On today's CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, network White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux moderated a discussion with Barack Obama at the UNITY convention of minority journalists. Beforehand, Blitzer asked her about someone who wasn't attending the conference:
BLITZER: Senator McCain, I take it, he was invited to address this conference, as well. Is that right?
MALVEAUX: Yes, he certainly was. His campaign said there was a conflict of interest, that he had a lot of other things that were going on. He wasn't able to attend. This is a conference that has spanned across four days or so here in Chicago. Thousands of people have attended. It happens every four years. And so it really is very important to the journalists here, a lot of writers, a lot of people who represent media throughout the country are going to be paying very close attention. It is a shame that he wasn't able to attend.
McCain begged off because of other commitments. That may well be true, but even if it weren't it would have been a mistake for him to participate. He would not have been received nearly as warmly as Obama and the contrast would have given the mainstream media an opportunity to joyfully focus on the disparity.
What would most likely have happened is suggested by what occurred when incumbent President George W. Bush and Democratic opponent John Kerry addressed the same group at their 2004 convention. From the August 7, 2004 Washington Post:
The journalists' reaction to Bush was tepid compared with their enthusiastic reception for Kerry, who spoke at the same convention Thursday. Breaking with journalists' custom of neutrality, the audience gave Kerry a standing ovation even before he began speaking and interrupted his remarks with applause nearly 50 times.
In contrast, Bush drew a smattering of polite applause and a standing ovation at the end of his appearance. At one point, his speech was interrupted by a heckler who cried out "Shame on you for lying to the media, misleading the public" before being evicted from the room.
Ernest Sotomayer, a Newsday Web journalist who is president of Unity '04, echoed the views of many audience members when he said of Bush, "I wish he would have been able to give us much more detail on things like affirmative action and commitments to get more (minority) hiring in the media industry."
Little wonder, then, that a crowd of media types brought together by their sense of minority identification would cheer much louder for the candidate ready, willing, and able to encourage the grievance industry. Looking for a candidate who'll make "commitments to get more
(minority) hiring in the media industry," obvious government interference in private industry, is indicative of the UNITY mindset.
NewsBusters senior editor Tim Graham has already detailed the reception Obama received, including a couple of ovations from many audience members. CNN's transcript of Obama at the UNITY convention reflects multiple interruptions for applause and laughter as he spoke.
It was far from a shame that John McCain didn't attend. For whatever reason, he was right to have skipped the event. He's realized, as others have, that "breaking with journalists' custom of neutrality" is the standard again this year.