The [Monday] Papers
"When I heard about the Clinton 'cry,' I just had to check it out, and when I did I ran smack into a lie," Mara Tapp wrote Sunday on the Tribune's Op-Ed page. "It doesn't really matter whether you like or hate Hillary Clinton. All you have to be is honest to see that this is not what it was made to seem."
Opposite Tapp's Op-Ed was a Mike Luckovich cartoon with a voter saying "Thanks a lot, Hillary" while watching the rest of the presidential field in tears and a letter to the editor titled "Big Girls Don't Cry."
This is the sort of media behavior that has most informed my writings about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It's not about who you like more, it's about truth in reporting. We're seeing precious little of it.
Last Thursday, the Tribune's Steve Chapman wrote "If it took a show of tears to elicit sympathy from New Hampshirites, Sister Frigidaire (as she was known in her youth) was prepared to engineer a melting thaw."
Aside from the fact that I'm pretty sure a steely man would never be called Brother Frigidaire, there were no tears. And what about the irony that the press has practically demanded that Hillary Clinton show a more personal side, and when they believe that she has, they vilify her for it?
This is the box that a female candidate is in. Prove you are as tough as a man, but please don't be like a man.
But it's not just that. It's the fairy tales that the media weaves. How many people out there still believe that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet? Never happened. Our political discourse is littered with such falsehoods, designed to leave the deepest, lasting impressions on the voting public.
"Meanwhile, her husband scorned Obama's campaign as a 'fairy tale,' in which his countless horrible flaws were being covered up by the news media or the vast right-wing conspiracy, or someone else who has resisted the appeal of the Clintons," Chapman continued.
Bill Clinton clearly was describing Obama's claimed position on the war in Iraq as a fairy tale, not his campaign. Tribune reporter David Mendell wrote in his biography of Obama that Obama only came to speak out against the war in that one famous paragraph to win over a monied donor and the services of consultant David Axelrod. It's not clear whether Obama ever spoke out against the war outside of that single time during his Senate campaign; the lack of video of him making such a declaration and the poor audio quality of that single paragraph led Axelrod and Obama to actually re-record the statement for an ad - complete with fake sound effects.
Obama was never a leader in the anti-war movement (he still hasn't been asked how his endorsement of Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont squares with his ballyhoed anti-war position) and didn't speak out against the war in the U.S. Senate until 18 months into his term - when he was already preparing his presidential campaign.
Lynn Sweet writes a piece this morning headlined "Obama Said 'No' To Iraq Money In Theory, 'Yes' In Reality."
"Instead of her usual power suit, she wore a flowery brocade jacket that oozed femininity," Chapman writes.
That jacket was hardly flowery, and hardly oozed femininity, but fitting the narrative to the facts is the name of the game. By the way, has anyone commented on the fact that Obama is now wearing ties instead of his usual open-collar look on the campaign trail? Perhaps he's trying to appear more presidential.
Last Thursday, Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak wrote that "[W]hereas Muskie's tears were involuntary, only the naive can believe Clinton was not artfully playing for sympathy from her sisters."
And I still haven't seen a correction from Novak on the indisputable fact that Clinton's reference to an AP story that said Obama has changed positions so often he could hold a debate with himself is wholly true. Nor has Obama been forced to face up to his false allegation that the comment was made by a Clinton supporter, not the AP. Demonstrably untrue.
Facts are stupid things; they get in the way of pre-conceived narratives.
Also last Thursday, the Sun-Times editorial page wrote "Women like Hillary Clinton don't cry on command. In fact, most women can't. Still, commentators across the blogosphere insist otherwise."
Commentators in print, too. But in the blogosphere, commentators are also doing the fact-checking. I see precious little of that going on in print.
Also last Thursday, Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote a column titled "Hillary's Display Of Near-Tears A Stroke Of Genius."
"Clinton may not have had an onion in her hanky, but she knew enough to seize the moment."
Please. If Clinton actually would have cried, it would have been a disaster for her campaign. There is no evidence - yet - that this was the decisive moment for New Hampshire voters. (USA Today is re-interviewing voters it had polled to find out why Clinton won.)
Obama's final tally in New Hampshire reflected what he was polling going into the vote. Clinton appeared to pull large numbers from John Edwards supporters, and seemed to have won over a fair amount of undecideds - many of whom helped account for overflow attendance at Obama's events but were apparently not convinced.
If anyone is crying crocodile tears, it's Barack Obama.
"My candidacy is about change," says Larry Suffredin, a Cook County commissioner hoping to replace outgoing state's attorney Dick Devine.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Tap three times.
Posted on January 14, 2008
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