Here we go again ...

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Politico's Glenn Thrush, seeing a news report that Hillary Clinton said she likes the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, "decided to fact-check."

What would make him decide to fact-check the unremarkable statement by a baby boomer that she likes the two most popular band in the history of the world -- bands that took the world by storm during her teen years?

Thrush explains:

We decided to fact-check, remembering the ambiguities that swirled around Yankees vs. Cubs, Dubai Ports World and Bosnian snipers.

Look at that first example: "Yankees vs. Cubs." Let's be clear here: The only "ambiguities" that swirled around Hillary Clinton's comments about the Yankees and the Cubs came in the form of reporters and political opponents lying about Hillary Clinton.

Anyway, because a bunch of people lied about Hillary Clinton, Glenn Thrush -- who doesn't indicate that the Yankees/Cubs flap was a made-up smear perpetrated by his colleagues -- decided to "fact-check" Clinton's claim to like the Stones and the Beatles.

Thrush's fact-checking is an absurd waste of time, premised on previous lies about Hillary Clinton. And it isn't even an original absurd waste of time. We've been down this road before. And it doesn't go anywhere good. As I explained in 2006:

Slate's Jacob Weisberg this week denounced Hillary Clinton for her answer to a question about what is on her iPod, claiming that her answer was "calculated" and "suggests premeditation, if not actual poll-testing." Clinton's sin, according to Weisberg? Telling the New York Post that her iPod contains music by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, the Eagles, and U2.

No, Weisberg's complaint wasn't that the continued popularity of the Eagles is a clear sign of the nation's cultural decay. That would have at least been defensible, if completely subjective. Nor was it a silly attempt to psychoanalyze Clinton based on her music collection, determining her to be risk-averse and dull. That would have been silly and baseless, but (sadly) typical of political commentary. Instead, Weisberg came through with what may be the single most absurd column written about Hillary Clinton in years -- and that's saying a great deal.


You could see the other Clinton making the same sort of calculations this week, when the New York Post put to Hillary the key culturally identifying question of our era: What's on your iPod? Musical taste is eternally revealing, and thanks to the growing ubiquity of MP3 players, many people now wear this signifying data on their belts. The senator from New York responded that she has the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on the white iPod that her husband gave her for a birthday present, along with Motown and classical music. She then rattled off a list of songs: the Beatles "Hey Jude," Aretha Franklin's, "Respect," the Eagles "Take It to the Limit," and U2's "Beautiful Day."

Hillary Clinton is the least spontaneous of politicians, and this playlist suggests premeditation, if not actual poll-testing. She first indicates that she basically likes everything before coming to roost on classic rock and soul, which any baby boomer must identify with, lest she or he be branded terminally uncool. Hillary avoids, however, anything too racy, druggie, or aggressive, while naming tunes that are empowering and inspirational. On the world-is-divided-into-two-kinds-of-people question "the Beatles or the Stones," she, like her husband, finds a middle path: both. She names no Stones songs and chooses a consensus, universally liked, neither-early-nor-late Beatles tune, "Hey Jude." Hillary also manages a shout-out to racial diversity and feminism via Aretha Franklin, and she strikes a younger, socially conscious chord with U2. "Take It to the Limit," on the other hand, is such a lame, black-hole-of-the-1970s choice that it can't be taken for anything other than an expression of actual taste.

Think through this for a moment: According to Weisberg, Clinton's explanation of what music is on her iPod was "premeditated" and the result of political "calculations." For Weisberg to be right, Clinton's answer must be dishonest. Now: Does anybody really believe that Clinton doesn't like Aretha Franklin's "Respect"? How many professional baby-boomer women don't like "Respect"? Does anybody really believe Clinton doesn't like the Beatles? They're the Beatles! It's hard to believe any rational person could assume that Clinton doesn't actually like and listen to the music she listed. And if she does, Weisberg's entire premise can be tossed out the window: There's nothing calculated or insincere in answering a question about what music you like by listing the music you like.

But give Weisberg credit for trying: He describes Clinton's stated fondness for both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as some sort of trying-to-have-it-both-ways Clintonian dishonesty. There's a word for arguments like this: Stupid. How many Beatles fans actually dislike the Rolling Stones? How many Stones fans dislike the Beatles? It's like suggesting someone is dishonest for saying they like both ice cream and cake: Who doesn't like ice cream and cake? even lists the Beatles among 20 "similar artists" to the Rolling Stones.

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