Campaign 2008 Review: Barack Obama’s Media Groupies
Love at First Sight
“I think the real breakout tonight is [Illinois Senate candidate Barack] Obama. I mean, Teresa [Heinz-Kerry] is a fascinating story, but Obama is a rock star!”
— NBC’s Andrea Mitchell during MSNBC’s live coverage of the Democratic convention, July 27, 2004.
“I have to tell ya — a little chill in my, in my legs now. That is an amazing moment in history right there. It is really an amazing moment. A keynoter like I’ve never heard....I’ve just seen the first black president there!”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews following Obama’s speech before the Democratic convention, July 27, 2004.
Run, Barack, Run!
“Obama’s personal appeal is made manifest when he steps down from the podium and is swarmed by well-wishers of all ages and hues....Obama seemed the political equivalent of a rainbow — a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy....He transcends the racial divide so effortlessly that it seems reasonable to expect that he can bridge all the other divisions — and answer all the impossible questions — plaguing American public life.”
— Time’s Joe Klein, October 23, 2006 cover story, “Why Barack Obama Could Be the Next President.”
“Many people, afterwards [after Obama’s 2004 convention speech], they weren’t sure how to pronounce your name but they were moved by you. People were crying. You tapped into something. You touched people....If your party says to you, ‘We need you,’ and, and there’s already a drumbeat out there, will you respond?”
— Co-host Meredith Vieira to Obama on NBC’s Today, October 19, 2006.
Is He “The One?”
“You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You’re looking at an American political phenomenon....He inspires the party faithful and many others, like no one else on the scene today....And the question you can sense on everyone’s mind, as they listen so intently to him: Is he the one? Is Barack Obama the man, the black man, who could lead the Democrats back to the White House and maybe even unite the country?...Everywhere he goes, people want him to run for President, especially in Iowa, cradle of presidential contenders. Around here, they’re even naming babies after him.”
— ABC Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran, Nov. 6, 2006.
Mesmerized by “Stoic Eloquence”
“Now to Barack Obama. When I spent the day with him in Iowa over the weekend, you could sense the excitement he nearly always generates....Whatever he’s eating, it is working for Obama....Here as elsewhere, the crowd listens closely to Barack Obama’s real argument, that he is tomorrow, a fresh face who represents a real change from our bitter polarized politics....When you talk to Iowa voters who come to hear Obama, you get the sense they know they might be part of something big here, something historic.”
— ABC’s Terry Moran on Nightline, November 26, 2007.
“They come in droves, by the tens of thousands at times, to hear Barack Obama speak....With soaring rhetoric, Obama is moving his audiences not just politically, but emotionally. Even some political commentators who’ve seen it all can’t help but gush....The stoic eloquence channels John F. Kennedy.”
— CBS’s Tracy Smith on the The Early Show, February 14.
Swept Up by the Dream Machine
“Inside Obama’s Dream Machine; An icon of hope, he won’t ‘kneecap’ his foes. But Obama knows what it takes, and how to win.”
— Headline and subheadline of Newsweek’s January 14 cover story on Obama.
“It’s almost hard to remain objective because it’s infectious, the energy, I think. It sort of goes against your core to say that as a reporter, but the crowds have gotten so much bigger, his energy has gotten stronger. He feeds off that.”
— NBC reporter Lee Cowan in an MSNBC.com video about the Obama campaign posted January 7.
The Ultimate Obama Fan
Senator Barack Obama: “Let’s roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, let’s make certain that those resources go to the people who need it....We’re not going to solve it by pretending that issues of poverty and struggle among working families are just going to go away magically because the stock market is going up.”
Moderator Chris Matthews: “So much of what you say just grabs people like me, because it sounds like Bobby Kennedy. It sounds like the ’60s at its absolute best.”
— Exchange at AFSCME Democratic candidates forum shown live on MSNBC, June 19, 2007.
“He’s come from a white family and a black family, and he’s married to a black woman, and they’re cool people. They are really cool. They are Jack and Jackie Kennedy when you see them together. They are cool. And they’re great-looking, and they’re cool and they’re young.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews talking about the Obamas on NBC’s Tonight Show, January 16.
Co-anchor Chris Matthews: “I have to tell you, you know, it’s part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My — I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”
Co-anchor Keith Olbermann: “Steady.”
Matthews: “No, seriously. It’s a dramatic event. He speaks about America in a way that has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the feeling we have about our country. And that is an objective assessment.”
— Exchange during MSNBC’s coverage of the Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. primaries, February 12.
Obama’s Publicists at CBS
Reporter Jeff Glor: “In addition to enjoying basketball and cycling during down time, Obama loves to play Scrabble....Obama’s job as a teenager was at a Baskin-Robbins, and to this day he does not like ice cream....This is a man who plays to win. No matter what it is, whether it’s the woman he wants to date or elected office or board games, there is an ambition there. There is a determination.”
Co-host Julie Chen: “Sounds like presidential qualities.”
— Running down “Five Things You Should Know” about Barack Obama on CBS’s The Early Show, June 18.
Holding Obama’s Feet to the Fire
“On the bus ride along the snowy road to Lebanon, New Hampshire, I showed him this week’s Newsweek, hot off the presses. [to Obama] How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way, all the publicity?...Who does it make you think of? Is there, is there a loved one?”
— NBC’s Brian Williams on the January 7 Nightly News.
Anchor Brian Williams: “Last time we were together, I handed you a copy of Newsweek. It was the first time you’d held it in your hands with you on the cover. Have you yet held this [Time magazine cover declaring Obama the winner of the primaries] in your hands?”
Senator Barack Obama: “No, I don’t want to. Because the last time it was in New Hampshire and I ended up losing. So...I’m not taking any chances.”
Williams: “Last time, you looked at it and you thought instantly of your mom.”
Obama: “She’d like that picture. She always encouraged me to smile more.”
— NBC Nightly News, May 8.
Gushing Over “Son of Camelot”
“Today they gathered by the thousands at American University, sensing a moment of history. John F. Kennedy gave the commencement address here five months before he was shot. And today, the audacity of hope had its rendezvous with destiny. The Kennedy clan anointed Barack Obama a son of Camelot.”
— ABC’s David Wright on the January 28 World News, reporting on Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama.
“The endorsement brought the Kennedy mystique to this campaign, not in a whisper, but a roar.”
— NBC’s Lee Cowan on the January 28 Nightly News.
Beware of Nasty Republicans
“Have you stopped to think what the Obama version of Swift Boating might be in this campaign cycle if you get to the general election? What they did to John Kerry, what’s that version going to be with Barack Obama?”
— NBC’s Matt Lauer to Obama on Today, February 19.
For Barack’s Sake, Ignore Wright
“Every time he [Reverend Jeremiah Wright] appears, he just gives legitimacy and a hunger by those who oppose Barack Obama to re-run those tapes, to keep him at the center of controversy, to let this overhang and define Barack Obama....I think it’s time for him to get off the stage and frankly, for the media, I suggest, to move on.”
— CNN’s David Gergen during live coverage, April 28.
Co-host John Roberts: “I want to just stipulate at the beginning of this interview, we are declaring a Reverend Wright-free zone today. So, no questions about Reverend Wright....Is that okay with you?”
Barack Obama: “Fair enough. That sounds just fine.”
— CNN’s American Morning, May 5.
Hailing “Extraordinary” Eloquence
“Welcome to World News. Tonight, Barack Obama delivers a major speech confronting the race issue head on....It may turn out to be the seminal speech of his presidential campaign....Obama challenged Americans to confront the country’s racial divide. An extraordinary speech.”
— Charles Gibson opening ABC’s World News, March 18.
“It was without question a defining moment in American political history.”
— Co-host Maggie Rodriguez, CBS’s Early Show, Mar. 19.
“A speech worthy of Abraham Lincoln....I think this is the kind of speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American tract. Something that you just check in with, now and then, like reading Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn....One of the great speeches in American history.”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews talking about Barack Obama’s speech on race relations, March 18 Hardball.
Obama’s Magical Media Tour
“In this city where John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all made famous speeches, Obama will find himself stepping into perhaps another iconic moment Thursday as his superstar charisma meets German adoration live in shadows of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate....It’s not only Obama’s youth, eloquence and energy that have stolen hearts across the Atlantic....Obama has raised expectations of a chance for the nation to redeem itself in the role that — at various times through history — Europe has loved, respected and relied upon.”
— Associated Press writers Matt Moore and Melissa Eddy in a July 22 dispatch.
Anchor Brian Williams: “Here in Berlin today, not far from where the wall once stood, the man from Chicago, Illinois, the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message....I heard one American reporter tonight say it’s hard to come up with a list of others who could draw such a crowd, but then again it’s hard to know what we witnessed here today.”
Correspondent Andrea Mitchell: “It’s hard to figure out what the comparison is....It was his largest crowd ever, more than 200,000 people. And before this group he promised Europe that he would repair its strained relationship with the United States.”
— NBC Nightly News, July 24.
Obama Is “Something Special”
“Presidential campaigns have destroyed many bright and capable politicians. But there’s ample evidence that [Senator Barack] Obama is something special, a man who makes difficult tasks look easy, who seems to touch millions of diverse people with a message of hope that somehow doesn’t sound Pollyannaish.”
— AP writer Charles Babington in a May 10 dispatch.
Journalists Hooked on Obama
Host Howard Kurtz: “Are journalists rooting for the Obama story?”
The Politico’s John Harris, referring to the Washington Post: “It wouldn’t surprise me that there’s some of that....A couple years ago, you would send a reporter out with Obama, and it was like they needed to go through detox when they came back — ‘Oh, he’s so impressive, he’s so charismatic,’ and we’re kind of like, ‘Down, boy.’”
— Exchange on CNN’s Reliable Sources, January 13.
Impressing His Base
“In many ways it was less a speech than a symphony. It moved quickly, it had high tempo, at times inspiring, then it became more intimate, slower, all along sort of interweaving a main theme about America’s promise, echoes of Lincoln, of King, even of Reagan and of Kennedy....It was a masterpiece.”
— CNN analyst David Gergen during live coverage following Obama’s convention speech, August 28.
Keith Olbermann: “For 42 minutes, not a sour note and spellbinding throughout in a way usually reserved for the creations of fiction. An extraordinary political statement. Almost a fully realized, tough, crisp, insistent speech in tone and in the sense of cutting through the clutter....I’d love to find something to criticize about it. You got anything?”
Chris Matthews: “No. You know I’ve been criticized for saying he inspires me, and to hell with my critics!...You know in the Bible they talk about Jesus serving the good wine last, I think the Democrats did the same.”
— MSNBC live convention coverage, August 28.
Mocking Obama’s Media Groupies
“I think there is a problem, though, with the media gushing over him too much. I don’t think he thinks that he’s all that, but the media does. I mean, the [Democratic convention] coverage after, that I was watching, from MSNBC, I mean these guys were ready to have sex with him.”
— HBO’s Bill Maher on Real Time, August 29.
PUBLISHER: L. Brent Bozell III
EDITORS: Brent H. Baker, Rich Noyes, Tim Graham
MEDIA ANALYSTS: Geoffrey Dickens, Brad Wilmouth, Scott Whitlock, Matthew Balan, Kyle Drennen and Justin McCarthy
RESEARCH ASSOCIATE: Michelle Humphrey
INTERN: Lyndsi Thomas