Friday, October 5, 2007


Bob Somerby (left) over at the Daily Howler did a brilliant job the other day exposing the ridiculous lengths to which certain celebrated political pundits (Tim Russert, David Broder, David Gregory, et al) will go to cast doubts on Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy.

The subject is baseball, and the important background factor is that Clinton grew up in the Chicago area but now represents New York in the U.S. Senate. I'm using the text from Somerby's piece in addition to a link (which brings up some extraneous material):

DAMNED FOR THE YANKEES: The first person we saw who took it seriously was the New York Times’ hapless Gail Collins. On Saturday morning, Collins was typing very hard about the way vile Hillary Clinton just won’t take any firm stands. We thought the column was weak through and through. But then, dear God! She typed this:

COLLINS (9/29/07): It's one thing to refuse to answer a hypothetical question about whether there is any circumstance under which you might ever use nuclear weapons against Iran. It's another to refuse to commit on who you'd root for if the Yankees played the Cubs in the World Series. No young person is going to fall in love with politics because of a candidate who says: ''I would probably have to alternate sides.”

Good God—Collins actually seemed to be serious! She actually seemed to be criticizing Clinton for the joking remarks she made when Russert asked her, in last week’s debate, who she’d root for if the Cubs played the Yankees in the World Series. But then, Collins perhaps didn’t understand that Clinton was joking about those “alternate sides”—making a play on the way the commander-in-chief used to switch sides at half-time at the Army-Navy football game. (Prexies no longer attend that game.) Maybe Collins just didn’t know that this whole thing had been a damn joke.

But then, good lord! The very next day, a doddering Dean voiced the same complaint—and he too seemed to be playing it straight! Here’s where The Pundit Dean ended up as he bleated about Clinton’s “evasiveness:

BRODER (9/30/07): "It went on like that through several more topics, until a final question about baseball fandom. Clinton identified herself as a Yankees fan, saying she knew it would not help her with the Red Sox Nation supporters in New Hampshire. But what if it is the Cubs vs. the Yankees, Russert asked. "I guess I would have to alternate," she said, triangulating once again.

"This dodginess got her through the two hours. Whether it can get her through the next three months is a different question..."

There are no words for such phony conduct. It was clear that Clinton was joking throughout this pointless exchange with Russert. But to Broder, when Clinton joked about her two favorite teams, this meant that she was “triangulating again!” It was a mark of her “dodginess,” the tired old Hill-hater said.

And then, it was time for Meet the Press—and the Head Raccoon had summoned some lodge-mates to sit agreeably on his panel. Like Digby (hurrah!), we’ll post a substantial chunk of what happened. It defies the things we think we know—to see that people will gather in a group, on TV, and pretend to be this stupid. The Head Raccoon was shedding real tears as this ludicrous segment began:

RUSSERT (10/1/07): I tried to get these candidates to take positions on Iraq, on Social Security, on the big issues.


RUSSERT: We talked about baseball. And I found this exchange particularly interesting. Let's watch.

(Videotape) RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what about a World Series, Yankees and Cubs?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I've worried about that because I think, given the Cubs' record, which—of course I, I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse were that to ever occur. It would be so out of history that you'd have the Cubs vs. the Yankees. Then I'd be really in trouble. But I—

RUSSERT: But who would you be for?

CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides. (Laughter)(End videotape)

RUSSERT: Well, the Cubs are in the playoffs, David.


RUSSERT: Cubs, Yankees. You going to seat—sit behind each dugout?

GREGORY: You can't have it all. In the sports world, you can't have it all.


GREGORY: That reeks of calculation, which is a potential downside for her.

BUCHANAN: The term "Nixonian" comes to mind on that response.

Russert even played the tape, so people could see that Clinton was joking. (The term “laughter” after Clinton’s remark appears in the Nexis transcript.) But Gregory, playing it totally straight, said her answer “reeked of calculation”—and Buchanan went with “Nixonian.” As we watched, we still thought the whole group might be joking. But as this lodge of fools continued, it became clear that they actually weren’t. Even Tavis Smiley played along, earning his spot in The Brotherhood:

RUSSERT (continuing directly): How so?

BUCHANAN: In the good sense of the word.

RUSSERT: How so, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, which—"on the one hand, on the other."

TAVIS SMILEY: That sounds like Romney is what it sounded like.

RUSSERT: But, Dan Balz, it's been tough getting these candidates to, to one, one, talk to the press and take real positions. They want to hide out in the Internet, they want to hide out on their blogs, they want to put out prefab commercials and brochures. But when you say to them, "Where are you on Social Security? How are you going to save that program? Where are you on Iraq? Where are you on immigration?" sometimes you get answers like that.

Good Lord! To his semi-credit, Tavis smiled grimly as he spoke—but he played along with the klan, comparing Clinton to flip-flopping Romney. And Russert made it clear at the end—this was meant to be an example of phony pols who just weren’t willing to play it straight. The Head Raccoon was showing his pain. “It's been tough,” he sobbed to Balz, “getting these candidates to...take real positions.” “Sometimes you get answers like that,” he complained—talking about a joking reply to his stupid-ass question about the Cubs versus the Yankees.

Insane? Deranged? Is our language too strong? Too strong when this stable of millionaires makes such a ludicrous joke of our discourse? David Gregory—he of the millions per year—was playing along with the Head Raccoon, and Smiley—a major self-promoter—was willing to get stupid too. But what are liberals and Dems to do, when this cult of multimillionaires starts down this troubling path once again? We have put up with these people for year after year—we’re in Iraq because of their conduct—and they have played this game the whole time, and seem to be gearing up once again. Now, the crying King of the Nantucket nabobs introduced a very familiar notion. As usual, the Dem front-runner was a big fake—even when she told a joke about the Cubs and the Yankees.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So Russert and Broder and the rest of them think Hillary is politically evasive because she jokingly finesses a silly question about baseball? God, those people are idiots.