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April 19, 2008
'Obama's Secret Weapon; the Media'
This article in Politico is extraordinary. Not for the information it gives about the fact that the press is in the tank for Obama. But rather because the reporters John Harris and Jim Vandehei are so up front and candid about it.
For instance, the left's indignation about the debate the other night is, as the reporters point out, a consequence of no hard questions ever coming Obama's way by other journalists:
In fact, the balance of political questions (15) to policy questions (13) was more substantive than other debates this year that prompted no deluge of protests. Both journalists admit that they themselves are not immune:
The difference is that this time there were more hard questions for Obama than for Clinton. Moreover, those questions about Jeremiah Wright, about Obama’s association with 1960s radical William Ayers, about apparent contradictions between his past and present views on proven wedge issues like gun control, were entirely in-bounds. If anything, they were overdue for a front-runner and likely nominee.
If Obama was covered like Clinton is, one feels certain the media focus would not have been on the questions, but on a candidate performance that at times seemed tinny, impatient and uncertain.
The difference seems clear: Many journalists are not merely observers but participants in the Obama phenomenon.
(Harris only here: As one who has assigned journalists to cover Obama at both Politico and The Washington Post, I have witnessed the phenomenon several times. Some reporters come back and need to go through detox, to cure their swooning over Obama’s political skill. Even VandeHei seemed to have been bitten by the bug after the Iowa caucus.) These are remarkably candid admissions. It shows that once the general election begins, the press is going to have to make a choice between being professional or being a cheerleader.
(VandeHei only here: There is no doubt reporters are smitten with Obama's speeches and promises to change politics. I find his speeches, when he's on, pretty electric myself. It certainly helps his cause that reporters also seem very tired of the Clintons and their paint-by-polls approach to governing.)
Reporters are people too and are subject to their own biases and beliefs. But one would think that when they reach the level in their field where they are covering the race for president of United States that they would have the independence of mind to at the very least not fall in love with one candidate or another.
In Obama's case, that appears to be too much to ask.