Broadcasting & Cable magazine published a cover story in its August 22 issue [not available online] complaining that the stakes are too high in the 2012 campaign to just let (Republican) candidates get away with their own talking points. The headline was "Just Say Something! Candidates have been dodging questions for decades, but with astronomical stakes this election cycle, it's more prevalent than ever."
Right underneath this headline was a picture of Rep. Michele Bachmann wih the headline in capital red letters "The Queen of the Page." It continued: "As in the ones Rep. Michele Bachmann's talking points are written on, as she may be the most well-coached candidate to come along in years -- and certainly in this election cycle -- according to national news anchors." Is that an insult to Obama? Or does it simply mean he doesn't need to have his talking points questioned? Underneath were the analysis of network hosts on Bachmann's slipperiness:
-- Wolf Blitzer, CNN: She's very good and she's got Ed Rollins, he is very good. But I thinkshe does have a natural ability. You can train people, but if you don't have that natural talent, it doesn't matter. It's like tennis -- if you suck, you suck."
-- Norah O'Donnell, CBS: "She may be the most well-trained of all the candidates...She does appear to be prepared for almost everything."
-- Chuck Todd, NBC: "While she does press avails, she does it the way the White House does it, which is pre-arranging questioning. Not pre-arranged questioning, but she calls reporters by name. It's not a media scrum, answering any questions."
Todd's quote only underlines that media outlets like B&C are more upset that Bachmann's managing the press, but not when Obama does it. (Although Todd knows merely decided who gets called on and when isn't going to prevent mainstream media from asking all the questions they've been asking about ex-gays, conversion therapy, and whether Bachmann is submissive to her husband. It cannot be argued Bachmann's not getting hardballs on the trail and on television.
Andrea Morabito, the author of this B&C article, writes like a college freshman who doesn't know political history. Like a greenhorn, she assumes that this election cycle has the most "astronomical" stakes ever, and forget the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, the Great Depression. This concern seems to come with the emotion that Barack Obama is a very special, historic president and must not be disturbed.
Morabito warned "we are in an election-year environment i which candidates are more locked-down than ever" and that the debt-limit debate "complex debates are turned into TV-ready sound bites perhaps more than ever (if that's possible). And not only is the country more divided than ever politically [hello, Civil War?] , but changes in the media landscape that gave been building over the past two decades are reaching a fever pitch."
Who edits Morabito? Changes are reaching a fever pitch? Or is the media' s tone? (Perhaps she means Fox News and the blogosphere are ruining Obama's re-coronation.) But earlier, she wrote that the campaign exists in a "partisan environment with more media competition than ever." Someone get the writer a Valium.
Morabito clearly referred to Bachmann as the one who's "more locked-down than ever." Right after that claim came this sentence: "Besides, Bachmann -- who numerous journalists say is particularly tough to reach -- every campaign is seeking to control access. It's a far cry from the John McCain of 2000, who invited reporters to ride along on his 'Straight Talk Express' as he engaged in free-range conversation on the campaign trail."
Earth to the greenhorn: McCain's 2000 campaign was clearly the exception, not the historical rule -- and it didn't exactly work, either.
From the tone of the network anchors' remarks, it sounds like Morabito & Co. worried over Bachmann's round of Sunday show interviews on August 14 and she was getting away with murder.
"You want to be polite and respectful, you're not going to start screaming at them, 'Are you an idiot, why don't you answer the question?' There's nothing else you can do," said Blitzer.
"There's no need to be confrontational. The viewers are smart. If you want to say 'You're lying' in an interview, that's a different kind of television," said Norah O'Donnell. "Viewers can see for themselves whether a candidate is evading or answering a question. They don't need the interviewer to make a judgment about that."
(Oops, we know she's new to CBS, but Norah ought to reread about how her man Bob Schieffer pounded Oliver North with 26 are-you-a-liar questions in 1994. And of course there was Dan Rather yelling at George H.W. Bush "You've made us hypocrites in the face of the world!" in 1988.)
Chuck Todd pronounced from on high that all candidates are inauthentic. "In this day and age where supposedly voters are going to reward authenticity, the fear that most of these politicians run from, it couldn't be less authentic."
Dear Chuck: the obvious rebuttal is your inauthentic 2010 argument that Fox News is "undermining" the mainstream media and no one should ever accuse the media of bias (it's "crazy"!) because you're all professionals who are "just simply trying to cover stories out there." Talk about fact-challenged talking points....