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Sunday, March 16, 2008

This is an important analysis of the outrageous behavior of the SCLM*

Sadly I want to parse the new meaning of "parse." Eric Boehlert discusses the close analysis or "parsing" of Clinton's answers. He coins a word.

The 60 Minutes controversy -- specifically the intense media spin it sparked -- highlights a disturbing rise in a new form of campaign journalism, which might be best described as post-parsing.

I think it can be best described as "parsing."

Even since Bill Clinton (accurately) said that the judgement of whether he was a perjury depends on what the definition of "is" is, people have used "parsing" to what he did during the deposition, that is careful phrasing and especially careful phrasing to mislead with technically true statement. It refers to what he did at that press conference (try to force reporters to admit that they understand plain English and so should admit that the story they and the Republicans have been flogging is a non-story). At least people don't think it refers to what he did in the Oval office (that is use his amazing work ethic, brain and knowledge to provide outstanding public service (plus a spot on a blue dress)).

The article is important.

Less than one second. That's how long it took Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to answer, "Of course not," to Steve Kroft's question on 60 Minutes about whether she thought Sen. Barack Obama was a Muslim. You can time it yourself by watching the clip at YouTube.

Still, that didn't stop MSNBC's Chris Matthews from complaining on-air last week that it took Clinton "the longest time" to answer Kroft's question.

A bit of the transcript after the question was asked (the first time)

CLINTON: Of course not. I mean, that's--you know, there is not basis for that. You know, I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn't any reason to doubt that.

KROFT: And you said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not a Muslim.

CLINTON: Right. Right.

The exchange took the longest time, because Kroft wouldn't take no for an answer.

Now are journalists malicious or ignorant ? Since the exchange is easily available, one would assume they were being malicious if one were Boehlert. However, it is possible that they didn't watch the video, that they didn't even read the transcript but that they wrote whole columns on a phrase taken out of context and fed into the rumor mill without checking. Being lazy, I wouldn't put it past them.

Also the dread "as far as I know" is clearly Clinton trying to be polite. If she had just repeated "no" and "of course not", it would suggest that Kroft was being stupid or crazy. It is rude to repeat an answer word for word when a question is rephrased. Of course Kroft was being stupid, crazy and/or malicious.

*So Clinton loses Media

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