Post-Pennsylvania Narratives

Last night on MSNBC Rachel Maddow made an interesting observation: every time Hillary Clinton wins a primary, the narrative in the media becomes about counting down to the next "make or break" contest as though a loss for her would in fact end the campaign. Clinton keeps winning "when she needs to", of course, so the theory hasn't really been tested but Maddow I think quite rightly called this phenomenon the primary election equivalent of the Friedman unit. "2 more weeks...6 more weeks...2 more weeks." Adam Nagourney in today's NYTimes is a perfect example:

Even with her comfortable victory on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton still faces significant, though certainly not insurmountable, hurdles to securing the nomination, and it remains possible that her candidacy could come to an end in as little as two weeks, when Indiana and North Carolina vote.

Maddow's point, of course, is that this is a ridiculous assertion and the media needs to stop falling for it; no matter what happens on May 6th, this. primary. will. continue. Hillary Clinton signaled as much with the timing of a couple upcoming fundraisers. From Ben Smith:

My colleague Ken Vogel notes that Clinton has planned two fundraisers -- one with Hillary, Chelsea, and Dorothy; one with the Arkansas delegation -- for the day after Indiana and North Carolina.

Another media narrative that gets propagated every time Clinton wins another primary is how bad the continued race is for the Democratic Party. Again, Nagourney, whose article, I should point out, is linked on the frontpage of Huffington Post with the alarmist headline: "And The Winner Is: John McCain," provides a case study:

For better or worse -- and many Democrats fear it is for worse -- the race goes on.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Senator Barack Obama in Pennsylvania on Tuesday by enough of a margin to continue a battle that Democrats increasingly believe is undermining their effort to unify the party and prepare for the general election against Senator John McCain.

I must give credit though, MSNBC's post-primary coverage today has given much air time to the opposing view. The heads of both the North Carolina and Indiana Democratic Parties were interviewed separately but essentially said the same thing: the energy and the boosts in registration and operations on the ground that the extended primary is affording their states will be good for the Democrat in November. And I just caught Matt Stoller on MSNBC as well, essentially re-iterating the spirit of his "Democrats Are Going To Be Fine" post from last night:

ANCHOR: Do you think Pennsylvania even matters?

STOLLER: Yeah, we have a huge registration advantage in Pennsylvania, activists are excited, voters voted, it was really good for Democrats. Democracy is a good thing. Now I think both candidates, Obama and Clinton, are leading McCain in Pennsylvania, so it's good.

What Matt is referring to here is this morning's Rasmussen Reports story "While Campaigning for Primary, both Democrats Gain Ground on McCain":

While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to compete against each other in Pennsylvania's Presidential Primary, both Democrats have opened a lead over John McCain in the Keystone State.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in Pennsylvania finds Obama leading McCain 47% to 39% and Clinton with a 47% to 38% advantage. That's a significant change from a month ago when McCain was essentially even with both Democrats.

It's no accident that the talking heads who've been most ardently pushing the "Democrats in disarray" narrative have been rightwing pundits who have an interest in projecting their opposing party as weak. It would be nice if such a pillar of the liberal blogosphere as HuffPo didn't join the fun.

Update [2008-4-23 14:12:15 by Todd Beeton]:Along these same lines, Bill Daley, Obama's National Co-Chair, made a good point a few minutes ago on MSNBC:

But this is a tough process and as Senator Obama has said he's introducing himself, he is still new to the American people and so in a strange way this process may be very good for him in that he is able to go to parts of this country and make the case as a new fresh face on the American scene that he can make a difference.

There's more...

Rachel Maddow for President!

OK . . . maybe for President of NBC!

Rachel Maddow on Countdown this week:

I feel like I`ve become kind of a semi-pro listener to the news, where I`m always listening for Democratic candidates and even their surrogates to say John McCain.  Every time I hear them say it, a little bell goes off in my mind, because that`s what I think Democrats--anybody who has an interest in John McCain not becoming president, whether or not you support Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Ralph Nader or anybody else in the race, Mike Gravel as the Libertarian, if you want John McCain to not win, you have to start hitting him now, because the default position of the press toward John McCain is so positive that unless other candidates are actively and specifically going after him all the time, his free ride takes him right to the White House.

There's more...

Hillary: "I have the experience to run against McCain"

I understand that people seem to fancy the distortion tactics we see so frequently as a means to further a bias as we see from political reporters or strategists, but doesn't it go a bit far to make a false claim?

A blogger actually posts a diary with a claim "Hillary:McCain would be better than Obama", and no where is that supported in the few quotations distorted from the CBS blog that he linked from a couple of days ago.

There's more...

Rachel Maddow Breaks Out on MSNBC Iowa Caucus Special

In a few threads here at at Huff in the last couple months many people named Rachel Maddow as their first choice replacement for Tucker Carlson should MSNBC decide to class up its act.  In fact, Rachel was the name most-often suggested.  I made the point a couple times that one factor MSNBC would clearly be considering was finding someone that would strengthen their election coverage specials.  Rachel would fit that bill nicely, I said. (It's pretty obvious Tucker does not.)

What joy, then, to see Rachel seated at the 'grown-ups' table last night, right alongside Howard Fineman.  A quick search turns up a couple extensive threads about her appearance last night, especially the contrast she strikes with Matthews - check out Crooks & Liars and (I'd insert the links if I knew how - I'm a newbie to the diaries.)

As for the on-air discussion itself, I'll just say there was a wholly remarkable moment towards the end, when Chris was on a tear about partisan egos being the root of all our problems - barked at Fineman, who was given no opportunity to do anything but smile.  A truly embarrassing moment.  When Chris finally ran out of breath, though, Rachel smartly and gracefully trimmed his sails, and Keith then (happily, I'm sure) took us out to a commercial.  (Clip online at )

There's more...

Weekly Pulse: Fear-mongering and Fetal Separatism in Today’s Anti-Choice Movement

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Rachel Maddow’s documentary, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” premiered on Monday. The film tells the story of how radical anti-choicers besieged Dr. George Tiller and his abortion clinic for decades, fostering an atmosphere that legitimized murder in the eyes of a fanatic.

Kay Steiger of Campus Progress notes that while Tiller’s colleagues blame Roeder, they hold the larger anti-choice movement responsible for creating a climate of hate and intimidation. Roeder cultivated relationships with anti-choice terrorists, including a woman who went to jail for a botched attempt on Dr. Tiller’s life. He also had links to Operation Rescue, the radical anti-abortion group that tried unsuccessfully to shut down Tiller’s clinic for decades, through blockades, frivolous criminal complaints, and unrelenting harassment of clinic workers and their families.

Operation Rescue’s crusade against Tiller caught the attention of conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly who excoriated Dr. Tiller on the air 28 times, dubbing him “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Roeder was actually involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Tiller.


Vanessa Valenti of Feministing was impressed by how straightforwardly the documentary dealt with women who have abortions and doctors who provide them:

When we talk about abortion on television … the real lives who are actually affected by this issue — abortion care providers and the women who have had abortions — are completely left out of the conversation. And this film was about someone’s life, a life that was dedicated to helping, to saving, other people’s lives.

Fighting back

In AlterNet, Aaron Gouveia writes about his confrontation with anti-abortion protesters who called his wife a murderer as the couple approached an abortion clinic in Brookline, MA. The couple was there to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy because doctors had learned that the fetus was suffering from “Sirenomelia,” or Mermaid Syndrome, a rare congenital defect that causes the legs to fuse together. This particular fetus had no bladder or kidneys, and doctors said there was no chance of survival.

When a protester called his wife a murderer, Gouveia confronted them.

“So you’re yelling at my wife for doing nothing more than having a nearly dead baby inside her?” Gouveia asked the protesters.

One of the protesters threatened to call the police on Gouveia because he was standing on the sidewalk yelling at them.

Fetal Separatism

Lynn Paltrow has a thought-provoking essay in RH Reality Check about the radical agenda behind Amendment 62, a Colorado ballot initiative  that would declare a fertilized egg to be full-fledged human being. If Amendment 62 passes, it would outlaw abortion, in vitro fertilization, and legally complicate any medical procedure on a pregnant woman that might affect the well-being of her fetus.

Paltrow argues that the bill’s backers should be called “Fetal Separatists”:

This organization claims that its goal is to end the “injustice of abortion.” In fact they are promoting a Fetal Separatist movement, one that is trying to legally separate pregnant women and the fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses inside of them. Their efforts are dangerous to all pregnant women including those who go to term, those who expect confidential medical care, and those who want to preserve their right to life and liberty.

The argument that eggs and fetuses may be treated as if they are legally independent of the women who carry them has been used to deprive pregnant women of their status as full constitutional persons.

Supporters of the measure say they want to extend rights to eggs and fetuses, but as Paltrow points out, this kind of thinking reveals another aspect of their agenda: Diminishing the rights of pregnant women by elevating the “rights” of fetuses. Paltrow gives examples of women who were imprisoned or harassed by authorities who felt they had an obligation to control the woman to protect her fetus. In one case a woman was imprisoned in a Florida hospital because authorities thought it was the best thing for her fetus. In another incident, fetal separatist arguments advanced to justify dispatching a sheriff to the home of a woman who was attempting to have a home birth.

According to the latest poll, 20% of Coloradans support Amendment 62, 56% oppose it, and 25% remain undecided.

CO abstinence program tied to anti-gay groups in Uganda

Speaking of the religious right in Colorado, Andy Kopsa of the Colorado Independent reports that a teen abstinence program known as WAIT Training, which has received over $8 million in federal funds since 2005, has ties to a virulently anti-gay group in Uganda led by pastor Martin Ssempa.

Ssempa is one of the leading proponents of legislation known as the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda. The bill would not only make homosexual sex a capital offense, it would also force Ugandans to turn in their gay friends and neighbors. So far, the bill hasn’t passed. The U.S. government officially opposes the legislation, but some major conservative Christian groups in the U.S. supported the bill. Of course, they now claim they didn’t actually support killing LGBT people, they just wanted to help Uganda become a more godly nation.

WAIT worked with Ssempa to build a website, print business cards, and develop a video and other promotional materials. WAIT said it was unable to provide Kopsa with copies of any of the materials that it worked on with Ssempa. WAIT maintained formal ties with Ssempa until January of 2010, when they decided they didn’t want to be associated with him any more, perhaps because the media scrutiny became too intense. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other prestigious media outlets ran op/eds condemning the anti-gay bill in January of 2010.

A major Ugandan newspaper recently published a “top 100″ list of alleged homosexuals under the headline “Hang Them,” according to Laura Gottesdiener at the Ms. blog. Since the story ran, several of the subjects have been attacked.

The dynamic is very similar to the persecution of Dr. Tiller. First targets are identified and held up to hate and ridicule. Some are intimidated and go away. Those who don’t are marked for violence.

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