Sunday :: Apr 20, 2008

MovingOn from Finger(s)


by eriposte

In a previous post where I discussed how Sen. Obama has been a prolific user of false right-wing talking points against Sen. Clinton, I had included this one sentence:

Sadly, Sen. Obama is also doing himself few favors with behaviors - see video, also here, here and here - not particularly befitting a Presidential candidate (unless you are Matthew Yglesias in which case this is the Change We Can Believe InTM - merely a page from the, um, book of Compassionate ConservatismTM).

Yesterday, Turkana posted an update on the "finger" story from Media Matters and one of the Obama supporters couldn't wait to send me an email about it. So, let's briefly discuss the incident and then also talk about the Moveon.org related comments from Sen. Clinton.

What exactly did Media Matters say about the incident?

...However, as video of the event shot from Obama's right side clearly shows, Obama had both his middle and index fingers extended when he reached up to touch his cheek....
[...]
In this screenshot of Obama at the rally, two fingers appear to be touching his face...

As Turkana also pointed out, several people including some of Sen. Obama's own supporters (see this thread on DU for example, h/t Susie Madrak) thought he had "flipped the bird". Indeed, people in the audience themselves reacted (positively) in a way that suggested he had "flipped the bird". As Lambert at Corrente pointed out:

Here’s the same video from a slightly different angle. Notice the reaction from the woman in red to the left, over Obama’s shoulder, as she laughs and turns to explain to her neighbor.

In fact, if you look at this video - the somewhat grainy version that was taken from Sen. Obama's right side, you will notice similar reactions from other people in the audience (around the 20:50 mark). As an example, look at some of the women who appear on the lower right of the video frame, who react to his gesture with a mixture of surprise and laughter, in the midst of a clear increase in the volume of the cheering after Sen. Obama went through with the act. If I were the speaker, I would have been a bit surprised at the audience reaction to a harmless face scratch and looked up to figure out why they were suddenly cheering even more loudly. How did Sen. Obama respond to the sudden increase in audience cheering? By continuing to look down at his notes nonchalantly. Lambert had in fact discussed some of these very points previously. Further, as I pointed out in the comment thread to my earlier post, I have seen exactly this version of the "New York Hello" used by others in the past. In this version, the entire objective is to make the act somewhat subtle and not make it look like an overt use of the middle finger (which would have been very damaging to Sen. Obama). Bottom line - there were/are multiple indications that suggest Sen. Obama had in fact "flipped the bird". However, in the interest of Unity, and since I would like to move on to other matters more important than this (in future posts), I will state here that the evidence that Sen. Obama "flipped the bird" is mixed and could be read either way (for completeness, I will post an update to my previous post referring to this post). More importantly, the one-line statement in my previous post was only partly related to the finger-episode - my use of the word "behaviors" should have been a clue to those who paid attention. As Katiebird has pointed out, I was also referring to some of the other body movements he used during the same speech which I did not think were particularly befitting a Presidential candidate. Nothing has changed my mind on that.

Let's MoveOn on to the more recent story by an Obama supporter Celeste Fremon that appeared at The Huffington Post about some comments made by Sen. Clinton regarding MoveOn.org (an organization that endorsed Sen. Obama in the primary and has been contributing money to him). Paul Lukasiak has a lengthy post on this at Taylor Marsh's digs, analyzing the audio recording (he notes that the author of the piece was not present at the event and had allowed the audio to be edited by the source). I just want to make the following points.

1. Sen. Clinton claimed that "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan". MoveOn.org has strongly disputed this in the past and continues to dispute this. For example, see this older letter by Eli Pariser where he says:

"...The organization never opposed the attack on Afghanistan post 9/11. In urging a multi-pronged approach to fighting terrorism, the organization has always supported measured military action as part of the mix," Pariser continued.

"My own then-unaffiliated web site, which I started prior to joining MoveOn, said U.S. response should be ‘moderate and restrained,’ to avoid provoking more terrorism and enmity against the U.S.," he went on. "Only two days after the attack on the towers, with no proof of who was responsible, urging care was appropriate. Of course I believe the attack on the camps in Afghanistan, which came weeks later, was appropriate, as was other military action against Al Qaeda," Pariser said.

For more information on what Pariser is talking about, see this MyDD diary "Did Moveon.org Oppose the Afghan War?". The diary partly refers to this article by Byron York at NRO, but even if you set aside York's article, take a look at these comments to the post by campskunk that indicate that there is a legitimate question as to whether MoveOn.org really supported the war initially (even if they may have done so later on). However, I don't want to belabor this point - I will assume that MoveOn.org did not oppose the Afghan war and ask that Sen. Clinton correct her statement.

2. Sen. Clinton also appears to be referring to MoveOn.org activists in her comment that "So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me". Paul Lukasiak has a much longer discussion of the remarks and the fact that the audio has been edited to snip out some portions leaving more of the context hanging (unlike in the case of the audio from Sen. Obama's recent fundraiser where the entire context and speech was available freely). Go read Lukasiak's deconstruction of the entire piece, but I will just add one thing. It is undoubtedly true that in many cases supporters of Sen. Obama have dominated caucuses and it is also true that there have been many allegations of intimidation in caucuses - by both campaigns - during the course of this primary. So, that's not news. However, Sen. Clinton should have been more careful with her comments and not give the wrong impression that it was specifically some MoveOn.org members who were behind incidents of intimidation.

More in Lukasiak's post. BTD at Talk Left also mentions some of Lukasiak's observations:

1) First off, as should be obvious, what Fremon has represented as a contiunous, anti-Move-On rant is actually two small snippets from two separate answers that were edited together to make it read/sound like one continuous rant.

I think its pretty obvious that Fremon knew exactly what she was doing here -- normal journalistic practice (I believe) would be to use ellipses when quoting in text form from two entirely separate responses. (actually, normal journalistic practice would not, I believe, allow anything like this to be done at all.)

[...]

There's more here and here.

UPDATE: Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left has two worthwhile posts on this as well: "Hillary vs. MoveOn; Remember Obama vs. DailyKos?" and "Will Barack Obama Defend MoveOn?"

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