Friday, April 11, 2008

That's right, cling to it. Cling, cling, cling.

The tour post is still in the queue, but in the meantime, I needed to vent about this, which I have watched evolve into a miserable excuse for a "story" over the last hour or so.

Is it "looking down on someone" to acknowledge their frustrations or unhappiness?

Or is the issue even deeper than that? Are Clinton and McCain suggesting that the working class in this country is not bitter?

Exactly how self-deceptive are we willing to be? Doesn't it become, you know, exhausting after awhile?

UPDATE (Saturday)

Wow, watching this play out has been like watching manic, parched drunks fighting over an ounce of Miller Lite.

Or, as Ezra Klein put it:

[I]t's one of the depressing realities of our media landscape that it is both a) totally predictable that they will devote hundreds of hours to this story in the next few days and b) utterly unimaginable that they will give the candidate 3 minutes and 44 seconds to clarify his comments. And why would they? That might kill the story!

And in a later post (this is even better):

This may sound odd, but man am I disappointed that stuff is happening again in the presidential campaign. These last few weeks of relative quiet have been terrific. All the older reporters tell me that this is supposedly the greatest campaign of my lifetime and the thing that makes political journalism worthwhile, but seriously, look where we are today: Discussing an off-the-cuff comment in which one of the Democrats suggested that economic anxiety manifests in cultural conservatism.


It's worth saying that I'm not defending Obama here. I see nothing that he needs defense from. There's no actual attack being levied that anyone can rebut, or ideas being tossed out that anyone can argue. Instead, Obama has said something Politically Damaging. And it will Damage him. And we'll all watch to see how badly.

But let's be clear: It's not damaging because we think it foretells him doing something harmful to the country. It's not damaging because it suggests his policy agenda is poorly conceived, or his priorities are awry. If you think of policy and politics as two circles in a Venn diagram, this is damage that only exists in the politics circle, and doesn't even come close to the area of intersection. We reporters have to cover it, of course, because it's Really Important, and matters more than the housing plans of all the candidates put together. But it matters in a completely self-referential way, it matters only because it matters, not because it means anything about Obama, or illuminates anything about his potential presidency. It's a hollow scandal. Those housing plans, by contrast, don't "matter" in a way that convinces the media to cover them, or to relentlessly hound McCain about the inadequacy of his proposal. They don't "matter," but they are meaningful. And this is why I don't like writing about the campaign. It's full of hollow scandals and ignored travesties. But you have to cover the hollow scandals, because they're are blown up until they're definitional in the campaign. And that leaves me writing about high-profile non-events in a way that helps cement their importance, even if I'm writing to deride their legitimacy.

That doesn't sound odd to me at all. It sounds spot-the-fuck-on.

If you haven't seen it, here's Obama's initial response, which I thought was pretty good:

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