You Can’t Keep A Bad Media Narrative Down — Even in the Liberal Media

I don’t know much about Bob Moser, but if this article from The Nation is any measure of his journalistic skills, I don’t have much to say for him. (The article was posted on Alternet on 11/30 and appears in the 12/17 issue). I won’t go after it line-by-line, although I could, but will focus on some of the more outrageous parts of the article.

On the final Friday of a parched and quarrelsome October, Florida Democrats were bumping around a hallway in Disney’s faux-elegant Yacht and Beach Club Resort on the opening night of their state convention, perusing campaign items for sale (three Hillary buttons for $5!), sussing out the evening’s schedule (“The progressives are supposed to be having a party, but where are they?”) and, mostly, grousing about the conspicuous absence of presidential candidates.

Okay, I’ll say thanks to Bob for the offhand mention of an event I planned (the party), even if the quote seems to imply some kind of inability by people to find a party immediately across the hall from the general session room. I don’t know if the implied insult is towards the planners of the party for, I guess, not putting the party in the hall where it could be seen better or the supposed speaker for being to dumb to find the party. The last part of the sentence, though, is the root of the problem. While I’m sure if you looked harded enough you could find someone “grousing” about the lack of presidential candidates, it wasn’t something done by “most” of the people at the convention or even “many” of them. In fact, I can’t really remember many people even talking about it and I literally talked to hundreds of people at the convention. People were upset in advance of the meeting that the candidates weren’t there, and a few didn’t come because of that, but it wasn’t a common complaint at the convention. I wonder if Bob did like the Florida media did and went around and found the people that fit the story they wanted to write, regardless of how representative they were of the overall event. Let’s see:

John Taylor, a hulking schoolteacher from Jacksonville wearing the tallest, most bodacious Chef Boyardee-style, star-spangled red-white-and-blue hat you ever saw….”I’m going to have to resign from the Duval [County] Democratic Party”–he serves on its executive committee–“just so that I can vote for somebody else. I’m going to vote Libertarian, probably. Or I might cross over and vote for Huckabee.”

Yep. Big crazy hat. Willing to vote Libertarian or for Mike Huckabee. This person was not only not representative of the people at the convention, he doesn’t even appear to be representative of his own family. I’m wagering this guy was 100% unique. Who else did Bob interview:

“I think it sucks,” says Bob Matherne, a bearded middle-aged fellow in a Kucinich shirt.

Right, what’s Kucinich polling in Florida? 1%? 2%? Maybe at the convention up to 5%. That leaves at least 95% of the convention who was not like this guy. Bob doesn’t go into enough detail on the rest of the people he interviewed, but I note that he didn’t interview anyone with any kind of strong connection. No DEC officers, no club members, no part officials, at least from what I can tell. That problem with logic was shown elsewhere. This is one of the best lines of the article:

Besides, the loss of delegates was largely a toothless penalty, since according to precedent the Democrats’ eventual presidential nominee controls the seating of delegates–and surely wouldn’t alienate folks from the nation’s largest swing state by turning them away.

This line would be perfect if you deleted the word “largely.” But then Bob ignores this sentence in the rest of the article, despite it being the most important sentence in the article. Like in the very next sentence:

But the DNC did not leave it there. In August the rules committee voted to strip all the state’s delegates unless Florida came up with an alternative to the January 29 voting.

Except, of course, that this is not only the same event mentioned in the previous sentence (despite the implication that this took place later), this isn’t going any further than what was mentioned before. And its still toothless.

As Florida Democrats bayed in protest, DNC chair Howard Dean salted their wounds by opining that their votes “essentially won’t count.”

Sure, if you cherrypick quotes, this is something Dean said. He also said the decision was up to the nominee, making this quote somewhat pointless. More logical problems here:

Almost overnight, the unsavory reputation Florida Republicans had earned during the riotous Gore v. Bush 2000 recount battle was relegated to ancient history, and the Republicans’ sagging hopes of carrying Florida–where Democrats scored big in the 2006 midterms–were suddenly sky-high.

Nonsense. I’d wager that 9 out of 10 Democrats still think the Republican’s actions in 2000 were much worse. And nothing from this article suggests they Republicans chances at winning were “sky-high.” They’re about 50-50. The same place they were before all this. Bob gets even worse by quoting Jim Greer:

“The Democrats like to talk about Republicans disenfranchising black voters in Florida,” state GOP chair Jim Greer shouted happily at a Black Republicans soiree. “How many delegates will the Democrats be sending from Florida to their national convention? Zero!”

What he fails to mention here is that not only is Jim Greer crazy, but that the “Black Republicans Soiree” had less attendees that the progressive party he mentioned dismissively in the intro. Or that Greer is actually lying here. And it’s not like Bob didn’t know Greer was lying, he actually proved it so just a few paragraphs above. More observational selection can be seen here:

Esche, like many of the 2,600 who showed up for the Democratic convention, wore two buttons expressing most party members’ sentiments: No Vote, No Money, read one. The other was stamped with the name of the DNC chair, with a screw superimposed: Screw Howard Dean.

“Many” of the delegates didn’t wear these buttons. A tiny percentage did. I’d guess that the whole number of these buttons worn at the convention was less than 100. Out of 2600 people. That is not representative of the overall event or population.

“Every time the DNC calls me up I say, My wallet is closed,” said Esche. “If they’re going to treat us like dirt, I don’t see any reason to give them any help. Because, really: Iowa? New Hampshire? South Carolina? They’re sideshows. The Democrats are punishing themselves. And isn’t that stupid?”

A journalist who was doing his job might point out the contradiction this quote represents. People are mad at the Democrats because they might’ve given the election in Florida to the Republicans so they’re going to stop giving money to the Democrats, which helps give the election to the Republicans. That’s worth pointing out, I’d say. On this one, Bob just plain lies:

The only happy Democrats in Orlando were the “Hill people”…

I was there. I was happy. Everybody I was around was happy. The Edwards people were happy. The Obama people were happy. The Gravel people were ecstatic. In fact, almost everyone I ran into was happy. Another lazily made-up statistical statement here:

Wilson said, her sweatshirt drooping from the weight of (by my hasty count) twenty-three Hillary and Billary buttons, along with one of the ubiquitous Screw Deans.

Last time I checked, ubiquitous meant that something is everywhere. These buttons were not everywhere, not by any objective standard of measurement. The only way you could say these were everywhere was if you didn’t actually go everywhere and simply hung out around the table where the buttons were being sold. Then you could say the buttons were everywhere, because you’d see a lot of them there.

Senator Clinton’s fans have reason to feel giddy: their candidate is the lone Democrat benefiting from this latest “only in Florida” fracas.

But I thought the whole point of the article was that this was hurting “the Democrats.” Last I checked, Hillary was a Democrat. And she’s the front-running Democrat. So, if this mess is helping her, how is that hurting the Democrats? And while it hurts the other candidates in Florida, but it helps them in Iowa and New Hampshire and if they don’t win there, they are done. So this helps them, too. Seems like this good for most of the candidates.

In keeping with the less than festive atmosphere of the weekend, there was a bitch session in full swing when I sidled up.

Which part was “less-than-festive”? Was it the two heavily-attended Hillary Clinton parties filled with happy people? Or was it the festive atmosphere of the Ron Klein party that was standing-room-only? Or was it the festive mood at Karen Thurman’s reception, which had more attendees than either of the first two parties mentioned? Or was it the progressive party, mentioned above, that more people, by hundreds, than we originally expected. Or was it the many parties that went on throughout the weekend in bars, hotel rooms and throughout the entire event. In fact, I’d say that’s the most festive event I’ve been to since election night 2006. Bob doesn’t just make stuff up, either, he ignores the things people say:

“This is such a process story,” says Brazile, “that I just don’t know at the end of the day that voters will take this out on the Democrats–this is a very volatile election season.” But for six months and counting,

Brazile, someone who gets multiple paychecks for her ability to analyze politics, said that this wouldn’t have an impact “at the end of the day.” The end of the day is in November 2008, how is this going to affect that?

According to recent polls, a whopping 77 percent of Floridians have heard about the Democratic boycott–pretty impressive for “inside baseball.” By a 62-to-16 margin across party lines, they think the DNC is off its rocker.

Of course, “heard of” isn’t the same as “understand and changing behavior because of.” Also, why report the “across party lines” numbers, since they mean nothing in the context of this story. Seriously, since at least 35% of Floridians always think the DNC (and other Dems) are off their rocker, this number is meaningless. And I’d wager the poll didn’t include “off its rocker” as a choice, so this is overstated.

And in a statistic cited by Senator Nelson at the convention, where he received a hero’s welcome for suing the DNC (and for his romp over Katherine Harris last November), independent Florida voters already say they’re 22 percent less likely to vote for a Democrat because of the whole primary mess

That’s not quite what the statistic says. It says 22% are less likely to vote for a Democrat, which is a bit different. Besides, they didn’t say how much less likely. If someone was 100% likely to vote for the Democrat and drops to 99%, they are “less likely” to vote for the Democrat. How many people are refusing to vote for a Democrat because of this? I’d wager there aren’t many. Also, how many of these people never vote for Democrats? They could be dishonest in the poll, which is common. Again, if you were 2% likely to vote for a Democrat before this and that falls to 1%, that’s technically “less likely.” Besides this poll is from Mason-Dixon. There’s some evidence that Mason-Dixon polls lean Republican (See here and here). Besides, polls are, at best, a snapshot of the population at a given point in time and you can’t really predict something a year away based on a small-sample poll out now. Now, this story is high in people’s minds — as Bob mentions, its been talked about for six months — will it still be so high next November? Not in our short-term media cycle.

In another sign of trouble, Clinton has lost her lead in Florida general-election polls since the Democrats’ boycott commenced, with Rudy Giuliani moving ahead.

This is the most ridiculous part of the article. First off, this poll, as mentioned above, is from Mason-Dixon. From a sample of 625 people, which is a little on the low end, Bob concludes that Clinton has lost her led in the general election. The margin of error is 4%. That means that the 50-43 lead that Giuliania has, could actually be 46-47 lead (otherwise referred to as “trailing.”) What that means is this poll actually shows a statistical tie. Beyond that, this poll is an outlier. Most other polls, including this CNN poll, taken after the Mason-Dixon poll, which shows Clinton ahead 52-41. People who don’t understand the science behind polls really shouldn’t apply so much weight to them, since it’s never valid to give that much importance to a single poll (which also raises the question as to why Bob said “polls” instead of “poll.” Did he actually include Republican polls in that as well? Really?)

A few county leaders have reported losing longtime activists, some so outraged they’ve switched parties.

“A few” is nothing to be concerned about. Parties lose activists all the time for various reasons. The estimates I’ve heard are that the average activist participates heavily for about two years before dropping out. Those who stay around for a long time are rare. One last final quote worth analyzing:

“The Washington Democrats seem to be having a hard time accepting that what they’ve done is a serious mistake and really jeopardizing the election in Florida,” says Jack Shifrel, who’s been active with the party since Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968. Shifrel circulated a passionate “Dear Fellow Democrats” flier at the convention, urging them to withhold campaign money and “tell the DNC that threatening not to allow Florida Democrats to participate fully in the 2008 Democratic Convention will make the Democratic Party the butt of even more embarrassing jokes.” Shifrel, who hopes to help organize an eventual Clinton campaign in Broward County, says, “It was a dumb mistake to take a chance on turning off Democrats and independents here. It is fostering an image of, ‘Oh, here they go again. They don’t want to win. They’re such a circular firing squad.’ All the stupid jokes that people make about Democrats.

The quote seems damning at first glance, but the key things in this are 1) that this person is upset at the situation, and 2) is still going to work on behalf of Hillary. It doesn’t seem like there’s actually much of a problem, is there? People always get upset, it’s politics, isn’t it?

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2 thoughts on “You Can’t Keep A Bad Media Narrative Down — Even in the Liberal Media

  1. Ken,
    When I read Moser’s article, I was so pissed I could not spit. You have done a great job putting a autopsy knife to this ludicrous article

  2. Ken,

    As I have posted on the Buzz, I actually talked to this guy (on the record – which I don’t do very often) at the convention. Of course I told him that our votes were going to count, because we would have influence over the selection of the nominee. That was the most important point. And, at the end of the day, our delegates would be seated at the national convention.

    Surprise, Surprise. what I said did not appear in his piece. Apparently I didn’t give him the quotes he was looking for. And, oh, by the way, even Adam Smith had gotten over his obsession with this story by then. Even he has figured out that no Dem is going to vote for the R nominee because of this primary squabble.

    This piece is just another cut in the death of 1,000 cuts of the MSM.