The reporters at ABC's "Nightline" continued to outdo themselves in their glowing adoration for Senator Barack Obama. Correspondent David Wright, filing a story on Tuesday about the swelling crowds at the Democratic presidential contender's rallies, advised viewers to think of the events as "Springsteen concerts, but the tickets are free."
Describing those who waited outside in the cold for such a rally, he bubbled, "...Everyone waited patiently, because inside...they felt the warm glow of hope." Wright even wondered if the candidate can "redeem politics from mere partisanship."
Descending to a level of fawning that's usually reserved for the subjects featured in Tiger Beat or on "Entertainment Tonight," Wright created a religious metaphor. He rhapsodized, "Obama's true believers respond as though they've spent their whole lives out in the cold." Continuing the analogy, the ABC journalist exclaimed, "Politics doesn't even begin to describe it. A visit to an Obama rally is a pilgrimage."
Wright appeared to deride anyone who refused to jump on the Obama bandwagon as thoroughly uncool, as the type of person who wouldn't understand Frank Sinatra or the Beatles. "To them, the crowds around Obama are as baffling as the bobby soxers once were, screaming for Frankie while their parents worried," he explained.
Wright did feature L.A. Times columnist Joel Stein to provide some sarcasm about the cult of Obama. According to Stein, "It's kind of like being 13 and seeing Shawn Cassidy and we're all just on board. We're on board the Scott Baio train. So, we're not embarrassed when we get together."
But, clearly Wright should be included in the throngs of glowing supporters. He closed the segment with what must be described as one of the most over-the-top statements in the history of "Nightline." According to Wright, the senator's supporters are hoping that "Obama can redeem politics from mere partisanship. Black people hoping he can finally achieve Martin Luther King's dream. White people hoping he can redeem America from the sins of slavery and segregation." Admitting that Obama is not all powerful, he concluded, "It is hard to see how any politician, a mere human, can achieve all that..."
In a previous example of fawning over Obama, "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran described the senator as someone who makes "connections" and overcomes divisions.
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired at 11:35pm on February 19, follows:
MORAN: Well, that's Barack Obama's response to efforts by Hillary Clinton and, increasingly, by John McCain to turn his rhetorical skills into a weakness, but there's no denying his soaring oratory has helped him build a massive and fervent following unlike anything we have seen in politics for a while. And David Wright is with the Obama campaign in Texas tonight. David?
DAVID WRIGHT: Terry, they have struck the set here in Houston. We are truly the last ones here and in fact, somebody just turned out the lights, so I'd better talk fast. We've been to dozens of huge rallies like this in dozens of states and with every victory, Obama's congregation seems to be growing. If you've never been to an Obama rally before, a word of advice, go early. Think Springsteen concerts, but the tickets are free. First come, first serve. In Boise, Idaho, a few weeks back it couldn't have been more than 15 degrees out. But outside Taco Bell Arena early on a Saturday morning, everyone waited patiently because inside--
OBAMA: If you arrive together, we will remake this country and we will remake the world.
WRIGHT: --inside, they felt the warm glow of hope.
OBAMA: Keep me in your prayers. You know, make sure that everybody is praying and give me that protective blanket over it.
WRIGHT: Obama's true believers respond as though they've spent their whole lives out in the cold. At rally after rally, a few people literally faint.
OBAMA: [Montage of Obama reacting to fainting]: Is somebody okay? Did somebody just get faint? It looks like we have somebody who may have fainted. Hold on a second, young lady. Are you okay? Why don't you sit down though.
WRIGHT: Politics doesn't even begin to describe it. A visit to an Obama rally is a pilgrimage.
WRIGHT: So when did you fly in?
OBAMA SUPPORTER (FEMALE): I got here at 11:40 last night. I'm dead tired. I've had five hours of sleep in two days.
WRIGHT: But you came all the way from Washington just for this?
OBAMA SUPPORTER (FEMALE): Yes, I did. Yes, I did. I came to see the man.
WRIGHT: From Boise to Baltimore, he's winning them over. For you, is it even a close call between him and Hillary Clinton?
SECOND OBAMA SUPPORTER (FEMALE): Not at all. Because, as he said, she is the past, he is the future and the present. You know, you have to move forward.
OBAMA: There is a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, where that spirit of hope has to come through.
WRIGHT: From the looks on their faces, they're yearning to hear stuff like that. As though they've waited for so long, they've almost lost hope. And now he comes along.
OBAMA: But we spend our whole lives caught up in being told what we can't do. And what's not possible, and that children have to be poor and race always is going to matter in this country and there's always going to be injustice and the economy can never work for anybody. We're fed that stuff all the time. Mostly by folks who are in power and take advantage of the status quo.
WRIGHT: But those outside the Obama bubble are left scratching their heads. They just don't get it.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent, but empty call for change that--
WRIGHT: To them, the crowds around Obama are as baffling as the bobby soxers once were, screaming for Frankie while their parents worried. Like Beetle-mania must have seemed to Ed Sullivan. As Hannah Montana seems to countless parents today.
JOEL STEIN (LA TIMES COLUMNIST): I'm in the demographic where everyone I know among my friends is in love with Obama.
WRIGHT: L.A. Times columnist Joel Stein has written about what he calls the cult of Obama.
STEIN: It's kind of like being 13 and seeing Shawn Cassidy and we're all just on board. We're onboard the Scott Baio train. So we're not embarrassed when we get together. We just talk about how much we love Obama.
WRIGHT: Some testimonials are nostalgic for an era when hope didn't seem so naive. Others imagined what has never been and asked why not.
OPRAH WINFREY: Disappointment doesn't have to be normal anymore. For the first time, I'm stepping out of my pew because I've been inspired.
OBAMA: Thank you, Oprah. And I love you.
WRIGHT: At this point, the bar is so high even the believers are starting to doubt he can pull it off.
STEIN: We know we're being fooled, but we kind of like it. I can't get off his ride, it's too good.
WRIGHT: The potential for disappointment is as big as Texas. People's hopes have been raised so high. Young people hoping that Obama can redeem politics from mere partisanship, black people hoping he can finally achieve Martin Luther King's dream. White people hoping he can redeem America from the sins of slavery and segregation. It is hard to see how any politician, a mere human, can achieve all that, but it will be very interesting to watch. Terry?
MORAN: And you wonder, David, if all that enthusiasm can sustain itself or if there's going to be some kind of reckoning or hangover. We'll watch as you cover this remarkable campaign. Thanks for that report.
Audio available here (596 kB | 1:15)