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The media’s love affair with Obama

By
July 29, 2008

Appearing at a rally in behalf of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, humorist Will Rogers said in introducing the Democratic presidential nominee that he would keep it short because he didn’t feel like wasting too many words on a "mere candidate." The American press should take note.

It is still early in the presidential race but more and more it seems clear that a large number of those reporting on it, print, electronic and online, have decided the winner is Barack Obama or should be. And his own denials notwithstanding, the presumptive Democratic nominee appears to believe that himself, acting more and more like what happens in November is a mere punctuation of what already has occurred.

In 48 years of close up observation of presidential campaigns, it is difficult to remember when the coverage has been less balanced, including the 1964 race where the press seemed at odds with Republican Barry Goldwater and vice versa nearly every step of the way. The animosity became so open then that it prompted the wholesale use of tape recorders as a reportorial tool for the first time in the history of American journalism. The lingering anger ultimately spilled over even into the National Press Club elections a year later when successful opposition formed to the normal ascension to the club presidency of a candidate accused of helping draft a speech for Goldwater.

But even that pales next to the excessive coverage of the Illinois senator as he prepares formally to become the first African American to accept the nomination of a major political party. His European trip drew media attention usually reserved for heads of state and left the Republican Sen. John McCain looking like a wannabe guest excluded from the party. The Obama show was masterfully orchestrated to convince voters that their fear of his inexperience in foreign affairs was unwarranted and a big slice of the American media, including the three anchors of the leading television networks, bought it hook, line and sinker. Well, so much for all those denials about bias.

The other day at a newsstand I counted five national magazines with Obama on the cover and that didn’t include a number of less circulated publications with similar exposure nor those I found waiting for me on my desk when I returned from an extensive trip. The speech in Berlin was clearly designed to mimic John F. Kennedy’s famous appearance there with, of course, one exception — Kennedy was president when he made it not, as Rogers said, a "mere candidate." Emphasizing the wonder of it all was the Iraqi president’s endorsement of Obama’s plan for withdrawal of American troops that seemed calculated and timed to boost the Democrat’s cause.

Ironically, some of the same journalistic fascination once attached itself to McCain when he was running against George W. Bush for the 2000 Republican nomination. At that time his "Straight Talk Express" captured the fancy of much of the press who couldn’t get enough of the Arizona senator. Unfortunately for McCain this time he had to soften his disagreements with party doctrine to appease the GOP’s conservative base and win the nomination, losing much of the maverick aura becoming in the process just another old time politician with emphasis on the old.

At the same time, however, much of the press was giving only small attention to the fact that Obama was doing the same, moving rapidly toward the center after a primary campaign aimed at the party’s liberal base. He abandoned a series of primary pledges, including his promise to accept public financing, and hedged his immediate Iraqi withdrawal statements. The decision to skip the public financing did receive a flurry of coverage that disappeared quickly.

Whether this all will be enough to convince voters that Obama’s youth compounded by his utter lack of experience is nothing to worry about remains to be seen. But certainly the one-sidedness of the coverage, if it continues, could be a major factor. That could be highlighted by the television treatment he receives at the Democratic convention in Denver next month. The decision to move his acceptance speech from the convention hall to the Denver Broncos’ 75,000 -seat stadium offers television the kind of spectacular it loves. It will be interesting to see how much time is devoted to it in an era where TV coverage of these essentially party pep rallies has dwindled to only a few hours of prime time.

Extended coverage of the Democratic convention would cost the networks plenty considering the same amount of time would have to be allocated to the Republican affair.

(E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan(at)aol.com.)

14 Responses to The media’s love affair with Obama

  1. churlpat

    July 29, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I think the reason there is so much coverage is because Obama is news, for obvious reasons, while McCain, also for obvious reasons, is not news in the same sense. Obama has engendered a grassroots movement that may well be unprecedented in our history, while McCain has failed to excite pretty much anyone. Obama has flash, style, charisma, while McCain comes across as just another schlump. Obama promises change, even if it is just a change in the political party occupying the White House, while McCain promises more of the same.

    As to the decision not to take Federal money, when was the last time a politician was taken to task for not dipping into the till, so to speak?

    Churlpat — a plutarch by any name is still a plutarch

  2. rockpyle

    July 29, 2008 at 10:55 am

    The media wants to make sure one of their own, a liberal, wins the Presidency. Al Gore and John Kerry weren’t the only ones that lost in 2000 and 2004. Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Dan Rather, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and MTV lost as well. In other words, the left leaning media. They are not about to make that mistake a 3rd time.

    The flip side to this is McCain running a terrible campaign. He can sieze the oil drilling issue and run with it. He can point out Obama’s mistake in stating the surge in Iraq didn’t work when factually speaking it did and run with that. McCain is not doing any of this.

    http://i207.photobucket.com/albums/bb204/JediZabrak/My_life78/media_in_love.jpg

  3. churlpat

    July 29, 2008 at 11:38 am

    The liberal media? Pishtosh.

    The left leaning media? Balderdash. Who’s been giving Bush a free ride for 8 years?

    The surge did not work. Other factors have led to the decrease in American deaths. We are paying for the silence of the guns and bombs.

    Churlpat — a plutarch by any name is still a plutarch

  4. Ann

    July 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I agree buttttt they can’t, Bless his heart he can’t get his words to come out like they are in his head. I should know I have had a stroke and it damaged the right side. It is pitful to watch him he mixes things up and he doesn’t mean to just like I do and it is hard to watch. The only thing differnet is I shut up and cringe to my toes but not McCain he gets that temper going and then his speach is worst and that little smile, yuck and my friends my foot come spewing out.
    If they gave him more time and they probably will it will be so sad. There is no way he can even start to debate with someone that young in his state for this I feel sorry for him but he should know and shut up, I know and I hate it for him when he talks.
    He isn’t the man he was but then that might be the only good thing. I am still mad about his first wife and the horrible way he treated her just because she was disfigured he wasn’t so pretty either after all he had just came home a POW. He married the second wife before the ink dried on the divorce papers.
    We use to care about things like that but now oh well. I still care you have to stand for something or fall for anything.
    Ann

  5. rockpyle

    July 29, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    The surge did not work.

    Look, I am not a President Bush supporter nor am I in favor of war in Iraq. We should have never been there in the first place. However, there is no denying it that the surge worked.

    I get it, bad news in Iraq is good for Democratic Party. If you and Obama supporters admit the surge worked then you fear it may effect Obama’s lead in the polls. Obama was, and still is, wrong on his position that the surge did not work. Of course, the gutless media with their love-fest for Obama won’t call him out on that but the truth of the matter is that the surge worked and the United States is winning the war effort in Iraq.

    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jzxqARN0Huv38n5pgDfdBRwuoiZgD925HT7G0

  6. Mark Yungbluth

    July 29, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Obama may get MORE coverage as the new guy – but not the all-forgiving, gaffe ignoring, veteran-idolizing, lack of fact-checking coverage that McSame-as-Bush gets. Obama says “hello”, and some reporter will claim he uses a dirty word with “hell” in it!

  7. neondog

    July 29, 2008 at 11:57 am

    What an ironic piece of propoganda…Written at the same time Fox News is running 8 year old campaign footage of McCain, while discussing his current campaign (probably didn’t want to show those large “sun spots” on his face), or CBS doctoring a McCain interview video by inserting an answer to a previous question after he flubbed the answer to the original question.

    Same old RebuliCON strawman, when your candidate is floundering, attack the “liberal” media.

  8. rockpyle

    July 29, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  9. woody188

    July 29, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I will note that Fox News gave nothing to Republicans according to the link you provided. What did they do? Make their employees send it in their own names like Enron? Or is it all filed under Rupert Murdoch, or maybe the Wall Street Journal. The Weekly Standard? Washington Times? New York Sun? Clear Channel? Where are all your conservative media companies listed?

    There is also a lack of an explanation for the numbers, which should make you suspicious of them. Are those millions of dollars?

    What’s with the Jeweler comment that they lumped into Time Inc.?

    Are these individual contributions from employees summed up?

    Why wouldn’t a conservative company publish this chart? Why is it only on ibdeditorials.com, freerepublic.com, and thehotjoints.com, all wholly Republican?

    Lastly, don’t these numbers reflect the populations donations as a whole to Obama vs. McCain? Aren’t they right in line with those so far as ratio?

    FYI, the original article is at American Thinker which is unabashedly neo-con in it’s own slant.

  10. woody188

    July 29, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    The truth is somewhere in between. The surge isn’t the only reason for reduced violence. Iran played a major role. But that is against all conservative mantras that the surge is working and Iran is our enemy, so it is conveniently dropped from the corporate media.

  11. Alexandria Lupu

    July 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    NY native At least McCain speaks proper English. Ever catch Obama misuse of the words “him” and “her” and “he?”
    Author Chris Hedges likens Obama’s speeches to watching a Pepsi commercial. Anchor interviews I watched were painful and boring for me. I don’t know how these anchors kept a straight face with Obama’s responses, showing his lack of knowledge and naivete.
    As to Obama’s media coverage, people will soon tire of this overkill.

  12. griff

    July 29, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    You’re right. Without a script Obama is a bumbling idiot, barely able to complete a sentence, especially when confronted with his own hypocrisy or ignorance.

  13. Watchman

    July 30, 2008 at 5:44 am

    It was smart of Obama to play president in Europe as this might be the closest he will get to being president for real.

  14. JohnInVegas

    September 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Dan,

    Where is your sniveling about excessive media coverage for one particular candidate now that your girl Palin is the lead story – hmmm, why do you think that is?
    For any adult (especially one who potentially has influence over the clueless herd) to be so shamelessly hypocritical is enough to make a person gag.
    Blind adherance to the dogma one has accepted is a clear indicator of an ignorant, small-minded person.