Home / General / The Media Screwed Up Badly, Which is Why it’s Arguing That Media Criticism is Wrong in Principle

The Media Screwed Up Badly, Which is Why it’s Arguing That Media Criticism is Wrong in Principle

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I have a piece in Mic about the comically self-interested arguments that it’s wrong in principle for Hillary Clinton to criticize the media’s abysmal performance during the 2016 campaign:

Predictably, her statements have led to a chorus of pundits arguing that she should just apologize, shut up and go away. But that is both wrong-headed and self-serving: The many flaws of Clinton’s candidacy and campaign are largely irrelevant going forward, since she’s not going to be the nominee again. But some of the unusual factors that led to Trump’s upset victory remain relevant going forward, and Clinton is right to bring attention to them.

In fact, many of the factors that certainly contributed to Clinton’s 2016 loss will still be very relevant in 2020. For instance, unless you’re certain that either Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, or Kamala Harris won’t be the Democratic nominee, the sexist double standards that influenced media coverage of Clinton will still be relevant. The potential for interference by the FBI director — who Trump will likely appoint, having fired Comey — and Russia are still there. Voter suppression by Republicans will likely get worse before it gets better. And Donald Trump would love a media that largely ignores Paul Ryan’s awful and massively unpopular policy agenda and opts to focus on trivial matters again.

The problem isn’t that Clinton is speaking about these critical issues; the problem is that not enough other prominent Democrats are.

[…]

What is striking is how many critiques of Clinton’s arguments — for example: see this from Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee — don’t even try to engage with her claims on the merits. Lee, for example, doesn’t deny that the hacks of the DNC, DCCC and John Podesta’s inbox were damaging to her campaign, or that sexism played a role in negative coverage of Clinton; he just implies that Clinton should decline to discuss them.

Lee’s argument isn’t that Clinton is wrong on the merits – it’s that it’s inherently wrong for her to say that any factors but her own mistakes influenced the outcome of the election. But this is silly. As long as what she’s saying is true, there’s nothing wrong with it.

I suspect that one reason so many pundits want Clinton to shut up and go away is that she’s willing to call them out on their own misconduct. Pundits don’t want Clinton to say these things because she’s wrong, but rather because she’s unquestionably right.

Clinton’s use of a private server was indeed a trivial pseudo-scandal that involved no substantial misconduct — let alone illegality — on Clinton’s part, but it got more coverage on broadcast news than all substantive policy issues put together. Mainstream outlets largely failed to inform the public about many literally life-or-death issues — including health care and climate change — to focus on a trivial issue nobody even pretends to care about if it doesn’t involve Hillary Clinton.

It’s true that Clinton has an interest in focusing on factors other than her mistakes, and her comments should be taken with a some skepticism (although on both Comey and the media, she’s on very solid ground). But of course, this cuts both ways. When CNN’s Chris Cillizza — who chose to write more than 50 stories about Clinton’s email server before the first Democratic debate — attacks Clinton for not taking sole responsibility for her loss, he’s also saying that his decision to focus on inane trivia about Clinton, rather than informing his readers about something important, should not be scrutinized.

Clinton’s criticisms of the media are threatening not because they’re wrong but because they’re indisputably accurate. How can you defend devoting more coverage to Clinton’s email server than all policy issues combined on the merits? You can’t. Would the media have similar priorities if Republicans threatened the access of elite journalists to health care? They would not. And while Clinton’s flaws as a candidate are wholly irrelevant going forward because she’s not running again, the media’s gross misconduct certainly is.

To get the bad taste of Timothy Lee’s self-parody out of your mouth, I think Ezra’s take is right in every detail. Clinton’s defense if her buckraking is as unconvincing as ever — even if you (erroneously) think it’s no big deal that America’s overcompensated and underachieving elites shower each other with other people’s money for no-work gigs, it was bad politics and if you’re running for president that matters. And I hope she drops the complaints about the DNC’s data, which really are the “whining” she’s often unfairly accused of. But when she says that whatever her mistakes she was in a position to win until the director of the FBI decided to baselessly call her a crook, she’s not wrong.

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  • Look, if the Supreme Court had wanted us to criticize the media, would they have appointed them?

  • Denverite

    She insinuated that the issue was tailored unfairly around gender: “Men got paid for the speeches they made, and I got paid for the speeches I made. It was used, I thought it was unfairly used, and all of that, but it was part of the background music.”

    She also downplayed the decision in general:

    “I gave speeches to many, many groups,” she said. “I never thought that anybody would throw out my entire career of standing up and speaking out and voting against and voting in favor of what I thought were good policies because I made a couple of speeches.”

    Oh dear. I can’t even.

    • It has certainly always been one of her least appealing qualities that she was not able to see why she was being criticized or to defend herself other than by directly denying the criticism was valid.

      • cleek

        she’s not alone in thinking that criticism was stupid.

        • And it would be nice if people who don’t like corporate speeches would get together and make a stink about all of them, instead of opportunistically picking on one woman and one black guy and a couple of others they know will get Twitter traction.

          It would also have been nice if someone had mentioned issues behind why there were objections to those speeches, which omission might have been hers or the journalist’s.

          But I cringed every time she did that and it’s one reason I didn’t vote for her in 2008. It’s something many people find annoying no matter who it comes from. And someone she trusted should have recognized the problem and told her to stop.

          • Steve LaBonne

            Biden used to be known, with good reason, as the Senator from MBNA. Somehow that never earned him anything like the level of criticism that Clinton got for a few anodyne speeches. Why is that?

            • Denverite

              Because he didn’t give those speeches 18 months before a presidential election in which he was the presumptive Democratic nominee?

              • Steve LaBonne

                Nope, not buying that. Nor in general why she got all the heat for being a “neoliberal” when if anything Biden is slightly to her right. You’re deluding yourself if you think these things have nothing to do with her being a woman.

                • Denverite

                  Nor in general why she got all the heat for being a “neoliberal” when if anything Biden is slightly to her right.

                  I’ll refrain from snarking and just point out that at least according to reports, Clinton and Biden were constantly at odds with each other over foreign policy issues in the Obama administration, with Clinton invariably taking the hawkish position and Biden taking the dovish one. That has a *lot* to do with their respective reputations.

                  More to the point, your initial question was why Clinton got criticism for her buckraking in 2013 and 2014 whereas Biden didn’t for his buckraking, presumably in the 1980s and 1990s. I gave you the correct answer — at the time she did it, the 2016 election was only a couple years off, she knew she was running, she knew that she almost certainly would be the nominee, and yet she decided to buckrake anyway. None of that applies to Biden (except the “running” bit — he probably did do a lot of that knowing that he’d run in 1988 or 2008).

                • Murc

                  More to the point, your initial question was why Clinton got criticism for her buckraking in 2013 and 2014 whereas Biden didn’t for his buckraking, presumably in the 1980s and 1990s.

                  The criticisms about Biden are not really about buckraking per se but about him being utterly in the tank, legislatively speaking, for the credit card industry.

                • Denverite

                  The criticisms about Biden are not really about buckraking per se but about him being utterly in the tank, legislatively speaking, for the credit card industry.

                  Right. I was going to put in this caveat but forgot.

                • DrS

                  The public view of the financial industry just might have been a little different when Clinton took the cash. Something about a financial crisis where Goldman Sachs fucked over large numbers of core democratic constituencies and was unpunished.

                  Is there sexism in how she was treated? Absolutely. Does that mean that her actions, and her tone deafness to the criticism above reproach? Absolutely not

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  were the speeches disqualifying and if the majority of primary voters disagreed what use did it serve for people nominally on the left to keep bringing them up at every opportunity right up until election night?

                • cleek

                  what use did it serve for people nominally on the left to keep bringing them up at every opportunity right up until election night?

                  it kept them at the center of attention (the people, that is).

                • humanoid.panda

                  “The criticisms about Biden are not really about buckraking per se but about him being utterly in the tank, legislatively speaking, for the credit card industry.

                  1. Symbolism matters in politics!
                  2. Biden’s bugfuckery happened before 2008. The world changed, but HRC refused to acknowledge it.

                • efgoldman

                  You’re deluding yourself if you think these things have nothing to do with her being a woman.

                  And a Clinton.
                  I mean, look at all the shit that’s being shoveled at Chelsea, including by regular commenters on this here very blog, basically for being a person and having a life.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  That has a *lot* to do with their respective reputations.

                  Sorry, but this ex post facto bullshit. They had a few disagreements, but “constant conflict” is a vast exaggeration, and this is very inside baseball stuff. Plus, when they were in the Senate Biden was at least equally hawkish. And even more importantly, many people on the left who can’t discuss Clinton without drooling are more concerned with domestic than foreign policy and are concerned with the financial industry in particular, and Biden’s record on that is demonstrably worse.

                  There is a substantial gender component to why some people on the left are OK with Biden and Kerry but despise Clinton, and it’s silly to deny that. If Biden had taken the more hawkish side in a couple of internal disputes this would have changed…nothing.

                • Denverite

                  There is a substantial gender component to why some people on the left are OK with Biden and Kerry but despise Clinton, and it’s silly to deny that.

                  I didn’t say there wasn’t!

                  But I do think that a lot of the — specifically — “neoliberal” criticism of Clinton has to do with the fact that Obama ran to her left on foreign policy in 2008, then when she was SoS, she had a reputation for being a hawk. And no, that’s not ex post facto (though I’ll grant that the reports of a rift between Clinton and Biden may have been; I don’t recall when I started hearing that). I distinctly remember Clinton being portrayed as a hawk in the administration contemporaneously with her tenure.

                • Just_Dropping_By

                  I distinctly remember Clinton being portrayed as a hawk in the administration contemporaneously with her tenure.

                  Look, acknowledging that for the past 15 years Hillary Clinton agreed with John McCain more frequently on the use or proposed use of US military force than she agreed with Barack Obama over the same period of time just proves how much of a disgusting misogynist you really are, Denverite, so stop digging. [/LGMtown]

            • Murc

              Biden being known as the Senator from MBNA is a non-trivial reason for his ambitions for higher office periodically imploding, and if he’d actually ever been competitive in a primary it would absolutely have been a big deal and drawn a shit-ton of criticism.

              • Steve LaBonne

                I didn’t hear that from all the Clinton-haters practically begging him to get in the race. I’m not hearing it now when he’s playing footsie with the idea of running in 2020.

                • Denverite

                  Do you really not understand the difference between a heavy favorite for the nomination and a hypothetical white knight candidate?

                • Murc

                  I didn’t hear that from all the Clinton-haters practically begging him to get in the race.

                  You sure as hell would have it heard shouted from the rooftops by Sanders and his supporters, and Hillary and her supporters, if Biden had been in and competitive, tho.

                  I don’t understand this comment. Of course the people who wanted Biden weren’t going to call attention to his flaws, in the same way Clinton supporters were not eager to call attention to her flaws. This doesn’t mean their reasons for wanting Biden in were pure, but it also doesn’t mean his flaws wouldn’t have existed and been called out by others.

                  I’m not hearing it now when he’s playing footsie with the idea of running in 2020.

                  Talk to me when Biden is actually running or at least when this goes beyond playing footsie. He spent two months in 2015 playing footsie too.

                • I guess if people really care about the issue, someone of Biden’s prominence playing footsie should maybe get them talking about it, they would focus on it instead of waiting for the election and then sniping at the nominee.

                  Because it makes total sense, if the only time people will focus on anything is during the election, the media focuses on these important issues during the campaign when serious people think attention should be paid elsewhere.

                • Murc

                  I guess if people really care about the issue, someone of Biden’s prominence playing footsie should maybe get them talking about it,

                  Why?

                  Seriously. I don’t think Biden is going to run. I consider him beneath my notice in this regard.

                  If someone asks me “what do you think about Biden in 2020?” my response will be “well, I don’t think he’ll run, but if he does this is one of his many problems and he doesn’t seem attractive compared to other potential candidates.” But absent being asked that I don’t really care.

                  If it starts looking like he actually will run, my opinion on the matter might change.

          • Dilan Esper

            The woman and the black guy were the last two nominees.

            If the Dems nominate a white male who takes corporate money, he will be criticized too. Remember Gore and the Buddhist Temple or Clinton and Johnny Chung?

            • Dilan Esper

              I should mention something else. This drives some of HRC supporters mad, but her husband’s approach to corporate money is relevant here. The speeches were consistent with the way her husband had acted, and lots of people on the left didn’t like that. You can argue that Bill Clinton’s approach to corporate money had a lot to do with why McCain-Feingold passed.

              So voters who care about this issue could infer a confirmation that Hillary was going to be just like Bill was when it came to big money in politics.

              • louislouis

                I think you could also argue, given Obama’s post-Presidential conduct, that he learned from Bill Clinton’s example and went relatively easy on Wall Street knowing that if he did, a pot of gold awaited him on leaving office. And now any future Democratic President knows the same thing.

            • SatanicPanic

              If Gore, Clinton and Obama were all criticized for this maybe we need to accept that this is systematic and stop blaming individual candidates.

              • Dilan Esper

                That’s dead wrong. Lots of bad things, from slavery to sexual harassment to only running white men on presidential tickets, were entrenched for a long time and were eventually de-trenched.

                Some of us have ethical principles loftier than “everyone does it”.

              • humanoid.panda

                “If Gore, Clinton and Obama were all criticized for this maybe we need to accept that this is systematic and stop blaming individual candidates.

                There are million things normal people do that politicians avoid. I feel like “don’t give six figure speeches from institutions your grassroots dislike” should be one of them.

            • cleek

              Remember Gore and the Buddhist Temple

              i remember those complaints coming from the right.

              somewhere along the way, the self-described left forgot that electing Republicans is worse than electing imperfect Democrats.

              • humanoid.panda

                If we can’t criticize choices that politicans make after the election, when exactly are we allowed to do it?

                • cleek

                  i thought we were talking about elections?

                  the Gore/Buddhist temple stuff was used by the right during the 2000 election.

          • louislouis

            They aren’t “corporate speeches”: they’re speeches to the same banks that wrecked the economy. And it’s not “a woman and a black guy”: they were the nominee for President and the former President. These type of paydays are problematic because they suggest influence on the way in and, on the way out, send a message to future Presidents (who will maybe have to make decisions about Wall Street in the event of another crisis) about how their bread will be buttered when their time is up. And people have complained about paid speeches before — Reagan’s and W’s (albeit for different reasons). It’s just silly to suggest you can’t complain about Wall Street speeches associated with the Presidency without criticizing everyone else who gives a paid speech anywhere (commencement speeches?). And if you’re really making the idiotic claim that critics of these speeches on the left just don’t want to see a black man and a woman get paid, explain why nobody complained about the far more lucrative book advances both have received.

      • Denverite

        It’s also unfortunate that her immediate response was to suggest that it’s a male-female thing. (It’s really not; a male Democratic candidate would get the same criticism that she did. She’s probably right that a male REPUBLICAN candidate wouldn’t get the same criticism, but’s that’s just because everyone already knows that the GOP is beholden to financial interests, so it would be a “dog bites man” story.) By leading with that, she tends to minimize the numerous other issues where her unfair treatment probably does have a big gender component.

        • Srsly Dad Y

          Sometimes I think you are my sock puppet.

          • Denverite

            Probably not surprising — I think we’re about the same age with pretty similar educations and professional backgrounds. I never worked for the federal government, though (other than clerking).

            • Srsly Dad Y

              I’m way older than you bro.

              • Srsly Dad Y

                [returns from lunch break]
                But with fewer miles!

              • Denverite

                To be Scrupulously Fair, my liver has a “true” biological age of 132.

      • Dilan Esper

        I think when you get a lot of unfair criticism, it’s natural to think all the criticism is unfair.

        Hillary’s more grounded supporters (including Scott) are aware of this tendency and try to call them as they see them. But I have certainly run into people who basically think her entire negative image is Republican attacks and sexism and can’t accept that no, many of the attacks were unfair but some are fair.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I think this is correct. It’s understandable, but is also causes them to make mistakes.

      • Justin Runia

        Yeah, I’m still not sold on this idea. For every “buckraking” speech, there is at least one pro bono speaking engagement, there’s sliding scale at work that nobody seems to appreciate (Neil Gaiman had a pretty good explainer on how and why the arbitrary prices get set, and how much leeway he has in waiving them. Multiply his example by about 900.) Also, politicians ride the “auteur” theory of politics, which tends to erase all of the people working under them, who generally need a salary and benefits, like everybody else.

        On top of this, aren’t politicians supposed to be reaching out to people outside or on the margins of the tent? I mean, I’m sure if they would have her, Hillary would have gladly given a speech for the NRA, or Liberty College, or whoever, because she’s trying to convince them of the merits of the Democratic platform, at the very least to convince those people that the Democratic party isn’t attacking them personally, but instead standing up for an underlying principle. This whole thing is skewed when you are presented with a list of paid speeches, because it ignores all of the unpaid speeches, and ignores all of the other people who the candidate would have given speeches for, had they been invited. Of course it looks like “buckraking” when presented that way.

        • Dilan Esper

          You can give every speech for free (she can afford it! politics made her very rich!) or charge a reasonable rate (I once suggested $1000 an hour, which is what New York big firm lawyers make). If there’s an issue with paying staff, which I don’t really buy, bill them separately.

          There’s lots of things you can do other than taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the people who defrauded millions, ruined the economy and caused so much misery, and never went to jail for it.

          • Lit3Bolt

            Sigh.

            Just proves people are mildly disappointed in Obama for his actions towards Wall St.

            While HRC is *HATED* with an unholy passion for merely giving a paid speech for a Wall St bank.

            Double standards, how do they work?

            • humanoid.panda

              The thing is: you can like Hillary (I do!) and still think that giving those speeches was a boneheaded political error! What you are saying is basically: because some people have irrational hatred of Hillary, any discussion of her errors and missteps is evidence of irrational hatred.

              • DiTurno

                The question isn’t whether the speeches — or the email server — were errors. They were. The questions are whether they deserved the attention they got, and whether she was being held to an unfair standard because she was a Clinton and a woman.

                I’m astounded by the number of people — including those on the left — who believed that Trump would be at least no worse than Clinton on the financial industry. That’s so utterly stupid that it has to be based on more than stupidity.

            • Denverite

              Double standards, how do they work?

              The sheer number of people on here who apparently cannot distinguish between “presumptive Democratic nominee 18 months before the presidential election” and “former president who isn’t going to run for anything ever again” boggles the mind.

          • Justin Runia

            “There’s lots of things you can do other than taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the people who defrauded millions, ruined the economy and caused so much misery, and never went to jail for it.”

            That’s my point! Between when HRC left the State Dept and when she announced her candidacy, not counting Clinton Initiative or book tour speaking engagements, she gave approximately 200 speeches, 89 of which were paid speeches. 12 of those paid speeches were to “banks” (including private equity, brokerage houses, etc). In the same period, HRC spoke for free at over 20 mid-term campaign events for other Democrats, the Human Rights Campaign, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, the Elton John Aids Foundation, the National Clean Energy Summit, and those bastards at the Talk to Your Baby Campaign. More than half of her time not used for ‘self-promotion’ (setting aside the notion that efforts to reduce AIDS in Africa really counts as self-promotion) was given away to advance causes most every one of us would agree are worthwhile. Of the remainder, maybe 14% of her business / trade speeches were to an industry that we all think should have been regulated tighter, but frankly, wasn’t. Also among those business / trade speeches were talks given to auto manufacturers, energy companies, boards of trade, and for-profit education companies. Where is the line you want us to draw? Where is the edge of the Democratic Party tent?

            • Dilan Esper

              And the Black Panthers had a breakfast program.

              “I did a lot of good” does not necessarily whiten a person’s sepulcher.

              The point is, there were plenty of options available to her that would have involved not taking obscene amounts of money for speeches when she was planning to run for President again. She did it anyway. The fact that she has done lots of good (which nobody here, even me, denies, and I’m a pretty big critic of her), doesn’t in any way excuse the error.

      • efgoldman

        she was not able to see why she was being criticized or to defend herself other than by directly denying the criticism was valid.

        If you’ve been getting slagged for 25 years for trivia (email, pants suits) or just plain lies (Benghaziiii, cattle futures) I think after awhile you don’t distinguish; you figure no matter what you say, the RWNJ noise machine is going to do what it does. At that point the response becomes virtually reflexive.
        But then, that’s a human reaction; she’s not allowed to have those, either.

        • Dilan Esper

          She’s allowed to. Indeed, I posted the same thing above.

          But at the same time, a thick skin is a political skill. You can both say that a lot of criticisms are unfair and that a politician who has the skill to suppress understandable human reactions and see things in cold political terms is a more skilled politician.

    • Bruce Vail

      Blaming unfair media coverage is pretty much par for the course for candidates who fail to win election, whether its Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton.

      Of course Hillary has a more legit complaint than most. She has been taking shots to the head on pretty much a daily basis since 1992. And she’s still taking it now…

    • nemdam

      I’m still utterly baffled that anyone cares about giving speeches. If you’re already raising money from these groups, how much worse is it to get paid a few bucks for essentially your celebrity status from them? If you’ve already crossed the threshold of taking their money, paid speeches are no worse.

      And I guess that reflects my reaction to the above quote. Since I could care less about the paid speeches, I see her thoughts on the speeches as accurate just like her thoughts about her media coverage. She is not the first candidate to give paid speeches, and she will not be the last. Yet, it’s just a coincidence that she got attacked for it as the first female candidate? I’m skeptical. And given that the speeches were used to both erase her Wall Street record and platform, she sure seems correct to say they were used in this fashion.

      The issue is entirely about “optics” which is a bullshit thing 95+% of the time.

      • Denverite

        She is not the first candidate to give paid speeches, and she will not be the last. Yet, it’s just a coincidence that she got attacked for it as the first female candidate?

        Again, this ignores a number of important qualifications that take the matter from “distasteful but run-of-the-mill buckraking” to “huge, unforced political error.” She wasn’t a “politician” or “candidate.” She was the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee doing it less than two years before the 2016 election (or campaign, at least). She probably *is* the first person in that particular situation to give tens of millions of dollars of paid speeches. She is already wealthy; there was simply no reason that she needed to do it aside from pure greed.

        The issue is entirely about “optics” which is a bullshit thing 95+% of the time.

        I’d quibble with the number, but not the sentiment. But here’s the thing: The reason the whole “optics” charge is such bullshit most of the time is that people use it as cover for the fact that whatever it is they’re complaining about was perfectly innocuous. But when Clinton knew she was running for president and knew that she was overwhelmingly likely to be the nominee, yet she decided anyway to accept millions of dollars from financial institutions that — at a minimum — were trying to ingratiate themselves with her knowing that she was likely to be the next president, that’s not “optics.” It’s at least politically stupid, and probably borderline unethical. That’s a lot more than an “optics” problem (though the optics certainly were toxic).

        • nemdam

          1) It was hardly a “huge, unforced political error”. It got some play in the primary, but only after it was effectively over, and it didn’t seem to effect the vote at all. It was basically Bernie grasping at straws. Also, Trump didn’t use it in the general. And you have to believe if it was effective, they would’ve found out and used it.

          2) I mean, I guess she probably did the speaking circuit the most of anyone running for President. But now we are arguing about where to draw the line as opposed to if it’s OK or not. That line seems very fuzzy, and it’s not at all clear if Clinton crossed it. And I guarantee you if Colin Powell (who did a similar speaking circuit) ran for President in 2008, no one would give a shit about his speaking fees.

          3) I still don’t understand why getting speaking fees is worse than raising money from them. One is personal and one is for a campaign, but either way they are giving you money. If the theory is that if someone gives you money you are beholden to them, then that line has already been crossed by receiving their campaign contributions.

          4) And then there’s the question of the amount. Clinton is already rich, and her campaign required like a billion dollars. How in God’s name could Goldman Sachs giving her $625,000 in anyway influence her? That’s a pathetically small sum in the grand scheme of her life and even if she wanted to, there’s no way she would sell out for such a small amount. Even if you want to add up the fees from all the banks so it’s a few million bucks, Clinton isn’t desperate for cash so there’s no reason a bunch of bankers, of all people, would think they could buy any meaningful influence from Clinton for such a paltry sum. The Clintons give a ton to charity, so that’s probably what they were thinking of doing with it anyway.

          And I’m sorry, to say it’s “probably borderline unethical” is just silly. I concede some think it leaves a bad taste in their mouth, but it’s nowhere close to unethical. If giving paid speeches is some shady activity, then I guess there’s a lot more unethical people than I thought.

  • I don’t know how valid Clinton’s complaints about the DNC’s data operation is, but I would like to hear from Perez what the party is doing to make sure it has an infrastructure that is competitive with the RNC. Because it is fairly consistent with what I’d heard before that the Obama campaigns had great infrastructure that pretty much only got used on the Obama campaigns, while the RNC decided after 2012 to start building their stuff in-house.

    The Democratic Party needs an effective tech arm that can provide services to candidates at all levels, from state legislature to president. And that should include data analysis, but it should also include some form of IT support and security consulting to help avoid hacks. If Clinton being critical of the DNC’s data operation can help that goal I don’t care if it’s whining.

    • postmodulator

      As someone who spent ten years in IT support, I can’t imagine a deeper pit in hell than being the IT support for extremely powerful people. IT support for college professors basically robbed me of my humanity, or the small amount of humanity I had left after doing IT support for end-users…in the South.

      • postmodulator

        Eh, ignore this comment. I’m stressed out.

      • Murc

        IT support for college professors

        I used to have to do that.

        It sucked hard. You got a lot of “I have a PHD, so I am by definition very smart. If this thing isn’t working, or is broken, it must be your fault, not the fault of me, the smart person.”

        Then you had the ones who didn’t know or didn’t care to learn how to use their LMS system or grade-reporting software.

        We had a guy over at Pepperdine who every tech on the team had to be warned about specifically, because every semester he would call up and ask us to enter all his students grades into the system for him. This would have been a very time-consuming process, was vastly outside the scope of support his university was paying us for, and was probably a FERPA violation of some sort. He kept at it, tho, because he either didn’t want to or, more charitably, was incapable of doing so himself.

        • tsam

          The flip side of that situation:

          I do all the “IT” for my company (build the computers, the network, maintain them, etc…), and I have two people who refuse to bother with learning how to use a simple Windows computer with a network server on a simple P2P LAN (not a client/server setup). So while having a know-it-all ass give you problems, it’s at least as annoying to have someone using a Word document and the little paragraph symbols pop up everywhere and the guy SWEAR it just did that all by itself (would have accidentally been done with an ALT or CTRL command) and refusing to put a little effort into shutting the feature off. That’s pretty maddening too.

          ETA: They also thought this was hilarious “Hey Mark, I won an iPad and clicked on this link, but I’m not sure what to do now…” AHSDIDOENGEUYNW

          • Murc

            So while having a know-it-all ass give you problems, it’s at least as annoying to have someone using a Word document and the little paragraph symbols pop up everywhere and the guy SWEAR it just did that all by itself (would have accidentally been done with an ALT or CTRL command) and refusing to put a little effort into shutting the feature off.

            I’m gonna be honest; as a desktop guy, if people knew how to use Google to fix their own problems (and I would have had to use Google to figure out that one; I do not have Words keyboard shortcuts memorized) I’d be out of a job.

            • tsam

              I misread your comment and said STOOPIDZ

            • tsam

              I had to use Google on that one too. I get what you’re saying–but sometimes–FUCKING SERIOUSLY, MAN? They always seem to do it when I DO NOT have the time for it.

              • Murc

                The real sticking point for me is that there are levels of ignorance I don’t consider acceptable.

                Like… it is acceptable not to know how to configure your web browser to meet the very specific Java and Flash requirements of some websites or web-based apps. That’s not your job, I get paid to help you do that.

                It is not, in my view, acceptable to not know what the words “web browser” mean and to not know which one you’re using, and to not know what terms like “address bar” and “back button” mean. This, to me, is the equivalent of not only not knowing the make and model of your car, but of not knowing what the steering wheel and brake pedals are called.

                • tsam

                  YES–this, I think is what I was getting at.

                  “Open your browser and put this address in…”

                  “Browser?”

                  **Looks at whiskey bottle, then at loaded pistol, chooses whiskey bottle. This time**

                • postmodulator

                  Apparently “ignore this comment” is a magical incantation that leads to me getting more responses than I ever have before.

                • nemdam

                  Seriously, how do people not know this shit? Your analogy is great in that it’s like not knowing the make and model of your car. If you are using a piece of equipment for your job all day, you would think you would want to know that absolute rudimentary basics of how it works.

            • efgoldman

              I would have had to use Google to figure out that one; I do not have Words keyboard shortcuts memorized

              Every version of Word I’ve used (as an end user) has a toolbar button and/or a drop down menu command to turn non-printing characters on/off.
              Of course, you may need to know how to customize a toolbar….

      • Schadenboner

        I was very happy when I got to the point in my glorious career where I only had to talk to the systems, not to the users.

        Also I never had much humanity to begin with, that was a big help too.

        • Murc

          I love helping users out… face-to-face.

          When you’re on the phone you’re not a person to them, tho. The people in my office view me as a co-worker. The remote guys… different story.

    • Murc

      Because it is fairly consistent with what I’d heard before that the Obama campaigns had great infrastructure that pretty much only got used on the Obama campaigns, while the RNC decided after 2012 to start building their stuff in-house.

      The Democrats should absolutely be doing this at all levels.

      It is nuts that we expect presidential campaigns to build a complete national infrastructure every four years, which they then tear down only to build it up again. That’s utter madness, a waste of resources, and prevents the building of institutional competence and memory.

      The same thing applies to a somewhat lesser extent to Congressmen and Senators.

      The Democratic Party need a robust IT infrastructure that is plug-and-play. Obviously each campaign is going to have its own ideas about how to leverage things but the underlying bedrock is always going to look roughly the same and that should always be there, waiting to be used.

      • rlc

        And this centralized organization has to have enough clout at the top so that when the next incarnation of “But Colin Powell told me this is the way we should do it [insert stupendously bad idea]” the Democratic CTO can so “No, sorry”. No explanation required, as none would be understood. This is a fucking war. Nation states are involved. Amateur hour is fatal.

        • BloodyGranuaile

          This centralized organization needs a much, much more robust media training operation than whatever the party’s currently got going on. The Dems keep losing the propaganda war because they appear to have no idea they’re in one. They’re vaguely aware they need better “messaging” but that doesn’t go nearly far enough.

        • Murc

          Eh?

          If this is meant to be a swipe at Clinton, my understanding is that her email server was set up using an independent contractor not affiliated with the Democratic Party at all.

          • rlc

            Hillary’s email server wasn’t part of the campaign apparatus, but serves as a general example of seeming inattentiveness to the criticality of these systems to the overall project of the Party. Without focusing on *her*, and just using the situation as an example, “her email server was set up using an independent contractor not affiliated with the Democratic Party at all” is an own goal, as a practical matter. BloodyGranuaile can see the problem. Hillary has no possibility of understanding the ramifications, especially the lack of alignment of the incentives for security and optics, yet she had an apparent veto say over her IT infrastructure. Just about any other high level candidate or operative likely is in the same situation. It was depressing the number of well meant highly literate comments we had when we last litigated this subject on LGM to the effect that “high level candidates or operatives can’t be expected to know this stuff, oh well, shit happens.” No!

            Now AFAICT from the hearsay that has leaked out in SV, i.e., comments on HN, Obama’s IT infrastructure doesn’t appear to have had any of these problems, so it can be done well. Whatever he was doing needs to be generalized, professionalized, and continuity maintained across campaigns as you described.

      • Lit3Bolt

        No one wants to go after Obama for basically usurping the DNC and using it to his own benefit at the expense of the party, I notice.

        • SIWOTI

          Well, because that’s basically what each Democratic President has done. The President anoints DNC chairs, and generally they are not going to do anything to upset the President. And it’s a horrible system, because that means there’s no institutional continuity when there’s a Democratic President.

          And it was just worse this time around, because we had 8 years of failing to build up the Democratic Party apparatus in the states. And that’s on Obama. He picked the head of the DNC. And there are a number of people who have criticized his failings on that score. But he’s not unique in that regard.

    • jroth95

      Yeah, I’m not clear on why HRC shouldn’t say that DNC infra was garbage unless it’s false. I mean, if it’s true, it needs to be fixed. And there’s only two ways that HRC can help fix it*: quietly get it done herself, or say out loud that it’s a problem. The former seems laughable for a lot of reasons, and the latter has to be public or there’s no real pressure to change. That is, if she arranges a personal meeting with Tom Perez on the matter, why should he give a shit unless he already cares? That is, a closed-door meeting with a former candidate creates no incentive for Perez beyond his preexisting incentive to fix things.

      Maybe this specific instance came off as whiny, I don’t know. But in general, she’s in a “see something, say something” position, and clamming up helps no one.

      *and we all agree she should rightly want it fixed, right? Otherwise she’d be like the retiree who doesn’t care about public schools anymore.

      • tsam

        Agreed–she claimed she had to inject money into it to get the engine running, which is…not good.

      • nemdam

        I dunno, I thought it was a cheap shot. I now have little doubt that it’s actually a problem as I don’t think she would’ve said it if it wasn’t a problem. But I don’t think she should trash her own party like that in public. Do it behind closed doors.

  • aab84

    I think a decent part of the media reaction to the recent Clinton stuff is our bizarre American notion (particularly among journalists) that one must be an entirely gracious loser in all situations regardless of the circumstances of the loss.

    You see it in sports every time a team gets screwed. “Yes, the ref punched your running back in the face when he was about to score the winning touchdown, but things happen, and a good sport would just congratulate the other team on its win.”

    • Q.E.Dumbass

      Speaking of, can’t Scott’s posts on this subjects instead be accompanied by a Photoshop of Cillizza or Zucker being punched in the face?

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        that would work- or else the above photo of those two dweebs and their smoking jackets placed in front of a hellscape and the caption “what, us worry?”

      • Origami Isopod

        Do we have any GIF magicians here who can edit the Richard Spencer one from January?

      • Pseudonym

        Why does it have to be a Photoshop?

    • tsam

      that one must be an entirely gracious loser in all situations regardless of the circumstances of the loss.

      Yeah–expecting Hillary Clinton to shrug off Russian interference and an FBI director falsely claiming there was a problem is fucking ludicrous.

      • aab84

        I’m not remotely defending the pathology, just saying it’s not really a new thing.

        • tsam

          I was totally agreeing with you, and yes, I remember some admonishments to Gore to just “let it go” long before the SCOTUS appointed Junior as a matter of graciousness and civility and democratic norms (WTF?).

          ETA: Oh, and calling the Florida shenanigans a Constitutional crisis. NO. The only crisis was the candidate’s brother running state government and crooked as FUCK AG (?) doing everything they could to toss votes they wanted tossed. There was no crisis involved with counting the votes and awarding the winner the state.

          • efgoldman

            and crooked as FUCK AG (?) doing everything they could to toss votes they wanted tossed

            It was Katherine Harris, the secretary of state; responsible for elections in most states.

            • tsam

              That’s right–for some reason I had it in my head that the AG had gotten involved. God she was a horrible person.

              • I met her once at my previous job, but since I was on the clock, I didn’t feel at liberty to ream her out for her part in ruining our country, which would’ve been cathartic but probably wouldn’t actually have accomplished anything. Also I think she spent most of the time on the phone anyway. It was after she’d lost the election for Senate, though sadly that’ll probably be as close to a comeuppance as she ever gets.

    • D.N. Nation

      I mean, friggin TRUMP is President. When exactly has Donald Trump been gracious in anything? Who do these hacks think they’re fooling?

      • tsam

        This is probably the heart of the matter–nobody expects graciousness out of Trump, so why bother with imploring him to act like an adult? But Hillary’s an adult, so why not impose the standard on her and let Trump off the hook? I can’t tell if Trump eschewing any expectation of being a normal human is pure genius or fucking terrifying. It’s terrifying in either case, but it would feel different to have an explanation that doesn’t defy everything we thought we once knew about American politics.

        • efgoldman

          I can’t tell if Trump eschewing any expectation of being a normal human is pure genius or fucking terrifying.

          It’s not purposeful. It’s a product of his lack of intellect and his narcissism. He yam what he yam, it’s all what be yam.
          Probably goes back to his daddy being the same kind of shit, and never having been told “no” his whole miserable life.

          • tsam

            Maybe I’m saying I WISH it was an act for the rubes. At least then I could have a small amount of confidence that he might make a rational decision in the face of a crisis. I have no faith that he is capable of that, and that the outcome is more or less a coin flip, with a coin that weighted toward the “react in the worst way possible” side.

    • Bruce Vail

      The sports analogy is right on target.

      Journalists are trained to cover politics just like professional sports. It’s a contest that will be decided by the awarding of points: Whoever gets the most points, wins.

      In this way, politics coverage can be divorced from the moral dimension of public policy. Reporters and editors (and publishers) are relieved from the responsibility for affecting the outcome. Politics, like baseball, is reduced to a harmless diversion. It doesn’t really count very much, but wait till next year!

  • MDrew

    What’s going on with the $$$ aspect of her “inherited nothing” complaints?

    Is that something that’s actually roughly normal that she’s blowing up into a thing? Otherwise it does seem like something might have been going very wrong over there.

  • liberalrob

    Hillary Clinton tarted speaking about her loss

    “Tarted”? Ugh.

    Fcking proofreading, how does it work?

    Sentence #1!

    Other than that, great column.

  • Joe_JP

    I don’t know if he is special or whatever, but since I respect his analysis on voting issues generally, Rick Hasen’s comments on Hillary Clinton (linked up at his Election Law Blog and repeatedly tweeted about) are annoying. Her saying such and such is “partially” the problem is taken as some sort of whining and inability to truly examine her own faults / how best to win in the future. Which is stupid in particular because the same problems will be there inhibiting future success. Her own statement specifically taking responsibility ignored as well.

    [Comey question omitted]

    • Q.E.Dumbass

      TBH the accusation of bad faith was not directed towards you at all on my part (and possibly unintentional on Scott’s).

  • “Lee’s argument isn’t that Clinton is wrong on the merits – it’s that it’s inherently wrong for her to say that any factors but her own mistakes influenced the outcome of the election. But this is silly. As long as what she’s saying is true, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

    This is exactly right. And may I add: in the current political climate which is saturated by attacks on the very notion of truth-telling, these calls on Clinton to shut up play into that dynamic. Those who do this are playing the propagandists’ game. And really, what is the difference between saying “Clinton is being a sore loser, and her complaints may be true but are irrelevant” and “the Democrats are being sore losers, and all these complaints are just false news”? None of any importance, really.

  • drwormphd

    I was wondering if that Timothy Lee piece was a failed attempt at satire–though the topline blamed Clinton for not taking blame for the loss, it also listed all the elements that deserved blame–that *could* be ironically mocking people still blaming Clinton by reminding them of everything else that happened (and all the people who didn’t apologize). I’m not familiar enough with Lee’s work to be sure. Honestly I’m hoping it was supposed to be satire because if not it’s the worst thing Vox has published since Todd VanDerWerff’s Hamilton review.

    • jroth95

      I don’t even know why Lee would be writing about this: his basic beat is tech, and his background is as a libertarian blogger. AFAIK he has no special knowledge or insight about American or Democratic politics at all.

      In general he always struck me as a “you’re our buddy” hire, although I don’t know for a fact that he was part of Matt & Ezra’s DC circle.

  • bobbo1

    Cillizza is so lacking in self-awareness. If you cornered him, he would probably argue that “the news” dictated his coverage, not that he had agency and made choices about what “the news” was.

  • ackfoo

    By the way Scott, in the Mic piece, you state that Bob Dole returned to the Senate, but that isn’t true. He actually resigned during his Presidential campaign and never returned.

  • nemdam

    Your post is excellent. In summary, and in my words, everyone saying “Clinton should shut up and take 100% responsibility for everything that happened!” are simply using her as a scapegoat for all their guilt about how they acted during the election. Whether conscious or not, a lot of people have a lot of unresolved issues about how they handled the election, but if they can place all of the blame on Hillary, then they never have to examine themselves. Because there is a lot of shit that needs to be examined.

  • Proto-Morlock

    Not to interrupt the endless Left circular firing squad, but I’ll think about forgiving the malfeasance of American media the instant they give any Republican the level of scrutiny that Hillary Clinton was and is still being subjected to.

    This is the measure of their culpability in Donald Trump’s election, not whatever Hillary Clinton and her campaign did or did not do. The DNC’s dirty laundry got a public airing; why not the RNC? Yes, the Democratic Party should hold itself to a higher standard, but the public at large is witnessing an acrimonious struggle for this party, with no basis for comparison on the Republican side. Masking the RNC’s massive corruption with too much attention paid to Clinton and the DNC only contributes to the “they’re all crooks, why bother voting” narrative that works in the RNC’s favor.

  • cpinva

    well why not? gee, we already had a US Supreme Court Justice argue that actual innocense should be no bar to execution. once you’ve started down that road, everything is open.

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