Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Ari Melber (The Nation):
Time's Michael Grunwald has an excellent article about the broken Clinton spin machine:

The Clinton spin machine has been consistent[:] Nebraska, Idaho and Utah didn't matter because they were deep-red states. South Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia didn't matter because they had large percentages of black voters... For a moment, it looked like Missouri might matter when the networks called it for Hillary -- her campaign quickly bragged about winning a "closely contested toss-up state" -- but the networks were wrong.
On the other hand, it looked like Nevada wasn't going to matter at all because there were polling stations in casinos, but it ended up huge because Hillary won...

So maybe all these Obama victories mean something after all. Maybe they mean that voters are sick of the perpetual Clinton spin machine. At the very least, they've made it clear that the machine is broken, if not dead.

Spin is about framing a coherent narrative, and Team Hillary's narrative borders on self-parody.

Parody really nails it. For people who follow politics closely, it has gotten pretty hard to take the Clinton Campaign seriously. This week's non-story over whether multiple politicians can quote the Declaration of Independence is a perfect example. Grunwald wonders whether such tactics are counterproductive:

It's hard to know whether [Clintonites'] self-justifying and self-contradictory nonsense bothers actual voters, or just the reporters who have it force-fed to them. Strategy and marketing can be overrated in the world of retail; it might just be that a majority of Democratic voters, faced with a choice between two strong candidates with similar policies, prefer the Obama product.

Sure, no one can quantify the exact impact of these tactics. But voters do say the Clinton Campaign attacks Obama unfairly. Look at Wisconsin voters on Tuesday:

Asked which candidate attacked "unfairly," twenty-six percent of voters said "only Clinton," while only six percent said that of Obama. Voters who decided their vote in the last week went for Obama by 67 percent, and 54 percent of people who decided in the last three days backed him.

There was a similar dynamic in South Carolina, when people recoiled from Bill Clinton's distortion offensive. And while Grunwald documents the manic-depression of Mark Penn's dueling political narratives -- Inevitable! Invincible! Underdog! Besieged! -- the "spin" that matters most comes back to policy.

When Sen. Clinton says she did not vote for war, but for diplomacy, that's not just ineffective campaign spin. It is the misleading policy declaration of a U.S. Senator who sent troops into war, using the formal congressional power to pass a war resolution titled, logically, the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq."

When Sen. Clinton maintains that there was a "credible case" for that war, as she did in the last debate, she is not simply spinning some campaign narrative. She is using her authority as a U.S. Senator to legitimize the war, which makes it harder to end. And that is not self-parody, it is tragedy.

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