Super Tuesday’s over, and there’s no absolute winner among either Democrats or Republicans.
Nonetheless, even though no one candidate has yet locked up their party’s nomination, we might as well cancel the rest of the primaries or caucuses. The media have already decided that this year’s standard bearers will be John McCain and Barack Obama.
Yes, somewhere along the line, the role of the media has changed from reporting on the primaries to deciding the primaries. They pick their favorites, they give them preferential treatment, they tear down their opponents, and they anoint their winning candidates even before voters have a chance to go to the polls.
Step one occurs early in the primary process, when network executives decide which candidates get covered and which ones don’t. Among Republicans, too bad for Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback and Duncan Hunter. Once the media suits decided they weren’t serious candidates, they got no media attention, which, of course, resulted in their never being taken seriously as candidates.
Among Democrats, the same thing happened to Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson – even though Biden, Dodd and Richardson had more experience to offer, and more concrete ideas, than either Clinton or Obama. Too bad. The media decided ahead of time that their ideas weren’t worth being heard, and so they weren’t.
Step two occurs once the field narrows, when members of the media fall in love with their favorite candidates and start slobbering all over them. Is there any doubt, for example, that everybody in the national press corps is in love with John McCain? If you believe what you hear and read in the media (always a dangerous proposition), McCain can do no wrong and Romney can do no right.
No doubt, McCain’s an attractive candidate. After interviewing him on the Straight Talk Express in 2000, I became somewhat of a McCainiac myself. He’s accessible, funny and irreverent: all the qualities reporters like in a candidate, which is why he gets a free ride from his friends in the media, compared to Mitt Romney. Everybody knows about Romney’s flip-flops, yet McCain has changed positions on tax cuts, immigration, the Confederate flag, repeal of Roe v. Wade and the role of evangelicals in politics. Read about any of those in the press? Of course not.
Barack Obama gets the same worshipful treatment. We hear constantly about how “liberal” Hillary Clinton is too liberal, in fact, to get elected. Yet Obama’s liberal credentials leave Clinton in the dust. Unlike Clinton, for example, Obama favors granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. As reported by the Washington Times alone, he also supports the decriminalization of marijuana. And the National Journal named him 2007’s Most Liberal Senator. Who’s the real liberal here?
That same gentle treatment extends to the candidate’s spouse. Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Michelle Obama was asked if she could see herself working to support Sen. Clinton, if she ended up getting the nomination. Her response: “I’d have to think about that. I’d have to think about policies, her approach, her tone.”
Obama went on to add: “You know, everyone in this party is going to work hard for whoever the nominee is,” but the operative phrase remained her initial reaction: “I’d have to think about that.” Imagine if Clinton spouse Bill had expressed the same hesitation about working to support Barack Obama. It would have led every newscast. It would have made the front page of every newspaper. But nary a peep was heard about Michelle Obama’s having “to think about it.”
Now, I believe Michelle Obama was only telling the truth: She’s not crazy about Hillary Clinton, and she wouldn’t be in any hurry to run out and campaign for any Hillary-led ticket. And I personally agree with Barack Obama on driver’s licenses and decriminalization of pot. My point is: As one who could very likely become the Democratic Party nominee, Barack Obama and his wife deserve the same scrutiny – now – the media give to every word, comment or burp that escapes the lips of Hillary Clinton and her husband. No more, no less.
All I’m asking is that, for the rest of the campaign, the media treat every candidate equally bad. That’s their job. And there’s a big difference between their job and ours. To bend a phrase: “They report. We decide.”
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