CNN Panelists Admit Media 'Nostalgia' for Clinton, Past 'Love Affair' With Obama

The media have "nostalgia" for Bill Clinton and a "tedious marriage" with President Obama, according to panel members on Sunday's Reliable Sources. Is media bias any more evident when reporters admit the media had a past love affair with the current Democratic president and pine for the days of his Democratic forerunner?

CNN's Howard Kurtz mused that "the extraordinary media reaction to Bill Clinton's speech" from the past week's DNC "says to me journalists missed the guy." The Hill's managing editor Bob Cusack admitted "I think there was definitely some nostalgia here," and added "the media reaction was a little bit much, because he [Clinton] did meander."

However, as to President Obama's DNC address, Kurtz said the press were "seen as among his biggest cheerleaders" in the past, before Newsweek's Michelle Cottle noted "We feel spurned. And we feel let down. And, you know, on some level, you get used to the nice speeches. And so, they don't go as far as they used to."

"I think that we know that most reporters are, you know, predisposed to be liberal," asserted The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis, who then pointed out the media's bias by omission at the DNC.

"The abortion-a-palooza, the radicalization," he noted of the convention, "there were things that were way out of touch. And I think that it could have turned off a lot of voters in Ohio. But the press didn't really harp on it."

"If the Republicans did that, it would have been, you know, this party has been taken over by the radical Christian right," he added.

A partial transcript of the segments, which aired on Reliable Sources on September 9 beginning at 11:03 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

[11:03]

KURTZ: Bob Cusack, the extraordinary media reaction to Bill Clinton's speech, even leaving aside all the subplots about Hillary in 2016 says to me journalists missed the guy.

BOB CUSACK, The Hill: Yeah, absolutely. I think there was definitely some nostalgia here. I mean, the speech was 48 minutes, and that's 15 minutes longer than his 1988 speech, which was widely panned. I thought it was great at times. But I thought the media reaction was a little bit much, because he did meander. I mean, it was 48 minutes, is a long time. The networks stayed with him, but still, very long.

KURTZ: Had Bill Clinton gotten off the stage after the first 20 or 25 minutes, I think people would have said this was just an incredible oration. But he went on and on and on. But most pundits, Jackie, gave him a pass even for going longer. It was like, there he goes again, the self-indulgent Bill Clinton, but he's entertaining.

(...)

KURTZ: But it may be a letdown in general. But, as you know, the media, particularly in '08, were seen as among his biggest cheerleaders.

COTTLE: Well, I think the expectations were so high, and he hasn't been particularly good at courting the media over the years. And you know --

KURTZ: So, we feel spurned?

COTTLE: We feel spurned. And we feel let down. And, you know, on some level, you get used to the nice speeches. And so, they don't go as far as they used to. And there's obviously a sense of neh.

KURTZ: I'd like to see how the transcript records that. Matt Lewis, was this the week when the press confronted how far short the Obama presidency has fallen of its original goals?

MATT LEWIS, The Daily Caller: I don't know, Howie. I don't know that the press is really dealing with the substantive part of it. I tend to think Michelle's actually right. This is like a flirtation or a love affair. I think that they fell in love with Barack Obama's charisma and speaking skills, and I think that they were let down based on that, not based on the economy not improving. That's my take.

KURTZ: But then now, it's like a tedious marriage.

LEWIS: That's what it is. Yeah, exactly.

(...)

KURTZ: And his people tell me that had he given an inspirational high-flown rhetoric kind of speech, he would have gotten killed for being a lot of empty words and not delivering much substance. But compare the expectations for Mitt Romney's speech, when so many pundits said he had to connect. He had to hit it out of the park, he had to do this, he had to do that, with whatever expectations there were for the President's renomination speech.

(...)

KURTZ: Let's talk about that platform flap. President Obama and his people ordered that the Democratic platform – we pay so little attention to platforms these days – put back the word "God," or I guess "God given" was the phrase, and once again recognized, as the party has in the past, that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, which is avery fraught issue in the Jewish-American community. That was like a half-day story. It was barely reported on MSNBC. Had this happened at the Republican Convention, would it have been a bigger story?

COTTLE: Well, if – what you have is the Democrats are already, you know, getting smacked by the Republicans for not being pro-Israel enough, for taking God out. So, it kind of played into an existing narrative. You know, on the other hand, you had the Republicans with the abortion snafu because that plays into their existing narrative. So I think, you know, the Democrats' issue wasn't quite as interesting to the broader public. You know, more people get fired up about abortion than they do about kind of the Jerusalem issue. But you still got attention for both.

KURTZ: First, the press tends to yawn about platforms these days. I mean it used to be –

COTTLE: They don't matter. Platforms do not matter.

KURTZ: It used to be taken very seriously at these conventions.

LEWIS: It's important. But it wasn't just a platform. This wasn't something that happened in a smoke-filled room. This happened on national TV with Antonio Villaraigosa. And he had to do it three times. And it was very clear that he didn't have the voice votes. That he actually overruled the will of the people. Most of the delegates, most of the Democratic delegates were booing putting God and Palestine back in. So that should have been a huge story. It wasn't a boring platform story.

KURTZ: And the reason it wasn't a huge story is?

LEWIS: Bill Clinton spoke that night.

KURTZ: And just, you know, wiped away anything else?

LEWIS: Yep.

COTTLE: Bill was primetime. And then, you know, that's what everybody saw. And everybody loves to report on Bill.

LEWIS: The Republican gaffes happened in primetime, like Clint Eastwood. The Democrats had their own gaffes, but it was sort of not primetime.

KURTZ: Yes, the thing is to have it happen during the day when the –

(...)

KURTZ: But is there any sort of journalistic-slash-ideological aspect to this?

LEWIS: I think so. I think that we know that most reporters are, you know, predisposed to be liberal. Look, there were some things -- let me tell you a story that didn't get told by the media.

KURTZ: Well, very quickly.

LEWIS: Very quickly. The abortion-a-palooza, the radicalization. The first two nights of the Democratic convention, not nights but days, there were things that were way out of touch. And I think that it could have turned off a lot of voters in Ohio. But the press didn't really harp on it. They didn't talk about – you have the head of NARAL, pro-life, this National Abortion Rights Action League speaking. If the Republicans did that, it would have been, you know, this party has been taken over by the radical Christian right.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014