January 27, 2003
There is a weird respect among Washington journalists for presidential candidates who come before their most loyal supporters and insult them. In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton spoke before a black audience at a meeting of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. Rapper Sister Souljah, who had spoken to the group the evening before, had recently told The Washington Post that blacks would be justified in killing whites. Clinton criticized her for those comments, angering his audience and insulting Jackson.Wait — you mean you thought after that lengthy build-up there was actually gonna be a "Sister Souljah moment"? Nah, you've just fallen for that Classic Journalism Technique: the Wishful Thinking Reverse Lead.
The move cemented Clinton's reputation as a centrist Democrat who was not held hostage to his party's interest groups. The media cheered, and the phrase "Sister Souljah moment" was born. In subsequent campaigns, George W. Bush won praise when he criticized House Republicans for trying to "balance their budget on the backs of the poor," while pundits swooned for John McCain when he said his party was bought and paid for by corporate special interests.
So when the six Democratic presidential candidates spoke before a core Democratic interest group, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Tuesday night, one question that hung in the air of the Omni Shoreham ballroom was, which Democrat would "Sister Souljah" NARAL? The answer was nobody.
You see, like most political events this one offered nothing newsworthy, with the candidates speaking to an abortion-rights advocacy group and, well...advocating abortion rights. So imagine that you're covering the event: you're listening to these action-packed speeches, taking notes, and the next thing you know you're daydreaming, "Boy, wouldn't it be great if Gephardt went ape-shit and started screaming 'Baby Killers!!!' or something like that?"
So instead of trying to differentiate the suits' various shades of blue you find yourself sketching out this terrific Sister Souljah lead, and if Gephardt actually promises to personally perform every tenth abortion in America if that will help get NARAL's endorsement...well, that just means it's the perfect time to bust out the old Wishful Thinking Reverse Lead and pray that Hillary jumps into the race.
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