Friend of mine who's worried about my blood pressure thinks I've been writing too much about politics lately. She advises that I switch subjects for a while and write about some topic that I enjoy, one that relaxes me. She suggested I write about naked actresses.
Yes, that's right. A woman suggested I write about naked actresses. I'm not making that up.
My blood pressure has been spiking the last few days so I'm taking her advice and putting politics aside. I'm working on two posts about naked actresses, specifically Marisa Tomei and Mary-Louise Parker.
If you want to be all high-minded about it, I'm writing reviews of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and the third season of Weeds, but Tomei's and Parker's nakedness is intrinsic to the plots of each so I have to write about them getting naked in the interests of objectivity and art.
I've never been very good at following doctors' orders though, so I'm putting those two posts on the back burner to write this one, another one about politics.
Sorry, old chum.
By the way, thanks to Susie and Avedon and Wev and Chet and the Apostate and others, all my political posts of the last couple of weeks have caught the attention of readers who probably aren't regulars here and when I get a sudden rush of new readers dropping in to read about politics I wonder what they make of the fact that they're often suddenly faced with a post about naked actresses or Indiana Jones or love among the Sims or my latest fashion faux pas or restaurant hostesses with beautiful but suspicious smiles.
No time to worry about that now. Let's get this out of the way.
Several readers have objected to my fairly mundane and obvious observation in Saturday night's post that National Press Corps hates Hillary Clinton and really, really, really doesn't want her to be President and that this has helped Barack Obama shape the perception that the campaign was over before it was over because the only way Hillary could win was in a floor fight at the convention and that would tear the party apart. This led to the accusation that Clinton wanted to tear the party apart. She only cares about herself and her own ambition, the party and the nation be damned. The idea that Clinton is a monster of ego who will do anything to win has been pushed and pushed since before she announced that she would run.
The National Press Corps and the Village Insiders hate the Clintons and they cover them accordingly using the Clinton Rules of Journalism, Rule Number One of which is that anything a Clinton does is done from the basest and most suspect of motives and Rule Number Two of which is that the smallest ethical irregularity on their part or even the appearance of what can be interpreted as an ethical irregularity is proof of a serious crime that they're somehow magically covering up and Rule Number Three is that their ability to magically cover up this crime that the Press has divined is there despite the Clintons' ability to magically cover it up is further proof that the crime was committed.
This has been going on for over sixteen years now.
It's something that all of us here on the left side of the bandwidth had always agreed on...right up until the moment when it became something that might reflect unflatteringly on Barack Obama.
Then, for about half of us, it became no longer true.
Or at least not so true as it once was that it could have actually played any role in this campaign.
Several Obama-supporting readers have pointed out that there are STUDIES that show that on the whole Clinton has received positive coverage. Forgive me, folks. I'm not going to bother reading them. It doesn't matter how many stories there were that showed Clinton in a positive light or how many minutes of airtime were devoted to portraying her and her campaign in a flattering manner. What matters is who wrote those stories and prepared those news reports and where they ran and what the loudmouths on the bobblehead shows made of them and how they figured in the op-ed pieces and columns of the most influential Village insiders.
One column by Maureen Dowd is worth infinitely more than a dozen editorials in the Kansas City Star. A half hour of Chris Matthews bloviating cancels out the most incisive article even if that article's running on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
The Insider Media hates Clinton and that worked to Barack Obama's advantage.
I know there are lots of people who for whatever reason have to believe that Obama is going to win the nomination because he's a knight in shining armor and his strength is as the strength of ten because his heart is pure. I won't argue with you, for the same reason I could never bring myself to tell my kids there's no Santa Claus. They had to find it out for themselves because I'm an old softie.
But there are others who want to believe that he won through the sheer force of his brilliance.
And I can't deny it. He has been brilliant.
Not all the time. But enough of the time.
The difference is that I think a sign of his brilliance has been his ability to fight dirty while appearing not to be fighting dirty.
Another difference is that I think another sign of his brilliance has been his ability to make the most of his good luck.
Nobody wins anything, not even a spelling bee, just by being the smartest person in the room. Luck always plays a part. The successful ones are those who recognize their luck and take advantage of it in the smartest ways.
Part of Obama's luck this year has been that his toughest opponent is somebody the National Press Corps loathes and despises and wants to see fail.
Yes, he's had to deal with a lot of negative press too. He'll have to deal with a lot more, unless it becomes so clear that McCain's a loser that the Press Corps does what it does to all losers and turns on him viciously, which happened back in '92 when for a brief period the Press Corps seemed to be infatuated with Bill Clinton. George Herbert Walker Bush was never a Media darling and when it became clear he was a loser they couldn't find enough words to express their contempt for the poor schnook.
Obama took advantage of the anti-Hillary consensus in the Media and if you don't think he would ever have stooped so low go back and look at the October debate. Go find me a speech in which he forcefully condemned the misogyny that poisoned all the coverage of her.
Explain away the "the claws come out" remark.
Now please keep in mind I am not criticizing him. I think he was being smart. He was trying to win. That's politics.
But that was my point Saturday. That's not my main point here.
Rather than debating how much a role the negative coverage of Clinton played, I'll try to deal with this question, one Victoria asked in her comment.
Why do they hate her so much?
That's a better question but one with no single good answer and far too many plausible suppositions to get into in depth here. But I'll just offer one.
Because she served them cookies.
I'm not kidding, but I'm also not referring to when she literally brought them cookies aboard the press bus.
Cookies are a synechdoche here. They stand for all the cheap and stingy ways Democrats treat reporters, according to reporters themselves.
You want the National Press Corps eating out of your hand?
Get them drunk.
Surround them with pretty young women.
For the most part, the reporters who cover Presidential candidates are a pack of prima donnas with short attention spans, gigantic egos, big appetites, and a powerful sense of entitlement.
They don't want your steenking chocolate cheeps.
They want to be treated like visiting kings and queens.
And they want to be treated like the candidates' best pals.
Democrats just don't seem to know this or care about it.
The Clinton people sure don't.
Back in November of 2006, I got the chance to pretend to be a real journalist when I was invited to blog Hillary's Senate victory party. It was held at the Sheraton Towers in Manhattan and I had a blast. But by the end of the evening I was starving.
There was a table of food and drinks in the press room. Guess what the food was.
The drinks were bottles, very small bottles, of soda pop and tonic water.
I've been to children's birthday parties where they served hardier fare.
And the cookies were all gone by eight o'clock and the soda pop was taken away at nine-thirty or so.
Anybody who wanted a real drink or real food had to go downstairs to the hotel bar and pay for it. You know what a hotel bar in Midtown charges for a glass of soda pop?
This made for a roomful of very hungry, very thirsty, very grumpy people.
Most of us bloggers, feeling like the poor relations at the wedding, kept our disappointment to ourselves. The regular reporter types did not. They were pissed and they weren't quiet about it.
Now I can't blame just the Clinton people for this. The party was actually hosted by Eliot Spitzer who was celebrating the beginning of what was going to turn out to be a very short tenure as governor and I now suspect he was skimping on the costs in order to save up money for his visits to "Kirsten."
But in addition to there being no booze and no burgers, there were no broads.
Clinton's representatives in the room that night were all men. Young men, but not pretty young men. Except for Peter Daou, who is a gentleman, a snappy dresser, and a handsome devil as well, they were mostly officious and supercilious wonkish types in black suits who went about brushing off anybody who tried to talk to them.
No booze, no burgers, no broads---and no respect.
Moving on to my two most recent make-believe moments of being a real reporter. Clinton's Communications Director Howard Wolfson was in on both conference calls and in both of them he shouted at the reporters asking questions, argued with them, and allowed his impatience to show. Maybe he just has a loud voice and can't help it, but it seemed to me that he was awfully belligerent for someone whose job is to keep the Press happy.
People don't like to feel bullied, especially smart, aggressive, arrogant professionals who believe it is their job to bully you.
Of course my experiences are few and far between and don't count for anything much. But this has been a general theme of inside the campaign stories and books going way back. Timothy Crouse's The Boys on the Bus is still relevant reading. And it's sadly true that Jimmy Carter's problems with the National Press Corps, although they began with Carter's own arrogance towards them, or at least Jody Powell and the late Hamilton Jordan's, were not improved by Carter's decision to ban hard liquor from White House functions.
Getting back to this campaign, I don't know what member of Hillary Clinton's team thought it would be a good idea last March to set up a press room in a men's bathroom but I hope that person was summarily...um...shit-canned.
To keep the Press Corps happy you have to get them drunk, keep them well-fed, give them at least the illusion that they might get laid, and treat them like they're your best pals and smartest advisers.
McCain is a master of this, apparently.
I don't know how Obama's people are handling them. The word is that Obama himself is aloof when he's not giving them the brush off entirely ("Let me finish my waffles." "Sweetie.") That can't be helpful, but maybe his staff is good at it and know the numbers of the best caterers in every town the campaign stops in.
And another sign of Obama's brilliance is his ability to learn on the fly and adapt. So maybe he can learn how to schmooze and flatter the ladies and gentlemen of the press.
I know, you think he would never stoop to that and he'll win them over by the wonderfulness of his rhetoric and the logic of his arguments and, anyway, all that should matter to the Media are the issues.
Let me tell you something about Santa Claus...
Updated to take advantage of my smart commenters and to help out my RSS readers never click through to my posts and therefore miss out on comment threads: Victoria, who blogs at I'm Talking Here, just left this comment:
This question of why the collective press shares ill feelings about the Clinton's (and I think Clinton "hatred" is over the top in describing it) is one that fascinates me. You're probably right about the food. Also the young, dismissive male representatives. More pointedly, an over-arching stinginess that comes out of being (perhaps understandably) over-protective, secretive, and non-forthcoming. But there's been something else, too. Did you ever see that YouTube video from way back in Iowa with Penn, Axelrod, and Trippi? It's a classic. Axelrod and Trippi come across as reasonably human beings; Penn - not so much. In fact, Trippi and Axelrod could barely cover their disgust for What He Is/ How He Plays It. Trippi even calls him on it. That Penn vibe - Wolfson's demeanor, Ickes' inclination to junkyard dog fights, etc - permeated the HRC campaign. I don't wonder why the press would react badly to that. I wonder why HRC made this her organizational vibe. My life-long experience is that organizations reflect the energies of their creators. And the Clinton campaign team's vibe has made me wonder what it tells me about the woman. Haven't decided yet, but it's troubling. Worse for Hillary, as her campaign went on, they were forced to float more and more implausible win scenarios, to the point where eventually the TV commentators couldn't help laughing at Lanny D. and Terry M. Weeks ago, Josh Marshall started pointing out one absurd claim after another and referred to them as Jumping The Shark. - At some point, being told a big silly story becomes annoying and tiresome, and it shows. There's a great, revelatory book to be written about this primary season. I hope I don't have to wade through too many so-so ones to find it.