Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dividing Up the Helpful Hillary Attacks

As a Hillary supporter, I believe that all of the recent attacks on Hillary have been good for her campaign. The Hillary team needed to be toughened up and the Philadelphia debate, the waitress tipping pseudo-controversy, and the planting questions foul-up have done it. It wasn't like Hillary and her people are as soft and lazy as Fred Thompson. But the Hillary candidacy needed more pressure from her opponents than they've been generating and the Philadelphia debate provided more pressure.

Likewise, the candidate herself needed to be surprised and pressed during a debate. Tim Russert did her a favor with his wedge-sniffing question about drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. The Republican media apparatus is going to be working overtime to come up with surprise wedge issues that will be tough for Hillary to fence. She needs to start doing a better job of responding on the fly now.

Finally, Team Hillary needed to see some of their systems fail. The whole planting questions thing is an embarrassment. Hillary staffers should have been aware of the phony press conference problem in the Bush administration and avoided any effort to appear to be doing the same thing. Howard Fineman claims that Hillary is overly controlling. That's absurd. What candidate outside "hard-working" Fred Thompson doesn't go all out to control their presentation and their media coverage? But the Hillary team has been too good at it for their own good. They needed to see the system fail so they could make changes.

Speaking of Hillary attacks, it's useful to categorize the types of attacks that Hillary's been getting as a way of helping her deal with them.

1. Principled Policy Attacks--She gets criticized from the left on her Iraq war vote and her vote for the Lieberman proposal on declaring parts of the Iranian government as terrorist organizations. From the right, she receives principled criticism for her her health care proposal, stands on the Iraq War, and other issues. None of the principled policy attacks have done much to dent Hillary's candidacy. This is because most of Hillary's policy positions track well with public opinion.o with the driver's licenses for illegals question. Drivers licenses for illegals is not actually a significant issue and Russert certainly doesn't care about it. But he was able to sniff out a wedge. Russert's wedge-sniffing did not have much immediate impact on public opinion, but the mai

2. Wedge-Sniffing Policy Attacks. By "Wedge-sniffing," I mean formulating criticisms in such a way that Hillary either has to take an unpopular position on an inflammatory issue or is induced to waffle. That's what Russert was trying to do with the driver's licenses for illegal immigrants question. Russert could care less about the issue, but asking the question was a way to make Hillary look bad. And it worked. There wasn't much popular response, but the mainstream media has been able to make Hillary's uncertain response into the equivalent of John Edwards' $400 haircut and Barack Obama's comments on Pakistan. In other words, Russert was able to reduce Hillary to equality with her opponents.

3. Tabloid-Style Attacks. Media chit chat about Hillary's cleavage and whether or not she tips waitresses is all geared toward generating tabloid style gossip around Hillary Clinton as a way to attack her candidacy. None of the tabloid-type stories has had an impact yet, but generating tabloid material on Hillary is an area that holds a lot of potential for media entrepreneurship.

4. Process Criticism. This is another rich area for potential criticism. Hillary Clinton has to deal with process issues of handling the media, organizing events, conducting herself around other candidates at debates, and managing appearances at campaign functions. Given the impromptu theater involved in all of these activities, "managing the process" is a rich area for criticism. Media critics can pounce on mistakes, but they can also criticize candidates and events for being too well-managed or too tightly controlled. Generally speaking, Hillary gets attacked for the latter.

More Tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

What does this have to do with the crackhead you hired, Ric?

Anonymous said...

Is GGH going to hold a benefit event to raise the $10K for N'Diaye's bond? :D

Cecil Lawson said...

Hey Ric, former student of yours dropping a line - I just came across the blog this afternoon, haven't had a chance to read it all, but I look forward to it. Looks like you've got some interesting commentators.

Cecil Lawson