Ted Kennedy’s Funeral Coverage Dominates Airwaves

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Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral is dominating the dials this morning. For those of you unable to get to a television both CNN.com and ABC News are carrying it live online (sans the history-rich coverage, alas), as is the NYT.com homepage.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, where the service is being held, is packed with dignitaries; the above pic was snapped a few minutes ago (oh to be a fly on the pew of that conversation!). You can find of list of the speakers herePresident Obama is slated to give the eulogy. Below is a look at how the Twitterverse is reacting.

MoDo Points Finger at Nasty Bloggers; Fingers Point Back at Her

MauDoIn her column today, Maureen Dowd writes about cowardly Internet bullies — all those bloggers out there who say the meanest stuff, and are seldom called to task for it. “On the Internet,” she writes, “it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.”

Granted, Dowd puts her name on everything she writes. But the whole ‘cowardly not constructive thing’ — not so much.

• Just last weekend MauDo went after Anna Wintour. Alright, maybe she was more interested in celebrating the “sacred monster,” but some of her jabs cut pretty deep: “Behind those bangs and dark glasses, is Anna human? Or did she tie Hermès scarves together and make a daring escape from District 9 in a getaway car driven by Oscar de la Renta?” Ouch.

• Dowd is a big fan of pet names (usually objectionable ones). Hence headlines like “Will Hillzilla Crush Obambi?

John Edwards got his share of smack from Dowd after his $400 haircut in a column called “Running with Scissors.” We haven’t reached the point,” she writes, “where we can handle a green-tea-soy-latte-drinking, self-tanning-sea-salt-mango-body-wrapping, Norah-Jones-listening, yoga-toning chief executive.”

NYT public editor Clark Hoyt included Dowd’s attacks on politicians in a column called “Pantsuits and the Presidency,” responding to readers’ complaints about the Times‘ slanted political coverage. A thick slice of those comments revolved around mean Maureen Dowd was:

But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband … She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.

Photo: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA Press via Salon.

Hillary Clinton Knows Where Her Bread is Buttered, Takes Op-Ed To People

hillary-clintonPresident Barack Obama may prefer the op-ed pages of the New York Times to impart his views to the world, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has decided to go directly to the people, through People.com. The website has posted an exclusive op-ed from Clinton about her recent 11 day trip through Africa, much of which was overshadowed by her ‘I’m the boss’ response to a Congolese student.

Strange choice of venue? Brilliant might be the better word. People.com is one of the most heavily-trafficked sites on the Web, and arguably reaches an audience that doesn’t necessary follow the NYT op-ed pages with as close an eye as some media types might. It’s also a site that, according to its Quantcast description, “appeals to a more affluent, slightly female slanted, skewing older audience.” This could also be a fairly accurate description of Hillary Clinton’s base. Suffice it to say, Mrs. Clinton knows where her bread is buttered. It’s a move the President might consider making as he continues to struggle to reclaim the health care debate. In the meantime here’s a look at some of what Mrs. Clinton saw on her trip:

Women and girls in particular have been victimized on an unimaginable scale, as sexual and gender-based violence has become a tactic of war and has reached epidemic proportions. Some 1,100 rapes are reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.

I visited a hospital run by the organization Heal Africa and met a woman who told me that she was eight months’ pregnant when she was attacked. She was at home when a group of men broke in. They took her husband and two of their children and shot them in the front yard, before returning into the house to shoot her other two children. Then they beat and gang-raped her and left her for dead. But she wasn’t dead. She fought for life and her neighbors managed to get her to the hospital – 85 kilometers away.

I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity.

Related: Hillary Clinton Pledges to ‘Banish Sexual Violence’ (People.com)

James Taranto Finds Sexism Hilarious

hillary-clintonI came across WSJ columnist James Taranto’s column from August 12th yesterday in doing research for my post about the Obama/Hitler posters and LaRouchePac. The column focused mostly on why Health Care reform was very very bad and why Barack Obama was insensitive/a hypocrite/shouldn’t joke about serious  things, while otherwise coining the term “Obamalignancy” and making a joke himself about typhoon victims in Taiwan. Ha, ha. Then, halfway down, I saw this:

‘Iron My Shirt!’

* “Clinton Presses India for Climate Change”–headline, United Press International, July 20
* “Clinton Presses NKorea on Denuclearisation, Myanmar Links”–headline, AFP, July 21
* “Clinton Presses Iran for Info on Detained U.S. Hikers”–headline, CNN.com, Aug. 3
* “Clinton Presses South Africa on Zimbabwean Crisis”–headline, Bloomberg, Aug. 7
* “Clinton Presses Angola to Sweeten Trade Ties”–headline, Associated Press, Aug. 9
* “Clinton Presses Congo on Minerals”–headline, New York Times, Aug. 11
* “Clinton Presses Nigeria on Corruption, Violence”–headline, Associated Press, Aug. 12

Oh ho-ho! Remember that? It was during the New Hampshire primary, and Clinton was speaking at a rally when two hi-larious dudes disrupted it by shouting out “Iron my shirt!” and holding up signs with the same charming slogan. Get it? Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have been running for president, she should have been ironing some dude’s shirt — you know, because that’s what chicks do. It’s funny, last week during Office Hours I went through the litany of carelessly sexist comments about Clinton that were tossed off (and largely dismissed) last year during the campaign — Hillary nutcrackers, “Bros Before Hos” shirts, comparisons to crazy bunny boiling stalkers, anti-Hillary groups with vulgar acronyms, The Cackle, or otherwise likening her to a witch, Mike Barnicle comparing her to a first wife outside a Probate court, Tucker Carlson crossing his legs when he heard her voice, Randi Rhodes calling her a whore, Penn Jillette calling her a bitch, Chris Matthews saying that she only had a career because her husband messed around — but I forgot this one! So thanks to James Taranto for reminding me.

I think Hillary Clinton’s response from a year and a half ago is just as apt today: “Ah, the remnants of sexism — alive and well.”

Related, Even Now:
Hillary Hate: Making Sexism Acceptable [Eat The Press]
Misogyny I Won’t Miss [WaPo]
And What’s Worse Than A Nagging Housewife? [Eat The Press]
“No one is making nutcracker icons of McCain or Obama” [Salon]
Hillary Sexism Watch: Part Eighty-Three [Shakespeare's Sister]

Related In “Really? Seemingly?”:
Clinton Responds to Seemingly Sexist Shouts [USA Today]

A Race Remembered: Obama Doc, By The People

katie-bakes-iiI can’t say I started crying during the opening credits of the upcoming HBO documentary By The People: The Election of Barack Obama, because I got to the theater five minutes late. But as I slid into my seat and arranged my concessions — at the Landmark Sunshine theater, where the movie just finished screening for a week, they have 12 kinds of flavored powder you can sprinkle on your popcorn, and it’s magical — the smiling faces of Sasha and Malia popped up on the screen and I lost all hope of keeping my composure.

I’m a total sap; your mileage may vary. (And, full disclosure, I’m friends with the movie’s assistant producer Elissa Brown.) But with the rich benefit of hindsight, viewing the early days of the Obama campaign is like walking a friend to her surprise birthday party: You’re secretly giddy about what’s in store. The film — which will air on November 3 on HBO — begins in Iowa in 2007, eight months before the caucuses and light years before today, and spends nearly half of its two-hours focusing on the state and the young supporters populating its campaign headquarters.

We meet Tommy Vietor, the baby-faced Iowa press secretary, and Ronnie Cho, the son of Korean immigrants who throughout the course of the film rivaled me in tears shed. We meet the people — David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs — whose names flooded the news and our email inboxes. And we meet, in intimate, backstage detail, Senator Barack Obama.

Early takes have already compared the film to the celebrated 1993 documentary The War Room, but as the Chicago Sun Times‘ Lynn Sweet (who appears often in By The People) points out: “The War Room did not have Clinton.” Filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams began following Obama on his trip to Kenya in 2006, and their acess to him and his staff, particularly early in the film, is stunning. The cameras literally trail behind as he gladhands through Iowa crowds (and, out of their earshot, admits to feeling like he’s been through a wrestling match) and strategizes with his advisors. The filmmakers even secure an honest and moving interview with Obama’s sister in Hawaii — one of the great moments in By The People — and catch her young daughter playing with an Obama bobblehead doll and chirping about “Uncle Rocky.” It’s not until a later moment, when a weary Obama finally asks from a barbershop chair for some “quiet time” with the cameras off, that you realize just how up-close and personal you’ve been all along.

The pitfall of this proximity is an air of adulation that hangs over By The People. (One cameraman questioning Obama about a poll showing Hillary Clinton widening her lead to 34 points is quite literally apologetic: “I’m sorry, but I have to ask”.) Producer Ed Norton noted in an interview that the film was not designed to be an exposé but rather “a document of what the internal reality of the movement was.” In other words, those hoping for any gotcha moments should look elsewhere. A snippy review — in my opinion, overly so — in Variety finds this to be the movie’s biggest flaw, maintaining that the filmmakers “apparent emotional investment is reflected in the cheerleading tone that informs so much of the film” and complaining about the film’s rapid sprint in the final 30 minutes through the highlights (and, in the case of a few disturbing shots of rabid Republicans, lowlights) of the general election.

The pacing didn’t bother me; I’ve had enough Sarah Palin in my life, thank you very much, and at this point we all know the details of the Jeremiah Wright flap by heart. And I found the older footage illuminating. In a touching Christmas Eve call to the Iowa headquarters, David Axelrod pep-talks about winning the nomination and going on to defeat “Mitt or Rudy or Huckabee, or whoever those assholes nominate” with nary a mention of the ultimate Republican nominee. How quickly things change! And allocating more time to the details of September and October would mean cutting back on perfectly understated moments from February and March, like David Alexrod human-pretzeled over a hotel chair – legs akimbo, cell phone to ear, index finger barely reaching the trackpad of an adjacent laptop on the floor – or Jon Favreau watching TV with his mouth hanging skeptically open, rolling his eyes as Hillary Clinton intones “You know what they say: As goes Ohio, so goes the nation!”

I was told that the filmmakers had to tread lightly in their coverage of Clinton in the editing process, given her current position in Obama’s cabinet, but to me the Hillary-related moments are devastating enough. At the Iowa County Fair we watch Obama playing carnival games with his daughters and disarming a nearby crowd with some goofy chants; the movie then cuts to our first glimpse of Hillary — awkwardly flipping burgers, her face quivering in concentration, surrounded by fusty middle aged supporters struggling to operate their digital cameras. I winced. The juxtaposition is meant to be funny, but it felt a little mean: less a smile than a smirk.

While Obama’s opponents are hastily constructed, the film takes tremendous care to develop the personalities of those within the Obama camp. Speechwriter Favreau, so brilliant with his prose, occasionally slips and acts his age. “Blah blah blah, hope change… yeah” is his answer when asked about the text of one upcoming speech. The ongoing dynamic, particularly on Election Day, between the feisty (and at times, black leather jacket–clad) Axelrod and the laser-focused Plouffe is a joy to watch, as are the scenes featuring Gibbs and his young towheaded son. “This is like listening to the pregame show before the Super Bowl,” mutters Gibbs nervously in the hours before the Iowa caucus results as he stares at the TV. “None of it matters. Just kick-off the damn ball.” (No clearer an indictment has been made, really, about the state of the media today.)

But while the documentary avoids getting sucked into that dangerous meta-trap of focusing on the 24-hour news cycles du jour, media nerds will nevertheless delight at all the cameos in the film. Milling around in the theater lobby afterwards, I confessed to a friend that one of my favorite moments was scoping out Ryan Lizza’s office at the New Yorker while he was being interviewed on screen. Overhearing, a random girl rushed over and grabbed my arm. “Oh my god,” she said. “I was doing that too!” (The film, unsurprisingly, made no mention of Lizza’s later being denied a seat on the Obama plane late in the campaign in what some felt to be retribution for controversial New Yorker cover art.) The wonderful Candy Crowley crops up often, as does Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe. I chuckled to myself during a classic clip of Chris Matthews — “What was once inevitable for Hillary is now barely a possibility,” he says gravely, practically licking his chops — and felt a pang of nostalgia when I saw that his two guests were David Gregory and Chuck Todd. And when Tim Russert’s mug appeared, I cried. Again.

Obama himself becomes understandably more distant from the cameras as the election wears on and his profile rises, but there remains plenty of behind-the-scenes footage late in the film, most notably in a scene showing his preparation for a debate with McCain in which Obama worries about appearing “whiny.” And when he delivers an election eve speech in the rain just hours after the death of his grandmother (who is interviewed early on in the movie and talks charmingly about her grandson and his friends playing basketball and “raiding the fridge”) the documentary cameras captured what the cable news crews did not: tears in his eyes, and even on his cheeks.

My sniffles, by that point, were no longer the only ones in the theater.

Katie Baker has contributed to Gawker, the Yale Daily News, Young Manhattanite, and US College Hockey Online. Her blog can be found here. She also has a day job.

At Dylan Ratigan’s Meetings, You Can Say “Bitch”

ratigan_8-13Dylan Ratigan’s Morning Meeting on MSNBC doesn’t refrain from addressing pertinent topics in, well, unique ways.

Spud from Inside Cable News noticed Ratigan discussing the various points of view to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s angry response to a question she didn’t like during her Africa tour. And Ratigan drops a B-bomb.

Ratigan was talking about the way women are viewed by some:

When she feels vulnerable then you can be sympathetic, but when she’s powerful, she’s a bitch.

Asked Chris Jansing, “Are you allowed to say that?” Ratigan: “I just did.”

Here’s the comment, and his explanation later in the show (when he says “bitch” again):

New York Times Comes To Hillary’s Defense

Picture 1The plot thickens! The New York Times has done some digging regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s debacle in the Congo earlier this week and smells a rat. The story that was initially picked up by everyone in the media, including us, was that during a Q&A a male student’s question had been mis-translated making it sound as though he were asking “what does Mr. Clinton think, through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton.” Later the student told Mrs. Clinton that he had been mis-quoted. The NYT says not so fast! They say the translation of the question from French was quite accurate.

By the time this video made its way to the attention of most viewers in the United States, though, it was packaged in reports, like one from Kirit Radia of ABC News, stating that “apparently the translator made a mistake.” On Tuesday Mr. Radio reported: “A State Department official tells ABC News the student went up to Clinton after the event and told her he was misquoted.”

It always seemed unlikely to The Lede that a translator working for Mrs. Clinton would make such a large error with a question asked in French, and my colleague Jeffrey Gettleman reports in Thursday’s New York Times that “further inspection of the audio recording of the event indicated that the translation was fine; the student had indeed said ‘Mr. Clinton.’ ” A second reporter traveling with Mrs. Clinton, a friend of your Lede blogger’s who is a magazine journalist, said the same thing in an e-mail exchange on Wednesday night, that the student “did ask the question that way: ‘the mind of Mr. From the lips of Mrs.’ ”

Change things? The Times suggests that in this new light, and considering Clinton is in a middle of an important trip to Africa the main purpose of which is to highlight the plight of women on the continent, the reaction is more understandable and Clinton may have got a “raw deal” from commentators in the West. I still don’t think so. In fact I think this new version of the events only further highlights the opportunity Clinton missed by snapping back, and turning what could have been — in the phrase du jour — a “teachable moment” into a cable news highlight. In the meantime, via The Lede, here is a link to the Secretary of State’s travel diary; video from her remarks regarding attacks on women in the Congo, also from during Monday’s forum, is below.