Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Maureen Dowd Objective?

My question is this? Is Maureen Dowd the columnist from the NY Times being objective in her criticisms of Hillary Clinton? In the past few weeks it appears that she is dismantling the Clinton campaign on a number of issues, from feminism to Hillary’s ability to lead. While her criticisms may be accurate many find them inappropriate and an act of betrayal to the cause of feminism. I don’t feel that she has an obligation to support Hillary because she is a woman or that she should not be allowed to criticize her campaign, but my problem is that she is doing it under the guise of impartiality. My belief is that she supports the campaign of Barack Obama and so her criticisms of Hillary are no more impartial that any other candidate’s supporter. By not couching her criticisms in the fact that she does support Obama it is in fact bringing criticism to herself.

While I think her criticisms are insightful and to some helpful, they do her readers a disservice because they appear to be anything but objective. They remind me of the same tactic being used by her colleague, Paul Krugman another columnist for the NY Times and his criticisms of Obama. It seems clear to me that Mr. Krugman prefers Hillary to Obama on a number of issues, but again by lodging these criticisms in the cloak of impartiality they do a disservice to the readers. Everyone in this election is allowed a choice in who they feel will best serve their Party and the nation and I would never begrudge anyone that right, but I think when you are writing opinion pieces that are not impartial you owe it to your readers to provide a disclaimer. If you don’t provide one then your criticism smacks of dishonesty.

After giving up drinking and becoming Texas governor, W. had supposedly changed from an arrogant, obdurate, Daddy-competing loser to a genial, bipartisan, mature winner. As it turned out, a total makeover is not possible after 40.

Hillary’s narrative echoes W.’s: After the scalding partisanship of the ’90s, she became a senator and turned the other cheek, working on legislation with Republicans who had pursued the impeachment case against her husband. She has supposedly learned from her White House mistakes on health care, Travelgate and legal issues, from her battles with the right and the press. She knows now that being obstructionist and secretive don’t work.

An appealing arc, but is it true? Her campaign shake-up showed that she continues to rank loyalty and secrecy above competence and ingenuity. She is still so guarded that she began answering questions from the press and voters only after she lost Iowa.

All of us have known big shots who keep a check on their real feelings and dark tendencies until they get the top job. Then they throw off the restraints and revert to their worst instincts, bullying others and insulating themselves with sycophants.

Hillary could be ready on Day 1 — to make up her Enemies List and banish Overkill Bill to a cubbyhole in the Old Executive Office Building. But it’s Day 2 that I’m really worried about.

I believe Ms. Dowd raises legitimate concerns in this piece and in her comparisons between the lessons of George W. and Hillary, but I fail to see the objectivity in her writing. If Ms. Dowd wants to point out the demons of the Clintons and the pitfalls to a return to their governance she of course has every right to do so, but impartiality demands an equal disclosure of possible Obama demons. While we would all like to think that our candidates are free from sin, the truth of the matter is that our choices are all human. And because they are human our choices are all flawed to some degree. Hence the importance of disclosure, if one continues to pronounce objectivity and yet only points out the flaws on one side, where then is the impartiality?

My point I guess is this, I have no problem with columnists supporting one candidate’s platform or agenda over another’s, but if you do so and continue to write candidate critiques it is incumbent upon you to report that decision to your readers in the interest of fairness. I do not think it is fair for Ms. Dowd to continue to criticize Hillary without disclosing her support for Obama or whatever candidate she supports. So often we read pieces from columnists pretending to be objective when in truth they are being anything but. One of the positives of the blogosphere is that there is very little pretense of this false impartiality, you know who supports whom. Because of this “truth in advertising” it makes it more difficult to accept the hypocrisy of the MSM. I don’t know if it is the policy of the publications to not allow the columnists to endorse candidates, but it seems to be more of a hindrance than a help to the readers.


1 comment:

Malcolm said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a republican who is supporting Obama.

That being said, I think a lot of democrat columnists are trying to hint at what everyone already knows: A Clinton nomination is really the only way the democrats can lose in November.

With Clinton on the ticket, the republican party will band together just to keep her out. With Obama as the nominee, you’re going to get a lot of republicans (like me) who will jump parties (in the belief that Obama is better for the country right now).

I think many of the super delegates have figured this out too, and are working on a way to invite Hillary to stand down.

On the other hand, all of the conservative columnists are trying to get Hillary nominated, for the very same reason.

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