Like rock journalists following Bono, the Times reporters seem utterly fascinated by the minutia of Obama's day, while taking a few potshots at a Bush administration it's already condemned as doomed to perdition in the history books.
Like most presidential candidates, Mr. Obama is developing his executive skills on the fly, and under intense scrutiny. The evolution of his style in recent months suggests he is still finding the right formula as he confronts a challenge that he has not faced in his career: managing a large organization.
The skill will become more important should he win the presidency, and his style is getting added attention as the country absorbs the lessons of President Bush's tenure in the Oval Office. Mr. Bush's critics, including former aides, have portrayed him as too cloistered, too dependent on a small coterie of trusted aides, unable to distinguish between loyalty and competence, and insufficiently willing to adjust course in the face of events that do not unfold the way he expects.
Barack Obama’s press contingent has shrunk now that the primary campaign is over, but will we learn of everything he’s saying on the stump? On Monday in Flint, Michigan, Obama repeatedly declared that we’re funding terrorists when we buy foreign oil. In Tuesday’s Washington Post, Obama’s Flint speech drew one sentence at the very end of a story on page A-7. Doesn’t this passage stand out? (Courtesy of reporter Lynn Sweet's blog):
Oil money pays for the bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut, and the bombast of dictators from Caracas to Tehran. Our nation will not be secure unless we take that leverage away, and our planet will not be safe unless we move decisively toward a clean energy future.
This is an odd passage for several reasons. First and foremost, far from taking "leverage" away from dictators in Caracas and Tehran, candidate Obama has explicitly promised to meet them without any troublesome diplomatic preconditions.
Second, Obama’s declaration that our oil purchases buy bombs on the Arab street doesn’t specify whether he means Iran, Saudi Arabia, or somehow al-Qaeda.
Sen. Barack Obama is now the Democratic presidential nominee, to the approval of no doubt much of the New York Times' news team, which has lifted the Illinois senator throughout the campaign, and nudging Sen. Hillary Clinton towards stage right, even as she continued to win primaries.
Times Watch's rough count of Times news stories since Thanksgiving 2007 shows a nearly 3-1 ratio of positive-to-negative stories for Obama, compared to a 2-3 positive-to-negative ratio for Clinton.
Two campaign stories faced down each other from opposite pages in today's New York Times, one devoted to Obama, the other to Hillary, as they trolled for votes before today's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. To those tracking the Times closely, it's no surprise who came out with the more sympathetic profile: Obama.
Mr. Obama's struggle to capture working-class votes also raises some unanswered questions, not least the role played by racial perceptions. Many millions of whites have voted for Mr. Obama over the course of the primaries, but his percentage of that vote has dropped noticeably in recent contests.
Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech Tuesday was a transparent attempt to quell the controversy over his ties to fiery anti-American minister Jeremiah Wright. But the New York Times, along with the rest of the media, portrayed the speech just the way the Obama camp would have wanted -- as a transcendent address on race in America, past, present and future, with Obama's long connection to Wright a secondary matter.
It was an extraordinary moment -- the first black candidate with a good chance at becoming a presidential nominee, in a country in which racial distrust runs deep and often unspoken, embarking at a critical juncture in his campaign upon what may be the most significant public discussion of race in decades.
The presidential field has winnowed down further, with Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudy Giuliani announcing their withdrawal from the presidential race on the same day. But while the left-wing Democrat was serenaded as a trailblazer, the moderate Republican was mocked for "living an illusion."
While few were surprised by Giuliani's announcement (and subsequent endorsement of fellow moderate John McCain) after his distant third-place finish in Florida, Edwards' decision must have shocked at least one person -- New York Times reporter Julie Bosman, who must be feeling snake-bit after her Tuesday story portraying Edwards as the Energizer Bunny, motoring on and becoming a possible kingmaker at the Democratic convention.