The Ripublican Playbook

Ripublicans have their business-as-usual playbook. They love to label Democrats as flip-floppers. Big Media, cooperating with Ripublicans, loves to keep score with that Ripublican playbook. In recent past national elections the Ripublicans screamed “flip-flop” and unthinking Big Media took out their rubber stamp and start pounding away. It happened again yesterday.

The Senate early in the week was scheduled to vote on whether or not to have a debate on Iraq. If they voted to have the debate they could then discuss a bill that would effectively redeploy American troops out of Iraq. This is fairly simple. First you have a vote on whether or not to debate (the cloture vote) then if that vote is successful, you then have a debate on the actual bill. In this particular case the proposed law was the Feingold-Reid bill, which had an amendment to it called the Reed-Levin Amendment.

On Tuesday May 15, 2007 the Politico received this clear and simple written statement from the Hillary Clinton campaign which was posted on the Politico website at 4:36 p.m.: “Senator Clinton will vote for cloture on both the Feingold-Reid and Reed-Levin Amendments, to send the President a clear message that it is time to change course, redeploy our troops out of Iraq, and end this war as soon as possible.”

Politico published the Hillary statement with an additional and inaccurate interpretation regarding the written statement from the Hillary campaign: “That is to say, she and Obama both reserve the right to disagree with the substance of Feingold-Reid. They’re sending a message, not committing to a policy.”

Soon thereafter Politico updated their post to say: “Aides to Clinton and Obama, Philippe Reines and Bill Burton respectively, both say their Senators aren’t trying to play cute, and that Clinton and Obama support the underlying bills. Adds Reines, not inaccurately: “You’re obsessing with cloture. It’s like when someone learns a new word and can’t stop using it.”

Get it? Very simple. Senator Hillary Clinton supported in a written clear statement, as of Tuesday, May 17, at 4:36 p.m. both the idea of having a debate and that if the debate was held she would indeed vote for the Feingold-Reid bill. A child with elementary cognitive skills would understand this.

However, Big Media was utterly confused and adrift.

At 3:51 pm. on Wednesday May 16 – almost 24 hours later – The New York Times and Politico were still scratching their heads. What were they confused about? They were confused about “whether she was voting for the “underlying” Feingold Reid bill today, or whether she was simply voting for cloture“. The Hillary campaign had of course issued its unambiguous written statement the day before.

The confusion, Big Media claimed, was due to Senator Clinton’s entirely reasonable statement “I’m not going to speculate on what I’ll be voting on in the future”. Senator Clinton’s spokesman Philippe Reines did valiant duty by repeating what he had written to Big Media the previous day: “As we said yesterday, she supports the underlying amendments and would have voted for them had cloture been invoked”.

The crisis of Big Media cognitive processing appeared to be resolved at 5:40 p.m. on May 16 when Politico posted: “Hillary, speaking to reporters including The Politico’s John Bresnahan in the Senate today, made her position on Reid Feingold clear. “I support the underlying bill,” she said.” However, for Ripublican play book Big Media the crisis was hardly over.

The crisis was not yet over because embedded in the 5:40 p.m. Politico posting was this: “She also demonstrated an awareness of her stature — “I am high profile” — and the importance of her vote, and the message Democrats are sending, to the Iraqi leadership. “I know they hear it,” she said.”

At 7:18 p.m. on May 16 another Politico communiqué:

Hillary Clinton justified her vote in favor of forcing a troop withdrawal from Iraq today in sharply personal terms, saying that Iraqi leaders are watching and communicating with her, and that her actions in particular can “send a message to the Iraqis” to take control of their country.

Clinton’s remarks suggested her sense of herself as a player on the world stage, a matter both of her years in public life and of her campaign’s argument that she is the Democrat best qualified to take up America’s global responsibilities.

“I know they’re paying attention to what I do because they follow it. I know they follow it because they communicate with me, and I’m sending a very clear message,” she said.

The message: “They need to do more to resolve their political differences and to defend themselves.”

Politico added to the mix by throwing this in: “I think Clinton’s words were revealing as to the extent to which she’s acting — arguably both for reasons of politics and policy — like she’s already president.” (emphasis included)

Big Media first tried to create the impression that Hillary was being evasive in her written unambiguous statement. When that story line fell apart they decided to write that she was arrogant. The fact that Senator Clinton’s office had issued a written statement on Tuesday that she supported both having the debate as well as the actual bill to be debated had been ignored. As that controversy died, another was created by Big Media reading from the Ripublican play book. The new controversy was that Senator Clinton is arrogant.

There is no dispute, no question, that Senator Clinton’s office declared in writing on Tuesday that she was voting for both the debate and the bill in question. What about the arrogance issue? Is Senator Clinton acting like she is “already president” or is she simply aware that her words have weight and consequence?

Senator Clinton has been on the world stage for at least a decade. Senator Clinton, Hillary, is not fresh out of a state legislature. Hillary is a person who measures her words carefully. When Hillary speaks world leaders and community leaders and state leaders and the general public take notice because they understand she is a person of substance and thought.

Was the issue ever settled? No. Yesterday Big Media was still selling papers and programs with a controversy they created and by parroting the Ripublican playbook. The Associated Press, which is printed in hundreds of newspapers and websites wrote this yesterday: “New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton voted Wednesday to advance legislation cutting off money for the Iraq war, then refused to pledge to support the measure if it came to a vote, then said she would. At lunchtime, the presidential candidate was asked repeatedly by reporters whether she favored the troop withdrawal legislation that had just come up for a procedural vote on the Senate floor. Her answer: “I’m not going to speculate on what I’m going to be voting on in the future. I voted in favor of cloture to have a debate.” By supper time, she had a different answer.”

Democratic Senator Dodd’s dead campaign for president bought into the Ripublican playbook too: “We’re as confused as anyone on Senator Clinton’s position”.

We wrote in our initial post: “We will have lots to say especially with regards to the media and blog coverage of the campaign. We will keep an especially sharp eye on “progressives” or Democrats who repeat Republican propaganda to undermine Hillary or any of our candidates.” Senator Dodd’s campaign has unfortunately proved the need to monitor “Democrats who repeat Republican propaganda”. We don’t doubt that so-called “progressive” blogs will pick up Big Media’s rubber stamp.

The Ripublican Playbook had a good day yesterday. True progressives need to fight back. Hillary supporters need to fight back. The Hillary team will not be alone in this fight.