Hillary Clinton, victim of an unfair press? Bill certainly thinks so. Associated Press writer Philip Elliott reported: "Bill Clinton said Tuesday that if reporters covered the candidates' public records better, his wife's presidential bid would be far ahead of her rivals. During a campaign stop on behalf of his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president said he can't understand why so much of the media coverage of the campaign ignores her experience—and, without naming him, the relative lack of experience of her closest Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama."
Press coverage aside, if this Democratic race was really about experience, wouldn’t Joe Biden and Chris Dodd be the two front-runners? It is amazing and shameless that the Clintons can complain that the 89-percent pro-Clinton press isn’t pro-Clinton enough, that if the press did their job correctly, Hillary would have an enormous lead, as if media professionalism was defined by how well the media elite realized and established for the public that she is just what the country desperately needs. Elliott continued with Bill’s mighty whine about the media being rude to his wife (as if he’s never been):
One percent of the press coverage was devoted to their record in public life. No wonder people think experience is irrelevant. A lot of the people covering the race think it is (irrelevant)," Clinton said to students at Keene State College.
Clinton referenced a study from the Project for Excellence in Journalism that indicated much of the coverage of the race is dominated by daily horse race reporting rather than about policy issues.
"Sixty-seven percent of the coverage is pure politics. That stuff has a half life of about 15 seconds. It won't matter tomorrow. It is very vulnerable to being slanted and rude. And it won't affect your life," Clinton said.
So Clinton isn’t being completely factless as well as tactless. This "Project for Excellence" is a group of liberals headed by Tom Rosenstiel, a former reporter for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, that consistently seems to find in its studies that Al Gore or John Kerry were being slighted. But this study doesn’t explicitly say Hillary is being denied the royal parade she deserves. It does say that the media is obsessed with the horse race, (and let’s not forget Hillary has been the head horse):
In all, 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects of the campaign. That is nearly four times the number of stories about the personal backgrounds of the candidates (17%) or the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals (15%). And just 1% of stories examined the candidates’ records or past public performance, the study found.
One percent seems low to me. Don't forget that the study sample isn't just the "objective" media, but conservative and liberal talk radio as well. (MRC's Rich Noyes broke it down when it came out.)
But it doesn't take rocket science to establish that the media are obsessed with the horse race. Part of that is the nature of the media's modus operandi: it deploys its staff to travel with the candidates. After hearing the same stump speech 67 times, reporters tune out on the substance and focus more on strategy and tactics. They're talking mostly to voters and to campaign strategists. To put more focus on the candidate's public records would be a laudable thing, but it should probably be handed to someone in the home office who isn't following a candidate around to every Moose lodge.
The most obnoxious part of the Clinton complaint is that a focus on Hillary's record would make her more appealing. First, what kind of vast experience gap does Hillary have on Obama? In the Senate, it's four years. Unless you count her time as First Lady, she has no other time in office. But the press in this campaign has implicitly acknowledged her time in that supposedly ceremonial office as governing experience. They've even spun her health-care fiasco as being a plus for her -- well, maybe it is in a Democratic primary (hey, it only lost both houses of Congress for 12 years). But to say she's been slighted on this front (worse than Dodd or Biden) is just shameless wife-flattering.
Does Bill Clinton really want the press to focus harder on the health-care fiasco, her 100-percent score with the abortion lobby, her near-perfect liberal voting record with Americans for Democratic Action, and her lifetime American Conservative Union score of nine percent? Many conservatives would appreciate a better look at her public record, too.