Friday, February 22, 2008

Those of you who know me (which I believe describes... anyone reading this) know how loath I am to write anything more in-depth than "This is funny," so you'll appreciate how annoyed I must be to have to write this, my second long post in a row. (What am I, a freaking essayist?) Realistically, though, I don't really have a choice: there's some shady delegate business coming out of the Clinton campaign, and it is my solemn, bloggerly duty to... well, to point out the fact that I think they're wrong. See, Terry McAuliffe sent an email to the Hillary for President mailing list yesterday afternoon, subject-lined: "Factcheck: the race for delegates." The email explains "the three most important things to remember" regarding the delegate numbers:

1) A candidate needs 2208 delegate votes to secure the nomination with Florida and Michigan included.
Objection, Your Honor! Assumes facts not in evidence. (And, incidentally, facts that are asinine.) As of today, there are a total of 4,048 delegates to the Convention (the original 4,049, minus Lieberman). You want to argue that Florida and Michigan should be counted eventually, I guess I could see where you're coming from. But can the Clinton campaign really believe that it would be legitimate in any way to seat those delegates based on the sham primaries that selected them?
2) After weeks of voting, the race is a virtual tie, with Hillary and Senator Obama now separated by little over [sic] 2% of all the delegates to the Democratic Convention.
2%, eh? The official NBC count (which is as good a source as any) has Obama ahead 1,168-1,018 in pledged delegates.* That's a margin of 150.
  • 150/(1,168+1,018)=6.9%.
  • 150/(4,048 total delegates)=3.7%.
  • 150/(4,415 delegates, if for some stupid reason you include Florida and Michigan)=3.4%.
So clearly none of those are the number they're talking about. Now suppose you add the superdelegates -- who, by way of reminder, are free to change their votes whenever they'd like. NBC's numbers give Clinton 256, Obama 189. That leaves Obama ahead (1,357-1,274), but shrinks his margin to 83. But here's the interesting thing. Both the email and the site refer to Obama's margin as "a little over 2%," right?
  • 83/4,048 (the number that normal people would use)=2.05%.
  • 83/4,415 (the number that the Clinton campaign seems to want to use)=1.88%.
So they argue in Most Important Thing One that we ought to be using a 4,415-delegate count, and then turn around and argue in Most Important Thing Two that we should use the [actual] 4,048 number. What the devil?
3) Both Hillary and Senator Obama will need automatic (super) delegates to win the nomination.
Okay, this one is probably true. But not if she keeps doing this kind of shit.

Following the Most Important Things, the email links to a snazzy new campaign website, The Delegate Hub. And, man, if you thought the email was shady....

The site -- in essentially its entirety -- lists five FACTS that we must not let the Obama campaign lie to us about! Of the five: one of them is true; one is true but poorly explained; one is questionable; and the other two are... opinions. I won't bother to quote the actual fact here, though I suppose I ought to give them credit for not being completely mendacious. But the other four should expect the full blockquote treatment:
FACT: Neither candidate can secure the nomination without automatic delegates.
This is almost certainly true, but not technically a fact. There are enough remaining pledged delegates to push Obama over the edge without having to tap into the superdelegates. Now, granted, that's not going to happen. But still, given the circumstances, mightn't it be prudent to be careful how we use the word FACT?
FACT: Automatic delegates are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party.
See, now I don't have any problem with this one. But then they have to go and fuck it up with their explanation, which says:
The Obama campaign is claiming that automatic delegates must follow the lead of pledged delegates and switch their vote to Sen. Obama.

This is false and unfounded - and it is contradicted by Sen. Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, who said, "[basically, the same thing as the FACT]."
Here's my problem with that: who in the Obama campaign is "claiming that automatic delegates must follow the lead of pledged delegates"? If it's not Obama, and it's not his campaign manager, then who are we talking about? Give us a quote or move it along, Clintonians.
FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats' 50-state strategy.
Do they maybe not know what a FACT is?
FACT: There is a clear path to an overall delegate majority (pledged + automatic) for Hillary Clinton after all states have voted -- with or without Florida and Michigan.
I suppose I admire their optimism, but again, fellas: not a FACT.

The only other feature on the entire site is a giant "click here to forward this page" button, which launches an obnoxious pre-written email (for your convenience!) using the lengthiest mailto: tag I've ever seen. The email repeats the generic "Obama campaign is claiming" business, and then points people back to The Delegate Hub for the "full facts." Which, as I've just spent like 800 words pointing out, are suspiciously absent.

I'm a loyal Democrat, and I do actually like Hillary Clinton. So it's not like she's in danger of losing my vote in the general. But really, truly: that email (and its silly accompanying website) pissed me off. Puffery is fine; intentional misleading is not.

* - At the time the McAuliffe email went out, the counts were as they're listed above: Obama 1,168 + 189; Clinton 1,018 + 256. According to the current count, Obama's margin has grown to 152: 1,183-1,031.


Super D said...

I was disgusted too. So I created a website in response:

Mike said...

Obviously that entire site was plagiarized from Deval Patrick.