Stop Projecting

Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times does some serious drama-projection in this piece on the nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Here’s a snippet of the wankery:

Presentations of presidential appointees can be important, but they are rarely interesting. Usually, the men and women chosen for top cabinet roles are not well known to the public; if there is drama behind the scenes, most in the audience are blind to it.

That was hardly the case on Monday when President-elect Barack Obama introduced his national security team. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech was no ordinary public-service pledge; for plenty of viewers, it was the moment when Mrs. Clinton finally conceded the election for real.

The occasion was solemn, but like a wedding where the parents are divorced, the ceremony was carefully choreographed to avert awkward moments and camouflage past unpleasantness.

When Mr. Obama unveiled his economic team last week, he alone made a speech. In this more delicate selection, it was decided that Mrs. Clinton, his pick for secretary of state, should also speak. But that might look suspect — or too political — unless the five other appointees also said a word, and that, in turn, required a few words from Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who had yet to make public statements of any consequence since the election. (He spoke last, spiritedly, and at some length.)

Not all the staging was designed to address Mrs. Clinton’s sensibilities. She and the five other appointees walked out on stage and stood in line, almost as if at attention, waiting for the president-elect to walk in. He did so briskly, with Mr. Biden at his heels. [Emphasis added]

Look, it’s clear that the press wants there to be Obama-Clinton drama. They love the old storylines and they love creating a storyline that wedges Democrats apart. This is exactly that sort of story: Clinton v. Obama, Can He Trust Her? Will She Go Rogue???

But it’s 100% B.S. Nowhere in the press conference is it apparent that any of it was “designed to address Mrs. Clinton’s sensibilities.” Stanley is projecting, plain and simple. Moreover, at no point in the time since June 7, 2008, has Hillary Clinton ever suggested that her concession of the Democratic nomination for the presidency was not “for real.” Again, Stanley is making things up.

I have no doubt that the good people of the Obama Transition Team carefully choreographed yesterday’s press conference. It was likely on par with the roll-out of the Obama administration’s economic team for importance. So yes, there was surely a schedule of who spoke when and who stood next to whom. It’s even conceivable that the speeches of all of President-Elect Obama’s appointments were written and/or vetted by members of the transition team. This is not news. The professionalism and orderliness seen in the Obama press conference yesterday was not done out of a desire “to avert awkward moments and camouflage past unpleasantness.” It was “carefully choreographed” to be presidential.

Alessandra Stanley and her editors need to stop projecting their desired story lines onto the Obama administration (viz. making things up) and start reporting the news like professionals. Unfortunately, my guess is that as long as Hillary Clinton (let alone Bill) is in the picture, this will not happen. This is no fault of Senator and soon-to-be Secretary of State Clinton; the blame lies with petty and trite fiction writers like Alessandra Stanley.

39 thoughts on “Stop Projecting

  1. The thing that’s getting me, Matt, is they keep talking about all the expected conflict on this national security team with “strong personalities.”

    But they all have pretty much the same foreign policy point of view. It’s not like we have Wolfowitz and Noam Chomsky on the team. The idea that they’ll have significant substantive arguments on anything beyond nuance and detail is hard to fathom.

    But this fits the Village perfectly. It’s all about personality, not at all about policy.


  2. Sorry to say, but this is nothing unusual for Stanley. She’s the worst of the Times’ art critics, just consistently terrible, and I don’t mean politically but as a critic. Her analysis is so off-the-wall sometimes.


  3. Obama has a few times come close to nailing the put-down that he needs for instances like this: “there’s no there there – there’s no story…”

    The most recent near miss was after the presser yesterday. I dearly want him to say to an offending reporter something like:

    “Look, it’s clear to everybody that you’re trying to write an episode in your soap opera but there’s no story. There’s no conflict. It’s not real. It’s not your line of work. It’s not mine.”

    Next question.


  4. Glenn – you’re right, Stanley is consistently bad. But where I’ve encountered her wankery the most is as a “critic” of political events. She’s not really a critic here – there is NOTHING to critique from an artistic standpoint about a press conference.

    It’s also worth noting that is promoting Stanley’s story at the top fold of their front page and has been all morning. This is disgraceful.


  5. I watched it. I read her story. I didnt watch the same event she did. I wonder what she watched. Or whether had I missed something very very important that Hilary said.
    I really dont think so.
    really really nuts.
    nuttier than the idea that the Clintons would bust up the Dem Convention.
    Get a life, Stanley.


  6. I know Stanley is totally right because, haven’t you heard, all the “body language expets” said HILLARY WAS NOT SMILING, which proves that she is going to stab Obama in the back and DESTROY his presidency! This is true even though Hillary had the exact same expression on her face as everyone else at the press conference. Those body language experts are, like, totally scientists.


  7. A couple of the sweet, sweet, backhanded verbal bitch-slaps like those that Fred suggested and I think most of the wingnuttery questioning would cease.

    Being effectively ridiculed by the President(elect), in front of a national audience, by ‘reporters’ engaging in what amounts to the Jeff Gannon school of journalism (“Mr. Bush why doesn’t everybody love you like they should???”) could put the kibosh on a lot of the more overt rightwing hooey.

    I’d like to be able to listen to, and understand, the viewpoints of the ‘opposition’ party because like Obama, I believe it is better to negotiate in lieu of fighting, as a FIRST strategy.

    The problem I have is that I can’t even force myself to listen to the voices (let alone the crazy rantings) of those the Republicans (torturers btw) chose as their media front men. Hannity, Limbaugh and the myriad of ‘wannabe’ notable media asshats are off the scale insane and they’re the ‘respectable’ voices? Jeebus, and some of you wonder why I won’t/don’t read the ‘conservative’ blogosphere??

    I’ll admit to a little BalloonJuice (Cole) and Andrew Sullivan (keep after those medical records of Sarah!). Some folks probably listen to the aforementioned asshats for ‘entertainment’ purposes but I don’t think I could EVER get that bored, even if forced to submit to surfing random facebook pages for weeks on end.



  8. Well, I won’t be convinced Hillary’s conceded until the Inauguration goes off without her tunneling up thru the floor of the podium and getting her hand on the Bible first.


  9. Since when is she qualified to write about politics? If I recall correctly, Stanley has been a complete fail even in the style & leisure sections.


  10. “…start reporting the news like professionals. Unfortunately, my guess is that as long as Hillary Clinton (let alone Bill) is in the picture, this will not happen.”

    Why do think this is specific to the Clintons? Isn’t the same approach taken to McCain, Dean, Edwards, Gore, Bush…? The Clintons’ leaving public life would not affect “reporting” in the least.


  11. Tim Fuller,

    It won’t be that easy. A couple of backhanded comments by Obama would do nothing but generate a declaration of all out war by the press. They will defend their inanity to the death. This is likely why Obama has not gone that far yet. Something needs to be done, but most likely by the progressive community, not our candidate – who will feel the fires of hell if he criticizes the media too harshly.


  12. Tinbox – Because the press has an obsession with the Clintons, unlike any of the other pols you named. Sure, there’s bad reporting on plenty of others too, but none of them have a continuous 16+ years in the spotlight on the level of the Clintons.


  13. Correct in every respect. The idiots (some in very high places at the NYT) suffering from Clinton-on-the-Brain syndrome will never be cured but thanks for making the case in favor of reality-based report so clearly and succinctly.


  14. Tinbox, another reason why the likes of Clinton, Dean and Obama come in for condescending ridicule from the Village is that they are, or were, relative newcomers to Versailles, and “dahlings, they JUST didn’t know how we do things heah!” And so the same people who tacitly agreed never to mention George H.W. Bush’s long-time affair with Jennifer Fitzgerald, even though everyone in Washington knew about it, were fainting at the impropriety of Clinton’s fooling around with Monica Lewinsky. “He wrecked the place, and IT WASN’T HIS PLACE!” they wailed. “Washington is a company town, we all know each other, we have a sense of a village community, and this horrid vulgar hillbilly came in and did things that we don’t admit to doing and are always discreet about!”


  15. Be sure to note the extremely common media failing of attributing their fantasies to the public at large (“for plenty of viewers…”), not just the administration.

    And don’t think that the Hillary stories are to sell papers. Hillary stories don’t sell; the media merely wishes they did. If newpapers pandered to the public, they wouldn’t be going under. Instead newspapers pander to themselves.


  16. At least the NYT is consistent. Frank Rick was a movie and theatre critic before he morphed into a political pundit. I suppose if politics is just going to be a branch of Show Biz it makes a certain amount of sense, sadly.


  17. And he sticks to reality in his opinion writing.

    Um, you should read more DailyHowler to correct that faulty impression.


  18. Well, I won’t be convinced Hillary’s conceded until the Inauguration goes off without her tunneling up thru the floor of the podium and getting her hand on the Bible first.

    Well, you’ve drunk deeply from the Koolaid that Stanley et. al. have served up. (That et. al. goes way beyond the MSM — much of the blogosphere indulges in this Hillaryisabottomlesspitofambitionmania.)


  19. Tinbox – Because the press has an obsession with the Clintons, unlike any of the other pols you named. Sure, there’s bad reporting on plenty of others too, but none of them have a continuous 16+ years in the spotlight on the level of the Clintons.

    How utterly clueless and illogical. The Clintons could have been in the spotlight for a billion years, and the press would still be bad when they leave it. As for “unlike any of the other pols” — um, Al Gore? You really really ought to read DailyHowler (as Somersby was generous enough to link to you, you ought to return the favor by becoming less clueless).


  20. Excellent post Matt. I’m guessing Stanley missed that one part where Obama and Clinton walked off the stage together arm in arm.

    Of course she obviously also missed that part where Hillary campaigned for Obama more than any other previous democratic rival.

    It’s like in their world Hillary is that overachieving senior in high school. She hasn’t done anything wrong but she’s not part of the gang that hangs out at the local media malt shop. “Here comes that Miss Know it all Hillary. She thinks she’s so smart. BTW you know what I heard about her?”

    These folks have some serious growing up to do but I doubt they ever will when it comes to the Clinton. At times they make Colonel McCormick’s hatred of FDR seem like a lovefest in comparison.


  21. Jay Ballou — You’re really misreading what I’m saying. I get the impression you think I’m defending or apologizing for the press. I’m not. Check out “The Media” category in my blog if you don’t believe me.


  22. Nobody has implied that you are “defending or apologizing for the press.” But you do state that the Clintons are the targets of press obsession. That makes it seem like the situation has something to do with them personally, rather attributing the “obsession” to more structural, political forces. Look at the coverage of John Kerry-how twisted was that? The only reason the media is not still obsessed with his windsurfing is that he didn’t win.


  23. Tinbox – I’m saying it’s both. That’s all.

    There is an obsession with Clinton. There was an obsession with Kerry. There will continue to be other bad coverage of Democratic politicians driven irrational fixation on irrelevant details.


  24. I hate to tell you this, but if Obama were to let loose with a “there’s no there, there” put down to one of these idiotic questioners, as has been suggested upthread, there would be an immediate and universal reaction by the punditocracy: “Look how testy he got when you asked him about personality conflicts! He’s definitely hiding something.”

    On this particular issue, I think the best course of action is to let the fifth graders have their little giggle-fest, and let the grown-ups continue to do their work in peace.


  25. Has everyone noticed the new antagonistic posture of the press corps at these conferences? Where was this bravery the past eight years? The diaper services in DC will be hit hard by this new development.


  26. #1 Sarcasm. love it – the anger of the oppressed – but better be safe than sorry… toss in a 😉

    #2 ‘There’s no there there’ is a stupid line. I advocate for the more pointed belittling. “you’re in the wrong line of work, it seems. if you’re in this room, you’re NOT a fiction writer… i assume. we know you thought the 90s were cute, can we grow up now? next question.”

    #3 What I love about Rich is how Frank Rich’s background in film and theatre crit gave him a spectacular vantage point from where he could correctly diagnose one of the major flaws in modern politics:
    – The “substance-free” reporting of optics. Basically, eg. how well the monologue was delivered, and or how well the rubes/audience reacted & what was missing in the delivery.

    Rich often asks for more reporting, that instead of the above, says ‘Here are the lies in the monologue’

    I can’t complain about this part of Frank Rich’s repertoire.


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