Dealing With The Boys
A follow up to last night’s initial observation on the MSNBC debate:
Hillary needs to assume from this point forward that: a) all her competitors will gang up on her; and b) hacks like Tim Russert and Chris Matthews will spew GOP talking points and framing in any questions they ask of her in debates or interviews. If you know these things going in, speaking plainly on your positions and critiques of the GOP and these media hacks is essential. Instead of giving roundabout answers that can be ammunition for further attacks, try and simply state what you believe and why the GOP cannot get another four years to further ruin this country. And as long as you appear to be dodging and maintaining the 11th Commandment against your fellow Democrats, these events will be more advantageous for the pack coming after you than they will be for you yourself.
As Howard Kurtz noted today, the media wants to cover a fistfight rather than a policy discussion. Political necessity dictates that Obama and the rest of them use these opportunities to take shots at her with varying degrees of success. Edwards, Dodd, and Biden are very good at it, and Obama as evidenced by his body language around her and his presentation in a face-to-face manner seems incapable of going directly at her, which means he will have trouble with a thug like Rudy Giuliani. Even though I felt some of her responses last night were problematic, many others including some in the media thought she more than held her own in fending off the attacks from her competitors, given than much of the first part of the debate was set up by Russert and Brian Williams as a gladiator match between Clinton and the rest of the field. The media sees it as their job to knock her down several pegs because they want a horse race. Because she is the front-runner, they will go after her repeatedly. If you don’t believe me, count how many times Russert and Williams began a segment by going directly at her.
Hillary will have to assume that elements of the 2008 GOP playbook will work their way into the media’s questions and the framing for those questions, as evidenced by the missile specifically for her on drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. I would even argue that the question for her on Charlie Rangel’s tax reform proposal came out of the GOP playbook as well. I almost expected Russert to ask Hillary why she supported Osama Bin Laden. So hacks like Russert will look for other opportunities from the GOP playbook to hit her. Hillary needs to go through these issues one by one, nail down what she thinks on each one in several sentences, and be ready to throw them back at the media hacks.
As Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe says, the feeding frenzy in these last 60 days has just now begun among the media and Hillary’s Democratic opponents. Edwards and Obama will go after her on integrity and honesty, and the rest will follow along. Her campaign needs to be ready.