As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stop Talking About Pizza And Orange Juice

I actually saw this on Hardball yesterday and decided not to post on it because I wanted to erase it from my memory. But Media Matters brought it back to my brain.

MATTHEWS: Did you see him there?

SHUSTER: -- but that's --

MATTHEWS: He's not that good at that -- handshaking in a diner.


MATTHEWS: Barack doesn't seem to know how to do that right.

SHUSTER: -- he doesn't do that well. But then you see him in front of 15,000 people in some of these college towns, and that's why, Chris, we've seen Chelsea Clinton and Bill Clinton in Bloomington and South Bend and Terre Haute. I mean --

MATTHEWS: What's so hard about doing a diner? I don't get it. Why doesn't he go in there and say, "Did you see the papers today? What do you think about that team? How did we do last night?" Just some regular connection?

SHUSTER: Well, here's the other thing that we saw on the tape, Chris, is that, when Obama went in, he was offered coffee, and he said, "I'll have orange juice."


SHUSTER: He did.

And it's just one of those sort of weird things. You know, when the owner of the diner says, "Here, have some coffee," you say, "Yes, thank you," and, "Oh, can I also please have some orange juice, in addition to this?" You don't just say, "No, I'll take orange juice," and then turn away and start shaking hands. That's what happens [unintelligible] --

MATTHEWS: You don't ask for a substitute on the menu.

SHUSTER: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: David, what a regular guy. You could do this. Anyway, thank you, David Shuster. I mean, go to the diners.

After that, Matthews went to a stunned Bob Casey and asked him about why Obama just can't connect in diners. I thought he was going to turn off-camera and say "Did he just ask me that question?"

Now, this isn't limited to Democrats, actually, here's a recent report about how McCain couldn't fold his pizza in half like a real New Yorker. The difference is that those quick hits on Republicans don't usually make that metaphorical leap to turn some random event about bowling or orange juice into a symbolic manifestation of the candidate and Democrats in general. I mean, if this did hit Hardball, someone would say that everyone knows McCain's a real man and he just isn't used to New York's way of chowing down on pizza but he made a game attempt and isn't it great that he tried? What a guy!

Which really doesn't matter to me, they shouldn't be spending 5 seconds commentating on campaign trail events like they're in the skybox watching the Patriots and the Giants. But when it comes to a Democrat in a similar situation, they plug whatever "gaffe" they've decided on into the overall narrative. That's because the conservative noise machine has been browbeating the media for years and years and basically setting up the themes. Democrats are weak, they're effete, they don't "play in Peoria," they can't connect with reg'lar folks. So this puts the media types on the lookout for this garbage, and then eager to take the slightest of opportunities to play them up into some reflection of character. It's a typical game, and it's easier than using your brain. It's also a lot cheaper. Sending out a tracker to film Obama on the road beats doing a hard analysis of policy positions. One requires researchers and a need to probably locate and film experts, and come up with graphics and fact-check - but a tracker just points and shoots, and you don't even need a microphone because the tea-leaf readers are just going to show the visuals and talk over them anyway. It's both vapid and cost-effective, and that's why it's so ubiquitous.

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