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Obama and the Skeptic-Free Campaign

By Froma Harrop

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Big-time political writers are busy people. With all the blogging, the parties and appearances on TV, skeptical examination of widely accepted beliefs seems a waste of time. The Obama campaign has done many a time-starved commentator a great service. It has composed the story for them -- that Hillary Clinton can't possibly win the Democratic nomination and is a horrible person besides.

But now and then, the liberties taken with reality reach a pitch where protest is unavoidable and the bias against Clinton becomes the center of conversation. A recent barrage of ludicrous assertions has created another of those breaking points. The writers at "Saturday Night Live" should have an easy week.

The latest collapse started some days ago on what is normally a four-star destination for good journalism, PBS's "NewsHour." The news summary started off with this: "Clinton's fellow Democrat in the Senate, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, today urged her to leave the race for the good of the party."

The "fellow Democrat" also happened to be one of Barack Obama's most ardent supporters, but whoops, they forget to mention that. For days even mainstream media were portraying Leahy, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and other members of the Obama team as "elders" thinking only of the party.

Over at The New York Times, columnist David Brooks purported to explain how "it would be virtually impossible for Clinton to take a lead in either elected delegates or total primary votes." And to buttress this view, he quotes two writers for Politco.com quoting an unnamed "important Clinton adviser" who reportedly said that Clinton has no more than a 10 percent chance to win the nomination. "Now, she's probably down to a 5 percent chance," Brooks opines. And to give his instant statistic weight, he dramatically repeats it: "5 percent."

Who, pray tell, is that masked Clinton adviser? Could it be someone about to be fired? Or negotiating for a job with Obama campaign? Politico.com has real journalists, and so I'm going to assume that the adviser exists. But how credible is an adviser who would drop that kind of stink bomb on his or her employer's prospects for success?

This comes a mere month after the Times suffered a prolonged spanking for a story that suggested a possible romantic involvement between John McCain and an attractive female lobbyist -- based on the testimony of two former McCain associates who were never identified. (McCain and the lobbyist both denied the account.)

Clinton's misstatement about coming under fire in Bosnia -- whether a memory lapse or a tall tale -- was lamentable. But the stampede to portray her as a consummate liar, as opposed to everyone else on the campaign trail, was an extraordinary media pile-up.

No one made a big deal when Obama, eager to portray himself as an adopted Kennedy, said that his father had come to the United States thanks to Kennedy largesse. In fact, the clan had nothing to do with it. Obama also claimed to have played a big part in crafting the immigration legislation, which even his ally Dodd said was not so.

Thank goodness for the independent voices that have called attention to the ongoing gang warfare against Clinton. The Washington Post's media writer, Howard Kurtz, has listed the particulars of the obsessive "Hillary-bashing." Over at CNN, the tenacious Lou Dobbs hacks nightly at the weak assumptions underpinning the agitprop that Clinton can't possibly win.

Why do so few commentators worry about defending their Obama-centric viewpoints? Because much of the public already has been indoctrinated and believes them to be fact. The Obama campaign really knows how to plow those fields -- those guys are good .

COPYRIGHT 2008 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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