Supplemental: Speaking of insultingly vapid!


Big major pundits gone wild:
Hillary Clinton kicked off her White House campaign this week. We have no real idea why.

It’s still only April—April of the year before. Putting that another way, it’s April 2015. The election in question will be held near the end of 2016.

At present, no one is running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Putting this another way, there is absolutely no earthly reason why Clinton should be “campaigning” now.

We don’t mean this as a criticism of Clinton. The press corps was screaming for her to start. Their deportment could only have gotten worse if Clinton had waited longer.

That said, the reaction to Clinton’s start has been just this side of insane, especially at the Washington Post. Consider Ruth Marcus’ recent post, “Hillary Clinton’s insultingly vapid video.”

Marcus refers to the short, pointless video in which Clinton announced that she is running. Given the factors we’ve already mentioned, the video is roughly as consequential as the average grain of sand in the Sahara.

Despite this rather obvious fact, Marcus is highly verklempt. “The more I watch Hillary Clinton’s announcement video, the less I like it,” Marcus says at the start of her post. “This may be putting it mildly.”

Marcus is doing it wrong. You aren’t supposed to watch this short video over and over again.

You aren’t supposed to sit and worry about what’s AWOL from the tape. But Marcus was been worrying hard. Eventually, she reaches this judgment:
MARCUS (4/13/15): [T]he video was relentlessly, insultingly vapid—a Verizon commercial without the substance. “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton said in what passed for a meaty message. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

Seriously, this makes Ronald Reagan’s gauzy “It’s Morning Again in America” commercial look like a Brookings Institution seminar on economic policy. Understood—an announcement video isn’t the moment for a detailed policy platform, but it is, or should be, a venue for at least nodding to specific goals.

In 2007, for instance, Clinton cited specifics [in her announcement video]: “how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq … how to make us energy independent … how to end the deficits that threaten Social Security and Medicare … how every American can have quality affordable health care.”

Sunday’s announcement—well, I just quoted the entirety of its substance. The Clinton campaign is focused on reassuring voters, as a campaign official put it in a conference call Monday previewing Clinton’s Iowa trip, “it isn’t about her … this is about … everyday Iowans.” But everyday Iowans deserve to hear more from the woman who would be president about what, exactly, she intends to do in office. It disrespects them to spend precious video seconds on the cute boy playing a fish in his school play.
That may be the dumbest four paragraphs we have ever read. And we’ve been following this group’s “campaign coverage” rather closely since March 1999.

“Everyday Iowans deserve to hear more...about what, exactly, she intends to do in office?” Really? Why?

We have almost a year to go before the Iowa caucuses. At present, no one else is even competing on the Democratic side.

If Clinton discussed lots of substance this week, is there any chance that any Iowan would remember or care by the time they actually get to vote? It’s crazy to think that anyone needs to be “talking substance” at this time.

Crazy as Marcus’ post was, colleagues are chasing her for the title of Craziest Reaction to Clinton’s Video at the Post. Because David Ignatius isn’t crazy, we’re amazed by the headline on his column today:

“Hillary Clinton is off to a fuzzy start”

Clinton is off to a fuzzy start? She isn’t “off to a start” at all! Does Ignatius own a calendar?

Kathleen Parker is almost as crazy in her own deconstructive column about the vexatious video. She too is begging for substance:
PARKER (4/15/15): Clinton made [her announcement] from the remote perch of a YouTube video, consisting of a series of vignettes that felt like a commercial interruption of regularly scheduled programming...

At the end of this ennui-inducing marshmallow roast of good feelings and American awesomeness, Hillary materializes as an apparition of The Good Mom, eager to help (e)veryday (a)mericans find the uppercase key—and perhaps a nice glass of milk.

Otherwise, there was no there there. No passion, no policy, no pie. At least couldn’t there be pie?
Where are the policy prescriptions? Inquiring scribes want to know!

Inevitably, “campaign coverage” makes us wonder if our pundits are truly human. The relentless inanity of their work always suggests the possibility of non-human origins, whether in a laboratory or on some distant planet.

That said, this week’s Clinton kick-off coverage seems as daffy and as dumb as any we’ve ever seen. Tomorrow, we’ll show you how they trashed Candidate Gore for offering too much early substance—and that was in July of 1999!

This could be the very bad start of a very bad ride to a bad destination. On the bright side, we’re seeing push-back against The Dumb at a couple of sites.

Explicit push-back against The Dumb? Have we ever seen that before?

Instant update: Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow! This just in from the heinous Frank Rich:

“Unscripted Hillary Clinton Still Feels Scripted”

No, really! You can click here.


  1. Gee whiz! The assortment of usual pundit suspects don't view Hillary exactly the same way Bob does, so Somerby is once again deeply offended by that!

    Bob, here's another clue for you. It is a long way to Nov. 2016, but the caucus/primary season begins in just a little bit more than eight months.

    Hillary can spend those eight months letting the phalanx of GOP crackpot candidates define her for the American voters, or she can drop the cat-and-mouse game (will she or won't she run?) get out there and define herself.

    1. Someone who has been in politics since the 1970s must "define herself"?

      You think the problem here is Somerby?

    2. Yes, she has to define herself. All over again. It's a new cycle.

      This may come as a shock to you, but American people are a lot smarter than you or Somerby want to give them credit for in your pseudo-intellectual smugness.

      They want to hear Hillary's specific vision for 2017 and beyond, not what she did in the 1990s.

    3. I have no problem going back to the 1990's.

  2. I regret that the campaign season starts as early as it does, but that's not Hillary's fault. IMHO it was perfectly OK for her to announce now.

    Does anyone know whether her status as a declared candidate means that she won't be able to get 6-figure fees for giving speeches.

  3. Harold Lloyd (HL)April 15, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    They're setting her up to knock her down. She has too much baggage that will make very juicy and highly rated television. She may yet win the nomination but the media is going to eat her alive.

    1. Not everyone hates her, you know. When the media finds out that viewers like her, maybe they'll tone it down. Too much of this will create sympathy for her.

      She came across as a very nice person in her announcement. Smearing such a nice person won't go over well.

    2. She could be caught killing orphans, which sounds terrible for a Presidential candidate. Fortunately for her, eventually the Republicans will be the ones who nominate someone to run against her.
      Why would anyone elect someone from a party which doesn't believe in government to a government position?

    3. Why would anyone elect someone from a party which doesn't believe in government to a government position?

      Believing that government should not do certain things, that is, that people would be better if government were smaller, is not the same thing as not believing in government.

    4. It obvious the GOP has absolutely no interest in small government, really. They most certainly want the government to help their constituents (the corporate and rich), and that the small government stuff is just schtick used to convince their voters (who are not their constituents) that they will take a tough stance against the average citizen (and it helps that they kick the poor, who coincidently (LOL) are "the other"). This is what the "Tea Party" is ALL about.

  4. David in Cal - agreed. The press has been asking her about running for months and months now. She finally does - and they're brow-beating her for a boring video? I didn't think it was boring, and I applaud that she chose two same-sex couples and reps of other marginalized groups and left out the soldiers, police, authoritarian figures. It was courageous in a way.

    It will be interesting about the speaking fees (sorry don't know) - but she's got to be careful having declared she wants money out of the campaign process.

  5. Our pundits aren't as good as they were back in Gatekeeper Days.

    That said, if Hillary loses it is all Bob Somerby's fault.

  6. Calling political columnists vapid and subhuman is certainly the way our pseudo liberal blogger class calls to their tribe and kicks "the other." I doubt it will help us reach common ground and advance progressive interests.

    1. If we call you vapid and subhuman will you go away?

    2. Yes. I am leaving now that you've insulted me. I guess that's probably the best way to get through to the other tribe.

    3. If calling political columnists vapid and subhuman caused them to go away, there would scarcely be one left.

      But what if, somehow, you could point out that their (perhaps willful?) support of ignorance creates stupid partisan conflicts, and by identifying that, you could build an actual consensus, what could that do?

      If only there were a blog that did that...

    4. That would be awesome.
      Instead we're stuck with a blog that blames 'liberals" like Dowd, Matthews and other spokespeople (propagandists) for global corporations.

  7. Bob, get used to it, the elite media has never liked Hillary, and they certainly aren't going to turn on a dime now. The only variable in the equation is how much pushback we will get from the supposed left. Bob will probably not be able to get results, but will Rachel? Krugman? Yglesias? Whoever-kidnapped-Josh-Marshall? Etc....

  8. Where's the disclamer? This place has an unreal, almost unsafe feel to it.

    1. There there, here is a retroactive trigger warning.

  9. Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

    1. It isn't any different when people comment under cute false names, so why pick on the anonymous?

    2. They are lazy, dumb, and disliked and psilly.

    3. 8:50, you know, if you should reference Barry Ritholtz, when you quote him.

  10. Omigod, a politician who is "scripted"? And in the age of television and the Internet, no less, when gaffes are easily forgiven and have mercifully short shelf lives. Does the decline of Western civilization have no limits?

    Frank Rich, you are an idiot. Ruth Marcus isn't exactly a prize, either. The newspapers are trying desperately to hold onto relevancy, and this is the kind of crap they think will do it?

    1. Xciting vid frm Hil. She's N. Me 2. Grt. viz.

  11. The big news is this ruins all Joe Biden's plans.

  12. "Inevitably, “campaign coverage” makes us wonder if our pundits are truly human. The relentless inanity of their work always suggests the possibility of non-human origins, whether in a laboratory or on some distant planet."

    The Great Souls are weeping. Their self-proclaimked champion of civility and love has again strayed from the high road he demands of others.