Swooning over Obama

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For KCRW, I'm Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.

Looking at today's primary in New Hampshire, it's easy to see the extent to which Barack Obama has supplanted Hillary Clinton as the Democrats' front-runner, at least if you heed the pundits.

"The media overall are being swept up by a wave of Obamamania, in which normally hard-bitten journalists watch the orator in action and come away dazzled by his gifts," Howard Kurtz writes in today's Washington Post.

"A Newsweek cover story out yesterday gushed that Obama, 'tall and handsome and blessed with a weighty baritone, knows how to bring along a crowd while seeming to stay slightly above it.' The journalistic scrutiny usually visited on instant front-runners," Kurtz says,"has been replaced by something akin to a standing ovation."

In Sunday's Aspen Times, my friend John Colson looked at the Iowa results and expressed surprise "that a black man with a name strangely close to that of the world's best-known terrorist would win among Democrats in a state that is overwhelmingly white, conservative and boasts a huge population of evangelical Christians."

As for the GOP, some commentators are anointing Mike Huckabee, that friendly, aw-shucks guy from Arkansas who totes God around as a co-pilot. Remind you of anyone?

And yet, until today, voters have had only ONE opportunity to express their electoral preferences. Last night on MSNBC, Dan Abrams asked whether the media are writing Clinton's epitaph too soon.

But it's become obvious that Clinton is not the "inevitable" candidate any more, despite an impressive campaign organization and that master political strategist, her husband, at her side.

Bill Clinton is upset not only that his wife is getting slammed in the media, but that he's taking flak too.

Yesterday, Josh Gerstein reported in the New York Sun that after his wife choked up on the campaign trail, Clinton angrily complained that reporters have given Obama a "free pass," that they're "sanitizing" their coverage of him.

The former president said "the press never reported" a false claim in an Obama handout that Clinton"was a crook" in his financial dealings years ago.

The Clintons do appear to be stressed. While the New York Post went overboard with its main headline yesterday (the single word PANIC was printed over a picture of Mrs. Clinton), the couple can't have been happy with the front page of the New York Times the last couple of days.

Yesterday, Mark Leibovich reported from Durham, New Hampshire, that the former president "has been drawing sleepy and sometimes smallish crowds."

Today, Patrick Healy wrote from Portsmouth, N.H., that while Mrs. Clinton did not cry in public on Monday, "her quavering voice and the flash of feeling underscored the pressure, fatigue, anger and disappointment" of losing in Iowa.

Meanwhile, the right-wing standard-bearer William Kristol, newly hired as an Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times, debuted yesterday with a piece headlined,"President Mike Huckabee?"

At one point in his column, however, he quotes the "conservative writer Michelle Malkin," except that the words he used came not from her but from Michael Medved. Ooops.

At another point, he approvingly quotes a "secular New Hampshire Republican" as saying about Huckabee: "Gee, he's not some kind of crazy Christian. He's an ordinary American."

Look, Kristol, we don't WANT ordinary Americans in the White House. We need an EXTRAORDINARY president. Ordinary and clueless is what we got in George Bush, and seven years on a sinking ship. Ordinary is what brought us a needless war, thousands of deaths, record deficits, raging incompetence, an ideologically driven agenda, and an utter refusal to countenance criticism.

We're not electing the village priest. We're electing the presumed leader of the world's only superpower, and he or she had better be up to the task.

This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, Minding the Media on KCRW.



Nick Madigan