Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Keith Olbermann, Sp.D. (Doctor of Spinification)

I'm tempted to be annoyed (given my physical inability to join the Cult Of Obama), but I simply cannot help but be impressed with the sheer brilliance of Keith Olbermann's spin-tastic take on the never-ending Primary War of '08. Here's the (kind of long) piece in case you haven't seen it:

My, Keith, but you have a flair for the dramatic. William Shatner, take note.

But aside from the compelling "gotcha!" nature of the clip, what's truly inspiring here is the intellectual sleight-of-hand taking place. Keith does two things: 1) he makes it sound like he's revealing something Hillary is trying to hide by (gasp!) repeating exactly what she has said and 2) he accuses Hillary of "spinning" facts she has not fabricated or, really, even changed, while simultaneously injecting his own "suggested" version of the facts (one that actually makes up facts).

Hillary says, like, actually with her own mouth, that she is counting Michigan and Florida in the calculation underlying her assertion that she is winning the popular vote. The unfortunate state of affairs for the Obama campaign is that, technically, she's one hundred percent accurate. More people have voted for Hillary than have voted for Obama. That's a fact. Whether or not it means anything, it's a fact, in the same way it was a fact that more people voted for Al Gore than for George Bush in 2000.

Now, granted, Hillary won't get all those votes -- and she agreed not to take all of them, and has to live with the consequences of her agreement (I don't see anything in the clip, by the way, suggesting that she is in fact trying to get out of it). But for Keith Olbermann to play this as though she's being dishonest is unfair, to say the least. And, to the extent the Obama campaign is encouraging this sort of unfairness (as they almost certainly are, given the campaign's history of brilliant strategic covert attack operations), it's outright hypocritical. How can Obama, on the one hand, argue that the leaders of the Democratic party "should" go with what "the people" have said, through their votes, they want*, and on the other hand, fault Hillary for pointing out that "the people" want her? In other words, how can Obama say, on the one hand, "we should alter the rules of the nomination game so that all of the superdelegates vote for me," while saying on the other, "we should not alter the rules of the nomination game if it would give Hillary more votes"?

This is sophistry at its finest. The rules of the game are this: the superdelegates vote for whomever the hell they want to. If all of them go with Hillary and she overcomes Obama's pledged delegate lead, guess what? It's in the rules. Live with it. And, frankly, the pledged delegate argument has always struck me as a pretty bad one, anyway. Obama wouldn't actually be pointing to the "popular vote," but rather to the popular vote that "counts" according to party rules. Which is perfectly fine. Except that if you're going to invoke "the will of the people," rules or no rules, it's a bit uncomfortable to simultaneously take the position that all votes are equal, but some votes are more equal than others.

Back to Keith: my favorite part of this clip is where he blasts Hillary for "spinning" the facts by laying out explicitly how she reached her conclusion, and then proceeds to argue in the alternative that Hillary is factually incorrect because, in essence, if things were fair, Obama "would" get votes he didn't get in Michigan. Let me get this straight: Hillary is bad because she has stated the truthful fact that more people have voted for her. Keith Olbermann is good for making a related argument based on a nonexistent fact.

See, this is why I got out of politics.

* To be fair, it appears Obama may have backed off and begun softening his insistence that the superdelegates follow the pledged delegates.