COMMENTS: Rodham Clinton Under the Spotlight

In a fiendishly clever move, Barack Obama performed a jujitsu negative attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton by taking a vacation. By sunning himself in the Virgin Islands, Obama left the coast clear for full-bore scrutiny of his rival. She became the Story of the Day as all three networks led with her campaign. CBS followed up on its delightful reconstruction of her First Lady trip to Tuzla in 1996. NBC chose her decision to make the Rev Jeremiah Wright an issue after all. ABC chose her determination to stay in the race despite her diminishing odds for success.

ABC's David Wright (embargoed link) found "a growing number of pundits who say she just cannot win" when Rodham Clinton vowed to compete in all remaining states through Montana on June 3rd. Wright did not identify those pundits. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson, who created a YouTube hit with Monday's report on Rodham Clinton in Bosnia, followed up with the candidate's repeated claims of the danger of sniper fire before unveiling her own videotape of Tuzla Airport: "She and her daughter Chelsea lingered on the tarmac to greet US military officials, took photos. There was a group of seventh graders on the tarmac too." Rodham Clinton, in her own defense "claims she misspoke and was sleep-deprived." Her soundbite: "So I made a mistake. That happens, It proves I am human--which, you know, for some people is a revelation."

On NBC, Ron Allen turned to Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama's decision to join minister Wright's Trinity United Church on the South Side of Chicago some 20 years ago: "He would not have been my pastor," she stated. Allen reported that Rodham Clinton "compared Wright with Don Imus, saying she spoke out against hate speech by the radio host as well." Allen did not tell us which particular words of Wright's were seen to be the equivalent of Imus' casual and inaccurate sexism about 2007's Rutgers University basketball team: "Nappy headed whores."

Speaking personally, I found both Rodham Clinton's comment and the superficial parsing of it by NBC's Allen to be maddeningly imprecise. At what level was she indicating her preference against pastor Wright? Was it merely at the level of taste, as in "that would not have been my choice of restaurant for tonight's dining"? Or did it rise to an insinuation that Obama's choice of church disqualified him? If so that would amount to a religious test for political office, unConstitutional on its face.

These are the thorniest of issues and require careful reporting. For those interested, I spent much of last week wrestling with the pros and cons of when to leave a church and the import of Obama's speech on Wright and race at Jeff Jarvis' The comments thread was challenging and thoughtprovoking. Check out Obama Explains and You Wouldn't Understand.


You must be logged in to this website to leave a comment. Please click here to log in so you can participate in the discussion.