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Haircuts Redux

By Matthew Yglesias on April 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

"Haircuts Redux"

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EKlein and GFR think John Edwards is to blame for the Modo Hair Story Fiasco. I join with Scott Lemieux in placing the onus purely on Dowd and her peers in the media:

The error they’re making, I think, it to assume that these charges have some sort of objective merit to someone, or that there’s some way of avoiding having junior high narratives being developed about you. Consider what similar advice given to Al Gore would look like (and there are many people who blamed Gore for running a horrible, horrible campaign and not adapting to the media.) He wouldn’t be able to wear “earth tone” suits, or casual jackets, or Armani suits, or work clothes…actually, I’m not sure what he could wear. He couldn’t discuss past political achievements because the media would distort them and make them look arrogant. He can’t pass on things a newspaper told him about his friend’s novel because it might not turn out to be fully true. He can’t pay a feminist consultant. And on and on and on. And if he had done all of these things, Dowd, Rich, Connolly, et al. still would have just made stuff up out of whole cloth, as they in fact did. And it’s the same thing with Kerry. If he engages in his actual hobbies, he’s an upper class twit. If he does anything else, he’s a phony.

One should note that there’s a trap here designed to make it impossible, in practice, for anyone to advocate effectively on behalf of working class Americans. It’s simply not possible, given the way the American political system works, for a person to be in a position to run for president without having achieved high socioeconomic status. A person will, in that position, be condemned by the press as a hypocrite if he acts like someone with money, and condemned by the press as a phony if he acts like someone without money (indeed, Edwards even got in trouble earlier for acting like a working class person who got rich and bought a tastelessly large house). Meanwhile, someone like George W. Bush who eschews the interests of working class Americans in favor culturalist posturing can get a free pass on sailing in Kennebunkport, and a free pass on phony working class affectations. No real person can uniformly avoid these “errors” — it’s the media dynamic that needs to change.

UPDATE: Also — what Paul Waldman said. The fact that Maureen Dowd is literally recycling Republican National Committee talking points tells you 90 percent of what you need to know about this.

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