“People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.”
--A. J. Liebling--
“Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.”
“I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.”
The Clintons have done it again with a little help from Saturday Night Live (“SNL”). They have somehow turned water into wine. They have spun straw into gold. They have made mountains from mole hills. They have cajoled, prodded, and bullied the media into doing their dirty work. They did it while accusing the media of being biased against them. The Clintons have baited the media into turning away from the real story that Hillary Clinton did not close the gap in pledged delegates and instead focused on her wins in states where she was supposed to win.
The Clintons have played the media like a musical genius using a finely tuned instrument. They have used the media to define her as the experienced candidate, although in reality she is not. They have used the media to define Barack Obama as a man of rhetoric instead of a politician with some experience and a will to return the process back to the American people. They have used the media to define which states matter and which do not. And they have done all of this while playing the victim.
Hillary Clinton has the benefit of all the resources of an incumbent President that was hugely popular. She was the frontrunner a full Presidential cycle before she ran. She started with a huge advantage over everyone in the field in name recognition, in addition to having the last name of the last Democratic President and also a two term President. She also had a favorable primary schedule that front loaded many of the larger states in the primary process that gave her the advantage since she was the frontrunner. And even with all those advantages, she still has the audacity to play the victim card and actually get away with it. On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, she pulled off her biggest slight of hand. Her campaign was able to maneuver the media away from discussions about the numerical reality that she faces and instead focused on the bottom line of who won which race instead of the all important delegate count. The media did this even though Hillary Clinton won in states where she was supposed to and saw huge leads in Ohio and Texas evaporate. That is not a bad deal for a candidate that claims to be the victim of media bias.
Prior to the SNL skit that portrayed the media as being hard on Hillary while being soft on Barack the media discussed Hillary Clinton’s Herculean challenge. After the SNL skit the media discussed Hillary Clinton’s comeback. By the way, Tina Fey, one of the writers of SNL, is a Hillary Clinton supporter, but no one from the media took the time to point that little fact out. An objective numerical analysis of the delegate count prior to Tuesday’s primaries demonstrated that Hillary Clinton needed to win all four states by a very wide margin in order to have a chance of earning her party’s nomination via the electoral process. The truth is that she did not come close to achieving any of those objectives in any of the four states, but it did not matter because the media shifted its coverage from the delegate count to the portrayal of Hillary Clinton as an underdog. After the SNL skit the media curiously adopted the Clinton spin line that a win is a win. I guess timing is everything.
Hillary Clinton is a long shot to win the Democratic nomination via the primary process, but she will never quit. Hillary and Bill Clinton know it but they also realize that they, like their pal John McCain, have nothing to lose by fighting to the last man because Hillary Clinton is a little long in the tooth (she will be 61 this year) to risk having to wait eight years for another shot at the White House. They know that a lot of things can happen in eight years like another woman running for President that actually had to work her way up through the ranks or the American people may start to get over their love affair with Bill Clinton and the memory of the 1990s.
Regardless of what the Clintons try to peddle to the American people, Hillary Clinton is not about to give up unless she is forced to walk away. To the extent that she was on the “ropes” before Tuesday’s primary, she is still on the “ropes.” That means that it is an incorrect analogy to compare her to a boxer that has gotten up off of the mat to keep fighting. She is more like a wounded animal that is cornered that will fight to the death. That also means that the Clintons probably do not care about playing with the future viability of the Democratic Party because of their lust for the White House. Yet, I doubt that this story angle is likely to be explored.
The Clintons will continue to move the goal posts as long it is convenient for them and as long as the media allows them to do it. They will continue with that tactic regardless of the fact that their tactics will either allow them to steal the game or eventually ruin the field.