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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Triangle > The Daily Texan

I read a pretty disgusting thing over at Matt Yglesias's blog today; "The Daily Texan," student newspaper for the University of Texas at Austin, endorsed Sen. Clinton for President. That's fine of course, and there are many fine reasons to support Sen. Clinton, but the Daily Texan apparently weren't aware or didn't care about them. Instead, they chose the petty reason that the Obama campaign hadn't helped them get tickets to the recent Democratic debate there, while the Clinton campaign had. I'm not making that up, read it yourself.
We've taken into account our communication with each campaign as an indication of how each candidate's government would function. Upon finding out the debate would not be open to students, Obama's campaign told us there was nothing they could do to get more students into the debate, whereas the Clinton camp was sympathetic in offering assistance. This makes us wonder how far Obama would go for us as president.
First of all, the debate wasn't open to students? That's one reason why Drexel is apparently superior to UT at Austin. At Drexel's debate 100 student tickets were raffled off, open to any interested student or member of the Drexel community. On top of that, 250 student volunteers got to work behind the scenes at the debate, and some of them also got to see it. Drexel's administration worked very hard to use the debate as a learning experience for the students, and not just as a big media event where tickets only went to big donors.

The bigger issue here, however, is the petty and embarrassing rationale for the endorsement. The students at the Daily Texan work very hard no doubt, but the editors apparently forgot that the power of their jobs entails a responsibility to their readers. Trying to leverage their positions into debate tickets, and then writing an endorsement on the basis of that manuevering seems to me a serious breach of trust between their readers and them.

This other part of their endorsment also struck me as petty and foolish.
But during Thursday's debate, Obama made a major gaffe in incorrectly stating that he had received endorsements from every major newspaper in Texas. We may not be considered a "major" paper to many, but we represent a crucial constituency of close to 50,000 young and enthusiastic voters, and we've been scrutinizing every move of the candidates leading up to today's endorsement. Sure, Obama took many under his spell when he graced our city with his presence early in his campaign, but we think he prematurely considered his work in Austin done.
The Daily Texan may have a large student readership, but let's be clear; newspapers don't represent anyone, they just reach people. The Daily Texan does not speak for students at UT at Austin. Those students did not join a club or sign a paper authorizing the Daily Texan to speak for them. The editors would be advised to recognize their appropriate and legitimate role, and not claim to speak for whom they do not.

Now, I am personally supporting Sen. Obama in this primary, but I want to emphasize that my displeasure does not stem from the endorsment, but the petty and immature reasons behind it. It they had endorsed Sen. Obama for in such a manner I would have reacted similarly, and listed reasons why I support Sen. Obama. So in that spirit I would like to list a few reasons that one might support Sen. Clinton.
  1. She is indisputably comfortable with the complexities of her policy proposals. Sen. Obama is clearly also a bright man with a firm grasp of the details, but Sen. Clinton is a wonk at heart.
  2. Sen. Clinton was a workhorse, not a showhorse in the senate. Neither Sen. Obama nor Sen. Clinton had the opportunity to spend much time in a Democratically controlled senate before the campaigns began, so neither had a real chance of enacting major legislation. However, Sen. Clinton is by all accounts a deft legislator (although Obama was quite accomplished in the Illonois statehouse).
  3. Sen. Clinton has withstood the Republican attack machine. Voting for Clinton would be a move to deny the right-wing smear machine a scalp.
  4. Her close personal experience in the White House was probably functionally equivalent to being Vice President for 8 years.
Of course, I have chosen to support Sen. Obama for a number of reasons, of both policy and politics, but that is neither here nor there. My point here is that the Daily Texan wrote an embarrassingly immature endorsement of Sen. Clinton, and I have confidence that Drexel's student paper, The Triangle, wouldn't make such a silly move.

Newspaper endorsements can only ever influence people if the editors describe the reasons behind their endorsement, and someone finds those reasons compelling. No one in their right mind would decide to support a presidential candidate simply because their student paper has chosen to. If anything, this endorsement will lead members of the University of Texas at Austin community to take the editorial positions of the Daily Texan less seriously, not more.

Click "There's more..." for the rest of my pro-Triangle/anti-Daily Texan rant.