Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Obama In The Hot Seat, Catholics For Clinton, And Media Bias (Monday's Show)

Hi everyone. Happy new week! Before I begin, I'd like to have a little word with Mother Nature. Okay, what the hell? Sunday, people were walking around in shorts and now we might get eight inches of snow?! Again, what the hell? And I'm sure she'll get right back to me on that. Anyway, tonight we're completely focusing on politics (as if you hadn't guessed) in anticipation of the vote in Texas and Ohio tomorrow (Vermont and Rhode Island are voting too, but no one cares about them--sorry guys!). I'm going to give a lot of this the gloss-over treatment because I want to focus a lot on the media bias segment, something that I skipped over the last time they really talked about the subject.

We begin with Anderson Cooper in front of a big "Face Off" graphic pertaining to Clinton and Obama. Feel the drama! He then throws us to Candy Crowley live, who tells us the race in Texas and Ohio is this close. In a subsequent Candy piece, she relays the details of Obama's no good, very bad day. Okay, it wasn't that bad. But it turns out he might not actually walk on water. See, this memo got leaked that states one of Obama's aides told the Canadians that all his anti-NAFTA talk was just politics. Oops. Except even the Canadians are denying this, so there's that. I'd like to know what the Canadians are doing messing with our election. I mean, they're always so quiet up there and way too polite; you can't tell me they're not up to something. (If you guys are thinking of invading, dude, why didn't you do it like seven years ago?) So, is it just me or has the media's tone regarding Obama kinda just completely changed? It's like they all got a memo or something. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they did just all get a "get tougher" memo.

For the other side of the aisle (yeah that race is still going on too), we go to Dana Bash, who tells us McCain's been doing some chilling. He's looking to clench this thing soon, but that Huckabee is a persistent little campaigner. Why, I'm not quite sure. I think the conventional wisdom is he's setting himself up for next time, but man, that's like a zillion news cycles from now. George Allen and Rick Santorum were supposed to be the golden boys of this crop of GOPers and where are they? Oh yeah, they didn't even retain their senate seats. See what can happen? After Dana, we go to John King to do some delegate splaining with his magical map. That's right, his map. So don't even think about touching. I see how you're looking at it, Anderson Cooper.

Ruh roh. Chad Meyers is shaking things up now with BREAKING NEWS of craptastic weather in Ohio. A major ice storm is hitting the area and could very well take down power lines, which would, oh noes, mess with the voting tomorrow. Democracy versus Mother Nature steel-cage death match. And the chick with the precipitation wins every time.

Moving on now to discussion with David Gergen, Bay Buchanan, and Roland Martin. Anderson notes that the "kitchen sink" attack that Clinton is waging on Obama seems to be working and he points out that she's doing exactly what The Gerg previously said she should do. I think Anderson is implying The Gerg is a genius. Oh, but apparently not in Texas because it's not working there. Roland then talks a bit about how Obama screwed up with this Canadian memo deal and Bay thinks that if Clinton loses tomorrow it's time for her to get out. Lastly of note, The Gerg points out that Bill Richardson thinks whoever has the bigger delegate count after tomorrow should pretty much be the democratic nominee. Amen to that.

In tonight's "What Were They Thinking?" we learn that the French actress who recently won an Oscar for her work in "La Vie en Rose," is a bit of a nutter. Well, maybe. There are reports that she's a major 9-11 conspiracy theorist and not entirely convinced about that whole moon landing thing. Hm. She claims everything has been taken out of context, and you know what? A lot of the time these things are taken out of context, so I'm going to save my eye rolls for something more concrete.

Next up, we have a Gary Tuchman piece on the Catholic vote, but first an amusing preface. Okay, so I come home from work and start doing my blog rounds like usual. Over at TVNewser I learn from Joe Klein that Roman Catholics are not too fond of Clinton. I then click on over to the 360 blog, where Gary is reporting that Catholics just lurve Clinton. Holy mixed messages, Batman! But it's all cool now, because if you scroll down at the first link it seems that Joe Klein was just being stupid. Joe Klein saying something stupid? No! I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! Anyhoo, let's go back to Gary, who actually knows what he's talking about. Surprisingly, though Rhode Island holds the title of our itty bittiest state, they actually have the most Catholics. I did not know that. I also didn't know that (slightly) more Catholics are democrats than republicans. And they want Clinton. This is attributed to the vote being dominated by older women, but I'm still a bit comfuzzled by all this. I mean, this is the religion that didn't want John Kerry to take communion, right? But I guess you're going to get different strokes for different folks, even in the same religion. I'm the same religion as Bush. So there you go.

On now to a Tom Foreman piece on the blue-collar worker, a staple of Ohio. Who do they want to vote for? John Edwards. Sorry kids. But trust me, I feel you on that. We then go back to our panel and it's noted that Edwards has not yet endorsed a candidate. Apparently he's being pressured to hold off. Switching topics, Anderson plays us a "60 Minutes" clip in which Clinton states that she does not believe Obama is a Muslim. Her critics think she was too wishy-washy with the denial, but The Gerg thinks people are reading too much into it. I think it could actually be read both ways--she could have been leaving a window of doubt or simply been incredulous that both of them have to deal with such crap. (Off topic, but that health clinic story that ran after the Obama/Clinton stuff? Oh. My. God.)

Transitioning now to a clip of a Saturday Night Live debate sketch that seems to imply that the media is biased in favor of Obama. The media biased? No! (Interesting how they don't note the mocking of CNN's own debate.) So anyway, I suppose there comes a time in a campaign where every little media outlet has to decide to sit themselves down and ask, "Are we biased?" Well, 360 has had themselves a hard think about this and come to the surprising conclusion that, "No, no, we are not biased." Okay, I'm oversimplifying, but let's get into this, shall we? In full disclosure, I voted for Obama and my support lies with him, but unlike some of my fellow democrats, I would not be unhappy with a Clinton win.

We've got John, Candy, and The Gerg joining us and Anderson begins by reading some emails accusing Candy of bias against both candidates, both in regards to the same piece. Candy tells us the front runner gets the most scrutiny and I suppose this is to justify why they're only now looking at Obama, but wasn't he the front runner after Iowa? He was predicted to sweep New Hamphire and lock the thing up, yet the media was all about the Cinderella story and the scrutiny was no where to be seen. Candy then brings up accusations of media bias when Bush the Elder was running for re-election, but if we're taking trips in the time machine, I'd like to go back to 2000 because I totally blame the media for making me not like Al Gore. I still voted for him (yeah, like I was going to vote for Bush), but not happily because they had painted him as a very unlikable guy.

Back during that 2000 campaign, Alexandra Pelosi (yes, Nancy's daughter) made a documentary of her travels with the Bush press corps. Near the end of the film, there's a very real and sincere moment with a young Richard Wolff (now of Newsweek and MSNBC) where he wonders out loud if maybe they messed up. Wonders if maybe they were so blinded by Bush's charms (it kills me, but yes, he can be very charming) that they didn't cover his campaign the way they should have. The thing is, reporters are people too. Obama is the bright new exciting thing and they absolutely got sucked in. Candy also notes that people tend to see bias when things aren't going well for their candidate. But again, my candidate is kicking butt and taking names...and totally getting great press coverage.

Anderson then brings up a study of network television coverage of the race, which found that Obama's coverage was 84 percent positive, while Clinton's good press was only at 51 percent. John King chalks this up to the front runner getting more scrutiny and notes that now that Obama is the front runner he's getting looked at harder. Yeah, but only after accusations from Clinton. How come the other candidate has to bring up an issue first before the media checks it out? 360 didn't touch the Rezko story until Clinton brought it up during one of the debates. John also notes that Clinton simply has more baggage, which may not be fair, but it is what it is. And actually that's something I can agree with and have argued with people about. She has a past and the media can't just pretend she doesn't.

"I get e-mail saying I'm a stooge to the Bush administration. I get e-mails saying I'm a stooge to the political left. You know, it seems like people do see what they want to see," says Anderson. While I agree with him that people see what they want to see, I don't agree with the widely held belief among journalists that if they're getting it from both sides they must be doing it right. I actually blogged about this exact subject late in 2006 (with almost an identical quote from Anderson) and you can read a more fleshed out argument there, but the short of it is that there are some people that will never be happy and will see bias even when coverage favors their side, so it's not out of the realm of possibility to be doing biased coverage and still get accused of bias from both sides. After all, some people/organizations accuse reporters of bias in a conscious attempt to get favorable coverage. It's called "working the refs" and was a widely popular strategy with conservatives as they built their movement. So, the whole I-get-it-from-both-sides-I-must-be-balanced is just a fairy tale reporters tell themselves.

"I always think that there's less of a political bias in, you know, mainstream media than a bias for conflict or a bias for, you know, a -- the most dramatic story," continues Anderson. I absolutely agree with that. Conflict sells, baby! Just ask Jon Meacham. I want to make it clear that though the press is often getting accused of political bias left and right, that's not what I'm discussing here. For the most part, I do not believe the media has a political bias. I do not think the favorable coverage of Obama is political or because they hate Clinton (well in regards to 360 anyway, but more on that in a second). But I do think the media has a pack mentality, they like new and shiny things, and once there's a narrative, it becomes God's truth and anything outside that narrative (including common sense and relevant questions) simply disappears. Or to make things simpler, the media has a tendency to...go retarded and yes, that occasionally includes 360.

I've actually had some fairly serious debates with people over these past few weeks about Clinton bias. My position is that while there are no doubt individuals in the press who want her to fail, on average I don't think there's a campaign specifically against her. But I do think she's been the victim of a veiled (and hell, sometimes not so veiled) sexism that has permeated a lot of the mainstream, specifically the boys club of MSNBC. I could write a whole blog post on that network alone. There's no doubt in my mind that if this were a race between two women we'd be hearing "cat fight" references right about now. To their credit, 360 has mostly been immune to this particular kind of nastiness, though sadly The Gerg has caused me to get my hackles up a time or two.

Speaking of The Gerg, he admits that there has been an infatuation by some of both Obama and McCain. And I agree with that. I've been saying from the beginning that they're the press favorites. It looks like there's a good chance they're also going to be the candidates. Anderson wraps up the segment by telling us how seriously he takes the subject of bias, and I believe him. But Anderson, just fyi, I've noticed you tend to get pretty defensive about this stuff (as do your colleagues), so maybe your mind's not as open as you think it is. Just saying. Oh, and can someone please, please tell me that it wasn't a friggin SNL sketch that got the media to start looking at Obama more closely.

The Shot tonight is Knut, the formerly adorable bear. Now he's just scary. It should be noted that Anderson is reading all his copy in a German accent. I was going to mock him because it is fairly bad, but you know what? Better than I could do. So you go, Anderson! Get on with your bad self. In the picture we're shown Knut looks like he's about to take a chunk out a kid. "Look at that kid. Not even flinching," says Erica. Well it is a still photo. Oh, Erica knows I'm kidding her. Okay, she would probably have to know of my existence first, but you know. The show was very politics heavy. And tomorrow I suppose we will be sentenced to the Election Center. Texas and Ohio, here we come. B-


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