The Plank

A Semi-defense Of David Shuster

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Well, not really; what he said was stupid and out of bounds and he deserved to be suspended. But let me make two further points. The first one has to do with language, and I'll outsource it to James Poulos (via Ross Douthat):

[T]here’s little or no escape from the problem that today’s parlance
defaults to the mildly, ironically offensive, and that judging by the
standards of our times Shuster’s ‘Pimped Out’ Comment is not
‘incredibly’ offensive but simply mildly and ironically offensive. The
appropriation of Ghetto Talk by the whitebread infotainment industry
mirrors a broader ease, especially among those under 45, with casually
framing the events of everyday social life in bitch-pimp terms. In a
world where pimping out your ride is a great honor, ‘sort of’ pimping
out your daughter would appear to be less of an honor primarily on
account of the ‘sort of’ qualifier. Of course, Shuster was trying to be less-than-honorable, obeying another cardinal rule of MSM Edginess: degrade obliquely. But he was under marching orders probably not written in neat hand by an MSNBC
intern, but certainly uploaded into his hard drive over many years
spent in moving through a high-budget industry devoted largely to
making itself comfortable with the great American lowbrow. [Emphasis added.]

The second point has to do with Chelsea and the way the Clinton campaign and its supporters expect the media to cover her. As a lot of people have rightly noted, there's nothing unusual--and certainly nothing unseamly--about an adult child working to get one of her parents elected. Indeed, the current campaign has featured an unusually large number of politically-involved children (although, with Romney now out, that number is suddenly smaller by five).

That said, even though Chelsea is now a 27-year-old woman who's both a major public and behind-the-scenes player--stumping across the country for her mom and making private calls to lobby on her behalf to super-delegates--the Clinton campaign still wants the press to treat her like she's a 12-year-old with braces. When the NYT did a Chelsea profile last year, for instance, Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea all refused to be interviewed, and the Clinton campaign argued that she was out of bounds:

“Even though President and Senator Clinton are public figures, their
daughter is not,” Howard Wolfson, the campaign spokesman, said in a
statement. “While Chelsea Clinton has attended events for her mom and
will be supporting her parents in their political and philanthropic
endeavors, she will continue to focus on her own professional and
personal interests as a private person.”

Similarly, I remember that when I was mildly critical of Chelsea's work for a hedge fund in a blog post last year--now unavailable, but, rest assured, I'm told that our crack tech team is hard at working fixing our FUBAR archives--all hell broke loose in the TalkBack section, as Clinton supporters acted as if I'd attacked a puppy. I don't recall a similar amount of outrage over critical Plank posts on the Romney boys or John McCain's daughter.

I obviously have no idea what was going through Shuster's head when he made his "pimp" remarks. But I have to imagine that some combination of the Hustle & Flow phenomenon and frustration over the Clintons' overprotective attitude toward Chelsea played a role.

--Jason Zengerle 

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