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On To The General: Hillary Clinton Now A "Top Democrat" According To NBC News

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On a nightly newscast, time is short, and what you say or don't say is often a function of the need to be succinct and efficient, with the assumption that your audience comes to the table with a baseline knowledge of ongoing stories. That said, it still made me double-take last night when Hillary Clinton was lumped in with "Top Democrats" in a story about the response to President Bush's appeasement comments in Israel, widely held to have been directed at Barack Obama. Here's what was said: "Top Democrats leaped to Obama's defense," followed by a statement from Clinton (with "Presidential Candidate" chyroned under her), Nancy Pelosi, and then Joe Biden (who said a word "we can't use on this broadcast" but they certainly could spell out enough so a reasonably-intelligent person could connect the dots!)

Given that criticism of a candidate is an invitation for another candidate to comment, and given the fact that Clinton had asserted her intention to keep on truckin', and given the Kremlinological analysis about what her intentions really are, it was notable across the board that she came out in full support of Obama against President Bush, just as it was notable that John McCain took the opportunity to echo Bush's idiotic appeasement analogy. (Why idiotic? Because appeasement does not equal discussion, or trying to forge ahead diplomatically in an effort to make the world a better and safer place.) Yesterday, there was definitely discussion about the fact that Clinton showed strong support for Obama over Israel — an area of perceived vulnerability for him — and the reason there was heightened interest in Clinton's response is that she is still Obama's rival (see Ha'aretz: "Even Obama's rival, Hillary Clinton, said yes when asked if Obama would support Israel.")

The upshot is that most of the coverage acknowledged that Hillary Clinton was Obama's rival and was still in the race; this was the first report I saw which did not make that same acknowledgment, even in quick voiceover form. It was one more indication that the media considers this race over, for all practical purposes (see Tim Russert's declaration after the NC/Indiana primary; Time magazine's cover this week, which declared Obama the winner, with an asterisk; ABC tossing their Clinton interview on Wednesday in favor of live John Edwards endorsement coverage in their 6:30 feed). While it may not be strictly accurate — there's still Kentucky and Puerto Rico, onward to the convention etc. — the job of a newscast is to bring the pertinent story to its viewers, and in this case, the pertinent story was that Bush attacked Obama from a foreign pulpit (or, er, bimah), as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party. It was a story that spoke to Obama as the presumptive nominee, and the decision to treat Clinton as a non-factor in that was the network's call, just as are all decisions involving news judgment. It does bear noting, though, that while on a nightly newscast time is short, this particular segment — the lead story — clocked in at 3:10, which is a pretty nice chuck of time, comparatively. Did they have time for a quick voice-over noting that Clinton was Obama's rival? Probably. That they didn't is pretty compelling evidence that they no longer feel they have to.

As for Clinton, well, hey — a chyron's better than an asterisk.

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