Is Senator Clinton a mother who has taken legitimate umbrage with inappropriate language regarding her daughter? Or is Hillary an attention whore who's been pimping out her daughter? You make the call.
It's hard out there for a pimp, especially when the pimp in question is trying to become the President of the United States. Big pimpin' just isn't as easy as you'd think.
It's so hard, in fact, that the pimp may resort to transforming a relatively innocuous (albeit clumsy) talking head's comment into a controversy.
PART ONE: In which I provide a synopsis of Pimpgate...
David Shuster was babbling on MSNBC about Hillary's campaign. He's talking about Chelsea Clinton dialing up superdelegates and being a proxy stump speaker for Sen. Clinton. He then made the Mega Egregious Super Mistake of All Times. He asked if Chelsea was being "pimped out". The claxon started ringing at Hillary '08 HQ. The red lights starting blinking at NOW's offices. David Shuster had just FUCKED UP. He said "pimped". PIMPED! PIMPED!!!!!!
Here's the exact exchange between Shuster and Bill Press on MSNBC:
"DAVID SHUSTER: Bill, there's just something a little bit unseemly to me that Chelsea's out there calling up celebrities, saying support my mom, and she's apparently also calling these super delegates.
BILL PRESS: Hey, she's working for her mom. What's unseemly about that? During the last campaign, the Bush twins were out working for their dad. I think it's great, I think she's grown up in a political family, she's got politics in her blood, she loves her mom, she thinks she'd make a great president...
DAVID SHUSTER: But doesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?"
Clinton's campaign took offense to the remark. Hillary was disgusted. Hillary supporters are upset. Those committed to the noble cause of equality think the remark was misogynist. Shuster double-apologized. MSNBC suspended him. Hillary intimated that she might not appear for any MSNBC-hosted debates.
Controversy? I guess. Bullshit? I know.
PART TWO: In which I sort of defend and explain the Shuster remark...
Look, I don't think it's really smart to go around talking about pimping and shit when you're on TV. I'll give you that. I also think that it's less than brilliant to try to be all cool and "with it" when you are David Shuster. No offense, David, but you're not on my big list of people who are really f-ing cool, okay?
So, I can agree with the critics who claim Shuster's "pimped out" remark was dumb. However, being dumb is not necessarily grounds for suspension from a television network. If it was, we'd be watching test patterns all day and/or volunteering at soup kitchens serving displaced TV talking heads. That would suck, because you know Tucker Carlson would be all bitchy about the quality of the soup. No, Mr. Bow-tie, we don't have croutons.
Shuster was less than elegant. He was not, however, claiming that Hillary Clinton gave Chelsea some coke, squeezed the kid into fishnets and a mini-skirt, and sent her out to the corner to turn tricks with superdelegates. He wasn't using "pimped out" in a traditional Magic Don Juan Bishop kind of way.
He was, instead, trying to use relatively common vernacular to express the idea that Hillary might be exploiting Chelsea a little bit. He may have felt the whole thing with Chelsea suddenly taking to the stump was weird because (a) she's historically been kept away from day-to-day politicking, (b) she's making these appearances while simultaneously avoiding any real press contact, (c) she's suddenly calling super-d's and begging for votes now that things are looking tight with Hillary and Obama. There's something sort of different about the rapid emergence of Chelsea that smacks a wee bit of desperation.
He used "pimped out" as a synonym for "exploited". People do that sometimes. They don't generally do it on MSNBC, but elsewhere it's not the weirdest thing to ever happen. It's an actual dictionary definition, too. Hey, using "pimp" that way is sort of a modern spin on the traditional concept of turning out whores, but it's roots are old school. Check it out: Definition #6.
I know that some people immediately conjure up mental images of dudes with feathers in their hats bitch-slapping a whore for not coughing up enough cash when they hear "pimped out". Some of us, however, don't rely exclusively on 70s blaxploitation movies to inform our vocabularies.
When one says another was "pimped out", they COULD mean that one was compelled to participate in sex-for-money or related activity. They might also mean that the "pimped out" party was exploited in some other fashion for the benefit of another. They could mean that someone was dressed up or decorated (i.e. "Pimp My Ride" is a TV show in which cars are refreshed and decorated). This was not what Shuster meant, but it is another example of pimping. People "pimp out" their websites when they request attention from others. People may refer to being asked to do tasks for third parties by an employer as being "pimped out" (i.e. "I was doing my thing over in the graphics department, but the boss pimped me out to the mailroom to help them with overflow"). I could go on... "To pimp" is to do many things. It's a word with a variety of meanings (over 200 at the Urban Dictionary, FYI).
Let it be known that David Shuster was not envisioning Hillary Clinton counting cash under a streetlight while her daughter shimmied up to car windows asking for a "date". I won't comment on the desirability of such a vision. I'm just saying Shuster didn't have it in mind.
Thus, I believe it was bullshit for MSNBC to suspend Shuster.
Encouraging him to apologize for using an expression that didn't necessarily match viewer expectations for news programming would've been okay. Asking him to clarify his comments for those thick-headed enough to think he was being intentionally offensive would've been okay. Having him explain that he understood his comments carried with them some negative connotations and that he should've been more carefully in the selection of his terminology would've been okay, too. Suspending him was silly. I don't think it's a great policy to start suspending people because assholes are whining.
Did I say whining? Yes. I could've said "whining or sleazily angling", but I definitely wouldn't characterize the complaints about Shuster's comments as legitimate concerns. It's whining/angling because the gripers knew what he really meant and decided to jump on the comments anyway.
The alternative, that they were really and truly bothered by the remark, is unthinkable. It would require (a) a complete inability to interpret context and (b) a complete inability or unwillingness to investigate potential meanings for the terms used. If you're pissed at Shuster, it's because you're hooked on whining, you want to use the event to score political points, or you're really lazy and/or stupid.
I'd hate to believe that the complainers are really THAT dumb or lazy. That's why I think they're whining and conniving. Which brings us to the next part of this post...
PART THREE: In which we investigate the reasons WHY Hillary and her allies are up in arms over pimping...
Hillary Clinton is smart. Hell, I've heard about her 35 years of experience and her readiness on "day one" so many times that I'm inclined to think she's a genuine fucking genius. Hillary hires smart people, too. They seem to be smart, anyway. And, after all, she hired them. It's hard to imagine a Wellsely/Yale product with over 3 decades of experience hiring dummies. Thus, it would appear that they are not griping about Shuster out of stupidity.
It isn't a matter of intellectual laziness, either. For all of their warts, Hillary's people are willing to work and to learn things. They read. They research. Things like that are actually their strengths. Campaigning and running campaigns are tough. Lazy people don't last long. I think we can safely assume that they are not lazy, either.
That leaves only one possibility for all of the hoo-ha-ha over Shuster's "pimped out" remark. It's all a matter of conniving and political angling. Let's look at some potential motivations for the rage over Shuster's utterance...
Rallying her key demographic. Hillary's biggest base of support is women. This gives her a chance to get all pissed off about sexism and misogyny. It's a perfect base rallier. She can speak directly to the sisterhood on this one, folks. See, sexism is alive and well! See, it's time for a change!
Attention-grabbing. Obama is getting all the attention these days and that's bad news for Hillary. Making a mountain out of a pimped out molehill is a good way to snag a few headlines as the nominating process marches on. You might call it "attention whoring", but we know how dangerous that kind of vernacular can be, don't we David?
Illusion of power. In case you missed it, Hillary's campaign is lagging behind the Barack Obama team in fund-raising. She's even loaning her campaign cash from the Clinton coffers. Clinton even pulled the old "I need to make up for less funding with more free publicity via debates" gambit recently. That wasn't happening. Claiming that you're deeply offended by MSNBC and that you might opt to skip any debate they may host is a good way of looking less desperate. Don't be fooled, though, she'd let Chris Matthews spank her for two free hours of screen time, even on lowly MSNBC.
Sure, Hillary is a mom. Yes, hearing about your daughter being "pimped out" might rattle your cage a bit. When you're battle-tested Hillary, the one who can handle whatever the enemy slime machines can generate, it seems unlikely that you'd get too worked up over some random David Shuster remark. People are saying meaner things about Hillary and the kid every single hour of every single day.
PART FOUR: In which interesting questions are raised...
Let's pretend that Hillary Clinton is deeply offended by the remarks Shuster made. Let's pretend she finds that kind of discourse degrading to women. Let's pretend she is committed to fighting sexist language and misogynist attitudes at every turn. I know, it's a stretch, just play along.
Okay. If that's true, let's try to explain the events of March 31, 2007 in Miami, Florida. On the night of 3/31, people paid over $1,000 a plate and opened up their wallets to give even more at a Clinton fund-raiser. President Bill Clinton was in attendance. Senator Hillary, she who doesn't like pimping, was there. The Clintons were happy for the support and Hillary was glad to pocket the proceeds of this gala event. The host? Timbaland.
I'm not a hip-hop scholar, but I know that Timbaland is sort of a big thing in his preferred musical genre. He's a producer and a rapper. Timbaland is a big name star. Have you ever heard him rap? Check out these rhymes, bitch, from the Timbaland/Magoo ditty known as "Considerate Brotha":
"Slam the mask out of these hoes and they say, "What is that, velvet?"
And they betta meet they quota,
betta yet betta meet they deadline
And I got hoes who legs go back further than yo' father hairline
From Raggedy Ann & Andy to daquiri drinks and brandy
I take 'em off the streets and put 'em back on with a lil' candy
I'm the - pimp of the year, I'm a pimp all around
A pimp of the town - we pimpin 'em up, HOES DOWN"
"Carry a automatic, keep up on all tactics
I'm just that pimp nigga from Va. Beach
Rrrrob each, uh, let me not slur my speech
I got that liquor in me, no juice no vodka
But the straight up Remi, kicks bout to get loose
cause I got it in me, bout to take one home and "Free Willy" -
Timb, you so silly
See I been pimpin, before yo' days Pimpin ain't easy, hey hey hey hey"
Don't try to tell me she just didn't know about this sort of thing. She's ready on DAY ONE. She's brilliant and experienced. She wouldn't let this kind of language use go undiscovered before participating in a massive fundraiser organized by the evil forces of Big Pimpin.
I bet Hillary was PISSED about that, right? I mean this song is actually ABOUT pimping. Real pimping, not just "figure of speech" pimping. We pimpin' 'em up, HOES DOWN. Will Hillary loan her campaign another $800,000 in order to prevent profiting from the misogynist Timbaland's generosity and refund the dough? Hell no.
She shouldn't either. Hip-hop isn't the devil's work. The Timbaland money isn't tainted. Hillary's decision to go political on "pimped out", however, is. Timbaland should be asking for her to give the money back to the donors, if anything.
People are calling it a matter of hypocrisy. I suppose it is. Mainly, though, the Timbaland fundraiser is just more evidence that current rage over Chelsea being "pimped out" is manufactured crap designed to generate a few headlines and some positive attention during a tight campaign. It's bullshit, but no one gets hurt.
Well, except for David Shuster. He's been forced to kiss ass over the whole deal and to serve a suspension. We sort of get hurt, too, if you think about it.
It's hard out there for a pimp.
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