It's hard to tell whether this is a reaction to "It's about time!" complaints that would tend to come from the center-right, or to "How dare you!" protests from the left (my money is on the latter), but pollster John Zogby took an unprofessional turn in his Saturday report (to be replaced in 24-48 hours) that was released in the wee hours this morning.
The substantive news is that Barack Obama is ahead 5.7% in Zogby's three-day rolling average. Obama came in 10 points ahead in one-day Saturday polling (52-42, after trailing John McCain 48-47 on Friday (weekend polling bias, anyone?).
But it's what Zogby wrote in his third paragraph before showing the daily rolling-average results that was the attention-getter (bold is mine):
That Hillary Clinton -- such a prankster! Yes, if there's one thing Hillary is known for, it's her great sense of humor and light touch. So when she included Barack Obama's statements as a third-grader and kindergartner in her press release for purposes of demonstrating he was lying when he said he hadn't long harbored presidential ambitions, we should have all realized it was just one more of Hillary's rib-ticklers. Too bad that gullible old MSM let itself get spun.
That in essence is what Mark Penn [file photo], Hillary's chief strategist, would have people believe about the press release Clinton put out two days ago. Penn appeared on today's Morning Joe, and talked soon turned to the release. No fewer than four times, Penn tried to pass off the to-all-appearances dead serious kindergarten citation as a "joke":
"You sort of have to be a little careful. There's a whole campaign handbook of things that you say to dismiss polls. But you should mire them in a little bit of truth." -- John Zogby, responding to criticism by Mark Penn, chief Hillary Clinton strategist, of Zogby's online polling.
Mark Twain, famously warning against getting into a spat with newspapers, said "never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel." To his chagrin, Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist, is learning a modern corollary: never pick a fight with someone with three hours of national airtime. And for gosh sakes, don't use arguments in picking the fight so false as to be child's play to disprove, and don't leave obvious fingerprints when you try to intimidate the networks.
Wash, spin, rinse, spin. Phone, spin, report, spin, poll, spin. The similarities between the work of the mainstream media and a laundry machine are striking. Yet there is nothing about the cycle -- the spin-report-poll-spin cycle -- that does for political events what detergent does for your boxers or briefs.
The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.
And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have “reported”, or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.