Saturday :: Mar 22, 2008

Post-Parsing Obama

by Turkana

A week and a half ago, I referred to Eric Boehlert's definition of post-parsing:

Here's how it works: A candidate (almost always Hillary Clinton) makes a statement, any statement out of the thousands made on the campaign trail each week, and that statement is seized upon by the chattering class and then dissected in order to determine what the real intention was. Experts pore over the text and announce what the candidate should have said during an impromptu exchange with the media. It's not that the statement in question is wrong, or blatantly malicious, it's that the statement wasn't quite right. It should have been a little bit more this or a little more that. Plus, based upon the pundits' expert training and analytical skills, they're able to spot a deeply disturbing, unspoken meaning right below the surface. Alarmed, they then rush to alert voters.

And I argued that because of The Great Convergence, similar post-parsing is now commonly committed by shrill and dishonest bloggers. And as is the case with the corporate media, the post-parsing by shrill and dishonest bloggers almost always targets Hillary Clinton. But not always.

In the past week, both media hacks and Clinton bloggers have argued that Barack Obama contradicted himself when, in his March 18 speech on race, he admitted to having heard controversial remarks by Jeremiah Wright. This is supposed to fly in the face of his earlier claim that he had not been present when Wright made certain inflammatory statements. This is supposed to prove that Obama changed his story. This is supposed to prove that Obama is a liar. The facts, again from Media Matters:

On March 18 and 19, several media figures falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama contradicted previous statements he had made when he said during a March 18 speech on race: "Did I ever hear him [Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor] make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes." For example, on March 19, Politico chief political columnist Roger Simon wrote that during his speech, "for the first time, Obama admitted what he previously had denied: that he was present when Wright had made some of his outrageous comments." In fact, Obama did not admit during his March 18 speech "what he previously had denied"; he did not reverse himself during the speech on the issue of whether he had been present when Wright made specific comments that have received widespread attention and sparked the controversy to which he was responding. Rather, Obama said during the speech that he had been in church when Wright made "remarks that could be considered controversial." By contrast, in a March 14 column for The Huffington Post, Obama wrote that he had not been present for the particular statements that had become "the cause of this controversy." Obama has made similar assertions on numerous occasions, as Media Matters for America documented.

And Media Matters does document it. And Media Matters does document how various corporate media outlets post-parsed Obama's statement. I don't need to tell you that some Clinton bloggers have done the same, because anyone who spends any time on the blogs has seen it. But Obama did not contradict himself. Obama did not lie.

Clinton supporters are justifiably angry and disgusted by the frequent dishonest attacks on Hillary Clinton, when her own words are twisted and taken out of context to cast them and her in the worst possible light. As Sam Stein noted, in an ugly Friday conference call, Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe even repeated the exact episode of post-parsing Boehlert so pointedly and thoroughly debunked. But that in no way excuses similar behavior by Clinton supporters. It's particularly despicable when this behavior comes from a campaign itself, but Clinton bloggers still need to be more careful and more honest about engaging in such behavior to smear Barack Obama.

Turkana :: 2:44 PM :: Comments (12) :: Digg It!