Friday, March 14, 2008

Lets Play Oddball! Televison personality shoots self in head. Reloads. Shoots Obama Campaign. Reloads. Shoots self in head again.

UPDATED: Saturday March 15, 2008
From the MSNBC show Countdown Obama Infomercial with Keith Olbermann on Wednesday 3/12/08 - Highlights of...

Keith's Special Comment:
"To Sen. Clinton’s supporters, to her admirers, to her friends for whom she is first choice, and to her friends for whom she is second choice, she is still letting herself be perceived as standing next to, and standing by, racial divisiveness and blindness.

And worst yet, after what President Clinton said during the South Carolina primary, comparing the Obama and Jesse Jackson campaigns; a disturbing, but only borderline remark. After what some in the black community have perceived as a racial undertone to the “3 A.M.” ad, a disturbing but only borderline interpretation ... And after that moment’s hesitation in her own answer on 60 Minutes about Obama’s religion; a disturbing, but only borderline vagueness ... After those precedents, there are those who see a pattern, false or true. After those precedents, there are those who see an intent, false or true. After those precedents, there are those who see the Clinton campaign’s anything-but-benign neglect of this Ferraro catastrophe, falsely or truly, as a desire to hear the kind of casual prejudice that still haunts this society voiced and to not distance the campaign from it...

Somebody tells her that simply disagreeing with and rejecting the remarks is sufficient. And that she should then call them “regrettable,” a word that should make any Democrat retch And that she should then try to twist them, first into some pox-on-both-your-houses plea to "stick to the issues," and then to let her campaign manager try to bend them beyond all recognition, into Sen. Obama’s fault. And thus these advisers give Congresswoman Ferraro nearly a week in which to send Sen. Clinton’s campaign back into the vocabulary ... of David Duke."
There is quite a bit that struck me as truly odd about this particular "Special Comment." Nothing was stranger than Olbermann's peculiar choice to attack" Clinton's advisers" for Hillary Clinton's statements. Just think about this for a minute. Hillary Clinton makes statements about Obama, or his staff and supporters, or her own staff and supporters, or the campaign in general or whatever. Olbermann becomes incensed by the statements as only Keith Olbermann can get, and then he attacks "Clinton's advisers" for the statements she has made. Why the advisers? Why not Clinton? What is the rationale behind that? I can think of only three reasons why Keith Olbermann would choose to formulate his very carefully and precisely worded "Special Comment" in that peculiar way.
1) Olbermann believes Hillary Clinton is too stupid or incompetent to think for herself, speak for herself, direct her own campaign, or formulate her own opinions.
- or -
2) Olberman thinks women in general are incapable of formulating their own opinons, positions, and/or direct their campaign without the help of a (presumably male) staff.
- or -
3) Olbermann is afraid to confront Hillary Clinton directly and instead chooses to make a dishonest and disingenuous indirect attack on her "advisors" for her statements and her positions.
Honest to God, I cannot think of another reason to structure his presentation like this. If anyone else has a plausible reason, I'm all ears. Leave me a comment, and I'll update the post. In the meantime, I was inspired to create the first ever DWSUWF poll which you should find in the sidebar on the left. Let me know what you think the reason is that he delivered his "Special Attack" on Hillary Clinton by attacking her advisers. Does he think She is stupid? - Is he a chauvinist sexist pig? - or - Is he just afraid of Hillary Clinton? You decide.

But what do I know. I am just a pissant blogger and Keith Olbermann is a cable news giant. He must know a lot more about this than me. So let me take a crack at this:

DWSUWF's Special Comment:
To Keith Olberman's viewers, to his admirers, to his friends for whom he is "must see TV", and to his friends for whom he is a second or third choice after Anderson Cooper 360, Project Runway reruns, or Jerry Springer - he is still letting himself be perceived as a sanctimonious ass, a journalistic hack, an Obama cheerleader, and standing next to sexist divisiveness and blindness.

And worst yet, after what Olbermann said about the Geraldine Ferrarro remarks, comparing a respected progressive female American leader to David Duke; a disturbing, but only borderline remark... After what some in the feminist community have perceived as a sexist undertone to his dismissive and patronizing attacks; a disturbing but only borderline interpretation... And after attacking his own election night co-host for daring to expose an Obama spokesman's ignorance of his candidates accomplishments in the Senate; a disturbing, but only borderline bias... After those precedents, there are those who see a pattern, false or true. After those precedents, there are those who see an intent, false or true. After those precedents, there are those who see the Olbermann broadcast as an anything-but-benign neglect of this Ferraro smear, falsely or truly, as a desire to hear the kind of casual media bias and sexism that still haunts this society voiced and to not distance MSNBC and his show from it.
Hmm. It is really hard to pontificate like Keith Olbermann. It's hard to maintain that kind of... incoherence. I'll just have to finish this my way.

This is what I think - Olbermann has no idea of what he did to invigorate the Clinton campaign. With a single stroke he has done more to galvanize, crystalize, and motivate Clinton supporters than anything I can think of since the presidential campaigns began in earnest more than a year ago.

Conventional wisdom is that if Clinton wins the nomination, dispirited Obama supporters will not support her, but if Obama wins the nomination, he will get all the Clinton supporters to rally behind him. Conventional wisdom is that Obama’s support comes from passionate idealism and Clintons support is mostly cynical political machinations. Conventional wisdom is wrong on both counts.

There is a core of idealistic passionate support for Clinton (perhaps not as big as Obama's support, but still very big). That core support comes from feminists and professional women who have lived and fought the good fight against real hard-core sexism in the 60’s and 70’s. It was a different kind of sexism than we see today. Much more blatant. Impenetrable glass ceilings and widespread legal exclusion from many professions and career opportunities was the norm. Sexual harassment and a hostile workplace for women was an accepted work environment. The women who fought to change these conditions are women who have seen a lot, and done a lot, and made a real difference in our country. Women like Diane Feinstein, Gloria Steiman, and Geraldine Ferraro.

So... Geraldine Ferraro makes a comment about Obama in support of Clinton and is slapped down by Keith Olbermann and others. Gloria Steiman makes a comment about Obama in support of Clinton and is slapped down by Keith Olbermann and others. Diane Feinstein makes a comment about Obama in support of Clinton and... so it goes. These are women who have earned our respect, and are just not getting it from the Obamites and pundits like Olbermann. It is women like these, who - right or wrong - believe that this is their time - their one shot to see a culmination of a lifetime of struggle for women’s rights - and, right or wrong, have a sense of entitlement in this presidential race. Frankly, it is a very similar sense of entitlement that many blacks (justifiably) feel about the Obama campaign. The difference, is that one groups sense is validated by mainstream media - like Olbermann, and one is not. The depth of passion and resentment felt by Clinton supporters emerges in moments like we have seen with Ferraro over the last week, and - it is not always pretty. But when this passionate, idealistic Clinton support is dismissed, or mis-characterized, or unfairly smeared as racist (as happened Wednesday in Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment")... you are going to see some serious blowback. Minimally it motivates the opposition. In this case, that was just the beginning -Keith has seriously pissed off the wrong women.

There was another interesting bit of rhetorical dissembling in the conversation between Olbermann and Eugene Robinson in the same show:
OLBERMANN: "... Does this end this? Or does it just sort of freeze it in a kind of nebulous zone that a lot of events in the Clinton campaign have been mired, the sort of nasty stuff they didn‘t say but somebody said for them?"
ROBINSON: "That does seem to have been the pattern, doesn‘t it? You know, I have a feeling this could go on for a few more days and hopes it faded out, but who knows. I mean, where do you start with this story, Keith?You know, first of all, Geraldine Ferraro says, you know, she‘s been called a racist and Bill Clinton was called a racist. Nobody calls her a racist. Nobody called Bill Clinton a racist.What was said is that what she‘s—you know, the sentiments she expressed, what she said was arguably a racist thing to say. But that‘s about action, that‘s about words. It‘s not about her essence or her being."

You got that? Keith and Eugene are not calling Geraldine Ferarro a racist. Not at all. They are only explaining that Geraldine Ferraro says racist things. That does not make her a racist. It's a beautiful thing. An almost Clintonesque parsing of the language.

Fair enough. We will play by those rules. Permit me to clarify, so there is no confusion about the point of this post. Keith Olbermann is not an Obama cheerleader and a sexist pig. He just talks like one.

Saturday March 15, 2008

Sorry - you will just have to pardon me for taking a too long post, and making it longer.

On Friday's edition of Countdown Obama Infomercial with Keith Olbermann, Keith apparently had to scramble back into the studio for a "Breaking News" story - An interview with Barack Obama responding to the widespread coverage of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory sermons. The interview video is linked here. (and perhaps embedded below if Blogger can handle two MSNBC embeds in one post).

Barack Obama responded directly to Olbermann's questions with thoughtful, intelligent answers, as we've come to expect from the Senator. More interesting was the context of the interview and the analysis between Keith Olbermann and Jonathan Alter before and after the interview.

My view is that the hyperbolic rhetoric in the coverage of both Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermons and Geraldine Ferraro's comments were way overblown by the media and bloggers. This is not about Wright, or Ferraro, or Obama or Clinton. This is about watching Keith Olbermann hoisted on his own petard.

Two days before, Olbermann was fanning the flames with his "Special Comment" to and about Hillary Clinton, saying "Clinton's tepid response to Ferraro is shameful...You must reject and denounce Geraldine Ferraro." Now, we know that Geraldine Ferraro is a public figure with a personal relationship to Clinton, and a supporter who was peripherally associated with her campaign. We also know that Jeremiah Wright is a public figure with a personal relationship to Obama, and a supporter who was peripherally associated with his campaign. Hence the need for a hastily arranged "Breaking News" interview with Obama on Friday to follow up the anti-Clinton screed on Wednesday.

Now, your assignment. Compare and contrast this Friday interview with Wednesday's "Special Comment" linked at the top of the post.

Note that Olbermann had a very different tone of voice when asking Obama whether he would denounce Reverend Wright, as compared to when he was demanding that Clinton denounce Ferraro. Obama replies, quite reasonably, that he will denounce the words but not the man. Note that the trademark Olbermann high dudgeon is noticeably absent. Absent also is the finger wagging insistence that Obama "must reject and denounce Reverend Wright" as he demanded of Clinton. Why the difference? Well... Keith was addressing a male candidate about a male supporter's offensive comments on Friday, but was addressing a female candidate about a female supporter's offensive comments on Wednesday. Was that the reason? You tell me.

Then Olbermann and Jonathan Alter (who recently wrote two columns advising Clinton to quit the campaign) sheepishly analyze what has just transpired in the interview. Maybe it is my imagination, but when I watch this sequence I see two embarrassed journalists fully cognizant of the discrepancy in their coverage of these two candidates and perhaps, finally recognizing that Obama is (surprise!) a politician just like Clinton - different only in degree and not in kind. If these two are not embarrassed about the difference in the way they have been covering Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - they should be. Particularly Olbermann.


BAC said...

Thanks for the link, and for using the photo!


mw said...

I saw the image being used on a couple of sites, was not sure where it came from but with the "yikes" in the name I figured it must be yours. Glad I got the attribution and link right.

We have another connection. I was amused to see you are a "Pissy" award winner. I created and unleashed that meme on the blogosphere last year. Cool to see it on your site.

Richard said...

Hi there,
I came across your blog on a Libertarian blog list. I like your stuff ... it's entertaining.
I recently started a community blog site like RedState (got booted a few months ago) for Third-Party people.
The site is Feel free to simultaneously post at RVOCE what you might post here.


Anonymous said...

I read the headline and thought "YES!!!"

Then I realized that I wasn't on CNN's website and the cold hard reality that this is still an election year filled with idiot media types came crashing down into my warm and cozy world.

Thanks MW, thanks a hell of a lot. I'm going to go nurse myself on a bottle of Patron now.

mw said...

Forget the CNN site. You don't need them. Stick with me and I'll explain everything and anything you need to know.

mw said...

Wait a minute. Why are drinking Patron? It's St. Patrick's day. Jamesons or Guinness or both is the designated drink of the day.

arevolutionofone said...

I find this whole sexism/racism divide between Clinton and Obama supporters pretty sad. I am an Obama supporter and I believe that I am far from sexist. I don't know if you'd agree with me after reading what you wrote. In fact before Iowa I fully expected that Hillary Clinton would probably be the nominee and I would have voted for her as a Democrat.

To be honest I wasn't happy with her support for the war and a few other positions she's taken. I am, obviously, a man and I am also African American, and I would love to see a woman president as much as an African American (preferably both). But I would never in a thousand years vote for someone, for example, like Condoleeza Rice, who is anathema to everything I believe in.

My point being that I think people see sexism, and on the Obama side I'm sure, racism in those opposing their candidate where it doesn't exists. And I'm not by any means saying it doesn't exist, there's plenty of both in this race. But there are some of us who are not for either Hillary or Barack who are neither racist or sexist and I'm starting to feel like anyone who isn't supporting Hillary is being accused of being sexist or only for Obama for reasons of race, far too often. I don't think it helps the cause of feminism at all. I think it hurts it.

I believe sexism is still a huge problem in this country. So is racism. But I think Hillary Clinton's biggest problem is the way she's run this race. It's the tactics she's used. And the worst in my book isn't one that is, at least overtly, racist. It's when she showed complete disregard for the good of the party and practically endorsed John McCain over Obama. That is inexcusable. That's when I decided, if she won, it would be extremely hard to vote for her. I guess I'm just really surprised at how differently people on either side can see things, but I shouldn't be.

Sorry for such a long comment. I'm host at Carnival of the Liberals this time, and I'm going to post your article, although I don't really agree with you. But you make your point with style and you like Jameson and Guiness on St. Patrick's Day.

Anyway, I'll wrap this long comment up and get to work posting the issue which is late. Thanks for your submission.

mw said...

Thanks for the comment, and for inclusion in the carnival. We probably agree more than you think. In particular on this point-

"My point being that I think people see sexism, and on the Obama side I'm sure, racism in those opposing their candidate where it doesn't exists." - AROO

I think that is certainly true, and I may be guilty of it in this post. I am neither a woman or African American, so for me to call either Racism or Sexism is, except in the most obvious cases, subject to question.

This post was more about Olbermann specifically rather than the general issue of accusing Obama supporters of sexism. I just found Olbermann's bias as exemplified in that "special comment" so egregious and so over the top, that I have no problem applying some counter hyperbole in my criticism of him. I probably would not have leveled the sexism charge, except that there were quite a few women around the blogosphere who did, and I decided to embrace and amplify their charges in this post.

Thanks again for including me in the carnival, this post is a little dated, but I submitted it because it was most in concert with your "media" theme.