Andrea Mitchell's strange attack against Clinton

Even in a night of mainstream media glee over Hillary Clinton's poor showing in Iowa, the NBC commentator's take seemed especially petty.

Published January 4, 2008 7:50PM (EST)

Flipping through coverage last night, we couldn't help noticing a common theme in what NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell had to say from Hillary Clinton's headquarters. Over and over again, Mitchell emphasized that the Clinton campaign's election night event and its crowd had been "manufactured."

"This room was, until about five or six minutes ago, completely empty. This is a manufactured 'celebration,'" Mitchell said at one point. "It really felt more like a funeral as people started strolling in from upstairs where they had obviously been gathered. This is unlike anything that I've ever seen, a completely empty, dirge-like event."

This is a vulnerable area for the Clinton team. Earlier in the campaign, charges that questions had been planted during at least one town hall event led to days of piling on from opponents and the media. But as Salon pointed out at the time, though the Clinton campaign got caught doing something undoubtedly wrong, its actions were no different from what plenty of other campaigns have done during plenty of other elections.

This seems similar. Yes, it's probably likely that Mitchell is right, that someone from the Clinton advance team exhorted supporters to go into the hall and put on a happy face for the camera. Yes, this is a campaign -- even a candidate -- that's often entirely too stage-managed. But come on: A campaign event, by its nature, is manufactured. We defy you to come up with a campaign event that someone somewhere couldn't call manufactured on some level.

Moreover, using the fact that an empty room had begun to fill not long before the candidate appeared to speak just seems bizarre. Election night events don't come packaged with 300 people magically teleported in just as they begin (at least the ones we've been to; maybe Mitchell gets invited to the cool parties). Supporters have been out working the polls all day, and some will still be arriving. Some are out to dinner, some resting from a long day, some just watching the results come in from a room more suitable for that purpose. In this case, Mitchell even said the supporters were already gathered together; she seemed only to have a problem with the fact that they had apparently been told to move from one room to another. This is a minor complaint from us, we'll admit, but even in a night filled with anti-Clinton vitriol from pundits eager to dance on her not-yet-dug grave, this example stuck out if only for the smallness that Mitchell displayed.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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