Were They Saying "Boo" or "Boo-urns"?


There's a Rashomon-like disagreement brewing among reporters at Take Back America. Byron York says Hillary Clinton was heartily booed during her speech:

"We're going to end the war in Iraq and finally bring home the troops," she said as a number of Code Pink protesters stood up in the audience. When she declared, "The American military has done its job," boos began to be heard around the room. As the boos increased, Sen. Clinton raised her voice. "The American military has succeeded," she said, to more boos. "It is the Iraqi government that has failed to make the tough decisions." Still more boos.

But Patrick Healy of the New York Times has more context:

She was booed more lightly and gently at this morning's Take Back America gathering of liberal activists than she was a year ago. Not that everyone showed her the love today: As Mrs. Clinton brought up Iraq toward the end of her half-hour speech, about 10 protesters stood up in the front rows of the audience and held up signs reading, "Lead Us Out of Iraq Now!" And there were boos, for both Mrs. Clinton and, among her supporters, for the protesters.

I go to enough political events to say this: Code Pink are victims of their own success. They're so omnipresent and so ballsy that you have to disclude them from calculations of whether an event was a bust or a speaker got disgraced by hecklers. The question becomes: Did any real people heckle? Like, did neutral members of the audience get angry and turn against the speaker? That was even less the case this year than last year, when I watched this happen:

"I'm just going to say it," she says, as if she's explaining why the kids can't have ice cream for dinner. "I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended policy nor to set a date certain."

This is interrupted by shouts, but really, not that many. Exactly two activists are angry enough to stand up and flash the peace signs—seeing no one else mustering the courage to join them, they decide the smart-looking thing to do is stand that way for the rest of the damn speech.

After it finally wraps up and they don't have to compete with the sound system any more, the anti-war attendees multiply and chant "Stop the war, Hillary!" Fox News hurridly collects A-roll footage as Robert Borosage runs back to the podium to save face.

"Thank you for the… curious reception of our audience."

Hillary's actually given a huge gift by the protesters. That's the story of her speech—not the fact that she's done a 180-degree Olympic class flip-flop on the war issue. Note that last year she criticized Bush but rejected "a date certain" to leave Iraq. This year she plugs a bill she's co-sponsored with Robert Byrd to de-authorize the war. At other speeches she says "If George Bush won't end this war, when I'm president, I will," meaning she'll end it on January 20, 2009. That's what the $75 million a year kitten calendar industry would call "a date."