MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, TV's home improvement sensation, "Trading Spaces" retools with Paige Davis. That's right. She's back. We'll find out what's in the works to remodel the show and we'll hear what you've been saying to us in our weekly Back Talk segment. But first our weekly political chat.
The race for the White House is well under way, and while many voters are still deciding which candidate they are for, we've noticed something else. There are plenty of voters who are firm about who they are against. Republican front runner McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton seemed to have born the brunt of vitriol from inside and outside their parties. So we decided to ask, why do some people seem to love to hate them. Joining me is Janice Crouse, Director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute. It's a think tank run by Concerned Women for America. It's a conservative organization. Robin Morgan, co-founder of the Women's Media Center and author of many, many books about politics and feminism and also Andy Kohut, Director of the Pew Research Center For The People And The Press. Thank you all so much for joining us.
Ms. JANICE CROUSE (Director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute): Thank you.
Mr. ANDY KOHUT (Director of the Pew Research Center): Happy to Michel.
Ms. ROBIN MORGAN (Co-Founder of Women's Media Center): Thank you.
MARTIN: Janice I want to start with you and with John McCain. Among conservative talking heads is your Glen Beck, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh. It's almost as if they decided that's part of their job to hate on him. Let's listen to a clip from the Rush Limbaugh program.
(Soundbite of radio program, Rush Limbaugh)
Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH (Radio Pundit): It is pro-choicers that are voting for McCain. I mean that's who liberals are. Independents and moderates, that's who they are. They are scared to death to be pro-life because they'd be identifying with those creepy Christians. While McCain's out there saying he's pro-life, he's getting the pro-choice vote.
MARTIN: Janice, what did you ever do to them?
Ms. CROUSE: Well McCain does have an 80 percent conservative voting record but he's never been a movement conservative. He has taken some really odd positions throughout his career and been pretty insensitive to the conservatives. So--
MARTIN: Give an example.
Ms. CROUSE: Well, McCain-Feingold for instance. McCain-Kennedy, the Keating Five. There are a lot of things he has done. He's opposed the Bush tax cut. He's for global warming, Kiyoto, closing Gitmo, supporting amnesty for illegal aliens. There's a lot of different issue over his career that he's taken positions that were opposed to the conservative movement.
MARTIN: But on national security issues, doesn't he as a career military officer, a personal [Unintelligible] doesn't he have the moral authority at least to express himself on those views?
Ms. CROUSE: Oh no question about that. He very definitely does. And you know, as I said, he's got and 80 percent lifetime conservative record. So on many of the issues he's very pro-life for instance. But all of those seem to take second place to his campaign finance fixation.
MARTIN: But why? Why? I guess what I'm trying to understand is, why does that occasion such, I don't know, is hatred too strong a word? It seems not to me.
Ms. CROUSE: I think [Unintelligible] trust. All the studies about presidential elections say trust is the bottom line. The public has to trust the person that they are going in that booth and pull the lever for. And I don't think there's a level of trust for McCain yet that Republicans feel comfortable with him. He's, they just don't think — when push comes to shove, that he's doing a really hang-in-there for conservative positions.
MARTIN: Let's talk about that Democratic side. Let's talk about Hillary Clinton and here's a clip from MSNBC's host Chris Matthews.
(Soundbite of MSNBC, Chris Matthews)
CHRIS MATTHEWS (Talk Show Host): Let's not forget and I'll be brutal. The reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front runner is, her husband messed around.
Unidentified Female: Yeah but...
Mr. MATTHEWS: That's how she got to be Senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win it on her merits. She won because everybody felt, my God, this woman has stood up under humiliation.
MARTIN: And I want to point out that Chris Matthews has since apologized for these comments and said he may have been too hard on Senator Clinton. But Robin Morgan, you wrote a long piece to try and — what you call the toxic viciousness that you believed is being directed at Senator Clinton. What do you think the Hillary hating is about?
Ms. MORGAN: Well first of all Michel, I mean he didn't just apologize, Chris Matthews by himself. He didn't have a seizure over ethics. It was the Women's Media Center and the women's movement and Media Matters in a consortium sort of — that forced him to apologize by going to MSNBC and NBC. And he still continues to have all white male - pale male as I call them - panels, pontificating on the issues of race and gender, which is bizarre.
But the piece that you're talking about, goodbye to all that too, it was a cumulative effect. It was not only what the media had been doing and I speak as a member of the media. I'm not just a book writer, I'm a journalist as well, just absolutely unchallenged, until the Women's Media Center came in to do it as a sexism. But also, the sort of the — the general hatred, you know, she has moved so effectively to work across the isle that I think she has mitigated a lot of moderate Republicans. Certainly in my own state, she's one of my senators, upstate who feel, gee no, she's very pragmatic. She, you know, if she can find a tiny [Unintelligible] of agreement she'll built from there. What that leaves then, are the real Hillary haters.
MARTIN: And what's that about?
Ms. MORGAN: Oh it's sexism. It comes down very simply. Sure there's an element of Clinton hating. But some of this is so toxic. I mean T-shirts that say if only Hillary had married OJ, a nutcracker doll with metal spikes between splayed thighs.
MARTIN: Have you seen these?
Ms. MORGAN: If that was a tap dancing black faced doll, we would be righteously outraged and they would not dare to sell it in airports. So some of this is really sociopathic women-hating and I think the reason that, that women have been responding across ethnicity and age, is outrage at this. I'm also very tired of the zeitgeist pretending as, acting as if the entire African—American community was male and that all women were white.
MARTIN: Okay. Andy Kohut, your group crunches data about these kinds of things. What are the polls telling us about who does not like Senator Clinton and Senator McCain? I'm just wondering mainly, are these just very vocal, well placed figures who are articulating these points of view or are there some broader issues that are — need to be brought out or are being seen in the polls?
Mr. KOHUT: Let's take them one at a time Michel. And I'm getting a lot of feedback so this could be a little difficult to talk to you. But in any event, the dislike of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by the opponents of each, is very understated. There is — I'm sorry I can't do this interview...
MARTIN: Okay, I'm sorry. You're having some — let me...
Mr. KOHUT: Yes have them call me back.
MARTIN: I'll have them call you back and I'll talk a little bit about what I see and some of the research you've just presented to us. For example, Peer's latest poll shows that among all Democrats, Hillary Clinton has an 80 percent favorability and that Obama supporters view Clinton favorably and that Clinton supporters view Obama favorably. So it does seem to be that we're sort of within the party, she is generally well received. It is on the Republican side, 75 percent say that John McCain is an admirable character, he's honest and sort of trustworthy. But the Republican are split evenly over whether he is a true conservative sort of or not. So the question I think, you know Robin Morgan, would be, does, if you are saying this is a sort of broader sociological sort of issue,
Ms. MORGAN: Mmm hmm.
MARTIN: Wouldn't it seem that there would be some sort of broader resistance to Hillary Clinton?
Ms. MORGAN: Well yes. I mean I'm very encouraged by Andrew's figures. But what it means then is that the minority — I mean I'm sure the party will unite and that Democrats in general will unite. Anything, anything not to have another 15 seconds of the continuation of George Bush policies of any sort.
But this was a historic chance. I mean I got so excited at somebody who would cut her political eye teeth in the civil rights movement, that an African— American of either gender and that a woman of any ethnicity were running. This was to celebrate. And it's so interesting how this has got turned against. We have made some progress, oh, nowhere near enough in terms of consciousness about racism in this country. But it certainly was a wake-up call to the fact that if anything we may have slid back about sexes.
MARTIN: Okay. If you're just joining us, we're talking about who hates Hillary Clinton and who hates John McCain and why and if it matters and to talk about this we're joined by author, journalist and feminist Robin Morgan, Janice Crouse from the Concerned Women For America, and we hope to have Andy Kohut back, Director of the Pew Research Center For the People And The Press". Robin I have to ask you, is it that Hillary Clinton is a woman or is it the woman she is. And hold on, I want to play a short clip from a woman who called into the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU in Washington, D.C. and this is what she said:
(Soundbite of WAMU, Kojo Nnamdi Show)
Unidentified Female: At this point if Hillary wins, I would either move to Canada or I will vote for John McCain. I find her a very mean-spirited individual.
MARTIN: And this caller went on to say that she had raised money for Ms. Clinton, that she had worked for Ms. Clinton but she just didn't like the way she conducted herself politically. Why isn't that a legitimate thing to have an opinion about?
Ms. MORGAN: Well there are in fact, a lot of folks who think, awh well, as the Chris Matthews quote that you had originally — only because of her connections, her party connections, her having been married to a former president et cetera. There are some very purist women say, if she didn't leave him, she can't be a feminist. Well when somebody who's spent 20 years in a social marriage, I can say let's not be quite so judgmental of each other. That's not what feminism is about. But the interesting thing is that you know, we're a young country. We are very a-historical. We know very little about other countries.
Being married to or a member of the family of a powerful man, is usually in most countries in the world, particularly but not exclusively in the global south, the way that the first icebreaking woman gets into power. And then after that, it's more of an open field. So this is not unusual, even in the United States as Willy Brown has just pointed out in his new wonderful book, you know, Mayor Willie Brown, this has been the usual way that women achieve office. We are very much behind the curve on this.
And as far as her Democratic party connections and her fund-raising abilities and so forth, Senator Obama was awfully glad of that, when she devoted both of them to help get him to the senate in the first place...
MARTIN: Okay, just one second. I just want to bring Andy Kohut for just a second. Andy Kohut briefly and we're going to hear from you again in a couple of minutes. Is that is this kind of distaste for Senator Clinton widespread or is it confined to kind of a few people and if so, who are they?
Mr. KOHUT: In both parties, the broad base of voters do not hate either candidate. Hillary Clinton has a 80 percent favorable rating from Democrats, Barack Obama 76 percent favorable rating. McCain has a somewhat lower favorable rating but among the unfavorables, there's no sense of hatred on the Republican side. It's a matter of Republican being uncomfortable with his ideology. But that does not translate into the kind of vitriol you see on cable and among Republican activists.
And with respect to Ms. Clinton, white males do have a less favorable view of her. But analyses that we've done of people who said that they were voting on the basis of gender, men who said they were voting on the basis of gender, were actually voting more for her than men who did not. So it's a matter of men disliking her for reasons other than her gender.
Now I'm not saying that the extremists aren't misogynous, but I'm talking about ordinary people. And you just do not see that among Democrats.
MARTIN: We need to take a short break. I'm sorry, we need to take a short break but when we come back, we will have more on the politics of anybody but him or her and What's up with "Trading Spaces". That's in just a few minutes.
(Soundbite of Music)
I'm Michel Martin. The conversation continues on TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
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I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we'll tell you about some changes at "Trading Spaces". The once top-rated home decorating show has done some renovating of its own and as usual on Fridays, the Barbershop Guys. But first, we want to continue our conversation about why some people seem to have such contempt for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Joining me are Janice Crouse, Director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute a think tank run by Concerned Women For America, Robin Morgan, co-founder of the Women's Media Center, a journalist and author of many books about politics and Andy Kohut, Director of the Pew Research Center For The People And The Press.
Andy before we took a break you were telling us that among sort of — most sort of regular voters, they have high regard for all the candidates that we're talking about.
Mr. KOHUT: Especially on the Democratic side Michel.
MARTIN: Does it matter though, when say important cultural figures tee off on somebody. For example like Rush Limbaugh has made it very clear that he can't stand Hillary Clinton. And a number of sort of conservative talk show hosts have vilified her for years. Does that kind of thing matter?
Mr. KOHUT: Well on the — across party basis it may matter because Hillary Clinton's candidacy or Barack Obama's candidacy could become a basis for generating enthusiasm among Republican voters for voting, which has been lacking in this campaign so far. But among their own constituencies, you don't see it. I've got an interesting statistic for you. Among Republicans that we questioned last week, only 31 percent knew that conservative talk radio hosts are opposing John McCain. So their impact is vastly overrated. And the impact of you know, of the cable people who have and commentators who've taken off after Hillary Clinton, is vastly overrated given the fact that in exit polls, huge majorities say that they would be satisfied if Obama were the candidate or if Hillary Clinton were the candidate.
MARTIN: Janice Crouse, you wrote a piece where you talked about the fact that you feel in some of the voting for Mike Huckabee is a reaction to being told what to do, that voters don't like having sort of this, the commentary as it were, kind of linking arms around somebody. Do you still think that's true?
Ms. CROUSE: Yes, it's very definitely the case. And while the grass roots may not be influenced by the radio hosts, it's very definitely the case around the beltway. People inside the beltway are very definitely influenced. They do have an influence and that level of trust is very definitely absent among the movement conservatives.
I think I'd like thought to address the sociopathic women haters comment that Robin made. This is so typical of feminists and the comment that she made about the way the past power is marriage. You know, this is the problem I think most people have with feminists and with their support of Hillary. No. If you are truly interested in empowering women, let's look at the women who are in places because they have accomplished something. And I think most women want the first woman president of the United States of America, to be someone who's there because of her own accomplishments.
Ms. MORGAN: Well and the irony is, she wouldn't have got this far.
Ms. CROUSE: Your treating women is...
MARTIN: Okay, hold on Janice. You've made a point. Let's let Robin respond.
Ms. MORGAN: Thank you. The irony of course is that given the level of consciousness in this country which is much lower than that for example, in the global south, on sexism specifically, that she wouldn't have gotten that far if she didn't have those connections. There's a great many women by the way, left and right as Janice well knows, in the Senate here. I am not saying that that's the ideal way. On the contrary I wish it were very different. But the — to get back to Andrew's more salient point, these are encouraging figures.
And does it then mean, what I'd like him to address and Michel to address, does that mean then that the disproportionate venom that is out there - seemingly in the populous or it's being poured into the populous, is largely from — I mean I know it's as a media person, I know that if it bleeds it leads and the conflicts sells. So is the anger and the venom disproportionately reflecting what isn't really there and if so what do we do about the media?
Ms. CROUSE: I would like [Unintelligible]
MARTIN: Okay. Hold on. Let's let Andy answer that briefly and then Janice we'll get back to you. Very briefly if you would.
Mr. KOHUT: Look, the American public, Democrats and Republicans have a tremendous capacity to turn a deaf ear to the news media. I'll give you just some recent examples. Think about the kind of bad coverage Hillary Clinton was getting leading up to the Democratic, to the New Hampshire primary.
Ms. CROUSE: Right.
Mr. KOHUT: And voters surprised us. They came out. They voted for Hillary Clinton. Think about how Barack Obama was seen as so far back, he could never catch Hillary Clinton.
Ms. CROUSE: Right.
Mr. KOHUT: And point of fact, he caught Hillary Clinton. So I'm not saying that the media doesn't influence public opinion. But the American public takes the media with a grain of salt.
MARTIN: Okay. I'm sorry.
Mr. KOHUT: Particularly when...
MARTIN: Go ahead Andy. Just final thoughts briefly, when.. .
Mr. KOHUT: The commentary is inflamed and clearly incendiary. People look at such commentators and say, wow what a point of view.
MARTIN: Do I have time to hear from Janice? Yes, I do have time to hear from Janice. Janice very briefly, give me 30 seconds please.
Ms. CROUSE: The venom is that people feel that the Clintons have gotten away with lying, cheating, with selfishness and political contests with their opponents and a sense of entitlement.
MARTIN: All right. Well that's — we're going to have to leave it there. Obviously there's more to talk about here. Janice Crouse is Director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, a think tank run by Concerned Women For America. We were also joined by Robin Morgan, co-founder of the Women's Media Center and Andy Kohut, Director of the Pew Research Center For The People And The Press. Thank you all so much for speaking with us.
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