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Michael Russnow

Michael Russnow

Posted: March 10, 2008 11:59 PM

Clinton or Obama? Does the Media Have Nothing Better To Do Than Make Headlines With No Real Basis?


Last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton reversed her political slide, which had been greased by so many in the Media who gave disproportionate import to the primaries and caucuses Barack Obama won in the days following Super Tuesday. Last Wednesday's headlines gave some begrudging indication -- almost a harumph -- that she'd done rather well with her ten point victory in Ohio and comeback stance in Texas, which she won by 3.5%. Of course, people tried to take that one away from her, noting that she'd previously been ahead by a much greater margin. However, she was ahead all last year by double digits and had clearly fallen to the extent that she was actually termed behind in Texas on Primary Day. Thus, to have made a recovery with a convincing win of more than a hundred thousand votes might well have been deemed the start of a trend as opposed to the opinions posed by those who can't wait to write her political epitaph.

Notice that in the above description of last Tuesday's electoral events, I didn't mention Obama's landslide victory in Vermont, nor did I make note of Hillary's equally large win in Rhode Island. Nothing against these beautiful and picturesque states, but their political significance next to mega states such as Ohio and Texas pales in comparison.

That's why I've been lately so appalled by the media's salivation over almost any news story, which it needs to sell papers or build broadcast ratings. Why the so-called pundits -- especially those on TV, who are so well-paid to give their opinion -- try to hype an event that is not really an event just to seduce the viewers and lure them to their respective channels.

Suddenly, all interest last Saturday was on little Wyoming, the nation's least populous state and with almost no chance of going in the Democratic column for whoever is the Democratic standard bearer. Not to mention the fact that it is a caucus, which by definition, is not nearly as representative or participatory as primaries wherein so many more people cast their ballots. And even with Wyoming, where there was admittedly a much larger voter turnout than ever before and with the voters overwhelmingly for the better organized Obama, the actual delegate dispensation was in the order of seven for him and five for Clinton.

If you landed from Mars, or perhaps even from Europe, and were not well-versed in the American political system you would have thought by the headlines on Sunday that, though Obama had slipped last Tuesday, he was back in form having whipped Hillary. If you had no idea -- even apart from Wyoming's political leanings -- that Ohio and Texas dwarfed the mountain state you would have gotten a much different sense of the total picture.

And now with Mississippi, a relatively small state with only 33 delegates that almost always votes Republican in presidential elections, there is so much press attention and expectation for the primary, although with more than half the Democrats African American, there is little suspense as to who will win. So they needn't bother to even wait for the returns, because they have already termed this contest as much more important than it really is, even as another huge state, Pennsylvania, looms in the distance.

I guess the fact that Pennsylvania is six weeks away, and a state where Hillary is currently favored to win, has put a pall over media coverage, so they had to continue to spike the interest by somewhat equalizing Hillary's big state victories in effect conning us into thinking that Wyoming and Mississippi are akin to Ohio and Texas. This, just as they continue to cite the total of Obama's state wins -- I believe James Carville said it best on CNN tonight when he said in closing something to the effect of "How many Idahos make up California?"

If Obama ultimately wins, I won't be shattered and I'll vote for him enthusiastically against the reactionary candidate whom the Republicans have apparently nominated. But let him get there without such false pandering by the media. Let him excite us to the extent that he somehow wins a state that matters, such as Pennsylvania. Let him win the do-overs now widely assumed to be on track when they occur in Michigan and Florida.

And if Hillary intends to triumph, let her do so by putting her all into the campaign, not by suckering us with a possible Obama VP candidacy. I don't discount the notion just because he and she are engaged in such a spirited campaign. In fact, the idea of an antagonist as a running mate is not so farfetched, when you consider that John F. Kennedy chose Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan chose George H. W. Bush. It is ill founded, however, and I think the Obama forces are correct when they supply the retort, which Hillary and her managers should have foreseen. If, as she declares, Obama is not good enough for the top spot, why would he be a good understudy? That's a campaign attack ready made for McCain and his minions when the make or break action starts in September.

There's another elephant in the room, though, and while I'm hesitant to bring it up it's something of which I'm almost certain a lot of folks are thinking. While it's remarkable that of all the Democratic candidates the two who rose to the top were among ethnic and gender groups that have never been elected president, do Democrats, who badly hunger for a return to the White House, want to risk it by attempting to break two glass ceilings at once?

It would be lovely to presume that Americans are prejudice free and only want what's best for us all, but we have seen time and again that real change occurs in incremental steps. Whoever wins the nomination will make great strides for us as a people and will no doubt, by doing so, help all other such previously sidelined bands of citizenry make headway in the years to come.

In the meantime, wouldn't it be nice if the press were more concerned about putting things in proper perspective instead of just trying to make money by selling their wares in print and over the air waves?