The Extreme and Imaginary Pro-Obama Bias

12/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Bob Cesca Host of The Bob & Chez Show, Writer for

Mark Halperin, the useful monger of conventional wisdom and TIME magazine pundit, thinks there was an "extreme pro-Obama" media bias during the campaign. Ann Coulter, coincidentally enough, is promoting a new book based upon the same theme.

Yes, Ann Coulter and Mark Halperin are covering the same beat. We can only conclude that either Ann Coulter is becoming more mainstream or Mark Halperin has totally lost his shpadoinkle. I'm voting for the latter.

After all, Halperin recently wrote that Matt Drudge is "the Walter Cronkite of his era." Seriously. He wrote that in a book. If I were Cronkite, I'd be seriously insulted. Better watch your back, Halperin. He may not look it, but Cronkite can still kick some ass. When you least expect it, out of the shadows leaps a raging berzerker of kung fu fists and elbows. Cronkite wins. Flawless victory.

But as I reported in my book, and as the E&P Pub noted the other day, you might recall that Halperin advised Senator McCain to have his surrogates play the race card against then-Senator Obama. In the same jaw-dropping edition of "Halperin's Take," Halperin instructed Senator McCain to use Obama's middle name and "exotic" background to cast Obama as a Manchurian Candidate -- implying that, if elected, Obama would rip off his mask revealing his true identity as an Islamic evildoer. In other words, use the lies from the various whisper campaigns because they're excellent.

So given this one aforementioned example of the establishment press coverage of the campaign -- from TIME magazine's website no less -- it's remarkable that Halperin would have the temerity to lift up his Hack Chalice and declare:

"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."

Disgusting failure? Well, then, a charge like this demands some investigation -- the kind of investigation that you probably won't find in Ann Coulter's book. Put another way: the truth. So let me see if I can smoke out this alleged "disgusting" and "extreme" pro-Obama bias.

When the establishment media -- mainly, but not exclusively, the cable news networks -- hop-scotched through two years of election coverage in which they chronically reinforced a false rumor that the president-elect was secretly a radical Muslim; or that he was "the most liberal senator" (he's not); or repeatedly calling him "Osama" and, in some cases, "Bin Laden" (no, seriously); or showing b-roll of Bin Laden during Obama stories; or playing the Rev. Wright YouTube videos around the clock for weeks on end; or wondering whether the president-elect was "one of us"; or whether he was too exotic; or asking the president-elect in a televised debate why he doesn't love the American flag, this was somehow extreme pro-Obama coverage?

Should I go on?

Or what about questioning whether or not the president-elect was too presumptuous (implying, in some cases, "uppity"); or repeating McCain talking points, including that the president-elect was a socialist (he's not) and a celebrity not unlike Paris Hilton; or that the president-elect will never be able to reconcile with the Clintons; or wondering whether he passed the "commander in chief" test; or reporting that the president-elect's wife hates America (she doesn't). Somehow this is all proof that the establishment media failed to fully vet Barack Obama?

A reporter whose job it is to deal in conventional wisdom ought to know that the establishment press was Senator McCain's self-admitted base. Did Halperin or Coulter even watch that Sedona barbecue video? I haven't seen it in a while, so maybe I forgot about all of the pro-Obama bias hurled at McCain's head during the party. That tire swing? Clearly in the shape of an Obama "O" logo. A reporter from Newsweek with her butt literally inside of it -- swinging around with a big orgasmic smile on her face. Bias!

At the same time, an embryonic strain of conventional wisdom began to form and circulate about an alleged pro-Obama bias. Then, just before the election, a Pew Research Center analyses of the campaign press coverage concluded that there were a greater number of positive news items about the Obama campaign than the McCain campaign. So naturally Halperin had to, by his very nature, repeat and perpetuate the developing wisdom and make it, you know, conventional. And so he went off about an "extreme pro-Obama bias" the other day.

Naturally, however, this study failed to prove anything about a pro-Obama bias while proving absolutely everything about which of the two campaigns happened to have produced a greater share of good news and which happened to have produced a lesser share of good news. That's all.

Let's do this list. Beyond the array of unfair but expected attacks on President-elect Obama's character, the record shows that the Obama campaign was better organized and more disciplined. Fact. It raised more money and it remained ahead in the polls with the exception of the very brief Sarah Palin bump after the RNC. On the other side of the fence, the McCain campaign was comparatively awful by nearly all accounts. It lagged in the polls, lagged in cash and was nothing if not disjointed, undisciplined and exceptionally negative through the latter weeks of the general election season.

And yes, it's a fact that the Obama campaign carried more historical and transformational baggage. Was the press supposed to ignore this? Should the press have ignored the historical and global impact of a then-potential Obama victory? Was it wrong, in the midst of an economic meltdown, to wonder out loud whether or not McCain's spasmodic kitchen-sink reaction during those two weeks after Lehman failed were an indicator of how he might govern as president? This is all fair game.

But in the establishment media's self-consciousness -- a character trait whipped into it by the far-right's claim of a "liberal bias" -- certain segments of the media decided to stir into its coverage a wide variety of smears against the president-elect and his family in order to craft a sense of balance, albeit awkward balance. The osmotic journey of these rumors from fringe internet conspiracy theories to establishment media news items can be, in part, attributed to conventional wisdom shapeshifters like Mr. Halperin who, through his reporting, legitimized it.

Ultimately, the problem with Mark Halperin is that he lacks his own unique insight and therefore simply repeats whatever ridiculousness crosses through his internets. And because he's literally employed by a colossus of the establishment press, he can be far more destructive in his drone-like repetition of these items than outsiders like Ann Coulter or even Matt Drudge. He's like a money launderer -- cleansing the awfulness and making it palatable for the Sunday shows.

And this is what we can expect for the next four-to-eight years. Mark Halperin, and therefore the all-powerful D.C. conventional wisdom, says that the so-called pro-Obama bias is as terrible -- as "disgusting" -- as the pro-invasion media bias during the lead-up to Iraq. Conventional wisdom, in essence, is triple-dog-daring the press to make up for its egregious Iraq failure by striking down upon the Obama administration with great vengeance and furious anger.

Hang on tight. It's going to be a crazy and infuriating ride.

Order my new book: One Nation Under Fear, with a foreword by Arianna Huffington. Also available in stores.