Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jacob Weisberg's obnoxious Slate article about Hillary Clinton's iPod selections purports to demonstrate that her song choices prove she's a phony. Eric Boehlert and most of the Slate readers who've commented on the article pretty much have its problems covered -- but I want to talk about Weisberg's lead, which he just can't resist, even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with Hillary's musical taste:

A low moment in the annals of Clintonism occurred in 1994 at an MTV forum, when the then-president answered a question about whether he wore boxers or briefs. Less well-remembered is Bill Clinton's actual answer. "Usually briefs," he responded, offering a glimpse of the carefully wrought shadings that came to define his political career. Tighty whiteys will play better with these kids and the NASCAR crowd, he might have been thinking. But I don't want to alienate East Coast preppies … Of course, Clinton missed the real trap of the question, which is that the Leader of the Free World shouldn't talk about his underpants in public.

Not even if he's asked?

(And not even if he's not the Leader of the Free World yet?)

This has pissed me off for fourteen years -- the canard that Bill Clinton is so low-class he talked about his underwear in public. Well, yes -- he talked about his underwear because he was asked to talk about his underwear. He was taking questions. He got one. He answered it, politely. Did he plant the question? No. Did he linger over it? No -- he seemed embarrassed and dealt with it briefly, then moved on.

Why is the fact that someone asked him this question his fault?

Does anyone doubt that if this incident had never happened and George W. Bush had been asked a similar question during his flightsuit-stud post-fall-of-Saddam period -- or, indeed, at any time from 1999 on -- the press would regard whatever his was response was, not to mention the fact that he was asked at all, as a sign of his "authenticity"?


You want political calculation, Jacob? Any chance that it's right in front of you? As you note, Jacob, Condoleezza Rice recently provided a top-10 list to England's Independent in which she included Elton John's "Rocket Man" because "It brings back memories of ... my first boyfriend." I don't have a clue about Condi's whispered-about sexuality, but it is whispered about. It's unthinkable, though, that a Republican would slip something like this into an interview to fight off a rumor, right? Republicans are just so genuine.

(Weisberg, who slams Hillary's choice of the Eagles' "Take It to the Limit" -- "a lame, black-hole-of-the-1970s choice" -- praises Condi's list, which includes that sublime Kool and the Gang masterwork "Celebration.")

Oh, and on the subject of calculation, why did White House PR flack New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller make sure to tell us, in a fawning article about Bush's iPod, that Bush doesn't even upload his own songs? I'll tell you why: because if someone responded to Bumiller's article by pointing out something embarrassing about one of the songs or performers -- you know, another Kid Rock incident -- the White House could shift the blame for the embarrassing choice. (Not that I think the president of the United States should load his own iPod -- it might cut into his treadmill time.) Weisberg, of course, thinks Bush's list seems "uncalculated."

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