Voting With Our Eyes

07 Jan 2008

Pleasure to see you again as well, sir

On the campaign trail today Hillary — does she need a last name at this point? — showed the first crack in her armor. While some in the media, and even a competitor in the race, seemed eager to brand the event as the candidate’s Muskie moment, the rare glimpse into the personality of a presidential hopeful offered much in just a single crack of the voice, a flushed pause. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has long maintained she is “the most famous person nobody knows,” yet the most instructive moment as to the inner thoughts of a person putting the whole of her being towards the goal governing this nation was parsed by the major media almost exclusively for its strategic value. As cinema, however, a more compelling moment of drama could not have been directed by Orson Welles.

We are a nation, more than ever, that votes with our eyes. And as television has become a part of the election process, our sophistication in analyzing the memes of people who stand before cameras has increased furiously. In Mrs. Clinton today, we were presented with the full case of the reasons behind her efforts, and not a few of the rationalizations she has had to make along the way to buttress them. Witness the contrast between two consecutive clauses:

“We do it, each one of us, because we care about our country,” the justification, heartfelt, “but some of us are right and some of us are wrong,” the candidate, steely, and the unsaid unprovable: I am on the right side.

dis/honest campaign?

The previous night, the besmirched baseball star Roger Clemens took to 60 minutes to try to rescue a piece of his honor after being accused of steroid use by Major League Baseball’s official investigation of the drug scandal. Before the Rocket made his sit down with Mike Wallace, however, he made sure to address the American people directly via youtube. He followed up today by holding a press conference in which he played a secretly-made recording of a conversation between himself and his accuser and announced a lawsuit against him. The timing and filing of the lawsuit, however, inadvertently contradicted some of the claims Clemens made in the 60 minutes interview.

In this case, we must also vote with our eyes. The plain-spoken effort of someone attempting to save his dignity is clear. The integrity with which he has chosen to pursue that end is clearly in doubt, and our decision, whether it is an honest or dishonest man attempting to save his name, is the one that will ultimately shape discourse on the topic. At this time in our media landscape, the lawsuit itself has become it’s own form of supporting argument in the court of public opinion.

The ready availability of image-making tools has placed a premium on the ability to use them in compelling ways, but also on the need for emotionally compelling subjects. One suspects that the thirteen minutes of the Clemens interview will eventually find its way to the middle of the pack of Mike Wallace interviews, but that Mrs. Clinton’s personal account of reasons that she pursues high office will live on in political lore. For clip of the day, anyway, she gets my vote.

AP photos cribbed from the Times.


  1. 8 Jan 2008 ginger

    I agree. That moment is like an undergraduate acting glass where you’ve been pushed past exhaustion and you finally find that moment of truth. I’ve seen her speak at so many function, and honestly she no actress. Yeah, there were talking points in this clip, but it’s probably so ingrained in her by now she doesn’t even know it. I say it’s all in earnest.

  2. 8 Jan 2008 raafi

    That clip became number one on youtube, btw. A day later Hill gets the huge bounce back. Authenticity sells. Someone should tell that to Roger Clemens.

  3. 26 Jan 2008 TAN

    Damn, should have gotten that Clemens video done. sigh ….