Monday, February 11, 2008

Spin: the true dark side of politics

Let's just get one thing out of the way. There is no real truth in politics.

This is not because of a cynical presumption that politics are all about power, but because the truth is complex and not possible to be presented in one statement. In many other cases, the whole truth isn't or cannot be disclosed, like when a doctor doesn't explain all the complicated tests a patient is going to undergo. Not only is it unnecessary as such, it can provoke unnecessary anxiety about tests he doesn't fully understand. Of course, this information is not hidden, and can be accessed upon simple request.

However, "spin" is the premeditated act of distorting a fact or statement to not only serve one's own purpose, but to present it like it *is* the truth. This is something I loathe on a fierce and personal level. While I'm sure that all politicians indulge on this sin, the continued use of it greatly discredits one's sincerity.

On many occasions, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign has been spotted on employing these tactics. It started when they pulled the race card, something Sen. Obama never did. He always perceived himself as a politician who happened to be black. Then Bill Clinton accused the Obama campaign to spin the media against them, an accusation without base. In Florida and Michigan, they claimed victory in events that weren't contests. Throughout the campaign, Clinton's campaign downplayed losses (or plainly ignored them). And finally, today, Mark Penn, senior strategist on the Clinton campaign, dismissed all polls showing Obama's lead in general election projections (link to

**Update** The abovementioned post of Mr. Penn has been edited. He now takes on Sen. Obama by citing specifics. Reference to the polls is now a lot more factual, and presented with a more fair counterargument.

While any campaign has the right to vigorously support their candidate, the continued denial and distortion of certain facts seems to have become customary to the Clinton campaign. Spin symbolizes a campaign that is constantly "adapting" to the political opportunities. While offering resilience in the face of changing circumstances, it reveals one's ultimate goal: that of winning at all costs.

When you compare this to Sen. Obama's campaign, spin is much less prevalent. Yes, Obama's campaign is very keen on stressing they have won the most states, ignoring the importance of the big states, and the fonts of Sen. Clinton's delegates is a bit lighter and thus less legible than Sen. Obama's in his delegate chart. But at least he did put Clinton's delegates up. If you note, for example, his New Hampshire speech (Youtube link), after conceding a frankly blistering and upsetting loss, he was graceful in defeat, and instead of denying his loss, he thanked the ones who did support him and rallied them for the contests ahead in undeniably one of the best speeches in US political history.

An argument might be because of Hillary Clinton's longer run in DC, she has become more seasoned in political strategy. But this argument simply doesn't fly if you note that her husband used similar tactics when he was an upstart back in 1992.

A final protest against spin is that it leads to disappointment. Not only to those whom it discredits, but also to whom it favors. Both parties know spin is unfair. It arouses that gutwrenching feeling, associated with deceit, injustice, and theft. And after the theft of the 2000 election, I'm just sick of these political power games that constantly mar honest intentions. Intentions that don't waver and change in the need of the hour. Let's go back to January 16, 2007. Far before the onslaught of these primary elections, before the bitter rivalries, before the spin.

Over one year later, Obama's message stands solid as a rock. No spin attached.

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