Who'd have thought a simple question posed to Sen. Hillary Clinton -- What songs do you have on your iPod? -- would be so revealing. Not about her, but about the Beltway pundit culture which still insists it can read the minds of prominent Democrats and pronounce them to be phonies. The New York Post posed the question to Clinton, Slate's Jacob Weisberg rushed in with the verdict.
Personally, I'm with Brian Montopoli, who earlier this week pointed out the absurdity of these what-politicians-have-on-their-iPod stories. And Hopefully the Clinton one will be the last because 9 times out of a 10 the iPod stories tell us absolutely nothing about the politicians. (They're Baby Boomers and they listen to classic rock. And...?.) Weisberg though, not only thinks the answer to what's on your iPod passes as the "key culturally identifying question of our era," but is sure Clinton's apparently off-the-cuff iPod revelations (the Post quotes Clinton for less than 70 words in the entire article) represent very big news and a rare peek into the soul of the senator from New York. Weisberg, who was reportedly up for the job opening as managing editor of Time magazine, chides Clinton for giving the Post dubious -- calculated -- answers to the iPod question in order to win more votes.
So, which artists did Clinton highlight from her iPod that Weisberg found so calculating and conniving? Did she announce out of the blue that she was a diehard Toby Keith fan in an attempt to win over Red State citizens? Did she embarrass herself by announcing she was swaying to James Blunt after hours in order to impress younger voters? Nope. Hillary Clinton, who came of age in the late '60 and '70's, told the Post her iPod was filled with songs from the late '60's and '70; the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, the Motown library, and oh yeah, U2, whose song she uses for her stump speech appearances. That's it. That's the insight -- Hillary Clinton listens to the exact same overplayed songs that tens of millions of other Baby Boomers won't stop listening to. But thanks to Weisberg's mind-reading skills, we're told Clinton was making "calculations" in response to an utterly pointless question about her iPod. Worse, according to Weisberg, the "playlist suggests premeditation if not actual poll-testing." And make no mistake, Weisberg reads minds. Specifically the minds of prominent Democrats in order to mock them. Witness: "In point of fact, I doubt that the relentlessly driven Hillary Clinton spends much time listening to music of any kind." According to Weisberg, Clinton's a phony because she doesn't listen to "music of any kind." How does Weisberg know? He just knows because Clinton -- of course -- is a phony. People, keep up -- She lied about her playlist and she lied about listening to music. (Maybe the New York Times could do a follow-up story and interview 50 people about that.)
But what about President Bush's classic rock-heavy iPod playlist, dutifully chronicled last year by an industrious reporter? Wasn't that also a piece of swift calculation? Nope. Weisberg announced the president's playlist was likely authentic ("uncalculated") because, lest we ever forget, Bush "doesn't worry about being politically correct or care what other people think of him." (Honestly, doesn't that kind of recycled spin about Bush the rugged individualist not caring what people think about him make you nostalgic for Austin, 1999?)
Folks, consider yourselves warned. And in fact, the Daily Howler has been sounding the alarm for some time now that the press is ready and waiting to roll out its 2008 presidential narrative about Democrats being phony ("inauthentic," they "play it safe" -- and they're "poll-tested") and the Republicans being genuine, comfortable in his own skin. Joe Klein fills up his new book with page-after-page of this Beltway-pleasing narrative; Democrats lose national elections because their candidates aren't real and voters can sense that. (Instinctive Republicans, apparently, eschew consultants and pollsters at any cost. No, seriously)
As a I noted during a book talk last night before a BlueWaveNJ crowd, anybody on the left who's crossing their fingers hoping the press puts down its RNC talking points long enough to come in from the cold for the 2008 campaign and finally treat Democrats fairly, is simply kidding themselves. They didn't do it with Gore, they didn't do it with Kerry. The press refuses to change willingly and the Slate piece proves it. Because there are prominent people within the Beltway pundit ranks who think what's on Hillary Clinton's iPod is a) revealing because b) it proves she's a phony.
Be afraid people. Be very afraid.