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

Monday, April 28, 2008

The War On Wright

Well, the freakout over Rev. Wright today kind of caught me by surprise. Forgetting the fact that the Wright controversy did very little to Obama's chances in Pennsylvania, forgetting Obama's speech on race in America, forgetting that the revelation in Wright's weekend remarks was that the media misinterpreted practically everything he said, forgetting just about everything and taking the position that any appearance of the former Trinity Church pastor is simply incedniary regardless of content, the cable news was pretty much an uninterrupted parade of concern trolls warning that this independent individual's public appearances would be like death to Obama's presidential campaign. The Bill Moyers interview did not really have such an impact, but today's speech was at the National Press Club in Washington so it became real for the Village. He came to the center of THEIR universe, so of course the whole country was paying attention. Also, Wright went after the media, which offended them. So they were all too happy to give him hours of coverage today, and strictly on the terms of how any utterance of his would hurt Obama, not bothering to engage with the material in any way. The Clinton campaign is trying to move on because they don't have to do anything, as the media is carrying the ball for them, and also even they understand that propagating these stereotypes won't help any Democrats, including her, in the future.

Hardball was of particular note today. Tweety was breathing fire, jumping on these appearances, talking about how damaging they were without even really referring to them, asserting bluntly that Wright is now "the lead surrogate for the Obama campaign." He even brought on black minister Rev. Eugene Rivers, without of course mentioning that he's been working with George Bush for the past two terms and wants to be the new voice of the African-American community of faith (he got particularly incensed when Wright deemed the attack on him as "an attack on the black church" - that's of course his role to speak for all black people of faith).

After about 45 minutes of this, Ryan Lizza finally spoke up with a point that I've seen Ezra Klein make (can't find the link right now):

LIZZA: There should be a principle in these cases in this campaign. There is no guilt by association. This guy has one set of views, Obama has another set of views. If the views match up, then it's fair game. But the guy's been in politics since the mid-90s. He has a record in the State Senate in Illinois. He has a record in the US Senate. He's laid out an agenda as a presidential candidate. Where do his views match up with Jeremiah Wright's? And why as journalists are we confusing the two? It seems to me totally unfair that this guy is getting smeared with the views of someone just because he's his former pastor.

This whole time there's this shit-eating grin on Tweety's face, as if to say, "Oh, you dear boy." Tweety of course thinks Lizza is being naive, but he's making the very simple point that journalists shouldn't keep pretending Obama and Wright are somehow the same person given that they've charted vastly different visions and worldviews.

Then Tweety goes on to do just that, opening with one of his typically unintentionally hilarious moments:

MATTHEWS: Let me give you the proper way of putting it in literary terms. It's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... who was the bad guy, Dr. Jekyll was the good guy, Mr. Hyde was the bad guy, right?

LIZZA: I'll trust you on that...

MATTHEWS: I think so.

Mr. Literary Allusion, Tweety is. Not that he knows anything ABOUT Jekyll and Hyde other than some snippet he saw on late-night cable after coming in from yet another cocktail party, but he's so urbane, no?

MATTHEWS: So every time you have a problem with Barack, because you don't really know him and he seems a little foreign to you, you think of him as both these guys. They're different faces of the same guy. Jeremiah Wright to a lot of people is Barack Obama. They've become the same Chicago character running for President. One is the good doctor, the other is the monster that shows up at night.

LIZZA: Look, I think there's a danger of that happening. But as journalists I think there's a responsibility to make it clear...

MATTHEWS: OK, carve it apart, separate the two. Try.

LIZZA: This guy went to a church. This guy is the pastor of that church. Now one of those guys is running for President and has laid out a vision that is radically different than anything his left-wing pastor had to say. Yes, it tells you something about who he is, it tells you something about the community where he came from. But it doesn't tell you anything, and nobody should confuse one with--

MATTHEWS: Do you think it might be hurting a good man like Mitt Romney and his family, and good members of the LDS Church, that they're being embarrassed by this breakaway group down in Texas in the last couple weeks? You don't think that story hurts Mitt Romney's chances of being on the ticket? Yes it does. So I'm saying, these associations, fair or unfair, birds of a feather, it's the way people think.

My favorite passage. "Fair or unfair." In other words, I know I'm talking bullshit, but this is my impression of what the unwashed masses think, so, you know, I'm going with it.

Jill Zuckman chimed in, calling Lizza "a little high-minded," Tweety went on to call "GOD DAMN AMERICA" one of the greatest quotes in history, and it went on from there. Lizza, of course, kept his Village standing by calling Wright a "doctrinaire left-winger." And then Matthews launched into his defense of his profession for continuing to harp on meaningless trivialities - it's apparently the Democrats' fault.

MATTHEWS: For years the Democratic politicians have been lambasting Republicans for hanging around with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And now they're going after Pastor Hagee. This is the way politics is played, you get the guy's associates.

The difference, of course, is right inside Lizza's original comment - Falwell and Robertson's policy prescriptions did indeed "match up" with the conservative Republicans who associated with them, whereas in the case of Obama, he's charted his own policy course. There's also the fact that Falwell/Robertson associations never got more than a half-hour's worth of coverage on something like Hardball at all, and never without a spokesman rebutting anything negative (remember, Falwell guest-HOSTED Crossfire back in the day). Wright is some "character from Chicago" (there's an obvious racial component there) but Falwell and Robertson were media members in good standing.

AND, Lizza was of course talking about media responsibility, which is of course non-existent in this primary.

Matthews closed the discussion with this line:

Matthews: This is Hardball, we talk politics, Ryan.

Actually, I'd LIKE a show that talked politics. You talk nonsense and gossip about which people are mean to you and your friends. You decide who helps and hurts candidates and use that initial impression to color every future activity. You actually don't know a thing - or care - about politics. Or the people who would benefit from political discussion.

Rev. Wright is in an unwinnable situation, but I've noted throughout the year that anyone who gets that far under the skin of the traditional media is probably just fine.

Labels: , , , , ,