One way you can tell the media roots for liberal Democrats is by how it can’t choose just one for president. They’re all still viable, so...they’re all still fabulous. Trying to say one is better than the others seems just impossible for some reporters. And what about when the candidates fight each other? The fights are minimized, since Democratic party unity is important for their electability.
As Matthew Balan has mentioned, CNN has offered praise to all the Democratic candidates, but to me, political reporter Candy Crowley seemed a perfect example of that telltale Praise Everybody Syndrome. On Tuesday’s American Morning, Crowley asserted, that Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama, "all did really well in getting their points across," even when they were fighting each other. From Crowley, this sounded a bit repetitive – because she also spread praise all over the candidates – and a few candidate spouses – last Friday morning, and even as anchor John Roberts explained their recent spats, she refused to elaborate on the fights and turned the subject back to praising Democrats all around. On Tuesday, Roberts wanted to know "So who scored, who stumbled?" This followed:
CROWLEY: "There were no huge fumbles. There were some strong performances. You mentioned before Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards all did really well in getting their points across. I thought one of the most interesting almost exchanges was on the question of whether the candidates, as president, would go and talk to the leaders of Cuba and North Korea..."
CROWLEY: "...the rogue nations that we see. And Barack Obama began by saying, well, yes, I would see them in my first year....And certainly among the Clinton people, this was seen as a really good moment for her, because they feel that by her giving the nuance of, listen, you just don't go talk to these people. You have got to have -- you have to know if there is an agenda, not to be used, that she made him look naive. There is another whole school of thought [from Obama’s camp] that says, you know, people out there are hungry for some diplomatic relations, and particularly in a time when it's seen that are standing around the world has been severely diluted. So, you know, it will be interesting to see how this plays out over time, and two very different views of who actually won that exchange."
ROBERTS: "She did seem to be saying to him, look, this is where your lack of experience really shows, because that's not the way you do things. I'd like to talk to the fellow who asked the question to see whose response he liked better."
CROWLEY: "Absolutely. Absolutely, yes."
ROBERTS: "And Obama also kind of took a swing at her as well when he said that the time to be thinking about getting out of Iraq was before anyone cast a vote to go in."
CROWLEY: "Right. Absolutely. And I thought they both had really good moments when the question was about whether because she was a woman she couldn't deal with Arab countries where women are second-class citizens."
CROWLEY: "She sort of looked in the camera and said, I don't think anybody has a problem taking me seriously. And when he was asked, do you think you're an authentic black, he being the son of a white woman and black man, and he said, you know, when I hail a cab in Manhattan, I pretty much got my credentials. So, I thought they both sort of brought those home pretty well."
ROBERTS: "Yes. Well, it was pretty interesting last night watching them respond. They were definitely prepared, I think, all of those candidates."
On Friday’s American Morning, as CNN pounded away at promoting the YouTube debate, Crowley explained the videos were very touching and personal: "These candidates are going to have to be very specific, but they also have to show their humanity, the reaching out to these people who are really putting their personal lives out there." It went downhill from there:
ROBERTS: "Who is really good at doing that? I mean, Edwards was a trial lawyer. He is used to speaking in front of a jury. Barack Obama connects with people very well on stage. Hillary is great in one-on-one settings. Some people say perhaps not so great in a larger setting. Who do you think has got the edge here?" [Ummm....everyone?]
CROWLEY: "Well, you know, it's interesting, John. I mean, you're right, the trial lawyer in John Edwards leads you to believe that this will be something that he can do very well. But we've also seen Barack Obama in town hall meetings, when you also are confronted with these issues on a personal level. And he has done very well. I wouldn't count out Hillary Clinton. As you know, every time we have one of thee debates people say she is terrific at this, but this is a wholly different kind of debate. So, it will be interesting to see who steps up to the plate."
ROBERTS: "Speaking of Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Edwards took a shot at her the other day, saying that she thought that her husband John Edwards was a much better advocate for women than Hillary Clinton, because Hillary, in essence, is acting too much like a man. That forced Bill Clinton out the other day on 'Good Morning America' to say, hey, I think she is a tremendous advocate of women's rights. You don't normally see the spouses going at each other like this."
CROWLEY: "You don't. I mean, it's the battle of the spouses, which is really interesting. I think we thought that the spouse who would take center stage would be Bill Clinton. We didn't exactly think it would be Elizabeth Edwards. But I think the days of the spouse sitting in a chair, looking adoringly at the candidate, are over. Michelle Obama has also been out there talking about women's issues. What this battle, this specific battle tells you, is that the women's vote is very important within the Democratic Party."
CROWLEY: "Right now, Hillary Clinton support is very much with women. Over 50 percent of her support is female. She gets about 45 percent of the Democratic female vote."
ROBERTS: "And what do you think Elizabeth Edwards is up to here? She has been very outspoken recently."
CROWLEY: "I think she is out there battling it out for her husband. I mean, I think there is -- she is a sympathetic figure, obviously facing an incurable cancer. So, she has been very out front with that. And she is now -- she is a very smart woman, as you know, a lawyer, and she is out battling for her husband and battling for that female vote."
I would never say it’s a reporter’s job to stand in front of the camera and tell you how terrible the candidates are, and it probably wouldn’t sound objective for them to favor one candidate very obviously. But the skeptical (not cynical) tone we’re supposed to expect from reporters sometimes seems very lost when they're chronicling the Democrats.