It's become a rite of passage for news anchors to show up at conventions and huff that what they're about to televise is not news, but is instead a tightly scripted infomercial, carefully calibrated to create the most favorable image possible for the voters. But when Democrats gather, as they have in Boston, these same reporters sounded exactly like a tightly scripted infomercial for the political left.
Just take the first night, when Jimmy Carter and the Clintons spoke. "People were juiced like I don't think I've seen at a convention ever before!" gushed ABC's Charles Gibson. CBS's sportscaster-turned-news anchor Hannah Storm was even more ecstatic: "It was like the Celtics were playing in a championship game here at the Fleet Center last night. It was absolutely electric!" As for Bill Clinton's speech, NBC's Katie Couric insisted that "almost everybody, even the opposition, agreed last night that he was masterful!"
In reality, Clinton was...well, Clintonian, making wild claims of social spending cuts that would throw poor children out on the street and hand them assault weapons to start killing each other. No wonder the liberal news anchors liked it. But no one in the media would apparently be so rude as to check the facts in it.
Hannah Storm needed to be pulled over and ticketed for overusing the "rock star" metaphor too many times in one breath, starting with Hillary and moving on to Democratic keynote speaker Barack Obama: "It was as if she was a rock star coming in here! And speaking of rock star! A guy that they are projecting to be the next big star in the Democratic Party. He's already being called a rock star."
ABC's Charlie Gibson aggressively sold the Democrats like a used car. It was silly enough for him to suggest that a bunch of Democrats screaming like Beatle fans for Bill Clinton is somehow he'd never, ever seen before. He then went on to explain very helpfully why the Democrats are relentless in touting John Kerry's little tenure in Vietnam.
Gibson suggested after hearing so much about Lieutenant Kerry's military adventures that "you began to think at times he was running for admiral rather than president." Kerry's supporters said they want to portray Kerry as a strong leader who can do a better job of taking on the terrorists, "a point they feel the need to make," the ABC anchor explained.
"They feel the need"? Maybe that's because Bush has a huge lead in polls asking who would better fight the war on terror (18 points, according to ABC pollster Gary Langer). But ABC doesn't want to linger on that polling problem, so Gibson skipped their own new poll.
ABC was so helpful to Kerry that when one of his supportive Navy mates, the Rev. David Alston, told delegates on Monday night about his valiant commander, ABC streamed in John Kerry's home movies of himself marching through the jungle for illustration. It was a perfect infomercial for the Democrats, courtesy of ABC News.
Then there was Jimmy Carter, who used the word "extremist" to describe President Bush about as much as CBS overused "rock star." (And who says Democrats can't be "positive"?) Democrats used to hide Carter in undisclosed locations at convention time, but it's apparently safe to guess that most Americans don't remember the joys of the Carter administration. Gas lines. Hostage takings. Public surrender to national malaise. And did I mention complete military ineptitude, as demonstrated in the disastrous failed hostage rescue attempt that crashed in the desert?
Carter, however, has either no memory or no shame. He came out throwing mud at George W. Bush. Unlike Bush, Kerry "showed up" for Vietnam. Kerry would "restore maturity and judgment" - which are "sorely lacking" - to the White House. Bush's foreign policies are an "unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations." By what standard does Jimmy Carter manufacture the gall to criticize anyone else's foreign policy?
But CNN anchor Aaron Brown was feeling lighter than air after Carter's slashing Carville moment. After reporter Joe Johns explained the Georgia delegation felt Carter was an "honest man" and "truthful," Brown said no one should worry about Carter sounding too vicious: "I understand...the Kerry campaign's concern is they don't want it too personal and they don't want it shrill, and it's hard to imagine shrill and Jimmy Carter in the same sentence."
It's absolutely mind-blowing. Anchors at this convention are actually traveling beyond the hard sell for the DNC to the actual on-air comforting of Democrats: "don't worry, you're not too shrill, really you're not." The only thing that didn't make the trip to the Fleet Center was any journalistic sense of accuracy or fairness.