Sam Seder has a point
I don’t think Seder is the first or the last to point out that this whole he-said-she-said-who-said thing is all really kinda silly. It’s frankly sad that any of us feel the need to respond to this at all, but this is what everyone from the “professional” media to twitter talked about for 24 to 48 hours, so let’s look at it. I actually disagree with Seder on one point: you don’t have to say a word to make your meaning clear.
But what if . . .
Indulge me a moment, will you? Imagine, please that it’s 2008 and a major news personality asks Hillary Clinton, “Do you think Barack Obama is an American-born Citizen?”
Now imagine that she replies by saying, “Well, he hasn’t released his birth certificate yet, and that certainly raises a lot of questions.” Notice, in this made-up scenario that Clinton does not say, “Yes, of course he’s a U.S.-born citizen!” She could say that, and decide to keep the debate focused on “the issues.” But what is the overwhelmingly obvious implication of her failing to directly reply to the question with an affirmative, but instead give a nod to the birther movement?
In that hypothetical situation you can bet that major news organizations like CNN and the Washington Post would immediately begin publishing headlines like, “Clinton Says Obama Not a Natural Born Citizen” and “Clinton Agrees With Birthers.” Such headlines would be a certainty if on the night of her seventh state loss in a row her campaign was reported to be out to “disqualify” Barack Obama.
In the real world of the 2008 campaign
In reality, while it had nothing to do with the birther movement, Clinton did question Obama’s qualifications more than once in the 2008 race, and I don’t remember people getting picky about whether or not she used a specific word. Do you remember the “3:00 am Phone Call” ad? What was that if not an outright statement that only one candidate in the race was qualified to be in the White House? She also credited only herself and McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee with the “experience” needed to be President when she said that McCain “will put forth his experience. I will put forth my experience. Sen. Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002.” What is that statement other than a direct dismissal of Obama’s qualifications to be president?
What’s this got to do with news this week?
So flash forward eight years to this week. Sure, if you want to nit-pick, Hillary Clinton did not say, “Sanders is unqualified,” but as Sam Seder in the clip above, and even Jane Sanders in her interview with Rachel Maddow, neither did she answer that he was qualified. Clinton was crafty. We give her credit for that all the time, and I have no problem giving her credit for that now. She was crafty. While seeming to dodge the question, she answered that he “hadn’t done his homework,” which infers what? That he is not qualified. And remember all of this was after this announcement that I’ve shared in a previous post this week:
“Disqualify.” Notice root word there, and if your mission is to disqualify someone, by definition, you are out to prove that person “unqualified.” So whether she said the exact word is completely beside the point. We knew from what she said and what she didn’t say. CNN knew, and though they tried to deny it later, The Washington Post knew exactly what Hillary meant, and that it was all part of what Clinton’s campaign had just reported that they were out to do. In fact, the articulation of the new slash and burn strategy from the Clinton campaign is obviously the only reason that next day Joe Scarborough used that word when asked Clinton in the first place, “Do you think he is qualified?”
As Sanders himself has said, “I do respect Hillary Clinton.” But this “qualification gate” is a bit puzzling and silly in light of how vitriolic other campaigns have been (Mr. Krugman, you’re over-stating the case again), including her 2008, “Shame on you Barak Obama!” The astounding thing about her craftiness in all of this is that so many of you bought it. And that has to make the Clinton camp very satisfied with themselves.
Why are we acting like school kids about this? And if she does become the nominee I hope she’s ready. I hope she doesn’t try to twist words and play the victim, because they will eat her alive. We all know that this response from a gentleman, who you know could be attacking you in ways he has refused to, is nothing next to the way the Republicans will tear her apart.
What qualifications was Joe referring to?
So let’s look at the claims that Secretary Clinton was making. Did Sanders bungle a New York Daily News interview? The New York Times, Democracy Now and and Huffington Post all soundly debunk that claim, and show the crooked journalism of the New York Daily News. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks lay this all out very well:
What has Bernie got to say for himself?
But how does Bernie Sanders himself respond to the qualification accusations? Does he really think Hillary Clinton is unqualified? Why did he say that? And speaking of disqualifying him, what about the other Clinton campaign tactic in play now, criticisms of his gun control record? Friday Senator Sanders was a guest on The View, so I’ll let him have the last word here tonight as he spoke for himself on these issues.
There seems to be a reality block . . .
When Anderson Cooper (finally) looked at the polls that showed Senator Sanders faring better in Republican match-ups than Secretary Clinton, instead of asking, “Are you worried?” he asked Hillary Clinton, “Are you buying it?” Doesn’t that seem just a bit off? When Chris Hayes asked Susan Sarandon about her experience travelling around the country with Bernie’s historical campaign he did not ask her how exciting an experience that must be. No, he said, “What do you get out of that?”
Are they living in the same world we are? Is there some sort of mental blockage preventing these people from registering the reality that is right before them? I’m beginning to think that must be the case.
Though it’s fair to question the motives of corporate networks who benefit from advertising revenue, especially when they might see that profit threatened by the effort to “get the money out of politics,” I don’t think it’s a media conspiracy. Some Sanders’ supporters will make that argument, but it can’t just be about advertising revenue, or how would you explain all the free air time given to Donald Trump? Well, drama, train-wrecks, I guess it makes good TV. And maybe the gentleman maverick who is trying to buck the establishment just gets lost behind the loud blow-hard “reality” TV host.
It’s less likely to be a planned corporate coup than it is a kind of sheltered egotism. These “news” personalities have become out of touch with your life and mine, as detached from life outside their world as Washington is detached from life outside the Beltway. Maybe they trust their own assumptions and created narratives so much that they fail to see polls, numbers, and the hard evidence of giant crowds.
Meme (in the original sense) and the media
We see lots of what have come to be known as internet “memes” flying around with Bernie’s face on them. But memes are not simply photo-shopped pictures with a message sent out in hopes that they will “go viral.” The word meme was originally used by Richard Dawkins as a shortened version of a root word that basically means to mimic. Note the similarity to the word “mime.” A meme by Dawkins definition is a behavior, or a pattern, often linguistic in nature that gets passed along in a culture. The meme may be true or false, but it’s thought to be “successful” if it catches on.
I suggest to you that statements like “Bernie is too old to be president,” and the other myths about his electability, which Robert Reich talked about in his video in my last post, have been successful memes, so successful that even the news casters who probably made the assumptions in the first place just accept them as truth. From the beginning they set up the idea in our heads, maybe because they thought it would be such a great drama that it just had to happen, that the final fight for the White House would inevitably be Clinton against Trump. And ever since then, the most common theme among democrats and media pundits had to do with “preventing” a Trump presidency.
Could it be that this is why so many in corporate media are still convinced it’s going to be Clinton against Trump, even though the actual possibility could be Clinton and Cruise, Sanders and Trump, or even John Kasich against either Clinton or Sanders? And remember according to the polls if it’s Clinton against Kasich, she could very well lose in November.
But that’s not the narrative, so many in the media simply cannot imagine things going off script. But what if the American voters go off script, instead of just repeating the memes?
In an article in the Huffington Post on Thursday former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains:
The real reason the major media can’t see what’s happening is because the national media exist inside the bubble of establishment politics, centered in Washington, and the bubble of establishment power, centered in New York.
As such, the major national media are interested mainly in personalities and in the money behind the personalities. Political reporting is dominated by stories about the quirks and foibles of the candidates, and about the people and resources behind them.
Within this frame of reference, it seems nonsensical that a 74-year-old Jew from Vermont, originally from Brooklyn, who calls himself a Democratic socialist, who’s not a Democratic insider and wasn’t even a member of the Democratic Party until recently, who has never been a fixture in the Washington or Manhattan circles of power and influence, and who has no major backers among the political or corporate or Wall Street elites of America, could possibly win the nomination.
Oh but he could. He actually could.
It’s Not Just Corporate Media Who Are Out of Touch
Some are trying to explain away his win in Wisconsin Tuesday. And apparently the Clinton campaign strategy is one of slash and burn. Thankfully at least CNN reported on this change of “tone.” The lack of foresight from Clinton here astounds me, as I doubt very much she will be able to re-unite the party later. Instead, I fear she’ll alienate millions of voters, and not just young white “bros.”
If she does that she will hand over the presidency to the Republicans and she will have nobody to blame but herself. Ignoring and and treating a large number of the democratic electorate is simply not wise. What I am saying, of course, is nothing new. Politicians who are not in touch with the working class in their own parties have become cliché. Hillary Clinton’s blind spot here is not surprising.
NOTE: Although I hadn’t hit the “publish” button yet, more has happened since I wrote the above. I must say that while she has more than once accused Sanders of an “artful smear,” she seems to be proving that she is indeed the queen of that negative tactic. I’ve seen it happen in the debates. Attack the other candidate while claiming that you are being attacked. It’s disappointing, Secretary Clinton. To be honest, I’m glad that Senator Sanders is fighting back. More on that coming soon.
Last year when Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the democratic nomination, I had two reactions. First I was happy he joined in. I felt he was a solid voice for the progressive movement in the United States. I had followed him off and on over the years with appreciation for his strong stance on issues from gay and civil rights to his opposition to the war in Iraq. His unwillingness to let Wall Street off the hook for the collapse of our nation’s economy in 2008 caught my attention, and earned my appreciation.
But when one of my sons expressed his support for Bernie for President, I said I didn’t think it could happen. I confess that I am ashamed of my cynicism now. I am ashamed that I didn’t do my research before I gave that response. It was that flicker of disappointment in my son’s eyes that got to me, not that he knew I must be right, but that he was sincerely saddened that I would so quickly parrot the words of news anchors without looking into Sanders’ chances objectively on my own. I should have done better, been more informed, more open to new ideas. Not that he said any of those words, but I felt the sting. Maybe I was no better than others I would have criticized for believing in FOX news hype without checking their sources.
From time to time over the years I had caught a news clip, or a few minutes of C-SPAN coverage of one of Bernie Sanders’ speeches on the Senate floor in which he adamantly stood up for so many things that I have come to believe in, and I was impressed. I thought he would keep the democratic candidates honest, and possibly move the discussion more left, but why was I so quick to believe he didn’t have a chance? Someone, somewhere had said “He’s too old to be President.” And with no evidence I shrugged and thought, oh yeah. Too old. What was that? The power of suggestion? Yet, I don’t think I could have even told you last year what his age was . And I couldn’t have predicted then how completely I’d change my mind about that subject later.
He’s 74, by the way. Just five years older than Donald Trump, and only six years older than Hillary Clinton. But he’s been campaigning all over the country with energy and gusto, and shows no sign of being worn out. My own father is 84 and has only recently started to slow down. Could it be that 74 is the new 62? Why did we collectively have this idea that he was maybe 80 and getting weaker by the day? Are we, on the left, as susceptible to our favorite media as we accuse the right of being?
Are we fact-checking our heroes? Are we reading and reviewing more sources than just our short-list of favorites? Hillary recently said she “felt sorry for younger people who believe” Bernie. “They don’t do their own research.” But it seems to me that sometimes my sons do better research than I do. Ever notice how we “old folks” get stuck in our ways? So I decided to look into this more myself. I decided to watch as many debates as possible, and I think I only went to bed early on one of them so far, retiring half-way through, and checking the highlights later.
I had gotten away in the last year or so from discussing and following politics. The Facebook battles and the comment sections of blogs and articles were just too depressing. I was dealing with health issues, my own and those of a family member. Seeing how deeply divided my country was, how viscous my friends and neighbors could be with each other, and how tempting it was to snarl and snap back myself, led me to turn off notifications for a while. I confined my debates online to discussions about poetry and bird identification.
But as the campaign got under way and I was feeling more centered again I started to listen with fresh ears, and to a variety of sources. And I started to question this notion that Secretary of State Clinton was more electable. I started to appreciate even more just how long and how ardently, even when it was not popular or politically expedient to do so, Senator Bernie Sanders had consistently showed leadership in standing up for what was right. I began to see it as possible that we could have a leader in the White House who was indeed worthy of my respect.
This blog is the result of that journey. It’s an attempt to share how I have come to my conclusions. But it’s also to share with you articles, videos, news and testimony from others, that corroborate my conclusion that Bernie Sanders is the best choice for President of the United States now. I do not wish to fight or fume or argue, and I will be as kind and civil as possible, though I may push back a bit more than the gentlemanly Senator does for himself.
I do not think we benefit from name-calling and trash talking to each other. I do think we benefit from adult, open and compassionate conversation between fellow citizens, who despite those who would make money of the spectacle of our in-fighting, are in-fact equally desirous of making the world better, our nation more honorable, and our children’s future more promising. Here on the ground, neighbor to neighbor, despite our differences, we are more prone to agree with each other than we’ve been led to think. But scandal and conflict sells, doesn’t it? We’re better than that. Yeah, we really are.
And this is just the beginning.