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Media Gone Mad | The Nation

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Media Gone Mad

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I try not to let the MSM's agreed-upon national news narrative upset my plans to have a good time, but many more times than not, I find the mass stupidity of so many putatively smart people, marching in unison to a destination that invites--nay--allows no logical point of entry. If you read today's Note, which is how I submit myself to this torture in as short and relatively painless form as possible, you can find any number of literally nutty notions.

About the Author

Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of...

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The dead horse of supposed dead-end Hillary supporters is flogged into a pulp by the authors. They begin on a note that had me hopeful: "Neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has any possible sane, rational reason for wanting tensions to continue."

How true--but then the authors take a 180-degree turn toward insanity. Take a look at whom they cite when it comes to evidence of this supposed disunity: other journalists. There's John F. Harris of The Politico, the AP's Scott Lindlaw, Susan Page of USA Today, Patrick Healy of the New York Times, Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post, Geoff Earle and Maggie Haberman of the New York Post. Each offers evidence that is either purely editorial and unsourced, or sourced anonymously. For example, Harris: "For the next two days, a convention that belongs to Obama will be dominated by the same two people who dominated the Democratic Party for the last generation and who have come to Denver in much different roles than they wanted"; Page: "Clinton-watching has become the mesmerizing sideshow of the Democratic National Convention that will nominate Barack Obama"; Kornblut: "Obama's decision to pass her over [for Vice President] remains central to the ongoing story of their strained relationship. It has also contributed to what associates say has been a difficult emotional period for the former first lady in the two months since ending her bid."

It's all "associates say," or "some Clinton delegates," or "an official familiar with conversations," or "one adviser." Can we actually get some names and positions, so that we can judge the (dubious) veracity of a Clinton-Obama war? Mostly, all we have are the mealy-mouthed assertions from other journalists--"Clinton, if sour, is pouting passively," write Earle and Haberman. That means, Hillary is acting normal, but we're pretending that maybe she's mad on the inside.

The only non-journalist voices expressing anything close to a sense of disunity belong to Mary Boergers, a Maryland delegate who wants to cast a vote for Clinton; L. Douglas Wilder, the mayor of Richmond, Virginia ("The question is, are the Clintons ready?"), and Leon Panetta ("Sometimes dealing with the Clintons is like dealing with Brett Favre"). Wilder and Panetta's comments are somewhat obtuse, and then there's one delegate. This is what The Note describes as "the rivalry for the ages"?

I just finished doing a panel at the Impact Film Festival for the new film Boogie Man, about Lee Atwater, which features my fellow panelist Joe Conason, myself and my cat, Duke. On the way over, our senses (and our common sense) were assaulted by literally hundreds of Hillary die-hards yelling and screaming for the television cameras. Really, I don't get these people. Aside from sore loserdom, what issue do they think they have? Naderites, as foolish and self-defeating as they were, at least had issues. Ted Kennedy back in 1980, had issues. But what are the issues that separate Hillary Clinton from Obama? Are these people angry because he thinks we should not talk to our adversaries five minutes sooner than she does? The media's obsession with this issue would be indefensible, were it not for the fact that the Clintons appear to be encouraging it. People will look back on this and wonder what form of hysteria could make pro-choice advocates reject the pro-choice candidate for the benefit of the anti-choice candidate over the issue of "respect."

Elsewhere, The Note picks up the conventional wisdom that the Democrats didn't go on a sufficiently strong attack against John McCain, writing: "This is an extremely damaging storyline that the Obama campaign needs to address immediately, now, pronto. If Democrats don't start talking about McCain/Bush very quickly, they will all be talking about John Kerry shortly--and not in a good way."

Now, we'll put aside for the moment the wisdom of painting a family-friendly picture of Obama versus reaming McCain on the opening night. Let's just point out that, after making this assertion, the authors don't find space in their 3,500-word piece to mention this speech by Nancy Pelosi--you know, Speaker of the House and chair of the whole convention--in which she had the audience repeatedly joining her in a chorus of "John McCain is wrong." (Some choice quotes: "Republicans say John McCain has experience. We say John McCain has the experience of being wrong"; "On the most important foreign policy decision of our time, the war in Iraq--a catastrophic mistake that has cost thousands of lives of our men and women in uniform and will cost over a trillion dollars, as well as has weakened our standing in the world and our capability to protect the American people, Barack Obama is right and John McCain is wrong... very, very wrong.")

(Also, I thought Michelle was just wonderful. Amazingly good; as if she'd be an actress her entire life and was playing the wife in a politician in a move like Halle Berry or someone. I laughed. I cried. I wanted it to go on and on...)

Meanwhile Fox News, like a real news network, has been granted prime studio space here at the Pepsi Center. The unofficial Democratic boycott of the network doesn't extend so far as to leave Hannity and Company outside the arena, and it probably shouldn't--Fox carries the headline speakers uninterrupted, and a majority of the guests who show up naturally end up being liberals. Some of the anchors even had nice things to say about the speeches of Michelle Obama and Ted Kennedy, although often the back of their hand wasn't far away. (Bill Kristol: "I think [Michelle Obama] said it, and I believe that she, you know, loves America.")

If you watched them, here's what you got:

First, the Obama-Clinton civil war meme was advanced even farther than most of the press has been willing to go: "Now, look, this convention right now is about one thing. It's not about selling Barack Obama as commander in chief. It's about whether the Democrats can unify or not. And so far, they haven't, because the Clintons have grievances" (Fred Barnes); "So there must be some real bad blood between the Clintons and the Obamas" (Bill O'Reilly); "But the subplot here in Denver of the disunity and lingering potential resentment between the Clinton supporters and the Obama supporters threatens to overshadow all that careful choreography" (Carl Cameron).

Then came the nutty Michelle Obama stuff:

• "Michelle Obama may also have something to prove to her critics who had questions about her patriotism." (Molly Henneberg)

• "Partly, of course, Fred, this is an effort to undo what the Obama campaign appears to think is some damage that was down to her image by some things that she has said and some things that have been said about her. How deeply ingrained do you think those images are, which raises, of course, the question of how much of a task she has to do tonight?" (Brit Hume--what a dance! "...some things that have been said about her...")

• "But here's the thing. There's an impression of Michelle Obama that has taken root in the country. And unfortunately for her, it's not about being a black woman. It's that she is arrogant. That's she's somehow someone who...[is] militant. That she is--somebody said to me, Angela Davis and Armani. You know, that kind of look." (Juan Williams)

• "Whatever Michelle Obama says tonight, I have no doubt, is going to be compared to some of her past statements: first time in my life I'm proud to be an American, America in 2008 is a downright mean country. Will she be able to say anything tonight to overcome, maybe, the negative image that she presently has with some Americans?" (Sean Hannity)

• (Added bit of delicious irony, from Nicole Wallace, the McCain spokeswoman who had a near-permanent seat on set last night: "So they launch these nasty personal attacks against John McCain and Cindy McCain, really. I mean I've never seen anything like it where there's open season on the spouse's wife like there is by Obama and his supporters--open season on Cindy McCain.")

• Hannity looking like Eddie Haskell, asking innocently if Michelle "Will...be able to say anything tonight to overcome, maybe, the negative image that she presently has with some Americans?"

Then, the seemingly deep reporting reserved only for Obama: We learn towards the top of Brit Hume's show the piece of non-news that Kwame Kilpatrick "is one Democrat who will not be here in Denver," because of bond restrictions related to assault charges; that Joe Biden is friends with a guy who was involved in the Rezko ordeal; and we hear the views of seemingly every wacky protester in Denver: "I do not believe Al Qaeda perpetrated the attacks on 9/11. Nine-eleven was an inside job;" "Rise up for the people of the world. Rise up with the people of the world. Rise up with the people of the world," etc.

Finally, the stuff that maybe you can explain to me:

• "So one, is [Obama] qualified to be President of the United States and Commander in Chief, and the other, is he sort of one of us? Does he share American values? Or is he an elitist, which he has been accused of being?" (Mort Kondracke)

• "The challenge for Barack Obama now is to convince independent voters that is he not some far-left ideologue, masquerading as a rock star politician.... This week is Barack Obama's big chance to regain momentum to persuade doubters that he is not a son of San Francisco, a cousin of George Soros or a puppet of MoveOn." (Bill O'Reilly)

• "Those net roots loons are arriving in Colorado and will damage Obama if they make spectacles of themselves. It's one thing to set up a nutty website where like-minded fanatics graze. It's quite another to be photographed doing anti-American stuff at the Democratic convention.... Be interesting to see how successful the Obama campaign will be in muting the loons. That includes people like DNC Chief Howard Dean." (O'Reilly again).

• "I don't think [Michelle Obama] did too well on saying 'I love America.' That wasn't adequate enough because, look, people are gonna hear that, and then those that have paid attention to her earlier comments are gonna try and square those two off." (Karl Rove)

• "Barack Obama, one of the most liberal senators out there. He's for getting us out of Iraq. You know, I don't know who you go to. Hugo Chávez not available. Che Guevara's dead." (Reporter Griff Jenkins, on why some protesters thought Obama was too conservative).

• Yes, they're serious. And this is what the Democrats are up against; not just the Republicans but the MSM as well. You can read a bunch more, here.

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