Politics

09.06.12

Are the Media Going Soft on the Democrats?

The media are gushing over Bill Clinton after being mesmerized by Michelle Obama. Howard Kurtz on whether the pundits are going soft on the Democrats.

It was the ’90s all over again: the media all but swooning over Bill Clinton as he was shaking and baking and rocking and rolling, with some carping about his self-indulgent ways but sheer gratitude that he is such colorful copy.

The rave reviews that followed the former president's stemwinder at the Democratic convention came a day after a journalistic standing ovation for Michelle Obama's highly personal speech.

The question must be asked: Are the media getting swept away in Charlotte in a way they most certainly weren't in Tampa?

A case can certainly be made that the Bill and Michelle speeches achieved an emotional intensity that no speaker at the Republican convention was able to match. Mitt’s and Ann Romney's addresses drew favorable reviews, but his especially did not feel like a breakthrough moment. The only star attraction that really got the media buzzing, and not in a good way, was Clint Eastwood.

And the compelling nature of Clinton unleashed prompted many conservative pundits to praise his performance, with GOP strategist Alex Castellanos going so far as to say it probably sealed Barack Obama's reelection.

That seems a bit over the top, but let's say there is a broad consensus that Clinton delivered a classic bit of political theater.

Still, there seems to be less enthusiasm for fact-checking the ways that Clinton spun things in heaping blame on the Republicans while portraying his successor as a model bipartisan statesman. Maybe some of his flights of rhetoric sounded more reasonable to reporters' ears than those of Paul Ryan (who did stretch the truth in more blatant ways and was called on it).

It seems to me the Democrats have just put on a better show and there's nothing wrong with reporting it that way. But with Obama speaking Thursday night, the press needs to be careful not to venture into thrill-up-the-leg territory.