Campaigns routinely “explain away” their defeats—and journalists do the same thing, all the time. When Huckabee won in Iowa, for example, every journalist from here to Saigon rushed to explain the outcome, noting that 40 percent of the Republican electorate in Iowa was evangelical. In this instance, Bill Clinton is “explaining away” a defeat in the same manner—although at best he’s doing so clumsily. And by the way: Every journalist from here to Moscow has been saying, for the past seven months, that South Carolina’s high percentage of African-American voters made it a state Obama needed—a state in which he held a theoretical advantage. This has been a very standard analysis. Every big pundit has said it. Every big pundit has applied this standard of analysis.
Why was it suddenly wrong when Bill Clinton “explained away” a defeat, offering a type of analysis which is elsewhere so typical? We’ll offer several reasons:
First: Bill Clinton’s statement was, at best, stupidly artless. Intentionally so? We can’t tell you (more below).
Second, and wondrously obvious: Bill Clinton’s statement was judged to be wrong because the press hates Bill Clinton. As Kevin partially notes, there had been a fair amount of “idiotic (racial) mischaracterization” in the press corps before Bill Clinton’s remark. (Glenn suggests something like this too.) And guess what? Those “idiotic mischaracterizations” were formed, in large part, because the press corps hates the Clintons! Kevin is a bit too polite on matters like this, and so he doesn’t mention that fact. But just as a basic point of caution, we’ll note that the journalists who ran with that “idiotic mischaracterization” about Hillary Clinton are the same people who are now urging us to construe Bill Clinton’s comment least favorably.
Did Bill Clinton try to play a “race card?” We don’t know. We do know that the mainstream press corps has been playing their own race cards quite aggressively —for example, Bob Herbert in this pitiful column, and Darryl Fears in this “news report.” We all say we think that race is important, and we all pretend to revere Dr. King—but there is no topic where so many people will run so fast to condemn their neighbors in so many ways (as Dr. King never would). For that reason, we’d be slow to judge Bill Clinton’s intent . . . .
Go read it all.