There is a war pervading the underbelly of this election. It is not the war that will be dealt with in a “quick, but responsible manner,” according to most candidates. That is another column discussion for another issue. The war of focus this week is the battle between the candidates and the press.
Readers are probably thinking, oh good, more election discussion! Have no fear, dear reader, this column is not the best political minds on a cable news channel predicting which candidate is going to get what delegates. It is, however, a discussion of the dialogue between candidates, their handlers and the press, hopefully with a little less pompous windbaggery.
When Walter Cronkite coined the term “anchorman,” he was covering political conventions in the 1950s. In his autobiography, “A Reporter’s Life,” Cronkite remarked that after the coverage of the 1952 convention, the parties sanitized their proceedings because those Americans with access to television news saw the rather messy way the conventions took place.
Since then, political candidates have been extraordinarily careful about what they say to the press and how they say it. This is because the press is not an innocent communicator of information, although this is nothing new to American press.
Recently there have been a couple of instances where candidates have involved themselves directly with the press in a critical manner. The first one involved Mitt Romney and an AP reporter who contradicted him during a speech in an office supply store.
The latest incident occurred when Hillary Clinton wrote to the president of NBC News to criticize reporter David Shuster’s comments. Shuster made a remark about Chelsea Clinton, Hillary and Bill Clinton’s daughter, and her role in the presidential race. Shuster asked if Chelsea was being “pimped out” for Clinton’s campaign. According to a post on the Washington Post Web site, Clinton said, “Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half hearted [sic] apology is sufficient.”
Clinton is obviously out for blood. Which in some regards is fair, considering the actual meaning and allusions that are connected with the word “pimp.” While MTV uses it colloquially as a strange synonym for “upgrade” in its show “Pimp My Ride” and it is also used to describe something that is fashionable or cool, a pimp is a person who generally exploits other people in a usually demeaning and despicable way.
If Hillary Clinton were selling her daughter to male candidates to get their votes, “pimp” might have been an appropriate word choice. However, she was not, to the best of my knowledge, so the word choice was a poor one.
Clinton’s letter to NBC News also asserted that journalists and commentators could do their jobs and “still keep the discourse civil and appropriate.” This is an agreeable statement because journalists can and should keep the dialogue civil and appropriate. Not only does inappropriate language make journalists and their profession look unprofessional and unintelligent, it perpetuates the wall between journalists and politicians that ultimately leads to Americans getting a sterilized version of candidate views.
Journalists should play nicely. Otherwise, the whole of journalism is no better than Bill O’Reilly.
To see the Washington Post post: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/02/09/clinton_calls_shuster_comment.html