Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Did Clinton's comments help Hillary?

Bill Clinton was on ABC's This Week program with George Stephanopoulos last Sunday. In political terms, Chris Lynch thinks he did himself (and Hillary) more harm than good. Chris' analysis, which I think is right on - as far as it goes - is that the blogosphere analysis and criticism of Clinton will be viewed by far more people than actually saw him make the comments in the first place.
Unlike This Week (which for all intents and purposes exists just for those precious few moments of Sunday morning airtime) - there will be more people reading what the bloggers wrote about Clinton tomorrow and the next day. In the future when people Google "Clinton This Week appearence" - they won't get George Stephanopolous' show - they'll get the blogs that commented on Clinton's comments.

When all's said and done - I'd bet that the number of people who learned of Clinton's comments with the added context of the blogger analysis will far outweigh the original audience of the original This Week show.

I agree with that. I just think that he's missing a step.

As much as those of us who live online try to ignore them, and as much as circulations are declining everywhere, the major media outlets still exist. While virtually no one saw Clinton make his comments on Sunday morning, his comments got widespread play in the press. CNN mentioned parts of them on Monday, and the New York Times made sure that Clinton's comments got wide circulation (with no analysis whatsoever of the truth or untruth of them). And, of course, when the New York Times carries the comments, the wire services pick up on them, and they run not just in the times, but in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Kansas City Star and the Chicago Tribune and the International Herald Tribune and the Sydney Morning Herald and the People's Daily Online. In other words, despite the fact that virtually no one saw him say it, a vast number know what he said, heard it reported as news, as fact. A number that is, I suspect, much larger than the number who'll ever "Google 'Clinton This Week appearance'" or read the Instapundit or listen to Rush Limbaugh talk about it.

And I further suspect that the majority of people who do get their news and analysis from the blogosphere fall in to two groups of people - those who already understand that Clinton's a self-aggrandizing liar and wouldn't vote for Hillary at gunpoint, or those who think that Bush is a smirking Hitlerian fascist chimp and Hillary's too conservative. Nothing that Bill said will move either group. I'm just skeptical that, even in the current old media/new media climate, more persuadable potential voters see the disparaging analysis of the comments than actually saw or heard the comments themselves. I'm skeptical that "Clinton did himself (and his wife) more harm than good with his comments," though I doubt he did her much good, either.

The really interesting dynamic that's going on here is the focus on Bush. To the extent that Clinton's comments could have any effect on anyone, they're negative for President Bush. But the Democrats do not yet seem to have realized what a waste of time that is. They're spending all of their time and effort running Bush down, and he's not running for anything. I just don't see any positive benefit that accrues to the Democrats for personalizing their vitriol against George W. Bush the way that they have. He won't be the candidate that they're running against in the next national election...



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