Home » , , , , , , , » The Paradox of "MSDNC": When the Topic Du Jour At "The Place For Politics" Is "The Wright Stuff," It's Obama Getting Stuffed--Or Maybe Snuffed.

The Paradox of "MSDNC": When the Topic Du Jour At "The Place For Politics" Is "The Wright Stuff," It's Obama Getting Stuffed--Or Maybe Snuffed.

Written By mista sense on Monday, April 28, 2008 | 11:07 AM



MSNBC has sought to brand itself as "The Place for Politics." OK fair enough; it's reasonable for a cable news network to aspire to "own" one particular category of news, such as elections--especially in an election year. Of course, MSNBC will face competition, from CNN and FNC.

So MSNBC and its guiding figure, Dan Abrams, hatched a plan for gaining market share: MSNBC would not only be the most liberal of the three cable news networks, but also the partisanly Democratic of the three cablers. It was a decent enough idea for brand differentiation, if not exactly quality journalism--MSNBC's ratings have improved, even as it devoted whole nights to nothing but Republican-bashing.

MSNBC's conscious policy shift opened the way for the likes of Keith Olbermann to full vent his spleen every night, and it forced Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthewsto move way to the left to survive in the new environment. And as for Tucker Carlson, who was once a Republican, before becoming just a jerk, he had no constituency whatsoever; he was recently replaced in his time slot by David Gregory, who, as we learned from his time as a White House reporter, is always ready to stick it to George W. Bush.

It was Investor's Business Daily, I think, that first labeled the net "MSDNC"--that's "DNC" as in "Democratic National Committee."

So is all this good news for the Democrats? I mean it should be, right? But not quite. And here's the catch: When the news is bad for Democrats, or at least some Democrats, "MSDNC" might as well be MSNBC--when the news is bad, more news is worse news.

Today, for example, MSNBC has been running virtually nothing but Jeremiah Wright news, and, in the absence of new news, the channel settled for rehashing the old news, hour after hour after hour. This morning, there was plenty of commentary leading up to Wright's speech, on "Morning Joe." And then, after Wright's speech, everybody on MSNBC has been talking about little else--MSNBC seems to be keeping Jonathan Darman, Jonathan Capehart, and Joe Watkins on a short leash, so that every hour or so they can be trotted out for a rehash. Darman, of Newsweek, Capehart, of The Washington Post, and Watkins, a "Republican Strategist" who is also a preacher, are actually pretty good on the air. They have all three honestly said that the Wright matter is a huge negative for Barack Obama; indeed, the reality that Wright is clobbering Obama's campaign is by now so obvious that we will have to wait till "Countdown" tonight to see Olbermann and his trained seals--Richard Wolffe, Dana Milbank, and Rachel Maddow--for some dutiful pro-Obama horn-honking.

But in the meantime, all day today, MSNBC's saturation coverage is saturation-bombing the Obama campaign. Although to be sure, MSNBC's p.c.-ness still shines through.

Two examples:

First, during the 1 o'clock hour, Andrea Mitchell interviewed former Sen. Bill Bradley , an Obama supporter. Mitchell asked Bradley all the obvious questions that would naturally emerge in the wake of Wright's appearance at the Press Club; for his part, Bradley, spinning hard, did his best to deflect the questions away from Wright and back toward Hillary Clinton. Bradley's gameplan was two fold: first, to say that Obama was "new politics" and that thus the American people should not bother with concerns about what sort of person Obama is, and what sort of people he hangs out with--it's worth remembering that Obama has called Wright a "mentor" and "like a family member"; and second, to do a little "old politics" on Clinton. So twice Bradley brought up the issue of the donors to the Clinton Library + Foundation. Now that's a juicy mystery that should get solved sometime. But on this day, Bradley's shifting of the subject was also a fairly hamhanded attempt to move the discussion away from an obvious Obama negative and toward a hoped-for Clinton negative, even as Bradley touted Obama as the man to usher in those "new politics." But for her part, Mitchell didn't choose to call Bradley on his evasion of the question--is that part of the "new politics"? And yet at the end, despite Bradley's obfuscating, Mitchell closed by praising Bradley for being such a tireless worker for improved race relations in the US. OK, great, but the rest of us would trust you more, Bill, if you answered legit questions!

Second, during Contessa Brewer's hour, following Mitchell, Brewer spoke with Athena Jones, who is the MSNBC reporter traveling with the Obama campaign, which at the time was in Wilmington, NC. Brewer asked Jones as to the reaction of the Obama campaign to all the Wright news, and Jones answered that the press corps had not been able to speak to Obama since Sunday afternoon.

(That, of course, is a bad sign, when the candidate is kept hidden away from the people assigned to cover him. But once again, that's the nature of 24/7 cable news, for better or for worse--the press is always around, the "beast" always needs to be fed,, and if Obama is "bored" by the campaign against Hillary, well, it's even more of a challenge--although as Capehart pointed out on the air today, it's yet another bad sign about Obama and/or his campaign that such a comment would leak out.)

Back to the Brewer-Jones colloquy. Trying to glean some info as to the condition of the Obama campaign, Brewer asked whether the crowds were "diverse."

Now here's where things get amusing. Because, of course, in the land of political correctness, there's nothing more important than being "diverse." Now in normal liberal usage, "diversity" means having plenty of p.c. minorities around--typically, "people of color." So when Jones answered Brewer, to the effect that oh yes, the crowds for Obama were "very diverse," well, what did that mean? Did that mean that the crowds were diverse in the p.c. sense, which is to say a lot of blacks (there aren't, after all, many Hispanics or Asians in Eastern NC)? If that's the case, then that's not a good sign for Obama, because while he might be able to win the Democratic nomination with the leftermost fringe of the Democratic Party, he will need a lot of white voters to win the general election--and at least a few to win NC. And of course, for the rest of us, "diverse" has an additional meaning, the meaning that you find in a dictionary--difference. Were there different kinds of people in the Obama crowd? Blacks and whites together? That's the key question. But since Brewer never pressed Jones on her usage of "diversity"--perhaps because, like many white liberals, she is paralyzed to use the "d" word in any way that bespeaks negativity or skepticism--we viewers never got a good straight answer to the key question: whether the auguries for Obama from the North Carolina campaign trail today were good, or bad.

So that's MSNBC for you: It's the place, all right, for politics--the place for p.c. politics. As yet as we have seen, paradoxically, such flood-the-zone coverage is not helping Obama, the man most hardcore Democrats support. Because of the network's p.c. slant, the coverage is not providing useful information, despite the profusion of information.

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