Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is Hillary One of Penn's Derided Impressionable Elite?

I do think these are premature but today I read and saw two items that were informative to me.

The first was this piece from The New York Observer on Mark Penn.

He said that the emerging story line—that his poll-obsessed, microtargeting approach had produced a plodding, uninspiring campaign—was a bum rap. “The campaign has been about big goals, health care, ending the Iraq war, new energy, the future,” he said. “There was a misunderstanding that this campaign was about small things. It never was. If anything, the Obama campaign has microtargeted constituencies.”
And then this:
He reserves a special disdain for a group he identifies as the “impressionable elites”: people who can afford to pick candidates based on fuzzy feelings rather than on the impact the candidates’ policies will have on their lives. At a recent discussion of the book at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, during which Mr. Penn said, “The theory of the book is that the era of big trends is over,” one audience member asked if Mr. Obama was not a “macrotrend.” (Barack Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, had made a similar gibe earlier this year.)
Over the weekend, I saw the Book TV episode of Mark Penn's talk at The Strand on Monday, February 11th, the day before the Potomac primary. (He admitted he'd scheduled the talk months before which betrayed the conclusion that the campaign wrongly assumed the nominating process would be over by February 5th).

In his discussion of the "Impressionable elites," one of the qualities he described was that they don't dig down into the facts, that they all read the same articles and listen to the same pundits and become susceptable to "group think." And as I was describing this, I recognized it as a Washington phenomemon. I used to joke that you could go to a party or dinner and recognize which article the person had read - in The New Yorker or Vanity Fair or The New York Review of Books or The Atlantic Monthly or The New Republic, etc - by the ideas or arguments they were articulated. I even mocked it in my novella.

But here's the thing - arguably, his own candidate was one of those "impressionable elites" and it was the very phenomenon he was describing that led her to make the error in judgement in her vote for authorizing war in Irag.
  • She did not dig into the facts - according to Bernstein she did not go read the NIE,
  • she read the same stories - by Judy Miller, and
  • she became wrapped up in the pervasive group think of Washington DC in the fall of 2002 - that Iraq was a threat to our national security.


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