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Tilting at Windmills

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August 25, 2008

MCCAIN TRIES THE 'CHICKEN PRANK'.... For the second time in two days, the McCain campaign has unveiled a television ad intended to drive a wedge between Hillary Clinton's supporters and the candidate Hillary Clinton endorses and agrees with. In the new one, which the media is no doubt going to love, we see a former Clinton delegate from Wisconsin, touting her support for John McCain, and encouraging her other Democrats to follow her.

Now, I can't begin to relate to what this woman is thinking. As recently as a couple of months ago, she wanted the nation to move in one direction; now she prefers the opposite direction. She preferred a progressive approach on key issues; now she prefers a conservative approach. She wanted a break away from the policies of George W. Bush; now she wants four more years like the last eight. I'm not even going to pretend to understand why.

But before the networks take the ad too seriously, they should consider an anecdote about the "chicken prank" from TNR's Eve Fairbanks.

I almost feel like a dupe writing about the second pro-Hillary ad McCain released today at 6am: It's a stunt, a trick meant to keep him in the press during the Democratic convention and gin up more Hillary-Obama-tension media storylines. Message: neener neener neener.

It is, in fact, the political equivalent of a prank legendarily pulled at my high school in which students procured well fewer than 20 live chickens, numbered them 1 through 20 with magic markers (leaving some numbers out), set them loose, and then sat back and gleefully watched as hapless school officials ran around the school searching for the remaining missing chickens that had never actually existed.

Nobody knows how much truly dangerous anti-Obama sentiment exists among former Hillary supporters or how many Hillary delegates will vote for John McCain in November (this past June, McCain said that the woman in today's ad, Wisconsin nurse Debra Bartoshevich, was the only Hillary delegate they knew of who was committed to pull the lever for McCain). But I guarantee some of us in the press will spend today haplessly running around looking for more of them out here, to fill out our stories about this ad and the angry-Hillary-brigades-hit-Denver storyline.

The vast majority of Democrats, especially those who found Hillary Clinton's campaign appealing, will simply have no rational reason to do what Bartoshevich has inexplicably done. But to use Fairbanks' metaphor, I also don't doubt that the race for additional chickens is on.

For what it's worth, while the McCain campaign is touting support from Bartoshevich, be prepared to hear more about high-profile Republicans throwing their support to Barack Obama.

Steve Benen 10:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

I guess the Obama team needs to invite all those "chickens" to a rally, and have some REAL Republicans of stature speak to them about how those "chickens" have scrambled eggs between their ears. It would be funny to see the contrast between the moronic chickens and a group of people who have eloquently stated their opposition to Bush and McBush.

Posted by: Racer X on August 25, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

damn i wish i'd thought of that numbered chickens thing. awesome prank.

yesterday was one of those incredibly frustrating media days as we watched CNN and MSNBC over and over give free repetitions to the McCain/Clinton spot. the media all but admits, as it runs the ads, that McCain wants free play - and then, knowing they are dupes (ok, not so much dupes as in the tank for McCain), do it anyway. sorry, a new ad during a campaign is not "news." if McCain wants that to run 20 times on CNN's national coverage, let him burn a couple hundred thousand for placement.

Posted by: zeitgeist on August 25, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Cokie has already (and long since) bought into the chicken hunt on NPR this morning.

Charles

Posted by: charles on August 25, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Hags for Hillary. Go on hillaryis44.org or one of the other freaky pro Hillary sites. Hundreds of messages...posted by the same 8 or 10 people over and over. Unfortunately, its made for the media grist.

We'll see alot more prominent Republicans come out for Obama (its already happened). A handfull of kooks doesn't really matter.

Tit for tat. During the Republicans' convention let the Democrats run testimonial ads featuring Hagel,etc.

Posted by: Saint Zak on August 25, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

And the going rate for actors doing commercial ads is.. ?

Posted by: Goldilocks on August 25, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Astroturf by proxy.

Posted by: Haik Bedrosian on August 25, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Four people from county will go to Denver and partake in Democratic Convention
BY BRIDGET THORESON
Journal Times (Racine County, WI)
Monday, May 5, 2008 12:13 PM CDT

Debra Bartoshevich of Waterford was elected to be a delegate for Clinton. Bartoshevich, who has worked as an emergency room nurse at Columbia-St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee for 15 years, said she got involved because of the need for people to have access to health care.

“I support her because of her universal health care plan,” she said in a speech before the votes were cast. “I see the devastating consequences of diseases on the uninsured.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So, Debra represented herself at an election for the national convention as wanting to be a delegate primarily because she desired a President that would advocate for universal health care. Maybe I missed something. Is McCain for universal health care? Is Obama's vision of fixing America's health care system closer to Hillary's or McCain's?

Posted by: steve duncan on August 25, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

The only reasons nurse Bartoshevich can come up with to justify switching are the nebulous and discredited "maverick" and "straight shooter" cliches.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste Ms. Bartoshevich. You should take yours out for a walk and some fresh air. It's starting to get stale from chronic anger.

Posted by: burro on August 25, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain's Rove-trained staff knows how to play the media like a violin, and the media (e.g. Halperin, Fournier and friends) is happy to be played.

Frustrating.

Posted by: CJ on August 25, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

As recently as a couple of months ago, she wanted the nation to move in one direction; now she prefers the opposite direction.

Steve Duncan raises an issue that immediately came to mind: health care. If the media was actually competent and discussed real issues, the contrast between McCain's plan (which would make health care for most working people worse) and either Clinton's or Obama's would make the stark idiocy of this person even more laughable.

Posted by: AJB on August 25, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

The chicken prank is much more sophisticated than anything I've seen out of the McCain camp. I mean, it's a high school level.

Republicans use more juvenile, pre-K through grade 5 level stuff straight off the playground. Bullying. Hitting, then complaining when the victim defends himself. Spreading rumors. Whining. Demanding loyalty oaths to stay with the "in" bunch; shunning anyone who talks to the "out" groups, etc.

Anyone who's had kids should recognize this kind of behavior.

Posted by: beep52 on August 25, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Eh. She's a big deal where she is.
Where logic and principle says she should be, she's only one of a multitude.

It's the 'short line' syndrome. If you go to the bank, do you wait in the short line or the long line? Check out any given African American 'GOP analyst' on cable for another example of the phenomenon.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 25, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

You know, if I were running a really clever campaign, I might arrange for someone to say that she would vote for McCain, and be very, very visible about it, so that, after the convention, when she "switched" to Obama, it would reinforce a message of Democrats coming together and people who used to support McCain deciding to vote Obama.

I just made that up, but it's certainly more plausible to me than a nurse who supports universal health care access actually voting for McCain. That's just preposterous.

Posted by: biggerbox on August 25, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

I really like this ad, and also the other one, you know, about how Hillary shoulda been the Veep pick. I think that's absolutely right, and I've noticed that McKeating hasn't picked his Veep yet . . .

Posted by: Borden Tarde on August 25, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Time for us to point out to the media that an equivalent (remember, "fair and balanced") internal conflict exists on the Right in the form of Ron Paul and Bob Barr....actual candidates who are running in opposition to McCain.

Posted by: Gillette on August 25, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK
Now, I can't begin to relate to what this woman is thinking. As recently as a couple of months ago, she wanted the nation to move in one direction; now she prefers the opposite direction. She preferred a progressive approach on key issues; now she prefers a conservative approach. She wanted a break away from the policies of George W. Bush; now she wants four more years like the last eight. I'm not even going to pretend to understand why.

Maybe that's not it at all.

Maybe she was a Clinton supporter because she saw that as the most likely way to stop Obama. And now she's a McCain supporter because she sees that as the most likely way to stop Obama, and all the supposed policy justifications she might voice for either are peripheral.

Polling results have shown Obama being the "default" choice in much the way an incumbent often is (e.g., polls just after he tied up the nomination showing that while he doesn't gain support, the gap between him and McCain grew when adding more candidates, because the "anti-Obama" vote fragmented.) While I haven't seen polling data clearly showing that effect before the nomination was sewn up, its not like his strong prospects weren't apparent from before the campaign got started in earnest, so its almost certain that some people were looking for the best way of stopping him early on, as well.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 25, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

To repeat a metaphor I gave at your old place, Steve, this woman is like a vegan who finds out the restaurant is out of the tofu-and-sprouts dish she originally wanted and so instead she says, "OK, make it a steak, bloody as hell."

Posted by: TR on August 25, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

From June:

McCain aide alerted press

Encouraged by her sister, who has served in Iraq, Bartoshevich signed up as a supporter with “Citizens for McCain,” an arm of the campaign targeting Democrats and independents. She said she got a call from the McCain campaign, which then provided her name to a reporter.

And she learned the secret code word in a hurry:

Bartoshevich said she plans to vote for Republican Sen. John McCain for president in November, which got her voted out as a delegate to Denver on Friday.

But, before the vote, in her explanation of why she should still be seated as a convention delegate, she repeatedly referred to the "Democrat Party" -- and, to party leaders, those are fighting words.

"Democrat Party" is the term repeatedly used by one of the party's chief tormentors, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Wisconsin Democratic leaders told Bartoshevich.

She was so new to the party, she didn't know the code words. When corrected again and again -- "it's the DemocratIC Party" -- she fell silent at one point. "I don't understand," she finally stammered.

Posted by: Steve M. on August 25, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

If there was any doubt, it is now clear that the Roverians, with the generous help of the MSM, are defining this 'campaign', yet again, on their terms. The Dems continue to be clueless. They continue to believe that issues and policy prescriptions win elections, despite their sorry history to the contrary.

It is madening and pointless to pay any attention to the mud-slinging that the media will call a campaign for the next nine weeks.

Posted by: Rich on August 25, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

If there was any doubt, it is now clear that the Roverians, with the generous help of the MSM, are defining this 'campaign', yet again, on their terms. The Dems continue to be clueless. They continue to believe that issues and policy prescriptions win elections, despite their sorry history to the contrary.

It is madening and pointless to pay any attention to the mud-slinging that the media will call a campaign for the next nine weeks.

Posted by: Rich on August 25, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

"Now, I can't begin to relate to what this woman is thinking. As recently as a couple of months ago, she wanted the nation to move in one direction; now she prefers the opposite direction."

There's no mystery. It's good old American-as-apple-pie racism.

There! I said it! It's RACISM! As in "I'm never going to vote to put a n****r in the White House." It's plain old, garden-variety RACISM.

The woods are full of them in Oklahoma, and they are much less refined than the dear lady from Wisconsin in the McCain commercials.

Let's not waste time and money wooing these people. You can't reason with a racist. I've tried, and Mom just won't budge.

Posted by: OkieFromMuskogee on August 25, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Well, neither Obama nor McCain are proposing anything remotely close to universal healthcare, so maybe she's switched her allegiance based on other issues. If you think that everybody in the US should have health insurance and access to preventative care, and this is something that matters to you a lot, you're going to have problems with Obama. That's not irrational. Moving to McCain may or may not be irrational depending on other factors. For all we know this nurse is a raving war-monger or has her retirement funds invested in the defense industry.

Posted by: Melinda on August 25, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

One wonders whether school officials tortured the numbered chickens when they fess'd up to the fact that some of the numbers were missing. Being chickens, one would assume they'd lie just to stop the torture, thus extending the the search for chickens that never were.

Any chicken psychologists out there?

Posted by: beep52 on August 25, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

"The only reasons nurse Bartoshevich can come up with to justify switching are the nebulous and discredited "maverick" and "straight shooter" cliches."

Yeah, well, either one of those is more polite to announce in public then the real reason Bartoshevich won't vote for Obama. I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with "ble's hack."

Posted by: slappy magoo on August 25, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

DXM at 10:54, the first time I read your explanation I thought you were describing JoeLie. :)

Speaking of media coverage of the campaign, todays WaPo shows another consituency Biden can help deliver: the MSM. Indeed, the op-ed list is all topsy-turvy, with Broder unambiguously supportive of Obama's choice and Cohen showing even more cluelessness than usual saying Biden wont go after McCain.

Posted by: zeitgeist on August 25, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Ms. Bartoshevich and her ilk are probably Republicans. But in the event they really are disgruntled Clintonistas, and they cause Obama to lose, the message should go out: Hillary can forget '12 and '16.

Posted by: Paul in NC on August 25, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

I think that the Republicans are walking into a trap here. I'll bet right now that Clinton swats the McCain stuff down during her prime time convention speech with the appropriate degree of scorn.

Posted by: Marc on August 25, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

That's an apt metaphor for what's going on--the chicken hunt. The press won't fall for it so much as they'll enable it. A tight race means better ratings after all.

Posted by: Incertus on August 25, 2008 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Having been routinely been called a racist and hag (among others) for supporting Clinton over Obama in the primary, I can understand the anger. The blogosphere really revels in name calling. This nurse's concerns are also very real. 18,000 Americans die every year from inadequate or non-existent health care. Health care was why I supported Clinton. Health care is why I now support Obama.

Maybe hers is less an endorsement of McCain than a plea for more attention for health care. But I would advise her not to wish for a McCain presidency - if she gets her wish, we will all suffer.

Posted by: jen f on August 25, 2008 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, most of the Hillary supporters are pissed, not stupid. Most of us understand that the correct "day of reckoning" for the sexist, disrespectful treatment of Hillary is November 5th, not November 4th.

For the record, the primaries were kind of a "can't lose" proposition for me. In general, I supported both Hillary and Obama, as well as Biden and Dodd. I would have been happy with any of them. In the end, I'm glad Obama won, and I believe he'll be an awesome President. I will say that, toward the end of the primaries, I supported him more strongly than Hillary, mostly because I thought he'd had run a smarter, more strategically and tactically savvy campaign and would do the same in the general.

However, I also believed that *she* would have been an awesome President; my question was whether she'd get there. But supporting Obama doesn't mean I was blind to the sexism and disrespect heaped upon her, particularly--but not exclusively--by the media. In fact, that was one of the reasons I ultimately supported Obama.

I HATE the fact that the sexism and disrespect, particularly of the media, played a role in both the primary results and in my decision. But winning control of the Executive Branch is too important for me to flounce off in a huff. IMHO, this country simply will not survive another four years of the Republicans looting the treasury, gutting the government, and packing the courts. So, like I said, I'm pissed, not stupid. The time to indulge that anger is *after* we have a Democrat safely installed in the White House.

Posted by: KarenJG on August 25, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the republican world! One Hillary supporter joining the McCain bandwagon is worth 10,000 republicans supporting 'His Arrogance'.

We own the media and they will provide large amounts of free airtime for this and other McCain supporters who used to be for Hillary. We own the media and if any republicans join 'The Elitist', the media will downplay their existence and value.

Congratulations to Ms. Bartoshevich for making a rational decision to support John McCain's direction on health care. Everyone knows that Obama's health care plan is socialized medicine. Everyone knows that Senator McCain's plan will reduce health care costs by reducing the overuse of the health care system. When we get all of these freeloaders finished using the health care system, prices will drop for good Americans.

Congratulations to the PUMAs and other Clinton supporters who are making the rational decision to support John McCain's viewpoint on abortion and supreme court justices. Everyone knows that older, more knowledgeable white men should make health care decisions for women. Everyone knows that when we have 3 more great justices, in the mold of Thomas and Scalia, abortion will no longer be a factor in American politics. Afer abortion is correctly made illegal, we can lock up all the women murderers and their abortionists. A great decline in the number of abortions will surely follow, after we stop being able to keep statistics on them.

Congratulations to the working men and women of America who are joining Senator McCain's economic philosophy of cutting taxes for the true base of the economy and raising taxes on working people. Everyone knows that the problem with the economy is that the Bill Gates and Paul Allens and John McCains and Mitt Romneys do not have enough money. Everyone knows that working people have been given a free ride on the backs of the people who really make the economy go.

Fortunately for us republicans, the religious right and the low information voters will continue to do what we tell them to - be afraid. Be afraid of the scary Afrikan Muslim and his socialist agenda. Be afraid of turning our foreign policy over to a pointy headed, elitist, professorial type. Gut instinct and emotion have gotten us to our high point in diplomacy over the last 8 years and Senator McCain's emphasis on military force as a foreign policy resonates with our republican core.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on August 25, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Karen, one can hope against hope that expressing anger now can help discourage self-identified "progressives" from continuing to post sexist and classist blog comments, but I guess we'd be hoping against hope. Still, hope is back in fashion!

Posted by: Melinda on August 25, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Eve Fairbanks knew some kids who really understand human nature.

Is McC*nt really going to improve his situation with his base by getting grassroot Democratic activist endorsements?

Orange

Posted by: Lance on August 25, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Melinda, as I posted on another board recently, I'm doubling down on hope for this campaign.

I admit that the sexism (and classism, as you so rightly note) has a sapping effect on my energy. But I'm going to try to push on through, because right now, my country is more important than my gender or my class.

Once we get past the general election though... well, if I don't see some real, concrete efforts to address the problem, I'm outta here.

Posted by: KarenJG on August 25, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

You stated "The vast majority of Democrats, especially those who found Hillary Clinton's campaign appealing, will simply have no rational reason to do what Bartoshevich has inexplicably done."

We don't know what "rational" means to that woman.

But if you have read Galbraith's "The Predator State" in his chapter on the conservative academic theory of the market, he points out that people do not make decisions for rational reasons. [One major flaw in academic economics that makes it fail to correspond to reality.]

Besides, we all know that the decision about who to vote for to become President is a gut decision, not a rational one. On top of that, her statement may either be bought by the Repugs, or she is being rewarded by all the attention she cannot get any other way (Hey! All she has to do to become a celebrity is to claim to be a Hillary supporter who is sufficiently irrational to vote for McCain after Obama won the nomination.) Or she might be a Hillary feminist who is also a racist.

On top of all that, a psychiatrist wrote some years ago that there is no such thing as insanity, because all delusions are internally rational to the individual who possesses them.

In short, to try to argue that this woman is acting irrationally is meaningless and is no way to deal with such a personal testimonial ad. However, the ad can be countered by asking viewers if THEY are willing to act in such an obviously insane or purposely Pro-Republican manner.

I'd shift any such argument to the negatives of four more years and forget any accusation that she is being irrational. She's probably getting well-paid to tout McCain. How many other Hillary-supporters will the Republicans pay to tout McCain?

Posted by: Rick B on August 25, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

What an image. Chickens with their heads cut off chasing after imaginary chickens. However, I think it's great Camp McPOW is spending money to go after the Hillary Supporters 4 McCain crowd.

All four of them.

Maybe he'll seek the support of some other elusive groups. Like gay and lesbian soldiers who support DADT, the African-American branch of the KKK and Jewish members of neo-Nazi groups.

Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on August 25, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who votes for McCain now wasn't opting for Hillary because of any kind of actual policy stance, in spite of what s/he might say. That person was opting for Hillary on the basis of HER, liking her, admiring her, whatever. It's EXACTLY the thing that the other side criticizes Obama supporters for doing. It's hero worship, and it helps nobody.

Hillary needs to denounce this woman, specifically. I know, that's me being spiteful, but come on. It's just sooo unthinking to go in that direction, and idiocy (especially publicized, potentially influential idiocy) should stop going unpunished.

Posted by: Emily on August 25, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Davis: Eh. She's a big deal where she is.
Where logic and principle says she should be, she's only one of a multitude.

It's the 'short line' syndrome. If you go to the bank, do you wait in the short line or the long line? Check out any given African American 'GOP analyst' on cable for another example of the phenomenon.

Something in this, yes. I don't think this screaming need for attention is reflective of too many former Clinton supporters, but it does unfortunately fit a very small minority of 'em.

Yesterday someone, and I think it was you, posted about some of the McCain-supporting Clintonites having too much invested in the con to let go; that was an astute point as well.

cmdicely nailed the mindset of some of 'em with this: Maybe she was a Clinton supporter because she saw that as the most likely way to stop Obama. And now she's a McCain supporter because she sees that as the most likely way to stop Obama, and all the supposed policy justifications she might voice for either are peripheral.

Posted by: shortstop on August 25, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Given that the liberal Senator Russ Feingold said on CNN that McCain would make a fine president and spoke of him much more warmly than he did Obama, accusing this nurse of racism and irrationality for preferring McCain seems a bit too facile.

Posted by: jen f on August 25, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that the target of these ads is the news media itself, hungry for any possible storyline that gets them ratings and ad revenue. The horrible state of journalism is this country is contributing to the polarization we witness among our elected officials, everyone pandering for attention.

Posted by: Greg on August 25, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, that's one vote for stupid! Next!

Posted by: William on August 25, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Bartoshevich reminds me more of Marge Simpson's Chanel Suit:
http://folkbum.blogspot.com/2008/08/debra-bartoshevoch-mccains-chanel-siut.html

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