Monday, November 05, 2007

The Politics of Distraction

Commentary » Blog Archive » First They Came for Hillary Clinton…: "It is widely assumed, on both Left and Right, that Hillary Clinton and her campaign made a grave error by responding to the criticism of her performance in last Tuesday’s Democratic debate by complaining of a “pile-on.” Bill Kristol, for one, called it a “foolish overreaction.” I’m not so sure. Whether intentionally or not, Hillary managed to change the terms under which the debate has been discussed in the days since. In its immediate aftermath, the debate was seen as a referendum on her policy slipperiness, and one in which she did not come off well. Now, however, the discussion of the debate has become something quite different."

What we’re talking about now is the extent to which it is fair to criticize her. ...

The Republicans are very good at the politics of distraction. When something starts to attract unwanted political attention, they are very good at doing something that changes the dialog away from the thing they don't want to talk about and on to more comfortable ground.

Hillary exposed herself in the last debate with her inconclusive response on the issue of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. It exposed here on two fronts: (1) on the issue itself, which is potentially explosive because a lot of independents are pissed off about the immigration and (2) by feeding the narrative that she is a double-talker who never takes sides on anything controversial (at least not without poll-testing it).

We aren't talking about either of those things any more. By subtly putting out the idea that it was somehow unfair for a bunch of men to "pile on" against a woman, the Hillary campaign has effectively turned the debate into one which no one really wants to have. The question of how to treat female politicians is a sensitive one for many. I'm sure even those who would disagree with the characterization are uncomfortable saying that it isn't true for fear of saying something that could be misinterpreted.

The end result? A couple of days of fooferall about women in politics which will quickly die down and an almost complete abandonment of the original questions that started the controversy.

I've always thought that Clinton, amongst the leading Dem candidates, was the smartest operator when it comes to using techniques perfected by the Republicans. If JPod is right, this may very well be one of the best examples of just that.


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