That, and other news, in today's Political Panorama.
Bill Clinton griped in an interview on Tuesday that "the political press has avowedly played a role in this election. I've never seen this before. They've been active participants in this election. . . . But I don't want to talk about the press. I want to talk about the people. That's what's wrong with this election, people trying to take this election away from the people."
In fact, his assertion has been a common theme among the Clinton campaign --- that the media is stacked up against them, wooed by Barack Obama's rhetorical skills and holding Hillary Clinton to a double standard, probably because of her gender.
Their complaints come with plenty of evidence, starting with David Shuster's comments, Drudge's daily anti-Hillary postings, the tingly reaction of commentators to Obama victory speeches and the near unanimous conclusions that Hillary's stump speeches have about as much inspiration as Mondale '84.
True. But in recent days, as reporters dissect just how the Clinton campaign got to this point, treading perilously close to writing political obituaries (never a good idea, ever), they have ferreted out a simple problem: arrogance. It was the assumption, from the beginning, that Clinton would be the nominee. Such a strategy nearly ruined John McCain's campaign and certainly contributed to Rudy Giuliani's wipe out. And apparently the Clinton campaign was so convinced that the fight would be over by Feb. 5 that they didn't plan serious runs in February states, or the money needed to do it.
So it is interesting that some in the media are also casting blame on the Clinton campaign's media relations.
Chris Matthews, who already has apologized to Clinton for some of his comments, nevertheless let it rip on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this morning, calling her campaign's press relations "lousy." "If all you do is intimidate and punish and claim you'll get even relentlessly, people of all kinds of politicians -- and in all fairness, the press -- human reaction to intimidation is screw you. That's the human reaction. Don't tell me what to say, and that has been their whole policy. We're going to win this thing. Get out of the way."
In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson challenged the notion that reporters aren't vetting Obama. "Reporters are busy combing through Obama's personal, professional and financial history, just as they have examined the lives of the Clintons. Obama has facilitated this process by releasing his tax returns, which Clinton has declined to do. It is not unfair to point this out." But he also challenged Clinton's dismissal of the caucuses as disproportionately favoring upper income voters. "I don't recall traffic jams of chauffeured limousines around the caucus sites in Iowa, Maine and the other caucus states Clinton lost," Robinson wrote.
Do a campaign's media relations really make a difference to the average voter? I seriously doubt it. But time and again this election cycle, what voters have sensed is hubris, and as much as that is pervasive in a campaign, the media picks up on it. Obama's campaign is guilty of it too --- the confusion of enthusiasm and celebrity endorsements with actual support. And the media, more than any politician, has been guilty of assumptions and grand sweeping statements that later turned out to be false.
Declare Yourself: Tina Daunt of the Los Angeles Times profiles one of the figures at the center of boosting youth turnout in this year's primary season: 85-year-old Norman Lear, whose Declare Yourself org is aiming to register at least 2.4 million young voters this year. "That's where my life is: How are we going to make things right for the
next generation?" Lear said. "I'm not sure we've done a very good job
of that. They are the ones who are making things right for themselves."
Spielberg Fallout: Time's Austin Ramzy writes that Beijing faces big problems ahead if Steven Spielberg's pullout of the Olympics leads to other defections. "Part of the issue is that the Summer Games are no mere sporting event for China. Even though Beijing demands the event not be politicized, it is using the Games to demonstrate that China has returned to its rightful place as a world player whose opinion matters. As long as the government ties China's global prestige to the success of the event, so it will be stung by any slights or failures. That's a position Beijing's opponents are learning to exploit. "The more the government gives political priority to the Games, the more the international political pressure on the Chinese government will increase," says Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Studies at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "
Campaign Coverage: John Heileman has a very perceptive piece in New York magazine that pins the media's divergent coverage of the Clinton and Obama campaigns as the media's desire to find "meta-narratives" for both candidates. Unfortunately for Clinton, hers only reinforced perceptions about her.
Heileman writes, "For any candidate and his or her team, the formation and management of the meta-narrative are paramount strategic challenges. And these challenges were especially daunting for Clinton because she started out with much of hers already baked in. Even so, early on, her campaign had ample opportunity to alter the vestigial perceptions of her. They had done so effectively, after all, when she first ran for the Senate in New York. But instead, the affect she presented to reporters was in perfect keeping with all the stereotypes about her: She was guarded and relentlessly, robotically on-message on the rare occasions when she sat for interviews, displaying little of her charm or humor. She adopted an arch-Establishmentarian posture rather than an inspiring, transformational one—an alterna-stance that wouldn’t have been such a stretch for someone who stood a reasonable chance of becoming our first female president.
"And, in fact, it was worse than that. By arguing that one of Clinton’s key virtues was her ability to go toe-to-toe with the GOP attack machine, her campaign exacerbated instead of ameliorated her reputation for ruthlessness. “By bragging about how tough they were,” says John Edwards’s former chief strategist, Joe Trippi, “they reinforced the sense of the media that everything they did had a negative cast to it.” At the same time, Trippi argues, “it made it really hard for them to call Obama on his shit. How can you complain about Obama being negative when you’re bragging about your willingness to do the same thing against the Republicans?”"