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Tilting at Windmills

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July 18, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA'S BIG TRIP....In comments, loki demands to know what I think of Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Europe and the Middle East. Instead of offering a longwinded analysis of my own, let me turn over the floor to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post:

The three network anchors will travel to Europe and the Middle East next week for Barack Obama's trip, adding their high-wattage spotlight to what is already shaping up as a major media extravaganza.

Lured by an offer of interviews with the Democratic presidential candidate, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric will make the overseas trek, meaning that the NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts will originate from stops along the route and undoubtedly give it big play....The plan is for Williams, Gibson and Couric interviews to be parceled out on successive nights in different countries, giving each anchor a one-day exclusive.

....The senator from Illinois has been drawing far more media attention than his Republican rival from Arizona....When McCain visited Britain, France and Israel in March and met with their leaders, no network anchors tagged along. NBC and ABC sent correspondents; CBS did not. None of the evening newscasts covered his trip to Canada last month. And McCain's swing through Colombia and Mexico two weeks ago was barely covered, although NBC and ABC sent correspondents.

Do I still need to answer the question? I mean, what's not to like?

(But am I afraid that Obama will overdo it and turn the whole thing into an unseemly spectacle? Nah. He's a pretty sharp guy. The only thing he's going to turn this into is a gold mine of free publicity.)

(However, I will offer this free prediction: Either National Review or the Weekly Standard — or both! — will headline their recap of the trip, "The Innocent Abroad." You heard it here first.)

Kevin Drum 7:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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Comments

The barking dogs of cable news are screaming that this demonstrates the horrible, unAmerican, liberal bias of the media, how McCain gets all the criticism and the media loves Obama. It'll be another excuse to lavish attention on McCain and carry his message.

Posted by: Jan in Stone Mtn on July 18, 2008 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this story a little awkward for the whole "major networks are NOT in the tank for Democrats!" meme?

Posted by: Shelby on July 18, 2008 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, that liberal media.

Posted by: Brad on July 18, 2008 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Unless Obama can manage to get himself captured as a POW while travelling in Iraq and then sufficiently confusing his captors by naming the offensive line of his high school football team as his potential running mates, he will never be qualified to be Commander-in-Chief.

Posted by: AJB on July 18, 2008 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

How nice that John "Security is My Game and I Know How To Win Wars" McCain has announced when he thinks Obama will be arriving in Iraq, information that the people who actually know something about security were trying to keep on the QT as they did with McCain's own trips.

Posted by: shortstop on July 18, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Remember just a short while back when the right wing yakkers were clucking that Obama hadn't been to Iraq in a couple of years?

Bet they wish they could call do-overs on that one.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on July 18, 2008 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

When McCain visited Britain, France and Israel in March and met with their leaders, no network anchors tagged along. NBC and ABC sent correspondents; CBS did not. None of the evening newscasts covered his trip to Canada last month. And McCain's swing through Colombia and Mexico two weeks ago was barely covered, although NBC and ABC sent correspondents.

Considering what the media has become, I wonder if this is really good news. Maybe they've just given McCain less opportunities to make himself look bad in the camera since it's turned out that when you give him enough publicity, he's not as charming as he used to be reported as being.

Considering all the high-wattage, I'd say it's more likely to be a desperate Republican attempt to take a lot of wind out of Obama's sails, including BS like the obligatory comparisons to Nazis and Hitler when he's in Germany. By that logic, everyone who's in Germany is a Nazi and is Hitler.

Posted by: Swan on July 18, 2008 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

less opportunities to make himself look bad in the camera since

Should be "in front of the camera"- sorry.

Posted by: Swan on July 18, 2008 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they've just given McCain less opportunities to make himself look bad in the camera since it's turned out that when you give him enough publicity, he's not as charming as he used to be reported as being.

Broaden your time horizons, and I think it's kind of a nice dynamic. Obama gets a lot of generally positive coverage this coming week--that's good. Republicans huff and puff about it--that's not terrible: on the one hand, it lets them get their message out and work the refs a little, but, on the other, they look like whining losers.

Then as time passes, with luck, the media accedes to the Republicans' strident demands that they give McCain the same kind of minute-to-minute scrutiny that Obama gets. If the last week has shown me anything, he ain't up to it. Cursory coverage is the best thing that ever happened to McCain. I think each day last week, McCain did or said something that--if he faced Obama levels of scrutiny--could have cost him the election. I mean, he called social security a disgrace . . . twice! More obsessive media coverage of John McCain is something everyone who wants Barack Obama to win should be praying for.

Posted by: southpaw on July 18, 2008 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Shelby, exactamento.

More skeptical liberal or left-liberal voters know that.

Look, while some claims of MSM bias are true, they're more true that the MSM is biased toward ... err...

THE MAINSTREAM, not the GOP.

And, to the degree the Republican-Democratic duopoly is the mainstream, this complaint about MSM "conservative bias" or MSM "liberal bias" is just like basketball coaches working the refs.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 18, 2008 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

If it was McCain, somebody would have to call it "The Scumbag Abroad."

Posted by: Swan on July 18, 2008 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

If it was McCain, somebody would have to call it "The Scumbag Abroad."

Not that they would, though, but they should- I think SocraticGadfly is totally wrong; it's a Republican media that's designed to look less ideological than that, and this is pretty clear by now.

Posted by: Swan on July 18, 2008 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

VOTE DIGBY FOR PRESIDENT---VOTE THE INTERNET put a truly progressive WOMAN in the Whitehouse.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 18, 2008 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

mctaint can't stand it - he just had to release details of Obama's somewhat unpublicized schedule. What a patriot.

Posted by: siditious on July 18, 2008 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's strategy of giving limited media access is starting to pay off. He can get the biggest media in the land to do whatever he wants in return for nothing more than an interview.

McCain's policy of giving the media full access all the time means he has no leverage over them. He can't control the media or nudge the way he wants to.

The Bush team understood how to control the media by limiting access. Obama knows it too. McCain doesn't.

Posted by: swio on July 18, 2008 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

The media wants a story. They want something that will attract ears and eyeballs. Republicans have been better at making dramas and feeding sound bites -- this, as much as corporate control has made them a willing mouthpiece for the GOP.

This time, for various reasons, the media thinks the Obama story will sell. That's why they are pursuing it. It's not partisanship, it's marketing -- and not of Obama, but rather of their nooz "product."

Posted by: idlemind on July 18, 2008 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

The media wants a story. They want something that will attract ears and eyeballs. Republicans have been better at making dramas and feeding sound bites -- this, as much as corporate control has made them a willing mouthpiece for the GOP.

This time, for various reasons, the media thinks the Obama story will sell. That's why they are pursuing it. It's not partisanship, it's marketing -- and not of Obama, but rather of their nooz "product."

Posted by: idlemind on July 18, 2008 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Where are the cats? It's Friday, Im just home, and check in to find no cats? Heesheepoof!

Posted by: don on July 18, 2008 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, he is so innocent that Condi, Jr. & Mcdaddy are jumping his meme...

Posted by: benmerc on July 18, 2008 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

and I guess it doesn't bother you Kevin that, McCain, a guy who served his country honorably, a guy whose family going back generations have served this country honorably, I guess it doesn't strike you as odd, if not unseemly, that this man was ignored, while Obama, who has done absolutely nothing in service of this country, will, simply because he's 'popular' in a way not too far removed from the way let's say Brad Pitt is popular, he gets lauded. I guess you're fine with that, I guess that's ok.

But of course, you liberals just wanna be liked, don't ya? Idiots. Sell your fucking souls just to be thought well of. Charlatans.

Posted by: orso on July 18, 2008 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it wasn't long ago that Weather Vane McCain was double-dog-daring Obama to go to Iraq, and now he's whining that Obama has taken him up on it. Moral of the story: when double-dog-dares are involved, somebody inevitably winds up with his tongue stuck to the flagpole.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on July 18, 2008 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

and I guess it doesn't bother you Kevin that, McCain, a guy who served his country honorably, a guy whose family going back generations have served this country honorably, I guess it doesn't strike you as odd, if not unseemly, that this man was ignored...

My ancestors are buried in Arlington Cemetery, right in General Lee's backyard. Do I get to be preznit too? If McCain's biggest claim to the presidency is that somebody in his family had a couple of stars on his lapel, there's a bunch of us here who can make the same claim. Some of us didn't even ride our ancestors' coattails through life, either.

Face it, Swan is right on the money and the media's ignoring McCain and his daily cavalcade of fuckups, reversals, and crap speeches is doing him the biggest favor they can. The media's doing their best to hide his screwups, and all he can do is bitch? What gratitude to "his base"!

Posted by: ericblair on July 18, 2008 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Really getting tired of all this "served his country honorably" - yes, he went to Annapolis; yes, he graduated a couple from the bottom of his class (for those of you that think he wouldn't have flunked out without the help of a Admiral grandfather & father in the background, I've got a bridge I'd like to talk to you about); yes, he got shot down and like a lot of other fine Americans stayed a prisoner a long time; yes, he came home and got rid of beauty-over-the-hill wife number one and married very very well to rich fox number two; however, none of this convinces me he's not going to be the second in a row of intellectually mediocre Presidents! And, you know what fine shape we are in from the first moron's superior intellect. I want my President to be the smartest guy in the room willing to listen and take advice. With McCain we're just going to get another dummy ignoring the advice of a bunch of "yes" men and doing what he had decided to do in the first place....bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran!

Posted by: AluminumKen on July 18, 2008 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Crooks and Liars blog has this: McCain’s advisers Scheunemann dug in: “We cannot afford to replace one administration that refused for too long to acknowledge failure in Iraq with a candidate that refuses to acknowledge success in Iraq.”

What a riot!

This is why there is no way that NBC, ABC and CBS newscasters can go anywhere with McCain, because its so detrimental to his candidacy. The audience might come to suspect that the old man, along with the high turn-over rate of his campaigan staff are all utterly confused or-- something. Maybe they're all getting free beer.

Posted by: Me_again on July 18, 2008 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully Obama will do us all a big favor by seeing Williams, Gibson, and Couric onto the plane, giving the pilot directions for Gilligan's Island, and walking back down to the tarmac as the engines roar for takeoff...

Posted by: lampwick on July 19, 2008 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

However, if Obama doesn't implement my clever plan, I expect NRO et al. to play up the whole 'Nazi rally in Berlin' aspect of his German speech, and follow that up by reading some anti-Semetic symbolism into his choice of food and/or drink while in Israeli - spreading the rumor that Obama asked for some 'non-kosher' arugula, for instance.

Anyway, may the good spirit of the Lord protect our nominee on his travels.

Posted by: lampwick on July 19, 2008 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

My friends, I'm white.

And orso, stop helping me.

Posted by: John McCain on July 19, 2008 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP will push three memes to try to discredit Obama.

1) They'll say it's just a political stunt and he's a typical politician.

2) They'll say he's an egomaniac who has no business speaking in front of large crowds in Europe.

3) They'll say he's criticizing America from foreign shores.

As for meme 1, the GOP base will accept it, but the rest of the country expects Presidents to do symbolic things - even if they are political. Since Obama is actually meeting with lots of foreign leaders, it's hard to let the "all politics" schtick sink in.

As for meme 2 - the Krauthammer fantasy - this can be avoided with proper stagecraft. Yes, Obama could fall into a hero-worshipping trap because, well, Europeans think VERY highly of him. But I suspect Obama will keep things on the level.

Meme 3 is actually the most precarious because it fits into the typical right-wing patriot-baiting pattern of the past. NRO and the Weekly Standard will be watching like a hawk for any offhand comment that appears to denigrate America in front of foreign audiences. Again, Obama is smart enough not to do that. But the right wing will be all over him on this.

Posted by: Elrod on July 19, 2008 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

I guess it doesn't strike you as odd, if not unseemly, that this man was ignored, while Obama, who has done absolutely nothing in service of this country, will, simply because he's 'popular' in a way not too far removed from the way let's say Brad Pitt is popular. Sell your fucking souls just to be thought well of. - orso

Is this about famous-last-name, TX-ANG AWOL, 3-time failed businessman G.W. Bush in 2000? No, wait. It clearly says "Obama" in there somewhere. My mistake.

McCain's timing was bad. While he was off globe-trotting, the media was much more fixated on the Clinton/Obama story. Now that it's a 2 person race, Obama's travels are better suited to headlines.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on July 19, 2008 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain argues strenuously that he has three unique qualifications to be president: he has been shot down in a jet plane, he has spoken with General Petraeus, and he has been to Afghanistan . . . John McCain argues strenuously that he has one unique qualification to be president . . .

Posted by: fafner1 on July 19, 2008 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe part of why so many Euros think so highly of him is that the Stuff White People Like schtick doesn't know borders or oceans?

Posted by: VolvoDriver on July 19, 2008 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

McCain is acting hysterically about this trip because he knows that a shot of Obama with Gordon at #10 and one of him surrounded by troops will help close the deal with the American public. McCain's fate could be sealed by the time Obama gets back home.

Posted by: bob h on July 19, 2008 at 6:06 AM | PERMALINK

Spot on, bob h. McCain's goose is cooked.

This old turd with the marsupial pouch on the side of his face looks worse everyday, compared to a vigorous, intelligent, full-of-life Obama who works out two hours a day.

This race is over before its even started....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 19, 2008 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK

If John McCain is starting to feel that years of devoted loyalty are being ignored and thrown aside by a fickle public for someone young and fresh and good-looking . . .

. . . he may finally realize how his first wife felt.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 19, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe part of why so many Euros think so highly of him is that the Stuff White People Like schtick doesn't know borders or oceans?

Euros are white??? But they eat cheese!

Posted by: rea on July 19, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Given the meaning of GUILTY...I'd take that title...as I see nearly ALL Repugs as the opposite of INNOCENT and McShame right up there with the worst on some levels...sick and tired of hearing media hacks pander to the geezer and continue to suggest that he MUST have respect only because of his military service and presumed HERO status...funny that didn't translate for Kerry despite the fact that his more heroic questioning of his government set the BEST EXAMPLE!!!

Posted by: on July 19, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

...while Obama, who has done absolutely nothing in service of this country, will, simply because he's 'popular' in a way not too far removed from the way let's say Brad Pitt is popular, he gets lauded. I guess you're fine with that, I guess that's ok.

Frankly, I'd rather have Brad Pitt than McCain.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 19, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I'd rather have Brad Pitt than McCain.

Me, too, honey. Me, too. Just it's covered by insurance doesn't mean it works on hopeless cases.

Posted by: Cindy McCain on July 19, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Thanks for the acknowledgement, and sorry if my comment was a little too strident, but my point was a lot of people come to this site to hash and rehash the election details. It was just a request for some customer service.
For those that did not follow the link, I was explaining my worry that a lot of folks do not like hubris, and I see this trip having the potential to be for Obama what the Mission Accomplished/landing on the carrier photo-op did for dubya. I also think The New Yorker cover deserves some discussion - if Obama does lose this race, it will be because of Jeremiah Wright brought back in the final days of the campaign, and I would like to know how the Obama team is preparing to deal with these issues. I can foresee Obama's defeat due to Wright screaming "God Damn America" being compared to Blaine losing in the last two weeks of the election due to the "rum, Romanism and rebellion" screw-up.

Posted by: loki the michief maker on July 19, 2008 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Everytime I rub John McCain's dreary head he calls me names (like the dreaded c-word+)\
and says I pile on the makeup. I can't win--and neither can he.

Posted by: Cindy--I dress pretty well, though?? on July 19, 2008 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Either National Review or the Weekly Standard — or both! — will headline their recap of the trip, "The Innocent Abroad."

David Brooks in today's NYT.

Posted by: on July 25, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Can't Obama get some aged German to do the "I knew Adolph Hitler . . . you're no Adolph Hitler" schtick ??

Posted by: H-Bob on July 25, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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