Tuesday, January 29, 2008


From The Hill, the D.C. political paper:

Clinton, Obama steal Bush's final show

All eyes were on Democratic presidential frontrunners Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) Monday night as spectators and pundits followed their every move during President Bush's final State of the Union address.

Clinton set observers atwitter when she waded through the crowd before the speech to shake hands with Democratic dean and senior Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), who made headlines Monday by endorsing Obama in the primary.

For the second year in a row, Obama sat next to Kennedy for the president's annual address. Yet despite this, Clinton managed to miss Obama's attention as she chatted with Kennedy while reporters looked on hungrily from the overhanging balcony....

Oh, great -- I want political news and instead I'm reading a freaking gossip column. It's as if last night was Golden Globes night and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan showed up wearing the same dress.

The Hill is aimed at Washington insiders, but this is the standard approach to the coverage of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the mainstream media. These two candidates are being depicted as glitzy and gossip-worthy and fabulous, while the Republican candidates are being depicted as plain, serious men. It's going to be very damaging to the Democrats' chances, because, come November, one of those Republicans will seem like someone the average American might pass on the street -- while his Democratic opponent will seem like a preening celebrity diva.

You can blame Bill Clinton for the fact that Democrats are covered this way, but I blame the Vanity Fair-ization of the political press -- that is, the spreading of the notion that there simply isn't a line that separates glitz and substance -- and I remind you that VF has been fairly besotted with the Reagans since the 1980s. But Clinton went Hollywood, and he was popular, and Republicans, especially Bush, were openly contemptuous of Hollywood and glitz (and, in Bush's case, even entertaining or staying up late), and Bush and the Republicans began to screw up everything they touched, and so political journalists who craved fabulousness began to associate it exclusively with the Democrats.

By November the Republicans will get to seem like the party of Main Street (even if the nominee is Mitt Romney, who seems as if he owns Main Street). As it is, right now they even get to hang out with celebrities (Huckabee with Chuck Norris, Rudy, lately, with Jon Voight) without seeming like people who hang out with celebrities. By now, the Democrats don't even have to hang out with stars -- the Clintons and Obama, at least, are the stars.

That's going to be an undercurrent in all the coverage this year -- even if Romney or McCain picks Fred Thompson as a running mate. And it's going to hurt.

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