First, I occasionally appear on Chicago Tonight: Week in Review and this blog is paid for by NBC, so apparent conflicts of interest abound. But I think last Friday night’s show needs a few clarifications – particularly some statements made by veteran political reporter Mike Flannery.
1. Flannery asserted that Barack Obama’s momentum could be reversed if there is a last-minute surprise, like what happened in Spain in 2004 when terrorists bombed a Madrid rail station. The media narrative at the time was that the bombing shifted the election results, but that theory – spun aggressively by the Bush administration – has largely been debunked.
2. Flannery stated that one of Obama’s biggest campaign mistakes was the “bitter” comments made to San Francisco fundraisers. He should have known, Flannery said, “that Republicans would have somebody in there with a microphone.” Of course, Obama was caught on tape not by a Republican but by a Huffington Post citizen journalist named Mayhill Flower – who was and is an Obama supporter.
Please note as well that, to Flannery, Obama’s mistake wasn’t what he said but that he got caught.
3. Flannery asserted that one of Obama’s best campaign moves was his decision to forego public financing. This may be true from the standpoint of a political strategist, but from the standpoint of a journalist, this was just one in a series of flip-flops and broken promises that will not only have policy consequences going forward, but say something about the character of the candidate. A journalist operates from a different value-set – or ought to – than the people we cover. (And Flannery’s take that Obama was worried about conservative 527 groups is naive nonsense.)
4. Flannery said there is no record of Obama doing any favors for Tony Rezko. First of all, the house deal was a favor Rezko did for Obama. Second, there is plenty of evidence that Obama did his patron favors.
5. Flannery said that when Obama decided to run for president, Hillary Clinton was the “prohibitive favorite.” This is a popular thing to say, and it may be true insofar as the polls showed because of her name recognition, but just as many people who thought she was the favorite thought she was too “polarizing” and wouldn’t be able to overcome the supposed Clinton Scandals.
6. Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Tribune, which repeated today the silly notion that Obama never did Rezko a favor, said that Obama shouldn’t have talked about “redistributing the wealth.” Obama never said anything of the sort. The notion of “spreading the wealth around” that Obama spoke of to Joe the Plumber was an inartful way of saying the tax code ought to be fairer and not skewed to the advantage of the wealthy.
7. AP sportswriter Jim Litke, one of my all-time favorites, said he thought the media’s coverage of Sarah Palin has been fair. Palin deserves a certain measure of what she’s gotten, but the sleazy sexism has not only been rampant, but highly visible and accepted. At least with Hillary it was relatively subtle.
8. Finally, Flannery said emphatically that Bill Clinton never got to 50 percent of the vote in his two presidential victories. That’s true, but if Ross Perot were in the running this year, as he did in 1992, Obama might have trouble getting to 50 percent as well. And in 1996, Clinton notched 49.24 percent. But more importantly, so what?