thoughts on politics

August 28, 2008

Times Challenges Time for Puffiest Obama Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt @ 3:46 am
Tags: , , ,

I hate to keep hitting on this subject, but this is really ridiculous.

Anyone interested (or at least, anyone who thinks the media is playing a fair or unbiased role) would find it a worthy exercise to compare and contrast this NY Times “news” article, published online yesterday, and one the Onion mockingly reported on in Time. I’ll get you started:

The New York Times: Starting in law school, Mr. Obama began pulling together a large cast of mentors, well-connected and civic-minded friends who rose in Chicago and Illinois politics along with him, including a spouse he thought was ideal.
“He loved Michelle,” said Gerald Kellman, Mr. Obama’s community organizing boss, but he was also looking for the kind of partner who could join him in his endeavors. “This is a person who could help him manage the pressures of the life he thought he wanted.”
While he speeds along rope lines, Mr. Obama sometimes connects better one on one. In spare moments, he will surprise supporters — a doorman who scraped together a small contribution, an elderly woman he had heard enjoyed his memoir — with an out-of-the blue phone call. Waiting backstage to speak to 20,000 people in Seattle in February, Mr. Obama grew so absorbed in talking to a retired Michigan couple that he had to be reminded not to miss his entrance cue.

The Onion: The 24-page profile, entitled “Boogyin’ With Barack,” hit newsstands Monday and contains photos of the candidate as a baby, graduating from Columbia University, standing and laughing, holding hands with his wife and best friend, Michelle, greeting a crowd of blue-collar autoworkers, eating breakfast with diner patrons, and staring pensively out of an airplane window while a pen and legal pad rest comfortably on his lowered tray table.
Sherwood said he was granted full access to the candidate, and was permitted by chief strategist David Axelrod to ask any question he desired—an opportunity the reporter used to lob the easiest softballs at Obama yet, ranging from how happy he felt when he met his wife to what songs are currently on his iPod playlist.

The New York Times: Nearly a decade ago, Mr. Obama joined luminaries like George Stephanopoulos and Ralph Reed for regular seminars, organized by Robert Putnam, a professor at Harvard and the author of “Bowling Alone,” about the deterioration of American community ties. As a young state senator from Illinois, Mr. Obama was one of the less prominent members of the group. But soon everyone was referring to him as “the governor” — a friendly smack, said Mr. Putnam, at Mr. Obama’s precocity and drive.
From an early age, Mr. Obama was taught by his mother to think grandly about his potential to help others. Once he reached adulthood, admiring teachers and mentors reinforced the message, steadily directing his sights higher and higher. As a law student, he mused about wanting to be mayor of Chicago; as a law professor, he talked about running for governor of Illinois; not long after that, he was running for president.
“I thought of him much more as a colleague” than a student, said Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard for whom Mr. Obama worked. “I didn’t think of him as someone to send out on mechanical tasks of digging out all the cases.” Other students could do that, Professor Tribe added.
Mr. Obama’s campaign promotes accomplishments from his days in the Illinois Senate: He successfully championed campaign finance and racial profiling laws, as well as child care subsidies and tax credits for the working poor. But “he didn’t participate in rank-and-file things,” said John Corrigan, a former consultant to the State Senate’s Democratic caucus. “He was destined for something bigger than potholes.”

The Onion: “When the American people cast their vote this November, this is the piece of fluff they’re going to remember,” Stengel said. “Not the ones by Newsweek, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Economist, Nightline, The Wall Street Journal, or even that story about lessons Obama learned from his first-grade teacher we ran a month ago.”
“Situations like these are when you have to get on the phone and talk, not only to his mother, but to his aunt, his uncle, a Boy Scout leader, or maybe even one of his camp counselors growing up,” Sherwood said. “And if they don’t return your call, you turn to Sunday school teachers and former babysitters—anyone who is willing to go on record and say that Barack Obama was a really good kid who was destined for great things.”

The New York Times: These voters are not the first to see a contradiction between Mr. Obama’s aura of specialness and his insistence that he is just like everyone else.
Last month, while visiting Jerusalem, Mr. Obama crammed a note in the Western Wall that was promptly fished out and posted on the Internet. The message was elegantly phrased, as if Mr. Obama, a Christian, had anticipated that his private words to the Almighty would soon be on public display.
In the note, Mr. Obama asked for protection, forgiveness and wisdom, a message in keeping with the humility he tries to emphasize. But his uncanny self-assurance and seemingly smooth glide upward have stoked complaints from his critics and his opponents…

The Onion: Sherwood was also fearless in his effort to paint the candidate as someone who is “surprisingly down to earth,” a phrase that is used a total of 26 times throughout the feature.
The article, which follows Obama for 12 days during his campaign, was written by reporter Chris Sherwood, and is relentless in its attempt to capture the candidate at his most poised and polished. Sherwood said the profile easily trumps all other fluff pieces in its effort to expose the presidential candidate for who he really is: “an awesome guy.”

[Just to be clear: the Onion article, which was published July 18, points out the unabashed fawning coverage Obama gets in the media; the Time article it cites is made up by them. But the NY Times article I quote here is real, and was published yesterday (and I suspect will be found in today’s print edition). I guess you could pretty much switch out the Onion’s fake quotes for real ones from the Times and have a factual article from the Onion, and still an unreservedly pro-Obama “puff piece” in the NY Times masquerading as news.]

[update, 3:50 pm: The New York Times story did indeed make the print edition, and no less a place than front page, above the fold, with a jump to a full-page story inside.  Disgraceful.]

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