious people deal with various challenges over time. I realize that there's a certain kind of person who would prefer to simply examine a list of Official Candidate Positions, add up which one matches one's own views most closely, and come to a conclusion from there, but I have this novel-editor's crazy notion that "character" and "sensibility" are real things that also matter.

[PS: No, I am not saying that Scraps or Ulrika are that kind of person; indeed, I know neither of them is. It's not unheard-of, though, among my friends and acquaintances. I see a certain revulsion away from these little character-illuminating stories, as if there's something low-minded and vile and tabloidish about paying attention to the matters which I deliberately called "the little things." I note that these tend to be the same people who disdain "gossip." Personally, I think gossip is important, a major part of how we figure ourselves and others out.]

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Once again, guys, what Bill Higgins said, with bells on.

#54 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:08 PM:

OK, I accept Bill's and Patrick's rebuke.

I've gotta remember to check for new comments before hitting "post", especially since this is one place I actually can do that.

This said, however, I still think Simon's original comment was nasty, and I don't even like Hillary that much.

#55 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:11 PM:

I agree with David on all three paragraphs.

#56 ::: Simon Owens ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Guys, this is just getting silly. I can't believe we're still debating whether or not I'm a real person or a PR avatar. I'm pretty sure there are some regulars here who have met me in person at science fiction conventions, and about a year or so ago either Patrick or Teresa linked to my Bloggasm blog. In fact, I think the entry they linked to was about astroturf. Now isn't that ironic?

It was a silly throw-away Clinton joke. If I had known it would have caused people to start shooting off pistols, I would have refrained from doing so.

#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:31 PM:

Simon: The debate about you being a real person or not was settled.

What's happening now is a different debate about how you have been treated, with several people standing to your defense; in that you were too harshly treated, even if you hadn't posted before.

Others saying that for some reason your previous posts weren't obvious, and others admitting they were too quick to judgement.

#58 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:32 PM:

On the other hand, Simon's blog does look interesting.

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:36 PM:

I'm very, very tired right now, so this is going to be simple.

Verbal attacks hurt people. The older I get, the surer of that I am. One of the characteristic injuries people take is hypervigilance. You remember past bruises so vividly that you overprotect yourself against a recurrence, interpreting ambiguous or innocent moves as potential attacks.

Xopher's a good guy. We all know it. He's been a mainstay of Making Light's comment threads since ... oh, since forever. So are the rest of you all good guys. And yet, I think Bill's right, and that Simon's a normal human being.

I'm not blaming any of you. If I blame anyone, it'll be the people who really do turn up here for the sole purpose of telling lies. They suck all the sweet lubricating trust out of the system. Next thing you know the normal social machinery is overheating and starting to bind.

Simon, grab a beer out of the bathtub and find a chair. Everyone else, you've been right in situations like these so often that I hate to call you wrong. Having a good conversation is the best revenge.

Bill Higgins, big kudos and bigger thanks. Tonight's doings haven't changed my opinion of you one bit.


Would it cheer anybody up to watch a video in which a smallish but energetic mob of furious New Hampshire conservatives chants "Fox News Sucks!" while they chase Sean Hannity down a dark street?

(This election-year bonbon courtesy of Daily Kos, which got it from Cliff Schecter of Brave New Films.)

#60 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:48 PM:

#59: It's a good thing.

#61 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:07 AM:

Teresa @#59: Wow, between that and O'Reilly shoving an Obama staffer, it looks like Faux News is losing its grip on ... well something. (They were never in contact with reality.... ;-) )

#62 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:18 AM:

Wow, that video of folks yelling "Fox News sucks!" was actually quite cheering. Thanks! David at 61, I think what Fox might be losing its grip on People -- except for that small group that still believes Bush is the Best President Evah -- are not watching Fox the way they used to.

Mobs in the street; couldn't be better. Makes me almost nostalgic... "Something's happening here; what is it ain't exactly clear..." //ducking

#63 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:38 AM:

PNH @ 2: "At that level, I literally don't care what's in anyone's heart of hearts or soul of souls. If Candidate Bob is secretly a fiend from hell who's figured out that the best way to get votes and support is to be consistently decent, smart, and reasonable and not stop, then Candidate Bob has my vote."

Word. Your rhetoric defines you, whether you want it to or not.

Simon Owens @ 24: I haven't a clue whether or not you're astroturf, and I don't care. Your comment was stupid and misogynistic. Come on, the topic of this post is how stupid and misogynistic the media (and Edwards) were in how they portrayed Clinton. How could it not occur to you that just maybe accusing Clinton of being a robot wasn't going to go over well here?

#64 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:39 AM:

Ah, the American comedy of manners is at it again.

I was never quite sure why WJC, who was never going to be called a slut, should have been expected to tell the truth and remove the last shred of dignity from Monica, who was. But there you go.

Now Hillary, who remained dry-eyed while a Democratic congress dropped her health care plan all over the floor, while gossip accused her of the murder of Vince Foster, and while baying Republicans accosted her at every turn with the news that her husband had so far forgotten himself as to shag the help, may be considered to have acquired a reputation for resolve by so doing. One that calculation tells us would reside in the public mind more firmly than her triangulations inside the Beltway.

Yet the resolve was not much in evidence when it came to opposing George Bush, whether it was on the fraudulence of the 2000 election, the fraudulence of Enron, the fraudulence of the war of Saddam's WMDs, or the miserable callousness of the credit card bankruptcy bill or the even more reptilian pouting of the Katrina response. To mention but a few of the possible opportunities recently presented in which to show resolve. Though it may be that Edwards has chosen the wrong theme and the question to hang in the air is not resolve but the ability to do a job.

I'm not American. I just watch. I don't even believe America is going to survive, because nobody survives having a financial crisis and an army mutiny on the same day. But I find it fascinating that Edwards raises a question illuminating the whole shoddy irresolute business of Hillary's post-White House political career and it is instead principally construed within some tacit framework of gender stereotypes, ones which everyone in a heterogenous nation of 300 million is supposed to instantly recognise. As a comedy of manners it is awesome in its scope.

And foolish.

#65 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:55 AM:

It seems to me that the difference in Obama's and Edwards' initial responses to the reports of HRC's shocking show of emotion [and a big raspberry to the sensationalists who reported it] is a reflection of their personae during the recent campaigns. Obama has emerged as the campaigner extraordinaire, winning supporters from others and even stirring previous non-voters, with a message of his desire to effect change from a higher office. Edwards has continued his message as the giant-killer, the general in the fight against the establishment, much the same as he portrayed himself as the fighter against corporations in his career as a plaintiff's lawyer.

Truly effective lawyers typically find it best to never step out of their role as the protective counsel of their oppressed clients. Edwards' initial response to the news story about HRC was a very typical lawyerly response. Obama's response was typical of the roll his rhetoric has been on in the past 2-3 weeks--very campaignerly.

#66 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:58 AM:

I have a technical question: if Hillary Clinton is elected, can the Republicans immediately whip up articles of impeachment based on reopening the Travelgate scandal investigation? It would seem to be one of the more plausible ways for them to overturn the election if their influence over the inherent conflict of interests in using Diebold electronic voting machines doesn't pan out.

#67 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:59 AM:

Is it weird that the more "mistakes" Clinton makes, the more I like her? The first thing that got me to reconsider was her concession speech in Iowa. I really got the impression that, while winning matters to her, the Democrats getting the candidate they want is more important. She really came across as someone who values the liberal project over her own aggrandizement. Then the anger during the debates, and the crying--that's not mistake, that's passion! Color me shocked to find out that she actually gives a damn, but she does. I find that enormously more compelling in a candidate than experience.

#69 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:12 AM:

When faced with the depredations of the Bush Administration over the past six years, I've gotten fairly emotional at times. It's hard for me to fault Hillary if she does the same.

Who among us hasn't occasionally felt like weeping for the direction this country has been taken since 2000?

#70 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:33 AM:

And in a fine example of advertisorial irony (or something), one of the sidebar ads is for the Hillary Clinton nutcracker.


#71 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:52 AM:

Lizzy L @ 68: Wow. My respect for Clinton keeps going up and up.

#72 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:34 AM:

heresiarch @67 -- Is it weird that the more "mistakes" Clinton makes, the more I like her?

Not at all. IIRC from social psych courses*, JFK's popularity actually increased after the Cuban Missile Crisis. One take on this has been that he showed a fallible, "human" side during all that which people could identify with -- better than with his hitherto smooth, i.e. untouchable image.

*admittedly, it's been awhile and I don't know if further research has changed the interpretation.

#73 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 06:40 AM:

#64 Phil Palmer: But I find it fascinating that Edwards raises a question illuminating the whole shoddy irresolute business of Hillary's post-White House political career and it is instead principally construed within some tacit framework of gender stereotypes, ones which everyone in a heterogenous nation of 300 million is supposed to instantly recognise.

Sorry, I'm probably overreacting. It's just that I can't stand formulations like "I find it fascinating that..." or "Isn't it interesting that..." and the like. It usually signals fraudulent or too-cool-writing-by-half which annoys me no end.

But anyway, the short version is, nobody over here (especially those of us who have Senator Clinton as one of our representatives in Washington) needs to be reminded by Edwards or anyone else that Senator Clinton is a politician who cuts deals and performs other Impure Acts in order to get one thing or another done. As with all politicians, the question is how offended one's sensibilities are by the particular deals cut or the particular Impure Acts done. All of that is a matter for legitimate debate, internally or otherwise.

The question here is cloddishness, not political resolve. It's fine with me if you want to call it a comedy of manners, but that's a pretty wide and therefore pretty meaningless net to cast. Pretty much any set of behaviors that you find silly or annoying or outrageous can be called a comedy of manners, in the same way you can call just about anybody who irritates you "a piece of sh*t". A fine expression of your estimation of your own non-piece-of-sh*ttedness, but that's about it, I'd say.

#74 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 07:57 AM:

can the Republicans immediately whip up articles of impeachment

They can try, but I suspect even the current Supreme Court would hand them their heads, given that they very publicly couldn't find actual misconduct the first time around. Not to mention it'll be payback time for the prez....

Hmm... I'd like to think that those "signing statements" be interpreted to reinstate the line-item veto, but I seem to recall that the Supreme Court actually ruled against the LIV. Pity.

#75 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 08:33 AM:

Debbie @ 72: It's not a "root for the underdog" response that I'm experiencing, though I understand why you read my post that way. Rather, my point is that the things the media keeps identifying as "mistakes" are, to me, quite admirable. They don't weaken her, they strengthen her, IMO.

#76 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 08:40 AM:

On the topic of crying, I wonder if it would go over better if she was crying about something other than herself? Shedding tears or getting a wavery voice because you're under stress can be taken as a sign of not handling stress well. Whereas you can be seen as kind and loveable if you cry over something like the devastation wrought by a hurricane, or the bravery of the troops, or something like that. Things the whole country is crying about.

#77 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 08:44 AM:

heresiarch -- good point, and I'm certainly in agreement. (I could imagine that many people also found Kennedy more admirable, fallibility issues aside, after they saw him in action during Cuba.) At any rate, it would be nice if the media would do more plain reporting and let viewers/readers/listeners do their own interpreting of events.

#78 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 09:02 AM:

Bruce @ 44. Word.

The Dem presidential nominee can win every single vote in the country. But on the day after the election, the Heritage Foundation will still be in business, Faux News will still be on the air, and the pharmaceutical,insurance, and big energy lobbies will be just as wealthy and just as ruthless.

#79 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 09:48 AM:

The way to compare the Obama & Edwards reactions are similar to their debate performances, imo: right now, Obama is far & away in the lead. His job is is to stay above it all and not piss anyone off. Edwards is still being denied media coverage despite being 2nd in Iowa, the press is still all "Obama vs Clinton". He needs to get rid of one of them to get into the media's two horse-race. Clinton is in striking distance so he has to go for her. It's not misogyny. He sees her as a worthy opponent he needs to take down.
I bet Elizabeth knocked him upside of the head though, for it.

Yes I am cynical about politicians, and I support John Edwards because he's the one who has burned his bridges. Plus I believe in following the money.

#80 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:12 AM:

Just to make it absolutely clear: Simon, I apologize. You are obviously a real person, and I was too quick to jump to conclusions based on too little data. I will be more careful in future.

#81 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Patrick @ 52

I note that these tend to be the same people who disdain "gossip." Personally, I think gossip is important, a major part of how we figure ourselves and others out.

Given that gossip is probably an ineradicable part of human nature (anyone notice we tend to do a bit of it here ourselves?) I'd say we need to accept it and try to keep our own gossip within some sort of civil restraint, so we don't hurt people with it.

#82 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:55 AM:

Mary Dell @76:

I watched a video clip and didn't interpret it as Hillary crying for herself, but crying for what's become of the country. And honestly I've done a fair portion of that myself over the last *mumble* years so I can hardly blame her for it.

#83 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 11:13 AM:

David #41: Yeah, I keep hearing echoes of the Dean scream being looped and played over and over again, on NPR. The whole obsession with "gotcha" moments of candidates is sh-tty, as it forces candidates to be even more fake and plastic in public than they would be otherwise, and adds a huge element of randomness to an already noisy and error-prone process. But it fits with what works for reporters/news shows, who can get on the air first with the "gotcha" moment, improve their career, and fill airtime with something more interesting than boring details about which countries we ought to be invading next in the War on Terror, or which candidate's tax plan will give the fewest goodies to some obscure set of special interest groups.

This applies to all "gotcha" moments, IMO, not just tears (or funny sounding giggles, which were also looped and played as though they were news on a bunch of news shows) from Hillary.

#84 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 11:53 AM:

This whole thing is Democracy porn. Exposure to the naked process of vote getting. Prurient primaries!

#85 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Actually, you know, one could put an entirely different spin on what Obama and Edwards said. Maybe it's a bit forced, but try this:

“I didn’t see what happened. I know this process is a grind. So that’s not something I care to comment on.” Read as: "It's perfectly understandable that a woman would break down under the kind of pressure you get in a campaign. I won't, of course."


“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.” Read as: "I do my opponent the courtesy of holding her to the same standards I hold myself, without regard to gender, and this is what I would expect of myself in a similar situation."

This is without context, of course, and not having seen any video, but in raw print it _could_ be interpreted this way...

#86 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:23 PM:

Janet @85, a big ditto there. We have so little context for Edwards' and Obama's comments that I give them the same pass I give Clinton for tearing up when her commitment was questioned. That this would make anyone reconsider a candidate-- Well, the US electoral process isn't about logic. From everything I've seen so far, Edwards' stance on women is fine, and his stance on corporations is much better than Clinton's or Obama's.

#87 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Ach, this is such a stinking mess and nobody comes out looking good:

For Clinton, it comes on top of her "I'm not that bad, am I" performance at the debate and it looks like deliberate and careful counterbalancing of her "cool and in control image" (which her opponents and the largely press always spin as "coldhearted bitch" of course.)

The press of course like the moronic lemmings they are go berserk with their coverage, which is annoying as fuck and distracts from the real importance.

Edwards just looks like a dick.

Obama looks slightly more dignified, though only because he responded almost like a real human being rather than a politician.


#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:35 PM:

Simon, I apologize. I ought to have addressed your content without making unfounded accusations. I, too, will be more careful in the future.

Should we ever meet in meatspace (I almost typed 'meetspace', which is actually pretty good), I will attempt to wipe out my offense with chocolate.

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:48 PM:

I like Hillary better after the tearup. But I also like my mashed potatos lumpy, with the skins on, so I'm not exactly pulse-of-the-nation typical.

#90 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:48 PM:

#52 Patrick:

I guess the question is, what kind of recorded moment do you think tells us something about the character of the candidate. I have to say, I'm skeptical that we learn much about what kind of person Hillary is from this event, as we learned zero about Dean's character from his funny sounding scream, little or nothing from Allen's "makaka" comment, not much from W's continuing to read the childrens book during the first confused minutes of the 9/11 attacks, etc. Those are great images to use to attack someone, but they don't seem to me to have much relevance.

Now, there are actions I'd take as strong evidence of someone's character during a campaign. Like, if Hillary lost it and started screaming obscenities at someone, or Edwards and Obama got into a fistfight at one of the debates, yeah, I'd think that raised some questions. But the main source of information about someone's character is what they've done in their life in the many years before they knew they were on stage. Bill Clinton's periodic bimbo eruptions and reputation for chasing women reflected something about his character, for example. W's dissolute past of drinking and (allegedly) drugging said something about his character, as did his going and apparently staying on the wagon, various characters' divorces and remarriages say something, the awful story of Gingrich divorcing his wife while she was being treated for cancer says something about his character, etc.

In that respect, it's hard not to look at Edwards and Hillary Clinton as having demonstrated some pretty interesting and positive things about their character, by having survived hardship. Hillary Clinton didn't leave her womanizing husband, didn't stop supporting him when his misdeeds were on the front page. That suggests something about her character, and it's hard to think of many "unscripted moments" caught by some campaign reporter that would tell me nearly as much. Similarly, Edwards' coming through the death of his son and his wife's cancer seems to say something about him, though I guess you could argue whether willingness to keep campaigning despite your wife's returned cancer (which I think is pretty certain to kill her sooner or later) is a good or bad trait. Obama doesn't seem to me to have faced the same kinds of hardships, but I haven't read his autobiography, so maybe I'm missing something. (From what I do know, he certainly had a more interesting childhood than most of the other candidates!)

#91 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Ronit #78:

If the Democrats get most of the votes, those vicious energy lobbyists will just change the To: field on the big checks they write. This isn't a new thing happening in the world.

If the country turns against the Faux News worldview, Faux News will change, or die, or become irrelevant. But in practice, Faux News is very similar to the Republican party, in that it will simply shift its positions to accomodate the "right" end of whatever the broadly-held acceptable views are. That's how they stay in business, how they keep viewers, etc.

The think tanks are interesting. Just as universities have mostly incubated a certain set of ideas (some sensible, some brilliant, some obviously goofy), think tanks seem to incubate a different set of ideas, with the same mix of properties. Even think tanks that aren't explicitly right wing seem to go down certain intellectual paths in most cases, at least as far as my rather limited reading and attention to that stuff goes.

It's interesting to ask how different forms of organizing and paying people to think lead to different kinds of ideas, independent of the people themselves. One difference I can see a lot is between powerful/establishment people on the left and right (who are usually concerned about increasing their power relative to other powerful people) and more populist/less powerful people on the left and right (who are usually concerned about stuff they don't like being done to them by those with power). Major media sources and think tanks seem to mostly align with the powerful, while universities seem not to.

#92 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:08 PM:

albatross 90: as did [Bush's] going and apparently staying on the wagon

Bush is on the wagon? Do you really think so?

Also, more nitpickily, 'on the wagon' means more than just not drinking. An alcoholic who just doesn't drink is called a "dry drunk." And Bush acts like one; he still has that "when I do it, it doesn't count" attitude that unreformed alcoholics have.

#93 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:10 PM:

albatross, some of the reason that think tanks tend to go right is that the right has spend lots of money over the past 30 years developing a right-wing think tank infrastructure. The left has not.

#94 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Albatross: I think the "macaca" moment did reveal something about the candidate.

That the insult was coded, so coded that it was probably almost opaque to those in the audience, was part of the telling aspect.

He was showing that he, personally, thought of non-whites as being worthy of insult, for no other reason than that.

Had he said something more related to the campaign... say called him a lackey of the opposition, or a small-minded left-wing shill, or some other piece of nonsense, then I wouldn't count it as telling.

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:18 PM:

albatross 91: Faux News is very similar to the Republican party

By 'very similar to' you mean "part of," right? I'm only sort of joking. There may be no financial connection, but Faux News has been very much the media wing of the GOP. They very rarely step outside the party line. So it isn't surprising that they follow the same pattern; they're PART OF the same pattern.

#96 ::: Phil Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:31 PM:

@73 Michael Weholt

You're right, "I find it fascinating that.." is a cliche and I resort to cliches far too often in blog posting.

But you seem to have a low opinion of comedies of manners. It is regrettable (another cliche, tsk) that the mannerisms in an election cycle consist of pretending not to have any rather than of carrying on like Jack Vance characters. Some would say (I haven't used that one lately) that the trick in a performance is not to allow the audience to spot the artifice, but without the perception of artifice there is no perception of authority, and no expression of meaning. And for Hillary, who wants to straddle the twin coracles of Resolve and Triangulation, it's fatal.

#97 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Over Christmas, I had the thought: "Who would win in a knife-fight, Clinton or Obama?" My money would be on Hilary. Not quite as facetious as it may sound; I think whoever wins the Democratic candidacy is going to need to be tough to withstand the shitstorm the Republicans are going to kick up, and from my admittedly shallow reading of the subjects, Obama doesn't strike me as having enough steel in him.

#98 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 03:30 PM:

Xopher (89): I also like my mashed potatos lumpy, with the skins on

Nice to know I'm not the only one.

Turning back to Presidential elections, my biggest problem is that, by the time I have a chance to vote, my favorite candidate has always been knocked out of contention. This year, it's Richardson. Of the front-runners, I prefer Edwards.

#99 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 03:50 PM:

#97 NelC: ...and from my admittedly shallow reading of the subjects, Obama doesn't strike me as having enough steel in him.

I dunno. He spent time working on the South Side of Chicago which I have visited and, depending, of course, is not reliably a place where steel never comes in handy.

I suspect the reason we haven't seen whatever store of steel he has is because he generally seeks to not show it. I also suspect that should he ever need to show his steel, weenies like myself will be suitably impressed.

#100 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Wrenlet @#82: I don't blame her for it - and having only read about it, I probably do have the wrong idea about why she was crying. I can't say if I dislike her less now, though because my dislike-o-meter isn't calibrated that finely.

#101 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 04:53 PM:

re 92: To be even more nitpicky, calling Bush a "dry drunk" after this much time is lame. Olympian confidence in one's judgment is hardly unusual, without regard to past, present, or future alcohol enhancement.

re 90: Unfortunately Hillary C. sticking with her husband may also simply mean that she's willing to sleep with him to stay close to power. Who knows?

#102 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 04:58 PM:

C. 101: That's using 'dry drunk' in a different sense. The 'dry drunk' at your link is a symptom occurring during early sobriety.

Bush is an alcoholic who has stopped drinking without addressing any of his issues, or admitting that there was anything wrong with anything he's ever done. That's what I was taught the term 'dry drunk' (as applied to a person) means.

With or without the term, he's not "on the wagon."

#103 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:05 PM:

101, 102

Someone who's really trying to get past alcohol shouldn't be drinking even near-beer, as Bush reportedly does. (I've gotten buzzed on 'alcohol-free' sparkling wine. It didn't last long - psychological effects only - but that does get your attention.)

#104 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Xopher: #92 Who knows whether he's resolved whatever issues, if any, led him to be a drunk before? If he isn't drinking any more, he's stayed on the wagon by the normal way I've ever heard that used phrase used.

#95: Fox isn't the Republican party, but they react to somewhat similar market forces. If the nation moves left on some issue, Fox will probably stay at the right end of the acceptable views on that issue (and thus move left), rather than stay with its current position and lose viewers.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:31 PM:

I'm accusing Faux News of having closer ties to the GOP than that. I don't think they're with the GOP just because they're floating in the same part of the current; I think they actually have a backroom commitment to promote the GOP's viewpoint under the guise of "news."

No, I cannot prove this. But that's what I was saying. I'm aware that you disagree.

#106 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:35 PM:

Giuliani expressed great sympathy and compassion for Hillary's shakey moment yesterday, but it didn't change my opinion of him an iota.

My opinion, such as it is, of any of the Big 3 -- Obama, Clinton and Edwards -- didn't change over that incident either.

However, my opinion of the media, and how it is driven by corporate interest, continues to plummet.

Chamber of Commerce vows to punish anti-business candidates --AP

WASHINGTON -- Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said.

The warning from the nation's largest trade association came against a background of mounting popular concern over the condition of the economy. A weak record of job creation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, declining home values and other problems have all helped make the economy a major campaign issue.

Presidential candidates in particular have responded to the public concern. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has been the bluntest populist voice, but other front-running Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, have also called for change on behalf of middle-class voters.

On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- emerging as an unexpected front-runner after winning the Iowa caucuses -- has used populist themes in his effort to woo independent voters, blasting bonus pay for corporate chief executives and the effect of unfettered globalization on workers.

Ron Paul, for instance, has characterized this as "soft fascism." For more on the relationship of this 'soft fascism' and 'security,' there is this essay, published, notably not here in the U.S., but in a Brit paper.

Love, C.

#107 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:48 PM:

There's also the legislator in Arizona who's introduced a bill to make it legal for non-Democratic-party-registered voters to vote in primaries of parties with which they are not registered - the circumlocution is necessary, because the bill really is that one-sided: registered Democrats would not be able to vote in any other party's primary.

One guess which party the legislator belongs to.

#108 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:53 PM:

P J 107: One guess which party the legislator belongs to.

National Socialists?

#109 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:56 PM:

Terry #94:

I'll admit I'm pretty skeptical of the idea of a "coded" message when the code is apparently so obscure that nobody listening would have gotten it, and it's not clear that *he* would have gotten it if someone else had said it. (More broadly, I'm pretty skeptical of the usefulness of decoding the "coded messages" of politicians, since I never seem to see this used except as a way to interpret some politician's words in a way that just happens to serve the beliefs or interests of the person doing the interpretation. But that's another rant....)

I suspect the best way to find out what George Allen believes about civil rights or race relations is to look at his life and history, what he's written and said and done over the years. The makaka comment struck me (I'll admit I didn't probe deeply into the story) as a standard "gotcha" moment which had at best a very loose connection with his own beliefs.

I'm sure sometimes, these verbal slips expose some deeply held, hidden belief. But think of your own verbal slips, dumb comments, socially clueless moments, sleep deprived goof ups, etc. Did they really, fundamentally expose your beliefs? My own have mostly exposed the fact that I'm capable of doing or saying something silly or needlessly cruel or poorly thought out in some circumstances. But when I've said something much harsher to my son than
I meant to say, it didn't mean I hated my son. When I've made some technical goof up on a paper or in a program, it wasn't because I really had some deep support for non-consistent math or incorrect programs. When I've made some embarassing social screw up, it was pretty much never because I intended to hurt someone's feelings or alienate them. I'm guessing the same is usually true of politicians' and other public figures' verbal screw-ups. Holding them to a standard of "any verbal screw up on some fairly broad range of topics will destroy your career" is pretty much guaranteed to make them unwilling to speak openly, unedited, with anyone, ever again.

#110 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Xopher @#92: Actually, "On the Wagon" does mean simply "not getting intoxicated for the time being," as I've always heard it used (and I've heard it used a lot, thanks to my experience with a variety of familial drunks and friends in recovery). If you want a word that means "not drinking, and have dealt with or am dealing with my crap, by 12-step or other means," that word would be "Sober." (Which also has the simple meaning of "not having alcohol in my system right this second," but that's not what it means when used by folks in recovery).

"Dry drunk," as I generally hear it used, means someone who is not drunk at the moment (and perhaps hasn't been for months), but still "acts out" in the same way they did when they were drunk. Frequently alcoholics in the early stages of recovery go through a period like this, but as they move into actual sobriety, this clears up. If they don't move into actual sobriety...well, there you go. The dry drunk phase can last indefinitely, theoretically, but usually if someone doesn't move through it properly it's replaced by the ever-popular "fallen off the wagon."

My favorite term* for sobering up without actually, you know, getting capital-S Sober is "going on an alcohol-free diet."

*used by a family member who has stayed on said diet for years, but without copping to the whole alcoholism thing. E-VER.

#111 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 06:39 PM:

albatross: I don't think it was coded, I think it was unguarded. The phrase is the franco-tunisian (which is his mother's culture) equivalent of n**ger.

It's either an amazing co-incidence that he used it about someone of that color skin, or it reveals something about him.

As for other coded phrases... when the Dominionists use a set of phrases, and then a politician starts to use them... I tend to think he's trying to send a message.

Hence the chill I felt when Bush mentioned Dredd Scott, in relation to federal judges. There's only one group which uses that decision as an example of the way the constitution needs to be interpreted, and it's the forced birth lobby.

If I hear someone say they are planning to see to a "color-blind" policy, I assume they are against legal protections against discrimination.

Do I think every odd-ball thing a politician says off the cuff is "dog-whistle politics"? No.

But when they say something which parallels a special interests pet phrases, yeah, I tend to impute a desire to slip one past the batter.

#112 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Mary 110: Thanks, I had my terms a little mixed up. So Bush is on the wagon, but not Sober. And never will be Sober until the day he dies.

#113 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:10 PM:

albatross @ 109: "I suspect the best way to find out what George Allen believes about civil rights or race relations is to look at his life and history, what he's written and said and done over the years. The makaka comment struck me (I'll admit I didn't probe deeply into the story) as a standard "gotcha" moment which had at best a very loose connection with his own beliefs."

Maybe I'm misremembering, but didn't George Allen keep a Confederate flag and a noose in his office at one point? Didn't he (raised in SoCal) ride around in a big pickup with, again, a Confederate flag on it in high school? It looks like his macaca comment was pretty in line with his personal behavior. It seems pretty telling, actually.

Tangetially, there seems to be a bit of a catch 22 at work here: if we pay close attention to the candidates' every turn of phrase and off the cuff comment, they clam up and act plastic, and we have no idea what they really think. If we back off and don't examine what they say too closely, they can relax and loosen up a bit...and we still don't know what they really think. There isn't really a win situation here.

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:15 PM:

I think it's very hard to believe that he just invented a word which just happened to be a racial epithet for people of the race he just happened to be looking at. Give me a frelling break.

I never even heard the WORD 'macaca' before him saying it got into the news. If he knew the word, he knew what it meant; if he didn't know the word, he wouldn't have spontaneously said it.

No, he was showing his true (racist) colors in a moment of weakness.

#115 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Interesting opinion piece from Gloia Steinem in the New York Times.

#116 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:25 PM:

Bush traded in his booze for a far more dangerous addiction, one that's widely recognized as the ultimate high: Power.

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:31 PM:

The LA Times had an opinion piece by Jonah Goldberg, one of the Kewl Kidz (or a wanna-be), today. All I read was the teaser on the front page, which was about how we don't vote based on positions, we vote in ways that validate ourselves (whatever that's supposed to mean). To which I say, Jonah's full of sh*t.

#118 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:46 PM:

P J 117: I prefer the more correct version of Jonah Goldberg's name: "the Doughy Pantload."

#119 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 02:22 AM:

albatross, #109, why not look up George Allen's history about racism? It's pretty obvious.

#120 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 09:38 AM:

heresiarch #113/Marilee #119:

So, that history (I haven't looked into it) gives you a lot of evidence about his beliefs. A single "telling moment" of the kind discussed doesn't seem to me to tell you nearly as much. I'm not convinced Jesse Jackson is an antisemite, for example, despite his famous remark about New York City. I'd want some rather stronger evidence than one outburst or throwaway comment, even a pretty offensive one.

Terry #111:

It seems to me that the way you're using these codewords leaves some political positions impossible for you to see. For example, being in favor of race-blind policies while forbidding discrimination on the basis of race is a plausible political position to have, yet it seems, based on what you wrote, like you would simply map a person using that phrasing into the category of people who want to get rid of antidiscrimination laws. (Ironically, the use of the term "codeword" here seems oddly appropriate.) It also gives interest groups who are pretty overtly bad guys the power to take over lots of issues, at least in your eyes.

Lots of political pundits and activist groups *love* this process, because it lets them dismiss everyone but the extreme ends of a lot of discussions. Look at the neocons' rhetoric about the war on terror, or (closer to home) the previous thread on our friend Barton for some examples of that process. You're either with us or the terrorists/dominionists, and there is really no intermediate position. But I don't think it is a very good way of getting an accurate picture of reality.

#121 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 10:17 AM:

Lisa Spangenberg (#115): Thanks for the link to Gloria Steinem's NY Times piece. Though it's depressing to admit it, I think she's 100% right.

#122 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Xopher: @#112: bingo. I suppose he might be Sober some day, but if he went the 12-step route he'd need a dedicated team of economists, physicists, and juju men to even plan step 9.

#123 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 11:59 AM:

Mary Dell @ 122... What's that about Plan 9? ("Ah yes... Resurrection of the dead...")

#124 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 12:50 PM:

albatross: No, that's not how I work. If it were, I'd not know that Allen's mother was from Tunisia, and that the word in question mattered because of what it means there (I'd also not be able to confirm heresiarch's recollection that he did, in fact, keep a confederate battle flag, and noose, in his office, and was using the same flag on his truck when he lived in L.A.).

But to just dismiss things, because the idea of dog-whistling makes it reading the intent of politicians harder (because it makes it difficult to take them at face value when they say things) is to give them a pass.

My basic test for code-words is to see what those who are supposed to be responding to it actually do when such things happen.

So when a politician tells me he wants to see "strict constructionists" on the bench. I look to see what he means by that. I also look to see what those who are in the constituencies who've used that phrase to mean, "turning America back to its Christian roots," think of the poltician, and the speech.

Taking Golberg as an example, Glen Greenwald points out the following.

I think it's worth imagining a certain scenario. Imagine the Democrats do rally around Obama. Imagine the media invests as heavily in him as I think we all know they will if he's the nominee -- and then imagine he loses. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged. I can imagine the fear of this social unraveling actually aiding Obama enormously in 2008.

Greenwald asks who Goldberg imagines, "certain segments" to be...?

A quick glance at the Malkin's commenters (after she linked to Goldberg) gives some idea to the reaction of the people for whom I think he was coding the information.

If he turns into "the Black candidate" and I don't see why he wouldn't. Yes, you could see race riots if he loses.

bnelson44 on January 4, 2008 at 9:34 PM

The looting of New Orleans in 2005 is a fresh example of the ruin that comes from the softness of the mayor and the police of a city. If those looters had been driven out or cut down, they would have served as an example for everyone in the decades to follow. As it is, the Americans will go on living fearfully, in Jonah Golbderg's way, until the rulers of the Americans' cities discard their cruel pity and determine to maintain a decent order, without any respect.

Kralizec on January 4, 2008 at 10:27 PM

So there are a few people who took that "certain segments" to mean, "blacks" and I am sure some of them see Obama doing well as a trick on the part of the Democrats to force Republicans to vote for him to prevent riots, and accusations of racism.

#125 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 01:26 PM:

Serge @#125:

Resurrection of the dead

That would be a good start...sigh.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Mary 125: Yeah, I feel you. To paraphrase a slogan from the ACT UP days, all we want is the war over and our friends back.

(No, I didn't know him. So far I'm at least one degree of separation from everyone who's been killed in Iraq.)

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Mary Dell @ 125... Starting with some literally hanging Chads?

#128 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 01:53 PM:

re 115: Her opinions are rather antique. We've had at least one woman in congress from this state continuously since 1972, and in the 99th Congress we had four women out of seven reps. The two congresses after that we still had four women, but Mikulski had moved on to the senate.

So I'm looking at the race for Maryland District 4, and here we have a black woman lawyer running to unseat the two term incumbent. And she has a good chance too-- she almost won last time around. Of course, we first elected a black to congress in 1970.

And I'm looking at the superdelegates. Most of them are ascribed to Clinton, suggesting that she is the establishment candidate. And she is. But she is also someone with a great deal of baggage. Whether it helps or hurts her at any given moment is the result of complex reactions.

#129 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 05:10 PM:

#128: Well, yes -- and my state (AZ) has a female Democrat as governor. But after so much governmental regression at the top levels, I can still see reason to be paranoid, if not to the point of donning a tinfoil hat....

#130 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 07:56 PM:

Xopher @ 126 "To paraphrase a slogan from the ACT UP days, all we want is the war over and our friends back."
And in the case of our fellow humans over whose home & bodies the war rolls "our mothers and fathers and grandparents and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and cousins and neighbours and fellow students and local shopkeepers" too. (Getting back the school & the shop and the other places turned into derelict shells or heaps of rubble would help as well.)

#131 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Epacris 130: As far as that goes, you won't get any argument from me.

#132 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 09:54 AM:

albatross @ 120: "So, that history (I haven't looked into it) gives you a lot of evidence about his beliefs. A single "telling moment" of the kind discussed doesn't seem to me to tell you nearly as much. I'm not convinced Jesse Jackson is an antisemite, for example, despite his famous remark about New York City. I'd want some rather stronger evidence than one outburst or throwaway comment, even a pretty offensive one."

You're conflating two different things here. One is the casual, off the cuff comments that human beings make, which may or may not actually reflect a deep-seated belief in whatever. The other is, like Terry is discussing, coded phrases meant to communicate with specific groups without the public at large catching on. They're also called dogwhistles, which captures the intent: broadcast a message widely, but in such a way that only the intended recipients can understand. There's an illustrative quote from Lee Atwater, the father of the Southern Strategy:

"You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites."

This is a very different thing than casual comments. They're meant to sound casual and unimportant, but really they are carefully calculated. While I agree that maybe politicians ought to be cut a little slack when it comes to their unscripted remarks, this stuff isn't covered by that. This stuff needs to be called out for what it is. George Allen's macaca comment was clearly a poorly-thought out attempt at dogwhistle racism, and that it cost him the election is perfectly fitting: he was merely showing his true colors.

#133 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 01:46 PM:


You're right that I was conflating those two.

I can't quite see how Allen's comment was intended as a dogwhistle, since it's unlikely many people in the audience understood what he meant, but that seems kind of secondary. (Was there a large bloc of French Tunisian racist voters around for him to appeal to? Otherwise, everyone hearing that would get the sense that it was some kind of insulting made-up name, right?) It seems way more likely to me to have been an off-the-top-of-his-head insulting comment.

The thing I dislike about the dogwhistle bit is that it crowds out some positions. For example, a lot of people who don't favor discrimination also aren't crazy about having their kids bussed to some far-away school in a rough neighborhood. It would be nice to be able to distinguish between the two positions, since they're very different. I understand why the Atwaters of the world want(ed) to eliminate that kind of intermediate position, but I'm not sure why it makes sense for us to help him.

#134 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 01:31 AM:

heresiarch, #132, George Allen may have lost, but a lot of people voted for him. He has decided not to run for governor next year, but he won't stay out of politics. He thought he was the golden boy. His dad was a Redskins coach! He was part of the wealthy Virginian coterie! He'd been governor! And Webb just barely defeated him.

#135 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2008, 05:19 AM:

albatross @ 133: "I can't quite see how Allen's comment was intended as a dogwhistle, since it's unlikely many people in the audience understood what he meant,"

This is why I said it was a poorly thought-out attempt at a dogwhistle--had he done it well, he'd never have been caught. It was only the utter weirdness of it that caught people's attention. But macaca falls clearly into the category of "racist but not widely recognized as such" comments that are the bread and butter of dogwhistle politics.

"I understand why the Atwaters of the world want(ed) to eliminate that kind of intermediate position, but I'm not sure why it makes sense for us to help him."

Calling Republicans out when they try to make coded racist statements isn't helping them. Taking them at face value when they're trying to trick you, now that would be helping them.

If the people who support "intermediate" positions are worried about their ideas getting cast unfairly as racist, it would seem to be incumbent upon them, not us, to draw that distinction.

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