Monday, December 31, 2018

"What Happened", by Hillary Clinton

Having read so many negative reviews of it, I was reluctant to try this book. But when I saw it prominently displayed in the local library, I decided to give it a shot.

The criticisms claimed that Hillary blamed everybody but herself for her pitiful campaign performance. While she does mention the interference by Comey and by the Russians, to me she does in fact take responsibility for the bad campaign.

She covers in detail the major decisions made by her and her staff over the course of the campaign, beginning with her announcement of her candidacy on April 12, 2015.  What stands out is that she was so focused on policy decisions that she ignored the basic requirement that a candidate must connect with the voters.  She doesn't have to overtly admit to this, because it is obvious from her description of how she went about her campaign.

Every time an issue arose, she tried to explain what policies she thought were best to address the issue. It turns out that the voters, for the most part, are not interested in detailed policy issues, but rather are interested in picking a leader to head the country for the next four years. Voters want a candidate who can speak to their deepest concerns, not in a remote, academic way, but in a way that demonstrates that the candidate really cares about them. In a survey in which voters were asked "which candidate do you feel is on your side", a pathetic 12% said it was Hillary. She simply had no ability to connect with people, because of her icy, aloof, humorless, and charmless demeanor.

In the book she writes in a more personal way than she ever campaigned in. She shows that underneath the icy demeanor there really is a living, breathing human being.  Too bad she couldn't have shown more of this side of herself during the campaign.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

"Bias", by Bernard Goldberg

I read this book practically nonstop, the only break coming at 9:20 P.M., when I finally dragged myself off the couch to go make some supper. Goldberg writes in a very readable style, and the subject matter was obviously of great interest to me.

Goldberg's thesis is that the three network newscasts all have a liberal bias. He starts with one particular story, the bias of which is quite clear. This was a report of Steve Forbes' flat tax proposal during the 1996 presidential campaign.

Goldberg wrote an op-ed which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, criticizing his network for its bias. The reaction to this was truly horrendous. Many of his colleagues would no longer speak to him. Dan Rather was furious.

The irony of all this is that the CBS 60 Minutes show had become famous for featuring corporate whistleblowers. But now that there was a whistleblower in its own ranks, a different set of principles seemed to apply.

Goldberg's reporting assignments dried up, but he was allowed to continue to work at CBS for a few years, until he could retire quietly and draw his pension.

Personally, I decided about 30 yeas ago that the network newscasts were a bunch of crap, and I haven't watched any since. My beef had nothing to with the liberal bias which many perceived, but rather with the superficiality of the newscasts. John Chancellor was right on point when, in an interview, he said that he often wished he could close his newscast with "For more information, consult your daily newspaper". (A few years later I also gave up on local newscasts, which had become little more than crime and disaster reports.)

The evils of identity politics come through lout and clear in Goldberg's writing about affirmative action. He says that "News executives are always saying we need out staffs to look more like the real America. How about if those reporters and editors and executives also thought just a little more like the real America?"

This emphasizes a big problem with the whole "diversity" obsession. What about diversity of thought?  For example, there is a big push for diversity on the Supreme Court. And yet, what kind of diversity do we have when the court, until recently, consisted of six Catholics and three Jews? What about some representation for the Protestants? The idea that individual ethnic groups are monolithic in their viewpoints is absurd. Our true need is not for affirmative action crating racial and ethnic diversity, but for an honest effort to promote diversity of thought within an organization.

Goldberg's book is an important attempt to call attention to serious problems in our TV news. Kudos to him.