Sunday, March 2, 2008

Working the Refs

The WCAC final also featured Bishop O'Connell's boys basketball coach, Joe Wootten, tirelessly complaining to the referees. In addition to the fabulous play on the court, Wootten's antics were singularly impressive. While Wootten's indefatigable whining did not change of the outcome of the game, one hopes that someone in the SRO crowd at Bender made note of his performance and informed the Clinton campaign.

After sitting through SNL's shameless suck up to the disingenuous ramblings of campaign strategists who have failed miserably in order to watch two solid live performances by Jeff Tweedy (an Obama supporter), I am even more puzzled by why HRC continues to waste her time and the dignity of her public service by whining about the inequity of everything. As Maureen Dowd usefully muses this morning, how does this strategy help demonstrate how HRC will be ready on day one... is it Presidential to complain that you are being asked to answer questions first (and subsequently volunteer to answer open questions before your opponent has a chance to)? What kind of president would go before the UN and whine that the international press isn't looking hard enough into Ahmadinejad's relations with slum lords in Tehran?

What is more offensive is the cacophonous voices, outside of SNL's utter irrelevance, that have added their two cents to this bizarre tactic and, in the process, willingly sacrifice credibility. On Saturday morning, the New York Times ran an article by Jacques Steinberg that used HRC's campaign's absurd complaints as an excuse to take shots at Obama. Later in the day, the Associated Press got to distribute a piece entitled "Media Expert Decries Campaign Coverage" based on the "analysis" released by HRC partisan Walter Shorenstein (he's already maxed out on direct financial contributions to the primary campaign). Regardless of how much I read or listen to the melodic voice of Howard Wolfson, I don't understand the point or the basis for the whining.

On February 11, we went to the Comcast Center for the third time in three months. Even after witnessing the highly entertaining Illini game and the historic American University upset, the Obama rally at Comcast was the most enjoyable time I've had in the stadium. It wasn't getting caught up in the persona or delivery of a (Chicago Bears supporting) charismatic Senator from my home state that impacted me... it was the time spent waiting for the candidate, which presented the opportunity to meet people that were enthusiastic about becoming reengaged in the country's political process. While an inane piece in today's Washington Post focused on the pop star concert quality of Senator Obama's reception, few focused on the enthusiasm people in the stadium felt for something very droll: the choice of a nominee for President of the United States. And while Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson bitterly complain to anyone within earshot that the press isn't being fair, the mainstream press derides Obama's supporters -- particularly those who pack into arenas or stand outside filled arenas -- as naive ingenues held rapturously captive by the even more melodic sound of Obama's cadence. The thousands that seem to thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to see the Senator deliver the same canned speech, going to great lengths (at the University, the line out of Comcast seemed to stretch from the Center to Byrd Stadium) to do so, have had their motivations, and intelligence, questioned in ways that weren't even applied to Promise Keeper rallies. Should Obama's supporters, then, bury newspaper editors and cable news networks with letters complaining about the lack of similarly critical or dismissive pieces about Clinton's supporters? What exactly would or could be achieved?

An attempt at an objective review of the strategy employed by the HRC campaign seems to indicate that what really is at work here is the eternal principle of CYA: it is not anyone on the campaign's fault that the Clinton dynasty got prematurely derailed. Instead, the media's thinly veiled (by fabric woven with gossamer thread) hatred for HRC doomed the campaign from the very beginning (leaving aside the fact that the candidate was widely viewed as the frontrunner for the nomination up until voting started). Penn can continue to collect millions of dollars touting the great work he did adapting Matt Groening for Tony Blair's "last successful campaign" and Wolfson can go back to a private practice of blaming other people for the problems of his less well-publicized clients.

Actually, Wootten would be a poor addition for the HRC campaign team. After O'Connell lost the championship game despite the coach's pleading with the referees, I doubt that he told his kids that they would have won had it not been for the bumbling of the men in stripes. Instead, I would imagine that Wootten told his players that they played well and that they just ran into a buzzsaw, a formidable opponent that just played better over the course of the game. I would imagine that Wootten was gracious, advised his players to take pride in what they had achieved, and that he thanked them for their incredible effort. As such, he's probably got the wrong temperament for politics, which is too bad as the campaign probably needs all the volunteers it can get.

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