Clinton’s interpretation of Obama’s “blank screen” reference misses crucial point

The latest Hillary attack against Barak Obama is "I think the best description actually is in Barack’s own book where he said that he is a blank screen and people of widely different views project what they want to hear. He just hasn’t been around long enough. But with the blank screen it gives you a chance to just really infuse it with whatever you hope for, whatever you want without knowing."*

If that’s all her people could come up with from "The Audacity of Hope", his 362 page book – and that’s in the prologue on page 11 – they should be worried. Everyone should read Obama’s "blank screen" quote in context to gain an understanding of his character:

Undoubtedbly, some of these views will get me in trouble, I am new enough on the national political screen that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripe project their own views. As such I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them. Which perhaps indicates a second, more intimate theme to this book – namely how I or anybody else in public office, can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments.

The rest of this paragraph  shows Obama to be a man of insight, candor and self-awareness

If at this late date in the campaign this is all the smart people in Clinton’s inner circle can come up with from a book chock full of specifics and personal revelations from her opponent, it suggests we won’t see a miraculous comeback before the Texas and Ohio primaries.

If they used a removed from context phrase from the prologue because they are just now getting around to reading the book I can only attribute this to arrogance since these are very bright political professionals.

Don’t expect Hillary to quote two other insightful sentences that are on page eight of the prologue:

Most of us are wise to the ways of admen, pollsters, speechwriters, and pundits. We know how high-flying words can be deployed in the name of power, expedience, greed or intolerance.

I haven’t yet heard or read any members of the mainstream media put Obama’s "blank screen" comment in context. I hope that if they don’t, Obama himself does.

I give Obama a great deal of credit for being forthright in his prescience in recognizing the blank screen phenomena before he actual became a phenomenon.

The crucial part of the paragraph from the book won’t be quoted by Hillary Clinton.

In it Obama says that he recognizes that people will project their views on him but that he is "bound to disappoint some, if not all of them."

Can you imagine Clinton saying that about herself in any context?


* In an interview with Cynthia McFadden on Nightline (LINK).


  1. Carl Nemo

    I think it’s appropriate in our nation’s history that a bright, articulate, principled, although not perfect black man saves the nation, along with us white folks et. al. … :))

    There are times when I look at Obama, I see him in Lincolnesque garb with a stove pipe hat, exhausted and aged from the trials and tribulations of saving this once great Republic. Lincoln freed the slaves, just maybe Barak Obama will free the white’s from the duplicit hegemony of their own kind since the Civil War…!


    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

    Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865


    Carl Nemo **==

  2. John J

    I cannot support Obama. He is flipping on his signed campaign pledge to use public funding and a spokesman of his is up in Canada backing off what he said about NAFTA in the Ohio debate. I especially find fault with the fact he’s not held the Afghanistan meeting in 15 months in office and he didn’t bother to show up for the Black State of the Union conference in New Orleans. He was too busy running for President.

    His opponent Hillary Clinton was the only Presidential candidate to show up.

    I don’t believe he will show up as President of the United States either.

  3. Hal Brown

    Hi Sandy,

    I thought Obama answered the charges in what Sherry wrote when Clinton made them in the last debate. I was satisfied with them. She has every right not to be.

    I have to admit with some embarrassment that I decided to support Obama and wrote about it here before I read the book even though I already had a copy. I began to read it with some trepidation for obvious reasons.

    By the end of the prologue my apprehension was alleviated and after two chapters I think had I been a Clinton supporter because I thought she was more experienced, I would have changed my mind.

  4. pollchecker

    “Can you imagine Clinton saying that about herself in any context? ”

    No, I can’t imagine it happening.

  5. WWWexler

    They probably just read it until they found a spin word and then put it down.

    Unfortunately for Hillary, she’s not a blank screen. She has a history, and it won’t go away, even if she lies about it on national TV, as she did with her NAFTA lie during the debate.


  6. Hal Brown

    The last sentence in the paragraph isn’t too shabby either. A campaign "all about words" when they include words like these is rare:

    "Which perhaps indicates a second, more intimate theme
    to this book – namely how I or anybody else in public office, can avoid
    the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and
    thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments."

    (Emphasis mine)


  7. pollchecker

    Hal — Obama has proven himself to be an eloquent and effective speaker and writer. This is a good thing since this election is going to be all about words. I don’t believe we have had such an effective speaker in a very long time.

    Watching him speak in Texas has been a privilege. I can’t help but recollect a young JFK candidate when he speaks to the audiences. Whether he can get anything done or not remains to be seen. But his words inspire us to believe that we can still make a difference. This is his strongest appeal.

  8. Hal Brown

    If anybody, Sherry and others, is supporting Hillary Clinton over Barak Obama because they think he lacks substance or isn’t qualified to be president for any reason, I suggest reading any 25 pages of "The Audacity of Hope." Pick a chapter or open it at random.

    They might find themselves reading a lot more than just 25 pages.

    If Obama supporters have been worried that he might "run out of" eloquent and compelling words, I also suggest reading the book.

    You will discover that he has barely begun.

  9. sherry

    I don’t CARE what he SAYS. I DO care about his record. If our nation is in a crisis, does he vote “present”? He railed against Hillary for voting to name the Iranian Army a terrorist group (I also disagreed), but Obama didn’t even bother to show up for the vote.

    “When Obama took charge of the European affairs subcommittee in early 2007, he didn’t seize the opportunity to scrutinize the Bush administration. With his campaign in full swing, the busy senator did not lead a single policy hearing on any of the hot topics in the panel’s jurisdiction: missile defense, counterterrorism and concern over the waning commitment of European countries to NATO….” I can’t believe I just quoted Faux News.
    That said, there is much more to come out about Obama. You can base your decision on his ability to run chills up Matthew’s leg, but I require a little more substance.
    Hillary was never my first choice, but merely the least evil of the 3.

  10. Sandra Price

    Thank you Hal, I have not read Obama’s book at this time and most certainly will!

    Too many Americans are looking for a magic pill to dissolve all the troubles we have in America! There is no such pill and we can only work slowly on restoring our values, one at a time. Clinton simply wants to sweep all the crap under the carpet and Obama wants to face up to every rotten thing Bush/Cheney has thrown at America. A lot will depend on who he brings into his cabinet but I believe he has the right instincts to choose wisely.

    I choose to ignore Sherry’s tirade against Obama as it comes from an angry facet of the political army. If we can’t demonstrate peace in the election, we cannot ever find peace in America.