Pressing The Press

by digby

Bob Cesca at Huffington Post notices that the press has all adopted a new word: presumptuous:

And today, the word of the day in the corporate press is... presumptuous. Used in a sentence: Senator Obama is being presumptuous during his trip -- acting all presidential and dignified. How dare he be presidential while running for, you know, president. Presumptuous. During the live CNN web feed of the Berlin address, an anchor used it to describe the event. Joe Klein used it in a blog post today. Of course Joe attributed it to racist voters rather than very serious reporters -- racist because it's presumably a synonym for 'uppity' and we can't accuse the press of such awfulness. And Candy Crowley used it in her post-address analysis on CNN. That's a lot of coincidences. "Presumptuous" must really be a popular word. Odd that it's being used so often by people who want Senator Obama to win.

AP: "In a speech that risked being seen as presumptuous..."

TIME Magazine: "capable to become the Commander in Chief of a superpower -- without seeming presumptuous..."

The National Journal: "He is well aware voters here at home might see that as presumptuous..."

Washington Post: "Whether by the end of this week he will be seen as presumptuous or overly cocky..."

Chicago Tribune: "That means walking the fine line between looking presidential and appearing arrogant and presumptuous..."

Boston Globe: "plus the growing sense in some quarters that the presumptive Democratic nominee is getting a little presumptuous..."

Can you feel the wanting-Obama-to-win love radiating off your computer screen? No?

The reality is that positive coverage of any Democrat is limited and temporary for fear of networks and newspapers either being accused of liberal bias or being tossed out of the very serious barbeque loop. Regardless of whether the Democrat, in this case Senator Obama, is having a good day, it's somehow unethical to report on such good news for too long without deliberately concocting an antidote to appease the far-right.

This is important to keep in mind (particularly in light of this poll, which the right will use to bludgeon the media into compliance.) The pre-existing narrative of the "liberal media" is still in very good working order, particularly among the media itself, and it will be put to use at some point to create hostile press for Obama. The only question is if it will happen before or after the election.

This is why it's not a good long term policy to have a puerile media that covers politics like it's a Britney Spears stakeout. Even if, on a rare occasion, they temporarily swoon over a Democrat, the longstanding storyline of the "liberal media" will be deployed and they will eventually overcompensate in the other direction.

Here's another example of the Republicans playing the refs today:

Republicans are, smartly, seizing upon this report from Der Spiegel (which has become a must-read this week):

SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that Obama has cancelled a planned short visit to the Rammstein and Landstuhl US military bases in the southwest German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The visits were planned for Friday. "Barack Obama will not be coming to us," a spokesperson for the US military hospital in Landstuhl announced. "I don't know why." Shortly before the same spokeswoman had announced a planned visit by Obama.

The optics here are not good: Obama has time to get in a workout and give a speech to a crowd mostly comprised of Europeans, but can't be bothered to visit American troops wounded in action recovering at a military hospital.

Obama's explanation strikes at much of the criticism he's gotten from McCain and the GOP.
Keep in mijnd that the GOP does not do this stuff for a knock out. They operate on the death of a thousand cuts. Little criticisms, relentlessly played, dribbled out over time designed to create a running theme. This one is obvious: elitist, aloof, and --- presumptuous. That last carries quite an amazing amount of freight --- presumptuous, uppity, doesn't know his place. It applies neatly to any Democrat who deigns to lead Broderville but the historical, subliminal American memory that attaches to such a word when the person in question is black is particularly powerful. (I smell the mark of Rove on that --- he's really good at stuff like this.)

The media are going to feel the necessity to prove their professional neutrality, their greatest self-delusion, and the only way they can ever do that effectively is by demonstrating to conservatives that they aren't liberal. They do that by carrying their themes to the public.

The good news is that the Obama campaign has a very good handle on the image side of campaigning, which goes a long way toward balancing out skewed (and ultimately unhelpful) press commentary. The pictures from Berlin, in that golden sunset light, were masterful. I do not believe that the sight of Obama, smiling, confident and intelligent, speaking to that European crowd will hurt him in America. It's been eight years since we had a president who the rest of the world admired and I think all but the most die hard wing nuts would like to see the US respected again. It was well done.

But it's a never ending battle. We'll see if the "presumptuous liberal black guy" (who couldn't be bothered to visit the wounded troops) idea catches on. But even if it doesn't, these things are filed away, used later to pressure the press and add another layer of "doubts and questions." And "doubts and questions" about Obama are the basis of the McCain campaign.