Sunday, September 13, 2009

Obama's Self-Adulation Continues: No Critics Wanted
Some thoughts on the 9/12 Washington, D.C. Tea Party event, and how it was ignored and trivialized by ObamaTeam and the dinosaur media, including updates on the numbers of people who attended

Here's a photo, taken from the White House website, of a crowd of Minnesota Obama supporters,  pictured reacting to Obama's speech about health care, the 124th speech he's given  on the subject since entering office not quite eight months ago. Obama left Washington, D.C. on Saturday to go to Minneapolis so that he could give a speech to 15,000 hand-picked people who agreed with his point of view on health care, although he could have stayed in town and heard about a million* people who had come to his own front lawn to tell him what they think. Evidently Obama would rather hear himself repeat his own tired platitudes than listen to anything the American people have to say--unless, of course, those people are shouting nothing but homogenized adulation and praise.

Well, that's a shame, because it would seem Obama missed a great party in Washington. Predictably, however, the historical whiteout by the formerly mainstream media has already begun. The same ABC coverage of Obama's inspiring, soaring speech in Minneapolis also reported that "thousands" of Tea Party people had converged on Washington. While I'm no expert on numbers collecting in the Washington Mall, even to my untrained eye the crowd looks like more than "thousands" to me. Here's what was said early on Saturday afternoon before editors could get control of the message:
  • MSNBC anchor says to the reporter on site: "We are . . . seeing a birds’-eye view, and do you have any idea how many people are gathered here, because it looks like it’s really taking up the majority of Capitol Hill." I'm assuming that anchor will be sanctioned or fired on Monday morning for not following the party line of "thousands."
  • CNN anchor: “Boy, you’ve got a huge crowd there, and it’s just been growing, it seems, by the minute." Doh--another one who didn't get the memo. Not a good career move over at CNN.

The formerly mainstream media says that it's childish to worry about the size of the Tea Party crowd. Charles Cooper at CBS news writes that there was a "respectable" turnout. Nate Silver at the website "Politics Done Right" calls it a "business-as-usual" rally. A guy named Rick Unger reports the "disappointing" unofficial crowd count at 25,000 at the same time that he gives no source for his number. To my mind, those three reports alone show that accurate numbers matter. Without an objective crowd estimate, "reporters" like these can minimize and trivialize any event that doesn't match their own political stripe--or they can inflate one that does. "Disputes over the size of gatherings, especially protests, are common, said Paul Wertheimer of Crowd Management Strategies. Large crowds of people "mean power in a political situation, or they mean money in a commercial situation. So the numbers are very important to the people who put on an event."

So I'm just wondering, since the numbers for this 9/12 event being reported are all over the place: has there never before been a crowd of people on the Washington, D.C. Mall? Is it really so impossible to get an accurate headcount of how many people were there? I've heard numbers ranging from 10,000 to 2 million. I'm sure the real number falls somewhere within that range, but come on. . . is that the best we can do?

Years ago, if memory serves, counting heads on the National Mall was a pretty routine deal when a large crowd showed up. In 1963, about 250,000 were there to hear Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. But I guess in 2009, the "rules" for counting heads on the Mall have changed and become more complicated (wow, what a shock that one is--is there anything we haven't managed to make more complicated in the last 50 years or so?). A count was made for President Obama's inauguration, but for that event the normal rules had to be "bent" (actually completely ignored) by the National Parks Service in order to provide a headcount of the people attending the inaugural. Writing in USA Today, reporter Martha T Moore tells us how it's done. Moore reports that the National Parks Service, just for Obama's inauguration, reversed a 13-year-old policy of not offering an official crowd estimate, a rule put in place evidently because of the controversy over the numbers attending the Million Man March in 1996. After that controversy, Moore writes, Congress stripped the Parks Service of the monies needed to perform the estimates. Moore doesn't give details that would explain either the original controversy or the logic behind why not doing estimates is an improvement. I'm just thinking, though: if I were someone who had spent years in a job, like at the Parks Service, putting eyeballs on crowds at the National Mall, it probably wouldn't take rules or a budget for me to make a reasonably good estimate of how many people showed up on any particular day. Moore's article shows it to be mainly a matter of a little knowledge mixed with some common sense--but both seem to be in pretty short supply these days.

Over at some blog called Moderate in the Middle (I won't link to the blog because it's slow to load), the question was asked: "If 1 million VOTERS descended on DC to be heard and no MSM reported it, would it make a sound? DAMN STRAIGHT BABY, 2010 will be a wipeout for the DEMS at the polls and for any Critter who continues to ignore the people…woohoo!" I guess that's my sentiment as well. The formerly mainstream media can ignore, trivialize, and ridicule these gatherings; ObamaTeam can do the same. But based on the Tea Party gatherings and town hall meetings I've attended, the issue that gets people who go to these things the most fired up is the idea that Washington isn't listening to them.

ObamaTeam and the MSM did a mighty fine job of campaigning and getting their guy elected in 2008. However, it seems to me that they're blowing it big time now. Underestimating their opponent may feel good today, but it will be a lousy strategy for election day come 2010 and 2012. So go right ahead, keep misunderestimating us, Team Obama.

My favorite sign of the D.C. event, spotted on a YouTube video: "King George Didn't Listen, Either!"

UPDATE: The numbers. If crowd numbers are of interest, and I guess it's obvious that to me they are, there's good information in a post at Riehl World blog. Although the numbers for Obama's inauguration were widely reported to be 2 million, Riehl says, that number is even more widely disputed, and he gives several examples, including a guy named Clark McPhail, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois, who has been analyzing crowds on the National Mall since the 1960s and says that satellite images suggested the crowd at Obama's inauguration was probably one million. Riehl writes that as things stand now, the number generally accepted for Obama is a million plus. I've never seen any number except two million reported for Obama--the largest number of people for an inauguration evah, we were told. Another lie, evidently, since Lyndon Johnson's inauguration had 1.2 million.

Riehl gives a credible argument, including pictures, for saying that the number of people who attended the 9/12 event was about the same as the number that attended LBJ's inauguration. Hence Riehl's final point, the one that made me fall off my chair laughing: "Bottom line? It looks to me as if about as many people who showed up to welcome Obama into the WH a mere 8 or so months ago showed up yesterday in a mood to throw him out."

I'll take that number, and I'll double down on it in 2010.

Update #2: The Washington Examiner reported this:
On Friday the White House claimed they had no idea the rally was even planned. A ridiculous assertion that shows how dismissive the Obama administration and the Democrat-led Congress are of those who oppose their agenda. It is impossible to believe that President Obama knew nothing of the event. The denial is a perfect example of why the President is losing the trust of many Americans. He stretches his credibility to its limits, and beyond.
If ObamaTeam had "no idea" about the Saturday march on Washington, then I would say they're even more inept than they seem: Stuck On Stupid.

Update #3: Go here for an extreme high resolution photo taken from on top of the Capitol Building.


nobackindown said...

nat'l parks employee speaking 'off the record' reported it was the single largest crowd he'd ever encountered in 25 years of service on the mall -- 'solid people - north, south, east and west as far as you could see' but, as you mentioned, they were told not to report numbers anymore after the embarrassing turnout of the 'million man march ...'

nobackindown said...

hey - turn off your 'comment moderation enabler' - sounds like something the thought police would dream up (ha)

nobackindown said...

my favorite sign in the crowd...? "doesn't matter what i put on this sign, you're still gonna call me a racist..."

Labwriter said...

Hey, nobackindown, thanks for the comments. I think the numbers part of the 9/12 Washington D.C. march is a really interesting story. I was watching Bill O'Reilly tonight and he said 75,000. Someone emailed him and asked where he got that figure. He said from the police & fire depts. That's right, lowball the number, Bill. Don't do any real journalism and report all of the different numbers being given out. Don't actually speak (off the record, I guess it would have to be) to a Nat'l Parks employee who may have been doing this kind of thing for 25 years. Just pick the lowest "reasonable" number and give that out. I think I need to stop watching that guy.

I don't want to turn off the comment moderator, because by having it turned on, I get an alert about the new comments on the site when I sign in. Without that alert, I probably wouldn't see the comments. But yeah, heh, "thought police."

Can you find a pic of that sign you mentioned?