Bill Clinton complains again about Obama’s favorable coverage – Is he right?
The WaPo’s Eugene Robinson wrote a piece today criticizing Bubba Clinton for his blasting of what he’s called blatant anti-Hillary bias in the MSM:
Are the news media being beastly to Hillary Clinton? Are political reporters and commentators — as Bill Clinton suggested but didn’t quite come out and say in a radio interview Tuesday — basically in the tank for Barack Obama?
“The political press has avowedly played a role in this election. I’ve never seen this before,” the former president said. “They’ve been active participants in this election. . . . But I don’t want to talk about the press. I want to talk about the people. That’s what’s wrong with this election, people trying to take this election away from the people.”
Somewhere in there, if I’m not mistaken, he acknowledged that journalists are people, too, so I guess I should be thankful for that. And I should note that throughout the interview with Washington’s WMAL, Bill Clinton was back in loose-cannon mode. He said Hillary Clinton “has been the underdog ever since Iowa,” which is not true. To support that unsupportable assertion, he implied that the political establishment is opposed to his wife’s candidacy, which is not true. And he claimed that “we’ve gotten plenty of delegates on a shoestring,” which is true only if you don’t count the more than $100 million the Clinton campaign has raised (and mostly spent).
The former president also explained some of the campaign’s embarrassing losses by saying that caucuses “disproportionately favor upper-income voters,” and said of those rich folks that they “don’t really need a president but feel like they need a change.” I don’t recall traffic jams of chauffeured limousines around the caucus sites in Iowa, Maine and the other caucus states Clinton lost.
The theme of press bias, however, is woven through the Clinton campaign’s narrative of the story thus far. There are two basic allegations: that journalists look at Obama uncritically while subjecting Hillary Clinton to microscopic scrutiny; and that we react with hair-trigger reflexes when attacks on Obama have the slightest whiff of racism but don’t seem to notice, or care, when Clinton is subjected to rank sexism.
The first charge is just bogus, in my view. Like Clinton, Obama has developed position papers on all the major issues. Clinton has been able to highlight the differences between her proposals and Obama’s — for example, the fact that her plan for universal health insurance includes a mandate, whereas Obama’s does not. In debates, she has had the chance to challenge his approach and defend her own. It is not the media’s fault if voters do not agree with Clinton that nominating Obama would be a “leap of faith.”
As you can see with that last assertion, Robinson is essentially acting as an apologist for the mainstream media, and he pretty much continues doing so throughout the piece. He’d have been better off keeping it much shorter, say, like these two lines from Kevin D. Williamson at NRO’s Media Blog, who sums up the problem:
I think there’s a fair case to be made that the press is extraordinarily generous to Barack Obama and probably will continue to be. But what you’re hearing from the ex-president is the hell-hath-no-fury scorn of a jilted media favorite.
Yep. And this isn’t the first time Bill Clinton has complained about Hillary’s press coverage.
In my view, Hillary Clinton has generally had favorable press coverage throughout the campaign – or at least right up until the momentum started swinging in the O-man’s direction. Granted, it hasn’t been as fawning as President Clinton’s was when he was in the WH, but take this into consideration: if Norman Hsu were as closely associated with a prominent Republican as he had been with Hillary Clinton (and other top Democrats), that Republican probably would have had to resign in disgrace – or at the very least would still be being dogged about his/her connections to Hsu. Mrs. Clinton has essentially gotten a pass on that, and she (and her husband) owe a huge thank you to the mediots for carrying her water on the various Clinton campaign fundraising scandals we read about last year.
But Bill Clinton is right about one thing: the press salivating over Obama seems unprecedented. Now it’s true that Clinton himself was adored by the mediots during his administration (even during the Lewinsky scandal) but the press’ adoration and fondness for Barack Obama is in a class all by itself. Sure, you’ll see the occassional Rezko story here, a “present” story here and there, but for the most part, he’s treated like – well – the messiah of politicians, and not just by his supporters. The Dem activist/author I quoted this morning said it best:
“Are Democrats coming surprisingly close to nominating a phenomena rather than a fully vetted candidate?” asked Steve Jarding, a long-time Democratic activist. “The answer to that appears to be a frightening, â€˜Yes.’
“Once again, we seem to be falling in love in February only to be headed to a bitter breakup in November when our true love turns out to be much less than expected.”
One of his biggest complaints is over the “gushing of the media” toward Obama.
“In my 30 years of doing this” Jarding said, “I have never seen anything like the swooning the â€¦ primarily television media has done over Obama.”
I think the only public figure who has come close to equalling the favorable coverage Obama has received over the last year and a half has been The Goracle who, BTW, doesn’t plan on endorsing either candidate – at least not during the primary season. Maybe he’s learned his lesson from how his Howard Dean endorsement did absolutely nothing to help the now-DNC Chair.
None of this is lost on the candidate himself. I remember hearing about his reaction to a shirtless photo of him at the beach which was published in People magazine in January 2007. He criticized the media at the time for supposedly not focusing on more substantive issues related to Obama the politician:
In a question-and-answer session this morning, Obama criticized “one of the narratives” about him showing up in the mainstream media.
Summed up, he went on, the narrative says that “I can deliver a pretty good speech” but that it’s all rhetoric and no detail.
Not true, said Obama.
“I have the most specific plan about how to get out of Iraq of any candidate,” Obama said, also mentioning his proposals regarding education, health care and energy. Plus, he pointed out, he has written two books “that give more insight into how I think and feel” about important issues.
“The problem isn’t that the information’s not out there,” Obama told reporters.
“You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit,” he said, a reference to the recent publication of pictures of him on a Hawaiian beach and subsequent commentary about it.
In recent months, Obama critics have complained about the honeymoon treatment they say the Illinois Democrat has been getting as a “media darling” and “rock star.”
Oddly enough, at that same press conference, he defended his lack of talking specifics:
Before a rally in Ames — a day after announcing his run for president — Obama met with the press. That’s where he criticized the media coverage, following up his defense of the detail of his plans with the admonition that it’s more important to “build consensus and inspire the country” than to generate “a bunch of white papers.”
That was in February 2007. It’s a year later, and Barack Obama is enjoying the fruits of the media’s labor with his delegate lead going into next Tuesday’s WI primary. He might have claimed to not care for the superficial coverage he received early on, even before he officially started running, but that hasn’t stopped him from gleefully reaping the rewards from it. Sure, he’s given a policy speech here and there, but for the most part, his speeches have been of the canned variety, designed to stir up the masses as though they were at a tent revival.
Obama is, however, aware of increased scrutiny coming from him from (mostly conservative) quarters about how he always deals in generalities rather than specifics, an awareness he made clear in his recent “detailed speech” about economics on Wednesday:
Obama, who has faced criticism that he doesn’t have enough policy specifics, asked autoworkers at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wis., to “bear with me” as his began a policy speech that he said would be unlike his typical rousing addresses to rallies. He read from a TelePrompTer in a cavernous training room, flanked by sparkling new vehicles and a large American flag.
“Today I want to take it down a notch,” Obama said. “This is going to be a speech that’s a little more detailed. It’s going to be a little bit longer, not as many applause lines.”
I should note that he made that same speech on the day the Senate voted to ban certain types of interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, an issue that once upon a time was near and dear to Obama’s heart.
As the scrutiny intensifies on his record, I wonder if he’ll instruct his precinct captains to get a little more specific when talking about his candidacy to potential volunteers. As it stands now, look at what Obama’s own website recommends precinct captains do to recruit supporters:
Reach Out to Undecided Voters: Many voters in your precinct will be undecided when you contact them. As a Precinct Captain, you will be asked to speak with undecided voters, and share your personal reasons for supporting Barack. It’s easy! Just follow Barack’s lead and be honest with them. You don’t need to debate policy, or discuss the day’s headlines. You have a very personal reason for investing your time and energy in this campaign—that is the most compelling story you can tell.
Revealing, eh? They request for precinct captains to be like Obama and be “honest” with potential supporters, and in the very next sentence advise them not to debate policy. I think that pretty much sums up Obama’s entire campaign. Reel ’em in – and roll ’em out.
This isn’t to suggest that Obama lacks any specifics – he’s laid out some details on various issues on his website. But the point I, and so many others have made, is that he generally doesn’t dive into them when he’s making a campaign speech, nor does he spend a whole lot of time focusing on his skimpy political record – something that is startlingly apparent when you consider the fact that recently (outside of one supporter) two separate Democratic focus groups could not name one Obama accomplishment.
Some may suggest that it’s perfectly ok to support a candidate based on the fact that he makes you feel good, and gives you “hope” that tomorrow will be a better day, but I personally find it worrisome that there are a significant number of people in this country (no, I don’t know percentages, but I would venture to guess around 40%) who are perfectly willing to get behind a guy who has been reluctant to talk policy and discuss at length his political record, and instead rely on the fact that he’s “cool.” What’s even more disturbing is that Barack Obama has to be aware of this fact, yet when he speaks to reporters about his support, has his campaign issue press releases about the money he’s raised, he treats it as though every single person who has seen him give a speech and/or contributed to him understands who he is, what he stands for, what his accomplishments are, what he wants to do if he’s elected president, and as a result wants to give him a mandate to implement his solidly liberal agenda. He’ll stand right in front of a crowd and state that those people have chosen him to “lead America in new direction” (paraphrasing). But he’s not often specific about that “direction,” and how to get there.
Another thing about media coverage that is mind blowing to me is how Obama’s dishonesty and distortions routinely get a free pass from the MSM. Like, for example, his taking Hillary to task for her connections to lobbyists. So far to date, I have only seen one newspaper do any significant digging on Barack Obama’s own connections to lobbyists, and what they reported makes him look like a deceitful hypocrite:
Exhibit A in the drive by both Obama and Edwards to “clean up” Washington is their refusal to accept “a dime” from “Washington lobbyists.” It distinguishes them clearly from their chief Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, who has raked in more than $500,000 from the lobbying industry this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (website is opensecrets.org) But it turns out that both Edwards and Obama have adopted a narrow definition of the word lobbyist, which raises questions about the effectiveness of their campaign.
-They still take money from state lobbyists.
-They make no attempt to distinguish between lobbyists for big corporations and lobbyists for small non-profits.
-They treat a lobbyist for Haliburton in the same way as a lobbyist for child poverty or cancer research.
-They accept money from former lobbyists and future lobbyists.
-As Clinton has pointed out, her rivals have no problem taking money from the people who pay the lobbyists, and give them their “marching orders.” (ABC News debate, August 19, 2007.)
They have no problem about taking money from people representing other “special interests,” e.g. trial lawyers and the hedge fund industry.
So far this year, according to Opensecrets.org, Edwards has taken more than $8 million from lawyers and law firms, some of whom employ the federally-registered lobbyists whose lucre he refuses to touch. Obama is not far behind: $7.5 million. (Clinton has taken $9.2 million.)
Obama has emphasized that he does not take money from PhRMA, the powerful lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, he does not seem to mind taking money from senior employees of PhRMA members, such as Pfizer and Eli Lilly. Campaign finance records show that he has raised about $250,000 in pharmaceutical-related contributions this year. (Clinton collected $269,000.) He has also not been averse to helping out Illinois-based pharmaceutical companies with “tariff suspensions.”
You might see a mention of Obama’s definition of a lobbyist in an article here or there, but you will not see the intense focus put on it like you do when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s lobbyist contributions. So the O-man comes across as being a “reformer” on the issue of lobbyist contributions while Hillary looks old school.
Obama is also pressing Hillary to release her tax returns, and acting as though the fact that she hasn’t indicates she’s not in favor of “transparency” and “full disclosure,” but did you know that when it comes to the candidate’s campaign finance reports, Hillary Clinton has a better rating on full disclosure than Barack Obama does? There’s also the issue of what is being called “secret money” – as the NYSun reported earlier this week:
A torrent of secret money is flooding into the leading presidential campaigns, with more than $118 million, or one-quarter of the total raised in this cycle, banked without disclosure of who gave the funds or where the donations originated.
The money is coming from hundreds of thousands of donations of $200 or less, which have been widely praised for democratizing the system for funding White House bids. However, the surge in low-dollar gifts has come at the cost of transparency, since federal law only requires campaigns to itemize donations when a donor gives more than $200.
According to an analysis being released today by a Washington think tank, the Campaign Finance Institute, Senator Obama of Illinois led the pack with such small and secret donations, pulling in about $31 million during 2007. Rep. Ron Paul ran second in small gifts, raking in more than $17 million. At the end of the year, Senator Clinton and John Edwards, who has since dropped out, were essentially tied for third in unitemized, small contributions, with each candidate raising about $11 million.
Advocates of tighter campaign finance controls said the notion behind excusing donations of under $200 from the reporting requirements was that the sums were insignificant from an ethical perspective. “The idea is, it is too small an amount to worry about in terms of you’re not going to buy significant influence or access for $200,” a spokeswoman for Common Cause, Mary Boyle, said.
However, one area of concern with the flood of donations, particularly those made online, is that foreigners could be weighing in illegally in an American election. Mr. Obama’s Web site allows donors to choose an address in one of 227 possible countries or territories, including Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Yemen.
It’s Senator Clinton’s website that takes the most cautious approach to foreign contributions:
The most cautious campaign when it comes to accepting online donations from overseas seems to be that of Mrs. Clinton. Visitors to her Web site who want to list an address abroad are directed to a special page which advises that such donations are only taken by mail and that donors “must include a copy of your U.S. passport or green card.”
“The mail-in requirement provides an additional level of review that would not occur with an online contribution that is automatically processed,” a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Blake Zeff, said.
She just leaves the dirty work to the Norman Hsus of the Democratic party.
The bottom line is I don’t think there’s any doubt that Obama has benefited a great deal from the groupie-like reporting from the MSM on his every move. In fact, as Bill Clinton truthfully asserted, two media studies here and here) have confirmed that Obama has gotten much more positive news coverage than Hillary Clinton. So, yeah, Bubba’s right in that the media seems obsessed with slobbering all over Barry O., but that’s the extent of his rightness. What he’s trying to do is use this as an excuse for why Hillary’s campaign is tanking when in fact, the harshest coverage of her (if one could even call it harsh) didn’t really happen until after her weekend and Potomac primary losses. In fact, she and Obama at this stage are still neck and neck, showing that the media have been successful in their sensationalism of the two campaigns, generating enough interest in them to create the horserace we’re seeing between the two of them today.
Related reading: Bubba Slips Leash, Goes Back On Attack