In all the fuss over Barack Obama going on ABC and telling his opponents to "lay off my wife," some might have assumed that Obama was implying that Michelle Obama wasn't a major player in the Obama campaign. Read the transcript again, and you'll notice he never says that. (Michelle, however, felt compelled in that interview to deny Robert Novak's buzz that she axed Hillary from the ticket.)
All this reminded me of an April 24 CBS Evening News story where Katie Couric spent some gummy-grinned giggle time inside the Obama campaign HQ. As she surveyed the press shop, a camera found this sheet of paper with a Barack declaration of policy: "Whatever Michelle Says Is The Message."
Here's what Couric was saying as the shot hit the screen:
Then there's the press operation, answering questions from reporters, trying to tamp down any controversy, in constant contact with the road while trying to make sure the message of the day survives.
So when Barack says "lay off my wife," is he following the wife's message orders?
Liberal talk-radio star Ed Schultz has been a Barack Obama guy. In April, he spoke at a Democratic fundraiser in Fargo, and caused Obama to disassociate himself from Schultz’s remark that John McCain is a "warmonger." Sampling the show in the noon hour here in Virginia on Tuesday, Schultz said Obama’s "lay off my wife" comments on ABC were a "little sensitive" and "really short-sighted." Schultz thought it implied to people "And don’t believe her when she's on the stump." Here’s a summary from my quick note-taking:
The consensus E-mail from across America to this program is, if Obama doesn’t want the Republicans to pick on his wife, then let her stay home in the kitchen and not make speeches on the stump.
Then he said listeners also said the media should be "hammering Cindy McCain" for failing to release her tax returns and the media is accepting the "bogus excuse" that she’s protecting the privacy of her kids when she could be making unscrupulous "Sudanese investments."
Yesterday, Barack Obama began crying again. Someone should remind him... there's no crying in politics. He has whined that we can't use his middle name, he has whined when we bring up his close relations with aging hippy terrorists, that we ask aloud about his "spiritual mentor," the racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and now he is crying that we are highlighting the anti-American statements made by his wife as she campaigns for him all across the country. So, on Monday he whined "lay off my wife." Well, fast on the heels of Obama telling us we can't use the anti-American statements of his wife as a campaign issue we get the kiddies over at the DailyKos doing their best to "help" Barack Obama by making an image of Michelle Obama hanging from a tree with robbed KKK figures torturing her with a branding iron and claiming that this is the "NEW IMPROVED" GOP strategy. So much for the subtleties and civility that Barack claims he wants, eh?
Even more damning, Kos pulled the entire post off the website, photoshopped image of Michelle as KKK victim and all. Little Green Footballs has a great screen shot of the original post, but here is the original photoshopped image:
MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell appeared on Fox News Channel's May 20 edition of "Fox & Friends" in the 8 a.m. half-hour. Bozell was joined by liberal radio talk show host Mike Papantonio to discuss whether Michelle Obama should be "off-limits" to media scrutiny and whether Hillary Clinton's complaints about slanted media are overblown.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, co-host: Brent, are spouses off-limits in 2008?
BRENT BOZELL, President of the Media Research Center: Well, you know, I'm institutionally sympathetic to the idea that a spouse should be off-limits if the spouses want to be off-limits, if the spouse isn't participating in the political process. In this case, you've got a spouse who is well-informed, well-educated, well-spoken and outspoken on the campaign trail campaigning on behalf of her husband. So absolutely she's fair game. Of course she is. And it's an insult to her to say that she shouldn't be.
Monday provided a great example of a network correspondent advancing Barack Obama's political cause by treating him as a victim of a nefarious GOP attack, thus allowing him to appear virtuous in his reply, an answer the other networks then highlighted to enhance the victimization theme. ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night showcased Obama's scolding of the Tennessee Republican Party for posting a video on You Tube contrasting Michelle Obama's February admission that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” with people declaring their pride in the U.S.
(As detailed, with video, in the earlier NewsBusters posting by Scott Whitlock, on Monday's Good Morning America ABC's Robin Roberts asked if he is “prepared” for “more and more” such attacks. Obama called the ad “low class” and ominously warned his opponents should “be careful” in making his wife an issue “because that I find unacceptable.”)
Monday night, ABC's David Wright reported that “Obama tried to subtract one potential issue from the general election -- his wife.” But without playing the February Michelle Obama soundbite to remind viewers what she said, Wright asserted “certain Republicans have already questioned her patriotism.” As if the concern is baseless. On CBS, Dean Reynolds played the February clip before relaying how Barack Obama “blasted a Republican Internet ad which uses a controversial statement she made about her husband's campaign to question her love of country.” Lee Cowan, on NBC, related Obama's “Rule Number One: lay off his family. When asked on ABC's Good Morning America about this Republican ad criticizing his wife for saying that 'this was the first time' that she'd been 'proud of her country,' he fired back.”
"Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts conducted a syrupy, softball interview with Michelle and Barack Obama on Monday's program, mostly free from any discussion of substantive policy issues. Instead, Roberts played a clip from a Tennessee State Republican Party ad that attacked Michelle Obama for saying the '08 campaign marked the first time she's been proud of America.
The GMA host empathetically wondered, "Should you get through this process and you have the general election ahead of you, that this is what you can expect more and more of. Are you prepared for that?" Now, readers will remember that liberals (many in the media) were outraged over ABC's April 16 Democratic debate for focusing on allegedly unimportant topics and not "the issues." But Roberts did the exact same thing during her interview, discussing political "horse-race" subjects such as Hillary Clinton for VP and an extensive debate on whether the Obama family will be getting a dog. As an example of the not-so tough queries the candidate's wife faced, the ABC host at one point cooed, "What have you learned about yourself since that night in Iowa?" [audio available here]
In 2007, ABC reporter Claire Shipman enthused that the race between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was one of "fluid poetry" versus "hot factor." On Tuesday's "Good Morning America, she rhapsodized about the spouses of these two Democratic candidates. According to Shipman, "...I think it says it all that [Michelle Obama's] Secret Service code name is renaissance."
Discussing the campaigning being done by the senator's wife in Indiana and North Carolina, the correspondent enthused, " More, more, more. Michelle Obama's straight style has always been an asset." (Shipman made no mention as to whether Mrs. Obama's claim that the 2008 campaign marked the first time she was proud of America was an example of this "straight style" or if that comment was an asset to the campaign.) As for Bill Clinton, Shipman declared that all had been forgiven for previous verbal gaffes: "And what's most interesting is this campaign has gone on for so long, we've seen one spouse go from asset to liability, to asset again." Marveling at the ex-president's exuberance, she applauded, "No event is too early, no schedule too full, no front porch too small."
An evening after the NBC Nightly News showcased Michelle Obama's plea to move on from focusing on Jeremiah Wright because talking about him “doesn't help kids out there,” on Thursday night the newscast again provided a platform for Barack and Michelle Obama to advance their efforts to show humility and paint media coverage as unfair. Setting up a second night of excerpts from the interview the couple conducted with Meredith Vieira for the Today show, anchor Brian Williams explained how “both went out of their way to say they understand that a lot of Americans are right now trying to figure out just who Barack Obama is.”
The excerpt began with Barack Obama maintaining “it's understandable” to “raise questions” about him because he's an African-American named Barack, “so if I don't wear a flag pin, that becomes a cause for concern,” but “if John McCain doesn't wear a flag pin, look, he's a war hero.”
That prompted Vieira to empathize: “So you're treated differently, then, you think?” And to wonder to Michelle Obama: “So you never sit there and get upset about these?” Barack Obama interjected that “she stops reading the newspapers during certain spans of time” before she quipped, during loving back-and-forth joshing: “I take the paper and I ball it up and I throw it in a corner!”
CNN secured an interview in Indiana with "steely-tough" Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy on Wednesday night for Anderson Cooper 360, but the interviewer, CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux, saw her job as deeply feeling the Obama family pain. Her idea of a rough question on the Jeremiah Wright controversy was "Did he betray you?" She also asked "How painful was that?" and "At what point did you stop empathizing with your pastor?" With Caroline Kennedy there, Malveaux avoided the obvious question of how either woman greeted Rev. Wright’s mockery on Sunday night in Detroit of how badly John F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy spoke English.
Rev. Wright impersonated Kennedy in a nasal voice, as when a black comedian cracks wise about a stereotypical white person:
In 1961, it's been all over the Internet now, John Kennedy could stand at the inauguration in January and say, "isk not what your country can do for you, isk rather what you can do for your country." How do you spell isk? Nobody ever said to John Kennedy that's not English, "isk." Only to a black child would they say you speak bad English.
Would it have been any better for Barack Obama to have said people "rely" on bigotry rather than "cling" to it? I don't think so, but apparently he does . . .
This morning's "Today" aired an extended clip from an interview Meredith Vieira recently conducted of Barack and Michelle Obama. The full interview will be shown Saturday on MSNBC. While I didn't detect any blockbuster moments, there were a few notable nuggets.
On the issue of why he didn't distance himself from Rev. Wright sooner, Obama says: "When those first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt." That would suggest Obama actually had some doubt as to where Rev. Wright stood. Is that credible, after 20 years in the angry pastor's pews?
The Obama campaign has chosen NBC's Today show as the venue to try to move beyond the Jeremiah Wright controversy and a preview aired on Wednesday's Nightly News, of the session to air Thursday morning, showcased Barack and Michelle Obama making their case. While Meredith Vieira apparently did ask Barack Obama why he had not denounced Wright sooner, Nightly News viewers heard Barack Obama boast in response that he had resisted doing the “politically expedient” and Michelle Obama resorting to a plea reminiscent of the Clinton era:
We got to move forward. You know, this conversation doesn't help my kids, you know. It doesn't help kids out there who are looking for us to make decisions and choices about how we're going to better fund education.
Anchor Brian Williams set up the story by relating how “Barack and Michelle Obama sat down with Meredith Vieira from Today on NBC as they try to put the drama over their former pastor behind them.” Andrea Mitchell explained Obama was “clearly trying to move past the controversy over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but when pressed, explaining why he didn't denounce his former pastor sooner.”
With Barack Obama drowning in Rev. Wright's waves, all Hillary really needs to do is keep her head down and show up on time to be endorsed today by NC Gov. Mike Easley. The last thing Clinton needs is to make a gaffe of her own.
Now let's grant that the one we're about to discuss ranks rather low on the Gaffe-o-meter. If Sniper-gate was a 6.2, this might be a 2.1. But this particular misstep does have the demerit of undercutting a major Clinton campaign theme. Hillary's strategy nowadays consists of appealing to middle- and lower-income voters. Call it the Beer-and-a-shot Shtick. She's a Gal of the People. Not snobby like those Obamas. You know, like Michelle, who complained to a group of women in a struggling area of Ohio about her difficulties in spending $10,000 a year for various lessons for her kids while paying off student loans for her sojourns at Princeton and Harvard.
But that's exactly the kind of mistake Hillary has made. Today's Good Morning America played a clip [date and place unidentified, but presumably from the IN or NC campaign trail] of Hillary saying this to a crowd:
HILLARY CLINTON: Some people say, "oh she is tough." Well, if you'd had my life, you'd be tough too.
Today's Chicago Tribune carries a frontpage article titled, "Michelle Obama's mission: Show voters humble roots." Mrs. Obama's recollections of how she and her husband not so long ago were deluged with bills and calls from collection agencies have become a major component of the campaign, designed to demonstrate that Senator Barack Obama understands financial difficulties and the folks encountering them. He feels their pain.
If Barack Obama is looking for proof there are indeed bitter Americans out there, he need look no further than across the kitchen table.
Morning Joe opened today with a clip of Michelle Obama on the stump that I can only call stunning. By her tone, and her language both verbal and physical, this is one angry lady. The transcript below doesn't begin to convey Mrs. Obama's apparent rage.
That Bill Clinton was elected twice is proof that an angry wife is no bar to office. But Michelle Obama's level of ire can certainly be no asset on the campaign trail. Morning Joe did air it, but just how much MSM coverage will we see of what I would sincerely call an astounding piece of video?
It's not as salient an issue as Obama's controversial pastor, but this couldn't be good news for the Illinois senator, that is, if the rest of the MSM follow this story.
In a post this morning at The Swamp blog, Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune notes earmarks that Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama inserted in legislation that would have his benefited his wife's hospital:
Among the pork-barrel spending requests Barack Obama has made since arriving in the U.S. Senate is $1 million for the hospital where his wife worked at the time and $8 million for weapons technology made by a big defense contractor with close ties to a major fundraiser.
Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we're a divided country, we're a country that is "just downright mean," we are "guided by fear," we're a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. "We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day," she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. "Folks are just jammed up, and it's gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I'm young. Forty-four!"
Sheppard said that "Given how (the) media made excuses for her comments in Wisconsin (She said, "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." -- Ed.), it will be quite interesting to see just how much of (the) interview ..... will be reported in the next 24 hours."
Well, Noel, I looked at the next 72 hours, and the answer is, with one enjoyable exception, "precious little":
As NewsBusters previously reported, the wife of Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama isn't very proud of her country.
Two weeks after making her disdain for the nation clear during a campaign speech for her husband in Wisconsin, Michelle further debased America by saying that we're a country that is "just downright mean."
Given how media made excuses for her comments in Wisconsin, it will be quite interesting to see just how much of her interview in the March 10th edition of The New Yorker will be reported in the next 24 hours (emphasis added throughout, h/t JWF):
Media watchers have been asking themselves since Barack Obama became the front-runner to win the Democrat nomination for president when the press will turn against him and start treating the junior senator from Illinois like a candidate instead of a rock star.
The worm might have turned on Sunday's "This Week," when, as my colleague Brad Wilmouth reported, Cokie Roberts actually used the feminist card to trash Obama for Hillary's sake.
Almost as tasty, about three minutes later, a discussion about how Obama is beatable as the Democrat candidate began with Cokie saying (video available here, relevant section begins at minute 12:30):
It now appears, as predicted by yours truly two weeks ago today, that Hillary Clinton will not be our next president, and that Barack Obama is going to be Democratic Party's presidential nominee.
This means that it must be time for Old Media to start playing robust defense on his behalf.
Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press got Old Media off to a "great" start in that regard this morning, as she linked criticism of Obama's patriotism strictly to conservatives, rewrote the history of the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, played a game of misdirection regarding the candidate's failure to put his hand over his heart during the national anthem, and made excuses for Michelle Obama's quarter-century gap in her pride in being an American.
Pickler's report, entitled "Conservatives Say Obama Lacks Patriotism," starts thusly:
ABC's World News, which on Tuesday skipped Michelle Obama's comment that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” on Wednesday finally got to it, but only minimally as George Stephanopoulos praised her “good damage control” and declared: “I don't think it's going to be a huge deal.” Hard for it to become “a huge deal” when a broadcast network's most-watched news program doesn't bother to report it. On Wednesday, the World News campaign stories again ignored the remark and the newscast only arrived on the story in anchor Charles Gibson's last question to Stephanopoulos.
Gibson played the comment, then explained: “Now she said today what she was talking about, or meant to say, was that she was proud of how many people are now taking part in the political process. Is this a big deal? Is it a tempest in a teapot?” Stephanopoulos was pleased by her explanation: “Ah, well that was good damage control by Michelle Obama.” He acknowledged “her first comment was a mistake,” but “as long as this isn't repeated, as long as they don't dig the hole deeper -- she did start to dig out today -- I don't think it's going to be a huge deal.”
Michelle Obama proclaimed that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” but instead of putting the burden on the Obama campaign to defend her admission of a lack of pride in her nation, NBC on Tuesday night framed its coverage around Cindy McCain's “rhetoric” in issuing a “political jab” over the remark and concern over whether that “was a knock at Michelle Obama?” But at least NBC highlighted the comment from Monday. ABC's World News didn't utter a word about it while CBS's Jim Axelrod pointed out how the Obama “campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot.”
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up the story: “For the Republicans, the rhetoric today was also largely about words. And today it involved the wife of the frontrunner, Cindy McCain.” Kelly O'Donnell relayed how “the most memorable political jab of the day did not come” from John McCain but from Cindy McCain who declared “I'm proud of my country.” O'Donnell treated that as an attack which required justification: “Asked directly if this was a knock at Michelle Obama, John McCain steered clear.”
After looking at what MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said on Tuesday's "Morning Joe," the answer to Stephenson's question is: media that don't ignore Obama's disgraceful comments will likely defend them.
Fortunately, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin isn't part of the mainstream media establishment, and on his program Monday, said what most press representatives would if they had any spine, and didn't behave like shills for the Democrat Party (audio available here):
Update | 3:50 PM: Obama Campaign Clarification: As predicted, the Obama campaign has clarified Michelle's remark. See text at foot.
I sense there's often more than a bit of theater in the arguments between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Not to say Morning Joe's the WWF of political talk, but a little conflict never hurt the ratings.
But there was evidence that this morning's dust-up between the duo was for real. At one point, Scarborough disclosed that a producer had told him through his earpiece to put on a smile, but Joe wasn't buying.
The subject was Michelle Obama's statement that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
Scarborough opined that whereas the flap over Barack borrowing a line from friend Deval Patrick wouldn't hurt him, the attitude Michelle expressed could. Mika rose to Michelle's defense, and the fight was on.
We have lost the understanding that in a democracy, we have a mutual obligation to one another — that we cannot measure the greatness of our society by the strongest and richest of us, but we have to measure our greatness by the least of these. That we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. That is why I am here, because Barack Obama is the only person in this who understands that. That before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.
It's not about Katie Couric's liberal bias today; it's her sheer fatuousness. Couric has been accorded rare access for extended interviews with the women involved in the presidential race. MRC's Brent Baker has detailed how Couric squandered part of her interview of Hillary Clinton, aired on this past Sunday's 60 Minutes, on silly talk.
This morning's Early Show featured excerpts from Couric's interview of Michelle Obama. No huge headlines, but once again Couric wasted time with obvious and trivial questions. The CBS anchor literally apologized to Obama, for example, for posing the much-asked question of what her personal cause as First Lady would be [answer: the challenges mothers face in balancing work and family].
ABC reporter Deborah Roberts interviewed Michelle Obama on Monday's "Good Morning America" and glossed over some of the more controversial statements of this "fascinating," "straight-talking," "charming" woman.
Roberts appeared comfortable repeating talking points from "the spouse of politics' newest star" and didn't challenge Mrs. Obama on her assertion, from November 2007, that it will be America's fault if her husband isn't elected. Instead, Roberts simply recited, "I asked her about race in this campaign....She and her husband refuse to dwell on it." Continuing the spin, she added, "They genuinely believe that people want to move beyond that, talk about something else."
In contrast to Robin Roberts’s fawning interview on "Good Morning America," CBS’s Harry Smith directed some tough questions to Hillary Clinton during her appearance on Friday’s "The Early Show." In his first question, Smith referenced The New York Times’s endorsement of the former First Lady, and their advise for her to "take the lead and changing the tone of the campaign."
In her response, Clinton brushed off the reference to the continuing war of words between her campaign and Barack Obama’s campaign, and emphasized that she has been "trying to keep us focused on the real differences between the Democrats and the Republicans [and] the legitimate contrast between me and my opponents."
Smith did not miss a beat and pressed her on the tone of her campaign, essentially endorsing the advise of the New York Times. "But Senator, would you at least then take responsibility for the ugly tone that has turned here in the last couple of weeks?... [I]t's gotten to the point where there's almost a black backlash against this, especially your husband's tactics."
Yesterday, the Obama campaign put out an email from John Kerry condemning the "Swiftboating" of Barack. Today it's Michelle Obama's turn, and the candidate's wife has come out swinging. Here's the text of an email from Michelle Obama just received from the Obama campaign [emphasis added]:
In the past week or two, another candidate's spouse has been getting an awful lot of attention.
We knew getting into this race that Barack would be competing with Senator Clinton and President Clinton at the same time.
We expected that Bill Clinton would tout his record from the nineties and talk about Hillary's role in his past success. That's a fair approach and a challenge we are prepared to face.
What we didn't expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win-at-all-costs tactics we've seen recently. We didn't expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack's record.