For the second week in a row, CNN's Howard Kurtz, while hosting Sunday's "Reliable Sources," seemed absolutely befuddled by the media's lack of interest in reporting presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama's campaign flip-flops.
Last week, it was the junior senator's change of heart concerning public campaign finances. This Sunday, it was Obama's curious reversal on handguns.
After two weeks, Kurtz finally got his answer: the press think flip-flopping makes Obama a great politician. I kid you not:
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Let me move on to the Supreme Court decision this week knocking down as unconstitutional the D.C. handgun ban. Now, this is fascinating.
"The Chicago Tribune," last November, Obama aides said on this very issue that Obama believed that the D.C. gun ban was constitutional, was fine. The morning of the Supreme Court decision, an Obama press aide says, well, that was inartful, an inartful comment. Actually, Obama thinks that the District of Columbia went too far with this gun ban.
Why isn't the press all over him on this?
Why indeed? However, listen to some of these excuses:
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": There's no video. I mean, that's the main reason.
If you had him in a debate saying, "I love the D.C. handgun ban," and then him saying on camera now, "Oh, actually, I'm OK with this decision," that would be everywhere, just like with the public financing issue. I mean, he said it multiple times, that he was (INAUDIBLE) John McCain and didn't. So, the fact that there's no video, this doesn't become as big of a story.
There's no video? Press members need video to report something?
Luckily, Kurtz wasn't buying it:
KURTZ: I'm sure that's a factor, but is there also an ideological factor? Conservative bloggers, as you would expect, have been all over Obama on this for flip-flopping. And liberal bloggers have largely been silent.
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORKER": They should be. And this isn't the first time he's changed his position on guns, or there's been an apparent contradiction.
He filled out a questionnaire in 1996 when he was first running for office saying that he wanted all guns to be banned. Now, the campaign has said he didn't see that questionnaire, a staffer filled it out. All right? So this is the second time that a staffer has sort of been blamed for explaining his gun position. And the danger is that this -- that the narrative changes about Obama.
We now have two very recent examples of him changing his mind on very important issues, one on campaign finance and one on guns. And the huge danger is that his brand, this sort of independent change -- you know, the guy who wants to change politics -- is -- that brand is getting diluted.
KURTZ: But if you look at some of the headlines a couple of days later, "The New York Times," "A Pragmatist Shift Towards the Center." "LA. Times," "Obama Shifting Toward the Center." "The Washington Post" did used the "FF" word, "One Man's Shift is Another's Flip- Flopping."
It doesn't seem to me that the press is doing what it usually does, which is to calling candidates out when they flip from a primary position to a general election position.
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, I think Obama has decided he wants to be a different kind of Democrat, one who actually wins. And he is selling I think somewhat artfully to the press the notion that America has been in trouble because we follow these dogmatic ideological positions rather than following some kind of reasonable pragmatism.
Yes, Roger, that's what he's selling. However, the question Kurtz has been asking for two weeks is why are you supposedly impartial members of the press not only buying it, but also abetting it?
Pay attention to Simon's reason:
SIMON: When he talks about Iraq, he says, look, we're in Iraq not because we had a pragmatic reason to invade, but because neocons in the Bush administration wanted to invade. I'm going to be the kind of kind of candidate who judges things based on their merits.Wow. So, it's okay for Obama to flip-flop because we're at war in Iraq? Talk about your Bush Derangement Syndrome:
Has he flip-flopped? Yes, he has. What helps him a little bit is that John McCain has done similar flip-flops.
KURTZ: Some other stories, Christian, said McCain accuses Obama of flip-flopping, most recently on this gun ban. But then the journalists don't go the next step to help us sort it out -- well, is that true or not? Is there some evidence of that or not?Wait for it, folks, because this next statement is nothing less than astounding:
BELLANTONI: Well, and it's this back-and-forth talking point. I mean, but the problem with Obama is he also -- he'll say -- if you call him on this, he'll say it's a distraction that doesn't help the American people with an issue. But...
KURTZ: Since when does that deter reporters? And why aren't they calling him on it?
BELLANTONI: It shouldn't. It shouldn't.
KURTZ: You're saying he has a way of kind of waving it away?
BELLANTONI: Absolutely. And he also -- FISA is another example with the eavesdropping bill. I mean, he said one thing, said he would do one thing, and he didn't. And...
LIZZA: Here's the test of a great politician. If you do something political, does the press call you on that and criticize you, or do they say, what a great political move that was? And with Obama right now, the press is calling him a great politician.
Well, folks, you've now been introduced to the new media meme that will allow Barack Obama to say whatever he wants whenever he wants with total impunity: flip-flopping makes him a great politician.