Greg Sargent has moved to his news digs over in TPM land, but the transition has neither slowed him down nor dulled the keenness of his discernment. He's got some bad news for any of us who might have been hoping for a more dignified presidential race in 2008:
If you were hoping that the press coverage of the 2008 Presidential race wasn't going to be marred by the vacuousness and childishness that saturated the coverage of the 2004 and 2000 contests, guess what: It is.
The signs are already everywhere. Check out, for instance, the coverage of Senator Barack Obama's entry into the race yesterday. It was shot through with efforts to portray Hillary Clinton as "threatened" by Obama — which would be fine but for the fact that these efforts were deeply, almost comically foolish. Here's the New York Times's Anne Kornblut, yukking it up on the paper's Caucus blog as she struggled to make this case:
So what does Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton think of Senator Barack Obama’s exploratory entry into the 2008 race? Or, for that matter, her very recent trip to Iraq?
As of Tuesday evening, she wasn’t saying. Brushing past reporters in the Senate, Mrs. Clinton — conspicuously talking into her cell phone; whether there was anyone on the other end of the line, or not, could not be confirmed — went into the chamber to vote, then posed for an all-ladies photograph with Diane Sawyer and female senators.
Ah, yes, it's the return of Mean Girls Media! How thrilling! ("Hillary acted like she was talking on the phone, but nobody likes her, so, really, who could she be talking to? Did you see how huge her butt looked in that skirt? Oh, my god, she's sooooooo gross…") Well, gosh, has it really been that long since 2004 already? My how time flies!
For f*ck's sake, Anne Kornblut. Nicole freaking Richie could write better political commentary than that. On Vicodin. In the dark.
That's not the end of it, though.
Indeed, the press corps and cable TV went mad yesterday trying to prove that Clinton had canceled her post-Iraq-trip press conference yesterday because she was worried about being eclipsed by Obama's announcement.
The Clinton people tried to explain that the schedule change took place because a fellow member of Congress set to attend had fallen sick. But that didn't stop the Washington Post's Dana Milbank from devoting virtually an entire column to this question, skewering Clinton spokesperson Philippe Reines' explanation that the sick Congressman had stayed behind in Iraq to recover as follows:
"We knew that yesterday, but didn't have a new time for tomorrow because the members were in the air, and because the Radio & TV Gallery was closed yesterday," Reines continued in his email. "We were only able to lock it in this morning."
And we lost the phone number. And the dog ate my homework. And I think I hear my mom calling.
It was awfully early in a presidential campaign to be getting so defensive — but such is the tone of the accelerated 2008 race.
Mr. Milbank, I have to ask you, just, you know, because. Just who the hell do you think is setting "the tone for the accelerated 2008 race"? Hmmmmm, I just haven't the foggiest notion who on earth could be in charge of setting "the tone" in the media…unless…(gasp!)…it's THE MEDIA?! Oh, my god! Call Matt Drudge! This needs to be a BREAKING BREAKING BREAKING police-sirens-and-everything exclusive scoop. The media is bitching about how snippy things are getting…in the media.
You know, that's kind of like Republicans complaining that the House rules unfairly exclude the minority party. Yeah, cry me a goddamn river.
Yep, gotta love it. The press manufactures a non-story, and then when the Clinton people offer up information about it, they are being defensive. Neat trick. And "such is the tone" of the race — that is, the tone that Milbank and his frolicking friends are already trying to set. Look, I like a little fun in my political coverage as much as the next guy — and sure, the Clinton and Obama camps will be dueling for attention — but can't we inject a little wit into our coverage without being so damn babyish and frivolous about it? Am I wrong here? What do you all think?
Who, me? I think that I'm just glad that over at Swampland, the Blogger Formerly Known as Wonkette has forsaken her own similarly breathless high-school-cafeteria style of political coverage in favor of a more nuanced, intellectual approach.
HRC's people are very eager to point out that, you know, REALLY: THEY DID NOT CANCEL THE PRESS CONFERENCE BECAUSE OF OBAMA. No, THIS IS THE TRUTH: Rep. McHugh was sick. And he's a Republican, which means they sort of needed him if they were going to do the anti-war dance that was rumored to take place at today's canceled event.
Also, the dog ate their Iraq report.
Just kidding: What's sad about the Clinton camp's spinning is that is probably true. Just also very, very lucky.
A colleague has demanded the McHugh lab reports from the Clinton folks; I suspect they're filed right next to the Rose Law Firm records.
Okay, maybe not so much. Frankly, I wonder if the editors killed her paragraph speculating on whether McHugh was up-chucking or if he had the trots.
It's going to be a very long, very painful campaign if this is the kind of political commentary we have to look forward to.