Msnowe's Blog

Shh!!!! It’s Hushed. But in the NY Times…

Posted in assassination, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, JFK, MLK, NYTimes, RFK by m.snowe on February 25, 2008

This morning’s New York Times has a political memo written by Jeff Zeleny, opening with the following question:
“There is a hushed worry on the minds of many supporters of Senator Barack Obama, echoing in conversations from state to state, rally to rally: Will he be safe?”

The one problem with this article is thus:
The questions asked are mostly unanswerable. No actual threats are really highlighted, and none in depth. Yes, our country’s climate is not as hospitable as it should be, and Obama’s security should be a concern. But honestly, there are some problems with this article, and they run deep.

#1. Obvious Point: How many polls are out there right now, talking about Hillary Clinton’s lack of charisma, or personal appeal. Everyday, there’s a new story about likability, and Clinton’s lack-thereof. Yet it is Obama people are worried about. You would think if someone was so reportedly despised, their summit to potential presidency would make them a target. And yet the Obama worries are legitimate, to some extent. Charismatic figures have, on one hand, the ability to spur people on and get them excited about their message. Obama can do that in spades. Yet charisma runs the risk of inciting not just high praise, but high disapproval— and in the people completely opposite those that get riled up in a good way. Because people who decide to assassinate are usually angry, in a hyper-heightened way, just as the diametrically different Obama supporters can be enthusiastic. That is not to say that overly enthusiastic supporters of any campaign are unhinged, but mild obsession is a necessary quality for a staffer, no matter whose campaign it is.

#2. Not-So-Obvious Point: Zeleny ‘s angling of Obama’s likability. A quick glance at the first three or four pages of his most recently archived political stories show title after title helpful towards Obama, and harsh towards Clinton (even the pictures tell the story, with Obama looking up with hopeful eyes, whereas all the pics of Clinton seem to be authoritative ones, with finger points and mid-shout. She may do these things more, but it’s pretty clear that the photogs don’t try too hard to capture her “softer” side.) The problem with a story about “hushed” worries for Obama’s safety is that it unfairly raises an alarm that may or may not be that legitimate while simultaneously reinforcing Obama’s profile, and providing fodder for ample comparisons with past American heroes who were assassinated. In Zeleny’s article, the Kennedys and MLK jr. are mentioned almost as often as Obama is himself. There is no clever coating to this one- it’s all about comparison and similarities. And while it should be preambled that there is always a threat to any candidate, and probably a slight bit more worry attached to a black candidate, the comparison seems a bit weaker than the author would like us to believe. Dr. King was a hunted man; and similar to the eerie recent interviews with figures such as Benazir Bhutto, King knew that the threats against his life were real and dangerous. Whether he knew they would be his undoing, one can only guess; but he was under constant threat — the flight to Memphis were he gave his last speech and was later assassinated at his hotel –was delayed due to a bomb threat. Because of the work of Dr. King and his supporters and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, the atmosphere is much better and safer for candidates of either race (though improvements still need to be made, surely).

Zeleny’s article is basically angling to help Obama survive, both physically and politically by making him into the amalgamation of RFK, JFK, and MLK… if only they had survived just a bit longer. Now this blogger is undecided in choice of which Democrat to prefer, but the problem with articles like this is they don’t merely report facts, they harken back to the past by making comparisons that only serve to muddy up the already murky waters of political choice. Talking about threats to Obama is one thing, but talking about threats in relation to other assassinations seems a bit off the point. To be fair, Clinton and the media surrounding her also harken back to past events in order to gain support or alternatively shake up support of the electorate, depending on the purpose that snipit of history is meant to serve rhetorically. And the republicans can’t seem to get the misnomer of “Reagan Era Politics” off their minds and tips of their tongues. Comparison is an important tool, but the public should go into any piece of news with the ability to understand stories, their angles, and just why they were written in certain ways. Obama isn’t polling well in the older age groups– Clinton has the majority in of older white women. Well, if you were to look through the old paper stashes of older white women, you would find a newspaper clipping or saved copy of any magazine with JFK’s picture, or perhaps a commemorative biography with embossed photos of Jackie Oanasis (before she was an Oananiss). You might might the same smart white or red suit with matching hat. The icon association is high. This blogger was forced to take multiple pictures of the Eternal Flame in Arlington for a grandmother and grandfather. Its a vital piece of history, and memory association is powerful… All that’s important to remember is that one situation can be similar, but it’s never the same, and false hope, especially in the candidate of hope, but also everyone else, only sets up for a let down. Let’s hope Obama doesn’t start building a complex in Hyannis, MA. And Clinton won’t automatically ring in the financially stable years of her husband’s jaunt either.