Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Memo to WaPo's Dana Milbank

From the Department of Please Stop Beating Dead Horses:

Dear Mr. Milbank,

Depending on how you count the vote totals in the extremely close Democratic primary battle of 2008, Hillary Clinton either narrowly defeated Barack Obama (by 0.8%) or was barely beaten by him (by at most 0.4%), according to the popular-vote analysis of Real Clear Politics.

Which means that a headline, two years later, chortling that Clinton is finally ahead of Obama in popularity is of questionable accuracy, even if her favorability and approval ratings are well ahead of his at this point. Your claim that Obama "bested Clinton in the only poll that mattered" is true only if by "poll" you mean the total number of delegates awarded to each candidate through the Democrats' incredibly effed-up system of proportionally allocating delegates on the basis of the primary results. Obama did win that "poll," by gaming the system very effectively to rack up large numbers of delegates through wins in smaller states such as Iowa, Idaho, and Utah, while Clinton's wins in key larger states such as Michigan and Florida were muddied through intra-party battles over rules and dates. (Remember, kids? Oh, good times.)

Two years later, Barack Obama is president and Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. He's managing two wars, a ruined economy, and the unfolding of an unprecedented environmental catastrophe. She is traveling the planet trying to repair the damage done to the nation's reputation by a cowboy president and his evil, law-breaking sidekick.

And you think it's a productive use of your precious real estate in the Washington Post to assert that Secretary Clinton "is entitled to enjoy a measure of revenge" as she bests her boss in favorability ratings. Further, you think it's constructive to suppose that "among Hillary '08 fans there is some satisfaction that the woman Obama once cut down as 'likable enough' is now more liked than he is."

Two things, Mr. Milbank:

1. You are about eight months late to the story. Clinton has led Obama in Gallup favorability polling since October 2009.

And 2. The Democratic primary battle is ancient history. Clinton is over it. (We were there for the glorious ending. Where the heck were you?) Obama is over it. Her followers are over it. Stop fighting the last war or, more to the point, the last lunchroom debate over who's most popular. Glee is at least entertaining when it engages in that kind of vapid speculation. You, I am sorry to say, are not.

We realize, of course, that in your highly subjective business perception matters a good deal more than dull, boring, statistical reality. We can only assume that you must imagine that somebody somewhere who still bothers to read your consistently unilluminating drivel will feel informed or amused by the suggestion that Hillary Clinton and her former supporters waste their time dreaming of the day when she will stand on the steps of the Capitol, place her hand on the Bible, and swear, "You like me! You really like me!"

In fact, we spend most of our political time wishing Obama would simply prove to be a decent president, not the miracle maker of his former supporters' dreams, but merely a guy with the guts and the skill to lead the nation in a Democratic direction. Is that too much to ask?

Get a new idea, Mr. Milbank. This one is starting to draw flies.

Yours sincerely,


  1. Candy Man2:41 PM EDT

    Ugh, memories of the '08 primary: thank goodness I have some leftover blueberry soup to get rid of the nasty taste in my mouth.

    Your letter's all too true, Roxie. You'll be sending it along to the Post, right? Or at least a link to RW?

  2. I'm with Candy Man -- send BOTH to WaPo. People on this Acela are wishing our Prez had courage (am not in the quiet car). And a bunch of businessmen are bemoaning his slavishness to Big Oil. Get over it, Dana, and write abt something that matters, like the death of the Gulf of Mexico.

    Always yours,

  3. You two seem to be assuming that Dana and all the big editors at WaPo don't already have me in their Google Readers. I'm hurt, frankly.

    Actually, I would send him the piece if I hadn't succumbed to the temptation to describe his work as "consistently unilluminating drivel." I stand by it, but I'm not sure I would be comfortable dropping it into his in-box.

    As for my unruly pack of loyal readers, well, you of course are free to do as you please. ;-)

  4. dog-eared book4:05 PM EDT

    Check out this really interesting piece on the ideology of the press by Jay Rosen; he singles Millbank out as a prime example of the self-serving "View from Nowhere:: http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2010/06/14/ideology_press.html#comment53971

    Meanwhile, what Acela are you on Moose? I'm hurtling toward NY from Providence, just north of the city. But there's time for a cold beer if you're on 2167!

  5. Goose is on the train, DEB. Moose is in the basement, happily imagining two of her favorite folks hurtling in space toward one another, so close that they appear to be sharing an IP address!

    Thanks for the Rosen piece. We'll check it out.

  6. What you aren't here in NY seeing Edie Falco on Broadway? I hope it is because you are saving your schekels to go and see James and Carol.

  7. Could be, Jules, could be. A girl cannot go everywhere and do everything, alas.

  8. dog-eared book9:18 PM EDT

    Moose, Goose, whatevs. Sorry for the consonantal confusion and thanks for getting us in touch, Dr. Moose! We had a lovely glass o'wine, then I watched as La Goose disappeared into a taxicab. Looking forward to a more extended catchup before too long!


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