ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What Took the MSM So Long on the Wright Story?

Don Campbell at USAToday wonders why it took so long for the press to give serious scrutiny to Obama's spiritual mentor and close friend, Jeremiah Wright:

Wright story: What took so long?
The controversial reverend’s 20-year relationship with Obama was left to simmer for a year. In our 24/7 media age, how could this have happened?

By Don Campbell

Barring some really strange math or a lot of second thoughts, the Democrats seem poised to nominate for president a man with the fewest credentials and least familiarity to the American people of anyone in modern history. It's just one more way that Barack Obama is breaking the mold, and barring a major shift, he should give some of the credit to the news media.

Presidential nominees have almost always been people who have run before and lost, or who have served as vice president or who have had years of experience as members of Congress or as prominent governors.

The only one I can remember who came close to Obama in the slim résumé department is Jimmy Carter, and his rise predated YouTube, ideological talk radio, the Internet and millions of bloggers. He also emerged at a time when political journalists still had and acted upon the instincts of a bloodhound.

The vetting of presidential and vice presidential candidates has long been a responsibility that journalists took seriously:
[...]
In this election, alas, most of the bloodhounds have lost their sense of smell. For the most part, they've relinquished that space to bloggers and radio talkers who have an ideological agenda, not an obligation to root out the facts and present them fairly.
[...]
Wright coverage

Thus, the coverage of Obama's spiritual relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ is disturbing. True, Wright sounded so unhinged on his recent ego tour in Washington that it might generate sympathy for Obama. But the issue still hanging is how a man who played such an important role in Obama's life for more than two decades drew so little scrutiny from reporters covering the Obama campaign. And since Obama himself has said the Wright controversy is a legitimate issue, I'll take that as an invitation to weigh in.

First, it took much too long for major news media outlets to appreciate the importance of the Wright connection. (Not that they all do yet;
the pummeling of ABC News by commentators for raising this and similar issues in the Pennsylvania debate further illustrated how out of touch some commentators are.)

The record shows that publications such as the Chicago Tribune newspaper and Rolling Stone magazine had detected the controversial nature of Obama's church about the time he entered the presidential race, in early 2007. Soon after the announcement speech, moreover, Wright himself volunteered to The New York Times that he had been disinvited to give the invocation at Obama's presidential launch because of the baggage he would bring to the podium. That set off conservative bloggers and talkers, but little or no follow-up in the regular or so-called mainstream news media.

More than a year passed before ABC News' Brian Ross had the clever idea to purchase videos of Wright's sermons to review them. The most incendiary clips quickly landed on YouTube, and the rest is history. The news media were dragged into the controversy holding their noses, but by then Obama had the goal line in sight.
By the time the MSM actually covered the issue, the MSM was already asking Hillary when she would drop out... or whether she would accept a VP slot.

One wonders how Jeremiah Wright's sermons would've played in Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Alabama, Missouri, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

I would suggest that Obama's finishes in those states would have been undermined significantly, an important point given the proportional system of delegates.
Obama's challenge

Speculation aside, Obama has been ill-served by a press corps that seemingly was mesmerized by the large, frenzied crowds who turn out to see the Democratic rock star. Crowds can be deceiving: McGovern, nobody's idea of a rock star, attracted huge and exuberant crowds throughout the fall of 1972 — on his way to losing 49 states to Richard Nixon.
We know that this is the case - that the MSM has to go through detox after covering Obama. Chris "Softball" Matthews admitted it, the dork from Politico admitted it, and a few other MSM reporters covering the campaign have admitted it.
Better that Obama forget the crowds and concern himself with the several million older, moderate Democrats and independents whom he'll need in a close general election. They won't just listen to what he says, they'll try to peer into his soul. That's why the Wright story is important in assessing his candidacy.

More than two years ago, at a Gridiron Club news media dinner in Washington, Obama poked fun at his meager accomplishments when he told his audience: "I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you've given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we'll let you know."

But the joke was on the journalists then, and now that Obama is about to actually do something, it still is.
As I've pointed out before, the MSM has done the Dems a disservice in not appropriately vetting their candidate. I'd be pissed if I was a Democrat voter.

When the MSM is on your team and rooting for your guy, they're not asking the tough questions that will inevitably come - making you weaker, not stronger.

The prospects do not look good for Hillary!TM But, I would say that as revelations about Obama's ties to Wright, Meeks, Ayers, and corruption in Chicago politics surface from now until November, the Dems will be shocked that they've been sold a bill of goods that is something completely different.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler