Bill Clinton was once a darling of the mainstream media. He enjoyed enormous popularity in his heyday. As Hillary Clinton took her seat in the United States Senate to represent the state of New York, her star was rising, too. MSM types were forecasting that she would be the person to beat in the 2008 Presidential race.
On the GOP side, John McCain was a darling of the MSM when he ran for President in 2000. Journalists enjoyed the all-access backstage pass afforded them on McCain tour buses. Political pundits may have said McCain’s campaign was down for the count in fall of 2007, but the media still liked him, and editorial endorsements coupled with ample on-screen time may have helped McCain to win the nomination in spite of organizational deficiencies. McCain scored decisive victories in MSM capitals like California and New York, two states that were among those that did not award proportional shares of delegates.
And then there’s Barack Obama. He knew he was going up against the vaunted Clintons. His organization probably sensed that the Clintons felt the MSM would help them score knockout punches early on. Clinton overconfidence could lead them to be sloppy in caucus contests, and could lead the Clintons to not feel the need to organize their campaign in states that had contests late in the election calendar. Smart. Obama’s organization did outhustle the Clintons in the caucus states and Obama did do well in most of the contests that followed on the heels of Super Tuesday. Bill Clinton saw Hillary’s hopes for the nomination souring, and Bill Clinton wasn’t happy about it. He started to turn against the media, putting some blame on them for favoring Obama. In the early going, it probably wasn’t the media’s fault that Hillary was slipping, for her organization hadn’t prepared carefully. But once Bill Clinton turned against the media, the media turned against Bill Clinton.
The MSM found the remainder of the race for the Democrat nomination mesmerizing. John McCain, who had clinched the GOP nomination following Super Tuesday, received little publicity as the Democrats sucked up all the oxygen in the room.
Barack Obama came into his own as the new media darling. The MSM fawned all over him. Reporters begged to interview him (Fox News Channel talk show hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity probably beg the most). The cameras loved capturing him. Those speeches. Those enthralling speeches. Obama packed large venues because of those speeches. Supporters sought his autograph as Obama skyrocketed to celebrity status.
He’s been masterful at culling the media’s support, superseding McCain’s and Clinton’s prior achievements at culling media support. Obama, who’d taken his road tour to nearly every state in the USA, now packed his bags for a world tour. The USA was too confining for his newfound popularity. Zeal for Obama was overflowing the cup, bursting the seams. Europe cried out for Obama, and Obama graciously obliged. The evening news anchors of NBC, ABC, and CBS packed their bags to go with Obama on this storybook tour.
Obama took Europe by storm. All media reports were glowing. Obama’s organization knew its candidate had hit a home run. Though the organization had acknowledged risks at the outset, in the end, the European tour exceeded all expectations.
Attention turned to organizing the convention. The announcement was made that Obama would deliver his acceptance speech in a venue that would seat 75,000 adoring fans. Donors to the Obama campaign could win the chance to meet Barack Obama, superstar, backstage. Did you want to be the first to know who Barack’s VP would be? Sign up to get your text message with the breaking VP news.
Poll margins started to narrow, but Obama hadn’t been stumping in the USA, plus Obama took a much-needed family vacation in Hawaii. Once Obama was back to full-time campaigning, he’d enjoy a bounce in the polls.
Evangelicals had given Bush the margin of victory in 2000 and 2004. McCain was known to have problems shoring up his base, especially among evangelicals. Obama seized upon an opportunity to make inroads with the evangelical base. In his first day back on the campaign trail after the Hawaii vacation, he appeared at Saddleback Church and was very warmly greeted. Unfortunately, McCain would also be appearing at Saddleback Church and would also get air time. That, perhaps, was a big mistake. Perhaps Obama should only have accepted the opportunity to speak at Saddleback if the event was to be an Obama-only event, with no McCain. Returning to the campaign trail full-time did not deliver the expected bounce in the polls.
Tongues kept wagging about McCain’s performance at Saddleback. It seems McCain’s performance eclipsed Obama’s. Time to push media buttons. Drag out the wait for the VP announcement, but mention frequently that the announcement could come at any time. Distract. Distract. Ooh! How many houses do the McCains have? Distract. Distract.
And now the Democrat National Convention. Big smiles as the Obama organization warmly greets the MSM for a weeklong lovefest. “Welcome to my parlor,” said the spider to the fly.
On the eve of the DNC, the polls are tied. Can the MSM hypnotize the public into Obama euphoria? Or will it be too hard for Americans to erase from their memories the brief glimpse of brilliance they saw from McCain at Saddleback Church no matter what the MSM does?
Will the Obama strategy, going forward, involve monopolizing the media? Keeping the cameras on Obama as much as possible, and not allowing McCain to have more air time than a few sound bites?
And the bigger question: Is the public best served by politicians who know best how to orchestrate the chorus of the MSM? Are we getting the best politicians foisted upon us by the MSM? The politicians featured in the media: Are they really the cream of the crop? Or could substandard politicians gain media prominence via expertise in handling the media?
Is the media laying down on the job? Or are they doing their job? Are they telling us the whole story? Or are they telling us only what they think we want to hear? Or do they want to be the power-brokers that decide what we get the opportunity to know and what we don’t get the opportunity to know?
Our Constitution, in its Bill of Rights, granted freedom of the press. Is our press free? Or is it purchased? Or is it restrained in some respects, manipulated in others?
Do Americans see this Presidential election contest through the lens of the media? Or through their own inner compass?
What do you think?