Hours and hours of coverage, but the stories most likely to impact the result in November have barely if at all registered on the MSM screens this week.
The television audience has been large, but execs should not be patting themselves on the back. Interest –pro-and-con– is high, so the curiosity of the country is engaged. Did any of the nets use the opportunity to improve their standing with the public?
MSNBC revealed itself to be a carnival of dysfunction, and as Scott Johnson notes, it looks like the nutters are winning control of the castle, small though it might be. (HT: RobinsonandLong.com).
The others did the standard thing, the same as I had observed in LA in 2000, and Boston and New York in 2004 –constantly change the guest line-up and talk about the same things. Fox has Hume and the best regulars, so it wins the gold in the Pundits Roundtable competition. But the practice of endless commentary in Denver has hurt Obama because the chatter from a thousand heads has been about personality, and mostly about the Clintons’. Carville noted this on Monday night, and it hasn’t improved. The litany of cliches pouring out of Bill and Joe last night didn’t do a thing to bring along anyone who wasn’t already sold on Obama. Obama may pull it off tonight, but he’s hemmed in by being obliged to be a surge-denier and an tire gauge prophet, and his Greco-Roman triumphalism is not designed to win over the folks just beginning to pay attention. (“Who does this guy think he is,” is going to be the most telling reaction.)
If the Republicans are smart next week, they will talk endlessly about victory, energy, and character. The GOP has the luxury of an extremely well-known candidate in McCain, and of no psycho-drama of the deposed first couple plotting for a return in 2012. If its speakers set up the ball every night, all of the talking heads will have to talk about what they talk about –which should be victory and energy, along with Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
The networks ignored the two huge stories swirling around Denver –the unfolding developments around the Ayers-Obama relationship and the unprecedented rebuke of Nancy Pelosi by the American Roman Catholic Church leadership. MSM was watching Hillary so closely that they couldn’t see the shape of the campaign ahead being deeply impacted by these two key stories. Like John Kerry’s “Christmas Eve in Cambodia” drama of last summer, the MSM will be amazed and surprised as these stories grow and become hugely important to millions of voters in the fall.
The Obama hard-core know, though, and have done their thuggish best to shut down the one while ignoring the other and pleading with Nancy Pelosi to please shut-up about her (and their) abortion radicalism. Neither effort is working.
“Chicago rules” have never been on so obvious a display as with the attempt to silence Stanley Kurtz (but see, for example, Jonah’s e-mail from a reader –another HT to RobinsonandLong.com.) The impact of “Obama’s action wire” is only to increase attention on Kurtz and his findings. As Volokh contributor Jim Lindgren notes, the Obama people are denouncing Kurtz much more than they have ever denounced the unrepentant terrorist Ayers. Andrew McCarthy, a keen judge of character, notes that “the Obama campaign is giving us a frightening glimpse of how unfit they are to wield power.” The panicked Obama campaign first blundered into a response ad that raised the awareness of everyone not employed by MSM and then started targeting television stations and demanding investigations from the Department of Justice. Now they are attempting to intimidate critics. Long after the DNC has left Denver, this story line –and the inquiry into the Obama-Ayers friendship– will continue.
As will the conversation about Nancy Pelosi’s huge blunder when she attempted to deceive a national audience on Meet the Press about the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion. When she did that she single-handedly triggered the most significant series of statements on the sanctity of human life from senior Roman Catholic cardinals and bishops as has ever occurred. The MSM ignored this unprecedented outpouring of scorn on a major American political figure, but Catholics didn’t. Pelosi has launched dozens of letters from bishops and thousands of sermons and blog posts, each one of them certain to draw attention to Obama’s extremism on abortion, including his support for partial birth abortion and his vote against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. New York’s Cardinal Egan was particularly blunt:
What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.
In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.
This may be above Obama’s pay grade, but an outraged and energized Catholic leadership will not let the Mass-attending faithful be deceived by fast-talking pols who want to pas themselves off as “ardent, practicing Catholics” while distorting crystal clear Church teaching.
CNN can chose to ignore the abortion issue, just as it ignored the controversy four years ago over whether Kerry had ever been to Cambodia. MSNBC can ignore Ayers (though it is much more likely to hire him as a co-host with Keith in order to bring some moderation to the set). The nets cannot suffocate an issue.
Every day tens of millions of wired voters consult thousands of outlets. The biggest of them –Rush– can launch a story in five minutes. The newest of them, RobinsonandLong.com, can grow exponentially in a few days as it combines credibility with thoroughness. The thousands of others work away at influencing a handful or thousands who in turn move the opinion needles across the country. Because of this new information network, it has been a very bad week for Obama. If the GOP gets its message down –the victory in Iraq has been costly but is hugely significant, the war goes on, and we can have the energy we need if we look for it– its week in the sun beginning Friday morning in Dayton can be as good as Obama’s was lousy.