Lady C's InfoNapsterizer

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Rants on mainstream media -- 1 {DNC Day 3}

Is the media reading from an out-of-date script?

From Nadezhda at Tacitus, in response to posts on convention content.

Day 3 Convention Open Thread

Update [2004-7-28 17:49:47 by Macallan]: This is rather interesting. From NRO's Kerry Spot, apparently the Bush campaign "have measured, in seconds, the total time in seconds the major convention figures have spoken, and then counted how much time was spent attacking Bush, praising Kerry, and "filler" which was neither." The link has breakdowns by speaker, but here is the total:

    Speaking Time 5011.8
    Total attack Time 2324.95
    Total Kerry Time 1162.23
    Total Filler Time 1524.62

So twice as much time has been spent attacking Bush as opposed to being "positive" about the nominee.

Update [2004-7-28 20:57:19 by Harley]: Baseball reference!! Mike Barnicle described the Dems as being a lot like the old school Oakland A's. A lot of internal squabbling, but an overriding desire to win the World Series.

Misunderstanding the Democratic base -- Nadezhda July 28, 2004

IMO the media (and I may add the venerable Mr Barnicle) have got the story out of Boston all wrong. This isn't a bunch of squabbling factions united only by their hatred of George Bush and putting on a unity facade for the duration of the convention while the TV cameras are on.

Kerry doesn't have anybody aside from a handful who are passionate Kerry believers. What he has is a Democratic party that has discovered to its delight that it believes in itself as a party (with a common history and future) that is a profoundly different creature from what they think the Bush and DeLay folks have made of the Republican party. Kerry is their standard bearer, he's one they can be proud of, they've realized they don't have to love him like some of them did Clinton, and they're going to do their utmost to get him elected. Nobody's going to hang back on the sidelines in this one, whether it's throwing all their money at this election or being out on the hustings every day between now and November 2, or being prepared to challenge every vote count in the nation.

This isn't the Democrats in 1992 who hadn't bought into the New Democrat stuff yet, were still the party of Mondale and Dukakis with 200 page platforms, and figured this Bubba with charisma just might get them back into the WH after almost 24 years in the wilderness. There was a lot of hanging back and covering their backsides, and a lot of IOUs Clinton had to deal with in the first 2 years until Gingrich knocked the stuffing out of them, and they had to do it Clinton's way.

This crowd in Boston believe that they have the right approach for America and that Bush et al are going in a profoundly wrong direction. It's not how to exit from Iraq. It's not "giving a veto to the UN." They're embarrassed by the rapid erosion of the US brand. They totally disagree with fiscal priorities and consequences. They think Bush has been a fraud on the "compassionate conservatism" and want to hold him to account. They see health care as a much bigger and more urgent reform that must be tackled before SS. They think Bush has been all talk and no action on homeland security and intelligence reform. And don't underestimate how much John Ashcroft represents what they think is wrong -- incompetent, all politics and no real delivery, fearmongering, misleading or manipulating information, misusing executive power, undermining the appropriate relations between the executive branch and the other two branches, and totally screwed up priorities (like wasting resources on busting people for medical marijuana).

Kerry isn't going to have a lot of IOUs. True, a bunch of the super-progressives and traditional groups have their hopes up, and like always when the rubber hits the road, they're going to be disappointed. But they're not his base. His base is the Dems in the House and Senate, the DLC/NDN, etc., and on a few purely domestic issues, a few big groups like teachers. Otherwise, to govern, he's got to go with things that he can get moderate Republicans to buy into. The idea that he's going to be beholden to an anti-war crowd on Iraq is a total misreading of the past year of Democratic politics.

BTW -- I must respond to the update with the silly "negative" seconds count. How may I ask would you count Ed Rendell's speech on energy independence. On the one hand, it could be rated 90% negative, because it was talking about things that have been ignored or rejected by Bush (or rather Cheney) so it had a non-stop implication that Bush is doing a lousy job on energy policy. On the other hand, it was primarily a discussion of the things that would be promoted in an energy independence policy. But it didn't talk about Kerry constantly. So would that be 90% Kerry, or 40% Kerry, 50% filler, or what? and I don't know what filler is. Was "filler" the description Sharpton gave of the history of blacks with the Republican party from Lincoln to Hoover? Was that negative Bush? I don't guess it was "Kerry."

A convention is politics, regardless of whether the media have decided the Fleet Center is a content-free zone. It is about power and purpose -- stuff people have fought about for millennia. Its goal is to highlight what this party believes in and how that differs from the other party. Its immediate objective is to make the case that their candidate is the right standard bearer and has a team of other elected officials or candidates that's strong and attractive. The most successful communication (whether its at this convention or in NY) weaves positives about the party and candidates with negatives about the other party and candidates, packaged in the right atmospherics.

What this convention has not had, with few exceptions, is personal belittling such as "poor George he was just born with a silver foot in his mouth," or the sloganeering-with-a-sneer of "taxachusetts." It hasn't paraded a litany of twisted statistics or accusations out of context in the manner of classic negative advertising. It has abolished the "L" word (liar) from the entire convention's vocabulary. With few exceptions, the worst accusation has been "mislead." And in fact that's what the vast majority of Democrats believe the WH did in the run-up to the war, as well as in its aftermath. The worst accusation on the "compassionate conservatism" front was that it was "fools gold." Again, something the Democrats sincerely believe is an accurate assessment of the Bush Admin's performance.

I'll stop before I get really wound up. Just the stupidest thing I've ever heard. The media will eat it up, and they will be even more stupid and lazy for doing that than they have been so far for having the only stories to date be "shove it," the NASA picture, bloggers, and the DNC editing the red meat out of speeches. Jeez Louise!

For the first time in living memory, the speeches at a Democratic convention are really talking about important stuff that matter to us all, and that are why you and I read and write on this blog. Principles. Major structural changes that could affect US employers and employees profoundly. What's the model of an international political economy that we are going to try to create/maintain. What are the real threats to the US, and how best to meet them. What "unity" means. Why minorities should be interested in one or another party. Why Americans should care about this election for a reason other than that one group of politicians wants to beat another group of politicians, or one group of donors wants to get their guys into power.

But the smug reporters don't catch any of that. They've already got the script written. All they have to do is pick up the texts of the prepared speeches. And they don't read them for ideas. They read them for "how will this play in Peoria." They read them for campaign technique, for "on message" or "off message," for "negative Bush," for "will this be good enough to sell Kerry."

I have a suggestion. Today (Thursday) don't watch any of the networks, watch the proceedings only in the evening, and then watch from about 7:30PM to its finish on CSPAN with no commentary. Before you watch it, read the blogs coming out of the convention to get a range of tone and topics. Don't read the text of the speeches until you've watched them. And while you watch, split your brain in half -- one half critiquing it as a "performance," and the other trying to get a feel for what's going on there. I think you'd find it interesting and, at the very least, you'd know your enemy better.

Misunderestimating? -- Macallan -- July 28, 2004

I appreciate the thoughtful and exhaustive response, but I will have to disagree that I am misreading the situation. I believe the flaw in your rebuttal is "The idea that he's going to be beholden to an anti-war crowd on Iraq is a total misreading of the past year of Democratic politics." There is no small difference between saying that his base isn't primarily obsessed on a specific issue, than saying he'll owe an IOU to one interest group.

I was also sincere when I said the party is only united in context. If Kerry were to win, that context is then removed and things will splinter. Unlike Clinton who could play off the Gingrich Congress, there's no sharing of responsibility as commander in chief like there is with domestic policy and spending. There will be no context to unify. Given how many times Kerry has stridently shifted his own views in response to the prevailing winds of the base, it will be difficult to see how he'll operate effectively off a splintered minority base, the mushy middle, and a rather annoyed opposition. Not to mention the fact that he'll have to come to grips with the reason so many of our "allies" our jerking us around has absolutely nothing to do with George W. Bush and everything to do with what they want counter to our interests.

As to misreading the past year of Democratic politics, I suppose that is a matter of opinion, but I'm comfortable that I haven't. The nearly complete lack of internal consistency of the last year alone should give anyone serious pause -- that Bush is simultaneously a fascist mastermind turning librarians into Gestapo agents, but a bumbling fool who isn't doing enough to protect us, and so forth. It's the politics of opposition, without any clear vision beyond "we won't do it that way".


Which GOP will it be this month? The "war," "peace," or "safe" president

There has been much talk in recent weeks about President Bush's shift from pronouncing himself the "war" president to the "peace" president in a second term. In the aftermath of the release of the 9/11 Commission's report, another refrain is emerging. Are we we "safe", though relative to what is unclear -- safer than before 9/11? safe from terrorist using chemical weapons? bioweapons? dirty bombs? nuclear devices? safe in our ability to respond to disaster quickly and competently? safe in our protections for first-responders to limit the physical and emotional toil of their service? as safe as we'd like to be? as safe as we're willing to pay for (in dollars and/or intrusion into our daily lives)? Ron Brownstein reminded us a month ago that this open-ended approach to safety is a license for abuse in the legislative process. Using and Abusing 9/11 Fears to Set National Security Policy

Getting ready for "goldie-oldie" night

Gearing up for Night 1 at the Democrat's convention, when Hillary, Bill and Al take the podium, Ron Brownstein notes in today's LA Times that Clinton's Critique of His Successor Takes On a Harder Edge.


A new variant of ABB

From a commenter at Talk Left

Its not ABB, its ALFBB (any life form) --  I'd vote for a cave salamander or a fruit bat first.   Actually, now that I think of it, its ATBB (anything) -- if its Bush or my toaster oven, my bathroom plunger, well...  sorry George. Posted by j.w at July 17, 2004 11:37 PM
Now can the Democrats and Kerry "close the deal" with the American people in Boston and convince them that Kerry's better than a toaster oven or a cave salamander (recognizing that fruit bat is a pretty high hurdle).


Message or medium? Godwin's Law in Political Communication

"Nazi" debate enflaming the blogosphere. It is doubtful whether any light has been shed on the appropriateness of the Nazi allusions (or even, in the case of the Bush/Cheney ad, on WTF the Hitler clips were trying to say!)   What can be demonstrated by these incidents, however, is that Godwin's Law applies outside internet discussion threads -- in this case, televis-"able" political "discourse" of the two major political parties. The degree to which Godwin's Law, as applied to political parties, represents a distinct corrollary would require an assessment of whether it has been generally applicable historically (at least in post WWII American politics). Such an assessment would require considerable statistical analysis of broadly-disseminated communications during past election cycles.   The application of Godwin's Law to campaign-related communications to potential voters presents an interesting issue -- does it apply principally to the originators of the communications (prominent politicians, party spokesmen), or does it apply equally (if not more so) to the vehicles for amplifying the original communications (Primarily partisan pundits and coverage by mainstream media). Is it the fact that the communication of the use of "Hitler" receives wide attention the reason why Godwin's Law is at work in campaign "discourse"? If so, in analyzing the dynamics of political "discourse," should our focus be primarily on the substance of the communications -- thereby viewing the amplifying mechanisms as weapons (passive tools) for the parties. Or should our attention be focused instead on the dynamics of the amplifying mechanisms, in effect viewing the political communications and their origiinators as principaly suppliers of fresh ammunition for the amplifying mechanisms?   The medium vs message debate is particularly relevant in reviewing the Bush/Cheney ad, which has provoked considerable discussion about its purpose. First, the ad does not seem to have been produced for immediate public broadcast but instead is the vedette of the web site. Second, as a number of reviewers have pointed out, the content of the ad is extremely ambiguous and could be viewed by an independent observer as making a strong case against rather than for Mr Bush. Rather than interpret the purpose of the party communication by attempting to evaluate the possible reactions to the ad by various segments of the voting public if they were to view it as a normal TV commercial, perhaps it should be seen as ammunition being produced for "amplifying mechanisms."   If the contents of the ad reach the potential voting public in snippets (video or written descriptions) together with commentary that


Revisiting "trivial" virtues and vices

LA Times: Clinton's Biggest Gains Not on Conservatives' Radar:

Ron Brownstein has an excellent riposte to the Right's denigration of all things Clinton, including their disparagement of the notion that Clinton's eight years accomplished anything beyond the "trivial."Athough agreeing with critics such as C Krauthammer that "Clinton certainly pursued his share of 'small bore' initiatives, like promoting school uniforms," Brownstein puns that critics "willfully miss the forest for the shrubs."

After an extended display during the Reagan ceremonies of conservative revisionist history, another ourpouring of revisionism is accompanying the publication of Clinton's auto-bio.  But if "winners get to write history," why are the mainstream media treating the Republicans as if they are the "winners" and swallowing the GOP's version of history?

It's as if the MSM has swallowed the GOP approach to Bush's 2000 victory over Al Gore -- that Bush could behave as if he had a "mandate" because the rightful "party of government" was back in charge after eight years of the usurper's rule. This attitude is all the more galling in the run-up to this year's election, given the current standing in the polls of the Republican Party's standard bearer and Congressional delegation.

Brownstein counters the revisionists with a "scorecard" that reminds us Clinton's eight years that were far from trivial.

With the publication of Bill Clinton's memoirs, a chorus of conservatives is reprising the right's familiar charge that his presidency was an eight-year exercise in trivial pursuits. [...] Clinton modernized the Democratic Party's agenda and restored its attenuated ability to compete for the presidency. His domestic program helped to produce the most widely shared economic boom since the 1960s. And though Clinton's scorecard on foreign affairs is more mixed, he moved the Democrats away from their post-Vietnam aversion to force, and sharpened the government's focus on terrorism — even if history will likely conclude that he, like Congress, the media and President George W. Bush before Sept. 11, 2001, didn't meet the full measure of the threat. [...] It's reasonable to debate whether elements of this approach were wrongheaded or ineffective or insufficient. But to dismiss it as trivial says more about the critics than about Clinton.

Indeed, the purely petty and trivial nature of the personal and political attacks is the thrust of Clinton's going on the offensive against the conservatives during the peddling of his memoirs.