Thursday, May 24, 2012

At Most, An Obama Network

Progressive blogger and (Hilary) Clinton enthusiast Taylor Marsh explains today why Barack Obama never has been a shoe-in for re-election.    One problem, she notes, is

That Obama hasn’t made solid relationships inside the Democratic Party and in the progressive community, beyond his die hard fans and supporters, makes it rougher for him. I don’t know anyone who thinks Obama runs the Democratic Party, with more evidence today that he doesn’t. He’s the un-Lyndon Johnson, a man who gets by on his own steam, not through relationships inside Democratic or progressive circles. The attitude of Robert Gibbs is brought to mind and just what a bad beginning the Administration made toward their base. Obama is another in a long line of presidents who don’t feel compelled to build the political party that made his rise possible. The feeling is Pres. Obama’s a one man ego band.

Tuesday, however, Marsh had slapped The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, who had mistaken MSNBC's Chris Matthews for an objective journalist and therefore was aghast at Matthews' criticism of Mitt Romney over his Bain Capital involvement.   Marsh similarly criticized Politico's Dylan Byers because he had naively slammed Matthews for exhibiting "partisan loyalties" when he "accused the Obama surrogate of 'sabatoge' and 'betrayal' of the campaign."

Matthews, Marsh argues, lost his journalistic credentials when he became an enthusiastic cheerleader for Obama's 2008 campaign, most infamously for his "thrill going up my leg" comment.        Marsh observes "Chris Matthews has been a die hard Barack Obama supporter for over four years now, which is his choice."   Then, however, she draws a false parallel, claiming

Fox News Channel is a ratings juggernaut doing partisan coverage. Are Friedersdorf and Byers really the only ones who don’t know MSNBC is now the bookend to Fox News Channel? 

Friedersdorf and Byers may be confused about MSNBC but, to a lesser degree, so is Marsh. MSNBC is not the Democratic alternative, nor is it the liberal or progressive alternative- that would be Al Gore's Current TV, especially with the Young Turks' Cenk Uygur. With little more than two exceptions (staunch liberal/progressive Chris Hayes on weekend mornings, populist Dylan Ratigan on weekday afternoons),  MSNBC is the pro-Obama network.     That is hardly synonymous with "liberal," "progressive," or (as Marsh obviously understands better than most) even "Democratic."  

Matthews' pro-Obama slant during the 2008 campaign was far more noble, with far more benevolent effect, than his approach to the 2000 presidential campaign, when he functioned as an unofficial surrogate for the Republican.   Bob Somerby describes Matthews' role in the Bush-Gore campaign:

Of course, it was Matthews’ remarks about Campaign 2000 which provided the comic relief. “I think he ran a terrible campaign in 2000,” Matthews said, skillfully keeping his straight face. Just last Friday, we gave you a small idea of what this big nut-case meant (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/17/11). What made Gore’s campaign so “terrible?” For one thing, he wore a three-button suit—and those buttons had Freudian meaning. Beyond that, he had hired a woman to teach him how to be a man. He was “today’s man-woman,” “a man-like object;” he “didn’t have his gender straight.” He would lick the bathroom floor to be president. Over and over and over and over, he was “Bill Clinton’s bathtub ring.”

Matthews behaved like a genuine demon for the campaign’s twenty months, offering ugly, bizarre complaints about Gore’s “terrible campaign.” He told Gennifer Flowers how hot she was when he dragged her out on the air; she then spent a full half hour denouncing the Clintons’ murders. Presumably, Matthews did this to serve the pleasure of Welch; his salary was $1 million in 1999, but it soon went up to $5 million. (This type of largesse cannot be explained by Hardball’s ratings, though the show was influential at that time within the mainstream press.)

Somerby typically is too harsh toward Matthews, who conducts some searing interviews which would (or should) put nearly everyone else on TV news to shame.    Still, Somerby's suggestion (there and elsewhere) that the host was doing the bidding of his corporate sponsor has its parallel in today's MSNBC.  

After the network's Rachel Maddow defended Obama's recent remarks about Bain Capital, she interviewed Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who had criticized the campaign (though, significantly, not Obama himself).      Maddow served as public relations flak for Booker, one of Wall Street's favorite Democrats, arguing that he had been misunderstood.    Fawning over Booker (whom Somerby says is a buddy of hers from Stanford), she chose not to emphasize the impact of the Bain Way upon the employees of the companies it took over.     Somerby commented

If Maddow would stop her absurd attempts to defend her appalling friend, maybe she could report on what Romney actually did at Bain! Maybe she could report the looting of those pension funds, in ways her viewers could grasp and pass on.

Or is she keeping her trap shut too? Despite what your lizard brain is saying, corporate-picked multimillionaires may not always be on your side.

Rachel Maddow does, at times, question corporate power, as does Ed Schultz.     (O'Donnell does so infrequently and Sharpton is little more than Obama's mouthpiece.) Other hosts, especially Matthews, on the network are hardly reticent about criticizing Democrats, a wise tactic for a pro-Obama operation intent on avoiding being typecast as "pro-Democrat." MSNBC surely is not impartial, and does not claim to be, but neither is it the partisan counterweight to the cable network representing the public relations wing of the Republican Party.

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