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The [Wednesday] Papers

Between the Bears and Obama, I think the Chicago media might spontaneously combust. In fact, my Chicago Sun-Times is bursting into flames at this very moment.

News Review
Tribune: "What Obama Must Do To Win" represents one of the worst attributes of modern political reporting: the insistence of journalists to assume the role of political strategists. In so doing, the media moves onto a different playing field with a different set of rules and values and forgets to do its job. For example, when journalists advise that a certain candidate will have to move right or left during a primary and then to the center during a general election campaign, they are playing the role of political strategists. But the role of journalists is to detect - and decry for its dishonesty- such movements and expose them to the light of day. Political strategy is almost always dishonest and manipulative. The job of the journalist isn't to show savvy by demonstrating an understanding of the sophisticated techniques involved, but to expose the manipulations for the lies that they are, and stand on the side of citizens demanding transparency and honesty.

Sun-Times: In "Move Offers 2 Chances To Get Coverage," local Democratic strategist Kitty Kurth explains why Obama is announcing just an exploratory committee now, and will announce his actual candidacy later: "It gets you two bites of the apple at getting press. You guys will cover this, and when he does announce, you guys will cover that."

In other words, because the media are a bunch of suckers who are consistently outsmarted by the people they cover, yet continually fail to adjust.

But why stop at two bites of the apple? Why doesn't Obama just keep issuing numerous proclamations about running in order to maximize content-free but cost-free publicity? Oh wait, that's what he's been doing.

Besides, I thought there was no cheering in the press box.

Or do you want to be known as just the latest example of a local backwater press corps that had to rely on the national media to properly vet one of your own?

Pundit Patrol
* Mark Brown: "I expect Democratic voters to prefer Obama over Hillary Clinton because - if they had a choice - they'd rather not relive the Bill Clinton days."

Yeah, nobody much wants to relive those days.

"They'll prefer Obama to John Edwards," Brown continues, "because they still haven't spotted that something extra in Edwards."

Except when they see how superior a speaker Edwards is to Obama.

* Tribune editorial page: "Here are some names and numbers to remember from March 2002: Al Gore (26 percent), Hillary Clinton (19 percent), Tom Daschle (8 percent), Joe Lieberman (7 percent), John Kerry (6 percent), John Edwards (2 percent), and Howard Dean (1 percent).

"That was the lineup based on polling support for candidates two years before the 2004 presidential election."

Which is just about where we are now in the 2008 cycle.

* Michael Sneed: "By the way, word is Obama will base his national campaign in Chicago."

Forgive Rip Van Sneed, she just woke up.

* John Kass: "In a video release, he said he was considering a campaign 'to change our politics,' and I wondered how an adoring press corps will finesse and reconcile that one, what with the Daleys of Chicago clinging to him now."

What, you don't recall Obama trying to change the politics in the cesspool that is Springfield, and urging the mayor to clean up City Hall?

Actually, I don't either. Has Obama said a single thing about 17 years of City Hall corruption? My guess is that, with the Daleys and the rest of the Machine aboard, the answer is No - and will continue to be.

* Kass continued: "Not all reporters prance when Obama's name is mentioned, but there are more than a few. I'm thinking of those who are so enraptured that they write in prose evoking the excited shrieks of adolescent girls squealing at the Beatles when Obama was a child." (second item in link)

* Neil Steinberg: "Kass is a genuine fraud."

* Neil Steinberg (third item): "Let me explain the appeal. Look at the stiffs the Democrats have put up for higher office: John Kerry. Al Gore (who might be a tousle-haired prophet now but came off like a wooden board when it counted). Then skip the aberration of Bill Clinton and we have Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale."

As opposed to Republicans in that same time frame like George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush.

But yes, let's take a look. John Kerry is a bona fide war hero who has been a national leader since Vietnam and is undoubtedly smart, despite whatever personality flaws we might like to think we see. Al Gore actually won the 2000 election, so yeah, what a stiff. And by the way, people who have been paying attention and actually observing for themselves rather than just repeating what they read elsewhere know that Gore has had the best sense of humor in the business and been a terrific speechmaker (better than Obama) since at least the 1996 Democratic convention, here in Chicago, if not earlier. To use the word "wooden" is just to lazily join the ranks of other hacks who don't bother to figure things out for themselves. Michael Dukakis was a fine candidate who was Willie Hortoned, just like John Kerry was Swift Boated. And Walter Mondale, by the way, may have been blown out by Ronald Reagan in 1984, but I wonder if Steinberg ever saw him speak. Hardly a stiff, and unlike Reagan, he had a brain that was not only functioning properly but stored factual data instead of fantasies.

See, that's the thing about Obama. What our politics needs right now isn't Oprah-in-chief, but maybe a really boring, dull "stiff" who can actually do the job. Politics - public policy - is serious business (you might say it's the business of life and death) and blindly rushing into a cult of personality in a celebrity-obsessed soap opera state isn't exactly a great direction for an already troubled democracy to go in.

* Michael Tackett: "Clinton, most notably, represents the politics of a polarized era that has defined at least the last decade of American politics. Count Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore as marked by that era as well."

Is that really what Hillary Clinton represents? Or does she represent one of the nation's foremost - even bipartisan - leaders with a Senate tenure far more realized than that of Obama?

And what/who made the Clinton era "polarizing"? Bill Clinton was a centrist who enacted much of the Republican agenda (balanced budget, welfare reform, NAFTA, capital gains tax reductions, expansion of the death penalty) and famously took a Third Way approach to politics that a far slighter Obama only dreams of mimicking. It was the rabid, loony-tunes right, enabled by a cowed, shallow, and inept media, that was polarizing, and continues to be, dividing the nation by rich and poor, black and white, native-born and immigrant, patriots and traitors.

But yes, Bill Clinton was certainly divisive, though less than any other president in modern history.

* More Tackett: "After midterm elections signaling a call for change, Obama is trying to offer something different, a kind of politics that relies less on maximizing the votes of your supporters and more on the idea of bringing in folks from the middle, or even the other side. It sounds appealing in theory, but Bill Clinton is the last Democrat to do it successfully on a national level."

Oh. But didn't you just tell me we don't want to go back to that divisive era?

* More Kass: "Putin will eat him for breakfast, [the Clinton camp will] say, ignoring the fact that Hillary's co-president, Bill, lavished a Michael Jordan-autographed basketball on Kim Jong Il in hopes of keeping North Korea away from nukes."

Well yes, but the ball trick worked. North Korea didn't acquire nukes until Kass's boy, George W. Bush, took his eye off the, um, ball.

Wag Wager
At the end of a recent column rehashing Republican talking points alleging that Democrats had no solutions of their own on Iraq (I guess Joe Biden's partition plan, Dennis Kucinich - and John Edwards' - immediate withdrawal plan, Joe Lieberman's stay-the-course plan, and the various other redeployment plans as well as endorsements of the Iraq Study Group's recommendations don't count), John Kass tacked on this:

"Note: Recently I wrote that if Michelle Obama's husband is ever elected president, I'd bet my White Sox tickets that she wouldn't keep 800 FBI files of political opponents in a White House bedroom. I didn't mention former First Lady Sen. Hillary Clinton by name, but the meaning was that the Obamas wouldn't ever be as embarrassing as that other couple. But I've been reminded by Steve Rhodes of The Beachwood Reporter and others that independent counsel Robert Ray concluded there was no credible evidence that Hillary was involved in Filegate. So thanks, Steve. I was wrong. I'll bet you my Sox tickets that Michelle Obama won't make a fortune in cattle futures from a $1,000 investment."

A) No, but she already got a $1.65 million home and adjoining lot with a little help from Tony Rezko.
B) No, and her daddy won't get her a job in the oil bidness either.
C) Wager accepted, though I don't much like the Sox, so let's get dinner at the next Daley fundraiser the way you did with Dorothy Brown. It will be more fun to be back on common ground again.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Your antidote to the hype machine.


Posted on January 17, 2007

MUSIC - Spring Awakening Wake-Up Call!
TV - Goodbye, Apu.
POLITICS - The Political Odds.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Catching Bears Fever.

BOOKS - Gov. Ed Coles.


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