Thursday Reads: Authenticity and Politics


Good Morning!!

Yesterday J.J. posted an article from Vox by Andrew Prokop that discussed the Politico article about Joe Biden that I blogged about on Tuesday and the idiotic obsession the media has with politicians and authenticity.

Imagine how the press would react if Hillary Clinton did what Joe Biden just did.

Since Joe Biden has been weighing a run for president, members of the press have repeatedly praised him for his “authenticity.” This has largely been in contrast to Hillary Clinton, who is frequently pilloried by the media as secretive and calculating, and has its members yearning for a more natural candidate. “With Joe Biden, what you see is what you get,” Mike Barnicle wrote for the Daily Beast.

Even the anecdotes about Biden’s political calculations have portrayed him as a conflicted, grieving father. On August 1, New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd narrated a heart-wrenching private moment that occurred among the Biden family. Dowd wrote that the vice president’s dying son Beau, his face “partially paralyzed,” sat down with his “anguished” father and urged him to run for president — “arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”

Dowd’s column was extremely vague about how she got this information, but it kick-started the buzz that Biden might really be serious about a 2016 campaign, which is still going strong this week.

Now it turns out that her source — according to a report by Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere today — was Joe Biden himself.

authentic def

As Prokop points out, if Hillary had done this, she would be “ripped to shreds.” But Prokop’s main point is that all politicians are inherently calculating, trying to present themselves to the public in the best light.

Some politicians — like Biden and John McCain (particularly in 2000) — are deemed to be genuine individuals, while others — Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney — are viewed as calculating, contrived phonies.

The rationale for these judgments differs from candidate to candidate. They could involve flip-flops on issues, real or perceived dishonesty, or even just wooden campaign styles.

But frequently, “authenticity” seems to be a synonym for “better at working the press” or “more fun to cover.” The candidates who are more extroverted and freewheeling and less scripted — and those who joke with the press and give them lots of access — tend to get that label.

It’s an odd construct. The campaign trail is not in any sense a “natural” environment, and presidential contenders’ words could have very real consequences — it makes sense for a candidate to be guarded and careful about what he or she says. But reporters get bored covering candidates who give the same stump speech all the time, and yearn for more excitement in their lives.

Importantly, once a candidate gets the “authentic” label, his (it’s usually “his”) flip-flops, calculations and strategic acts are excused, or at least viewed as unrelated to his true character.

Prokop refers to an October 1 column by Brian Nyhan: Hillary Clinton’s Authenticity Problem, and Ours.

Is Hillary Rodham Clintonnot presenting her true self to voters? As with candidates like Mitt Romney and Al Gore, claims that she is inauthentic have fueled endless cycles of negative coverage of her campaign.

In reality, all politicians are strategic about the image and behaviors they present to voters. Some just hide the artifice better than others.

The refrain that Mrs. Clinton is calculating and inauthentic has recurred throughout her political career. During this campaign cycle, reporters and columnists have already questioned who the “Real Hillary” is, said that she “wrestles with the authenticity issue,” and described just being herself on the campaign trail as “a tricky proposition.” The Daily Beast’s Mike Barnicle reflected the conventional wisdom in writing that the “nagging question” that “won’t go away” is “Who is she? Really, who is she?”

Nyhan also points out that once the media has labeled a politician as either “authentic” or “inauthentic,” this perception is set in stone and can never be altered.

Once these narratives develop, candidates like Mrs. Clinton can get stuck in what I’ve called the authenticity doom loop — the same fate that plagued Mr. Gore and Mr. Romney. In this phase, candidates are criticized for not being sufficiently authentic and urged to reveal their true selves. But any efforts to demonstrate authenticity prompt the news media to point out that the candidate is acting strategically and is therefore actually still inauthentic. This coverage in turn motivates further efforts to reveal the “real” person, and the pattern then repeats.

Mrs. Clinton has gone through this cycle many times, which leads to headlines like “The Making of Hillary 5.0” and “Re-re-re-introducing Hillary Clinton.” Consider, for instance, a recent column by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who criticized her for “the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers — perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones.” He calls for Mrs. Clinton to “shed those who orchestrate these constant makeovers” so she can “be spontaneous — and regain some semblance of her authentic self.”


I think it’s a bit much to compare Hillary with Mitt Romney or Al Gore. She’s not “wooden” except to people who already hate her and just accept the decisions of the pundits. Hillary comes across as genuine to people who have open minds. I saw this happen in 2008 in New Hampshire and in a number of important swing states. I think it’s mainly the media who hold onto this perception of her. She is just going to have to be tough and fight through it–expecting nothing but negativity from most of the media.

Fortunately, there are some writers who know Hillary well and view her in a positive light. Here’s Gene Lyons on the recent admission by Rep. Kevin McCarthy that the Benghazi select committee has never been anything except a way to lower Hillary’s poll numbers.

The Death Rattle Of A Fake Scandal.

To hardly anybody’s surprise, it turns out that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” has been right in front of our eyes. Always was, actually, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s politically disastrous on-air admission made plain. Or maybe you thought a seventh Benghazi investigation lasting as long as the Pearl Harbor and JFK assassination probes combined was exactly what America needed.

Hillary has already released an ad in response to McCarthy’s admission.

She has also agreed to testify before the committee this month. If she does testify, Lyons warns the committee’s chairman Trey Gowdy that he’s not likely to get what he wants from her.

Chairman Gowdy would be well advised to invest in a pair of super-absorbent Depends when Hillary testifies before his committee on October 22. All he’s got is a handful of long-disproved conspiracy theories and selectively edited witness transcripts leaked to the news media to create a false impression.

So he’s an ex-federal prosecutor. Whoop-de-doo. Arkansas was overrun with them during the late Whitewater investigation….

As the Washington Post‘s GOP-oriented columnist Kathleen Parker points out, Rep. McCarthy has “tried to cram the bad genie back into the bottle, but the damage has been done and can’t be undone….any previous suspicions that Republicans were just out to get Clinton have cleared the bar of reasonable doubt.”

Meanwhile, if Trey Gowdy doesn’t already know that Hillary Clinton’s a lot smarter and tougher than he is, he’s about to find out. Truthfully, they’d be better advised to fold the committee and file some weasel-worded report.


Lyons has a few choice words for the media too:

Then there’s our esteemed national news media, repeatedly burned by inaccurate leaks from Gowdy’s committee. The New York Times has run one phony exclusive after another. First, her famous emails were illegal, except they’re not. Then they were contrary to regulations enacted, oops, 18 months after she left office. Next Hillary was the subject of an FBI criminal probe. Except that too turned out to be false. Now they’re making a big deal out of the exact date she changed email addresses. Seriously.

And why? Because as Bill Clinton recently explained to Fareed Zakaria, they’re essentially fops and courtiers, “people who get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America, even in small towns of rural America.”

Let the Villagers call Hillary “inauthentic.” They’ve been doing it since Bill Clinton first ran for President, and they’re not going to stop. She just has to go out and talk directly to voters and let them judge whether she’s a real, genuine individual. I believe she can win this thing despite the tired old media narratives.


A few more headlines:

It looks like Jeb Bush has been dubbed “inauthentic” by the media too. From Politico: Jeb Bush’s identity crisis.

Here’s an old Politico story on Biden that I got from the Vox piece on authenticity: Ex-Biden aide pens angry tell-all.

Have you heard? Hillary has a close circle of friends and advisers who will ruin her chances to be President. Vanity Fair: How Hillary Clinton’s Loyal Confidants Could Cost Her the Election

Here’s something from AbeBooks for J.J., Beata, and anyone else who loves vintage Hollywood photos.

An important, heartbreaking article from The Guardian about Amanda Kimbrough, the woman in Alabama who has been imprisoned for having a stillbirth: Alone in Alabama: dispatches from an inmate jailed for her son’s stillbirth.

George Zornick at The Nation: Hillary Clinton Just Made Passage of the TPP Much More Difficult.

Graydon Carter at Vanity Fair: Why Donald Trump Will Always Be a “Short-Fingered Vulgarian.”

Ben Carson had a gun stuck in his ribs at Popeye’s, according to The Hill: Carson: I faced a gunman.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.

53 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Authenticity and Politics”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice day, everyone!

  2. Pat Johnson says:


    She has been labeled a lesbian, murderer, drug dealer, liar, cheat, cold, aggressive, and the biggest of all: a bitch!

    Just shows they can’t seem to pin down one adjective to describe a brilliant, accomplished, facts oriented wonk beyond painting her as a witch.

    They have been after her since 1991 and even after all these years they are still hard at work. This is a woman who served her term in the Senate while achieving praise from both sides of the aisle as a hard working law maker.

    The GOP will stoop to any level even while planting lies in the minds of the public who are just too damned lazy to sort the facts from the propaganda.

    A pox on all of them!

  3. Beata says:

    We don’t know what Joe Biden did or didn’t do regarding the Maureen Dowd column. The source of the “Joe Biden was the leak” is Politico ( citing unnamed people ). Politico is the rag we never believe when it writes about Hillary, remember? But when it writes about Biden, Politico is credible? Not in my book.

  4. janicen says:

    The point of Biden’s authenticity and whether it would be construed as such if Hillary behaved the same way is a brilliant one. No matter what they love about a dude, people will hate about Hillary. We learned that in ’08. The press is luring Biden into running. If he falls for it they will rip him to shreds. Where are all the “crazy Uncle Joe” jokes we’ve heard throughout Biden’s tenure as Veep. He was a running joke even when he laid low people said Obama had him locked in the attic and suddenly he’s authentic? Pfffft! Don’f fall for it, Joe. Like Bid Dawg said, they’re just bored.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Exactly. The main thing the media wants is for people to rip each other to shreds. They can’t handle writing about policies or about all the people who need government to survive.

  5. janicen says:

    The Amanda Kimbrough story is heartbreaking and makes me angry at the same time. It reminds me of how I felt when I was pregnant myself. I felt afraid. I felt that I didn’t exist as a person anymore and that any mistake I made could be latched onto by some over zealous prosecutor or law enforcement official and my life would be over. I really felt that way. I loved my baby and I wanted my baby but I hated, hated, hated that I was suddenly not a person in the eyes of society. People I hardly knew felt free to comment on what I ate or drank. I’d have a mug in my hand at the office and people did not hesitate to ask, “Is that decaf? That better be decaf…” And jesus christ on a cracker if I didn’t despise when people I hardly knew felt they could touch my belly. One woman did it once to often to me after I had repeatedly asked her not to do it and I shoved my hand into her belly and said, “There, that’s how it feels…” and she looked at me as if I had gone crazy.

    Sorry, I had to vent that. Now back to poor Amanda and the hundreds maybe thousands? of women in the United States who are actually in JAIL because of their pregnancies? I’m in shock. The war on women is real. We are an inch away from witch trials.

    • NW Luna says:

      Reading that story, if it is accurate, the fetus died due to the cord prolapse and compression. If any blame is to be assigned, it should be to the OB (although sometimes these events can’t be prevented or relieved in time). Ridiculous and cruel to hold the mother at fault.

  6. Beata says:

    Rep. Kevin McCarthy has dropped out of the Speaker’s race. He says, “I’m not the one to unify the party.”

  7. TheRealKim says:

    I am thoroughly aggravated with the Bernie lovers. I agree with a lot of the things he says, but let’s face it-HE CANT DO ALL THOSE THINGS. Nah gonna happen. It seems like he jumped into the fray to deliberately take votes from Hillary.

    Oh and South Carolina here drying out!!!

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Thank goodness. You have been through hell.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m glad you’re OK, Kim.

    • List of X says:

      Of course, Sanders can’t do all he promises to do, but neither will Clinton, nor any other Democratic president. That wall of obstruction that Republicans built for Obama isn’t going to disappear, and will probably even going to get even worse for Hillary.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Actually the Dems have a very good chance to retake the Senate and make gains in the House.

        • List of X says:

          That’s true, but, unfortunately, Dems would need 60 seats in the Senate AND a majority in the House to have a hope of getting anything done – and that would be very unlikely.

  8. Pat Johnson says:

    The only way to be rid of these obstructionists in congress is for Dems and Independents to get off their lazy butts and vote them out!

    The last election had the smallest voter turnout which only added to this bizarre way of governing because so many stayed home.

    Until the electorate takes this stuff seriously we will keep going through this inactivity for the common good.

    You get the government you deserve when you fail to vote in your own best interests. These Tea Party crazies have been holding the government hostage for too long.

    Get up and VOTE!

    • janicen says:

      Well I’ll double down…get out and volunteer! There are calls to be made and canvassing to be done. I read somewhere that one yard sign, ONE, yields 3 votes. Make yourselves known, Sky Dancers. We want to be on the right side of history. Beata is excused from volunteering but we still want to hear from you!

  9. Sweet Sue says:

    I try to resist schadenfreude (most of the time) but I am absolutely loving watching the Republican party tear itself apart. I hope it tears itself into shreds.
    Of course there will be consequences for the country: can you imagine Jason Chaffetz with his little graphs being third in line for the Presidency?

    • Fannie says:

      This is what they get for not working with democrats…………this is serious disease among the republicans.

      • dakinikat says:

        They have to get their speaker nominee through the full house. Boehner may be speaker forever at this rate.

        • bostonboomer says:

          They are talking about asking Boehner to stay till 2016. LOL!

        • Fannie says:

          No need to say they are neglecting the 4th highest ranking republican: Cathy McMorris Rogers, I guess she’s there to serve them hot coffee and Sara Lee Banana Cakes.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Legendary chef Paul Prudhomme has died at 75.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    It’s beginning to look like Obama might endorse Joe Biden, especially after Hillary’s rejection of the TPP and the oil pipeline.

    WSJ: White House Touts Biden as Hillary Clinton Diverges From Obama.

    Josh Earnest on Wednesday played up an ad by a pro-Biden super PAC that was unveiled this week and is to run next week during the first Democratic debate.

    Mr. Earnest said he “found it compelling,” and called Mr. Biden “a genuinely inspirational figure.”

    “You don’t serve in the United States Senate for multiple decades and rise to the position of vice president of the United States without having a powerful story to tell,” Mr. Earnest said of Mr. Biden.

    Mrs. Clinton, in her diversions from Mr. Obama’s policy, could be creating a path for Mr. Biden to run as the candidate who is there to secure the Obama legacy.

    “Vice President Biden’s personal story is as powerful as any story in American politics. And he also has a uniquely powerful way of telling that story, and using it to inspire other people,” Mr. Earnest said.

    Ahem. Former Senator and Secretary of State Clinton.

  12. List of X says:

    I will much rather vote for “inauthentic” Hillary that for many of the Republican clowns who might just be as authentically dumb or evil as they appear to be.

    • NW Luna says:

      I get very pissed off when the pundits rattle on about how Hillary is “inauthentic” because as SOS she worked for TPP, and now as candidate she’s against it. Hello! As SOS she was working for Obama, and so was carrying out his policies. Now she is free to take her own policy stands — which is authentic.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Exactly. But the Villagers will never let go of their narratives about the Clintons. Hillary will simply have to overcome that by talking to real people.

  13. Ron4Hills says:

    Thanks for this post. It is so encouraging to see that “it’s not just me, people actually see what’s going on.”

  14. Ron4Hills says:

    Also, funny how the “plagiarist” is the authentic one! Bahaha! The media sucks.

  15. William says:

    If Obama actually endorses a Biden candidacy, his legacy, whatever it might have been, will be pretty well solidified as the person who essentially destroyed the Democratic Party. The losses in Congress and in state legislatures since he has been in office, have been historically unprecedented. If somehow Biden gets nominated because of Obama’s support, the Democrats will lose, and lose more national ground, to the point that the will be essentially powerless to stop the Republicans from doing anything they want. If Hillary still gets the nomination, Obama will have damaged her candidacy by forcing her to spend many more millions on the primary campaign; taking money away from her which instead will be given to Biden; and creating a serious party rift. That will be his legacy. His compromise Obamacare will be repealed, and everything else he has supported will be repealed or expunged. If he truly cares about the country and the future, then he should stay far away from this process. If his goal is to be the last Democratic President, then that is another matter. UCLA had a football coach who wasn’t too good, but he did get to some Rose Bowls, so many people thought he was better than he was. The story I have heard is that he was so jealous of his stature, that he actually never wanted UCLA to hire a really good football coach in any of the years following his retirement, because such a coach would outdo him.