Obama and the press
Posted by: McQ
on Monday, February 18, 2008
Howard Kurtz does a pretty in-depth examination of Hillary Clinton's press coverage during this election cycle, and, without saying it, seems to conclude that the chickens of how they've treated and attempted to intimidate the press in the past are coming home to roost.
But perhaps the most interesting portion of his column are the last few paragraphs:
Obama has defied the laws of journalistic gravity, somehow avoiding the usual scrutiny applied to front-runners. A few attempts to examine his life and record — such as a Times piece on Obama's pattern of voting "present" in the Illinois legislature, and another on Obama watering down a bill affecting a nuclear power company that contributed to his campaign — barely caused a ripple. Now Obama's wife, Michelle, who did interviews with Larry King and Couric last week, is getting the treatment, drawing mostly soft-focus questions. A Newsweek cover story out today calls her "direct and plain-spoken, with an edgy sense of humor . . . she can be tough, and even a little steely." She is "outspoken, strong-willed, funny, gutsy, and sometimes sarcastic," cutting "an athletic and authoritative figure," a front-page Times profile declared.There is a certain observable delicacy in which Obama is being handled by press. And some, such as Chris Matthews, are simply giddy about the guy. But hard-nosed investigative journalism doesn't seem to be on the agenda concerning him or his background.
A handful of columnists, such as Time's Joe Klein, have questioned whether the Obama campaign has cultish qualities, but they are in the minority. It took a British magazine, the Economist, to carry the cover headline last week: "But could he deliver?"
For a major candidate for president, we know surprisingly little about him, other than what he has told us about himself in his own book. And that goes directly to the question the Economist asks (and Hillary and Bill Clinton have been asking) "can he deliver".
With all due respect, being a community organizer in Chicago isn't the same as being President of the United States. Nor is a state senate seat or a US Senate seat. For all the Obamamania, there's not much of a record to hang your enthusiasm on (if you happen to be one of those enthusiastic about his candidacy).
Probably the most telling thing I've seen are two Frank Luntz focus group segments where he asks two different Obama friendly groups to name any accomplishments for Obama. Neither group could come up with even one.
This is again, an indication of the press not doing its job. But even if that is so, watching this phenomenon unfold, I have to wonder if it would matter that much even if they did. Certainly it wouldn't to the true believers (that's the case for any candidate). But would the less emotionally involved pay attention? And if they did, would it matter?