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...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, October 09, 2008


I genuinely don't know what to make of this story.

CBS reporter, Dean Reynolds (not related to Instapundit, hopefully) has come out with surprising, not to say shocking details about traveling in each candidate's press entourage.

In his On The Road blogpost, Reynolds reveals the various discomforts of traveling on "O-Force One", as Senator Obama's plane is often called by media members.

Amongst other things, he called the plane 'stinky' (!).

I don't know what I was expecting, but this reportage really floored me. Not the stinkiness, I hasten to add, but the fact that it was a CBS reporter breaking the fourth wall with readers about both campaigns, but especially about Obama.

I am only thankful it wasn't a Fox News reporter, because based on political stereotypes associated with any conservative side (seen recently with Palin's criticism of Bill Ayers), he immediately would've been called a racist.

Here is the story:

(NASHVILLE, TENN.) - After most of the previous 12 months covering Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency, it was interesting, instructive and, well, relaxing to follow John McCain for the last few days. The differences between the two are striking.

Obama is the big time orator, McCain is the guy who struggles with a teleprompter or even note cards strategically placed nearby. Obama's crowds are larger, more enthusiastic. McCain's events are smaller, but to my eye, better choreographed. And now with the addition of Sarah Palin to some of his events, McCain can boast of crowds that match Obama's in energy.

There is an urgency to the McCain campaign now that I don't think was there before. Due to the fact that he is running second, no doubt, but it may also be because McCain has a finishing kick. Whatever the case, he is sharper on the stump than he was before. (Though I would suspect a candidate running behind would want to schedule two or three appearances per day, instead of the one McCain usually does.)

It is true that McCain enjoys taking questions from the audience in town hall-style settings. That doesn't mean he is the master of that kind of forum, it just means he's good at it. He likes to converse with voters. Obama does it well too, but seldom achieves that intangible bond with the people that all politicians crave -- or fake.

Behind the scenes, where the public is not allowed, there are other differences.

Obama's campaign schedule is fuller, more hectic and seemingly improvisational. The Obama aides who deal with the national reporters on the campaign plane are often overwhelmed, overworked and un-informed about where, when, why or how the candidate is moving about. Baggage calls are preposterously early with the explanation that it's all for security reasons.

If so, I would love to have someone from Obama's campaign explain why the entire press corps, the Secret Service, and the local police idled for two hours in a Miami hotel parking lot recently because there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. It was not an isolated case.

The national headquarters in Chicago airily dismisses complaints from journalists wondering why a schedule cannot be printed up or at least e-mailed in time to make coverage plans. Nor is there much sympathy for those of us who report for a newscast that airs in the early evening hours. Our shows place a premium on live reporting from the scene of campaign events. But this campaign can often be found in the air and flying around at the time the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" is broadcast. I suspect there is a feeling within the Obama campaign that the broadcast networks are less influential in the age of the internet and thus needn't be accomodated as in the days of yore. Even if it's true, they are only hurting themselves by dissing audiences that run in the tens of millions every night.

The McCain folks are more helpful and generally friendly. The schedules are printed on actual books you can hold in your hand, read, and then plan accordingly. The press aides are more knowledgeable and useful to us in the news media. The events are designed with a better eye, and for the simple needs of the press corps. When he is available, John McCain is friendly and loquacious. Obama holds news conferences, but seldom banters with the reporters who've been following him for thousands of miles around the country. Go figure.

The McCain campaign plane is better than Obama's, which is cramped, uncomfortable and smells terrible most of the time. Somehow the McCain folks manage to keep their charter clean, even where the press is seated.

The other day in Albuquerque, N.M., the reporters were given almost no time to file their reports after McCain spoke. It was an important, aggressive speech, lambasting Obama's past associations. When we asked for more time to write up his remarks and prepare our reports, the campaign readily agreed to it. They understood.

Similar requests are often denied or ignored by the Obama campaign aides, apparently terrified that the candidate may have to wait 20 minutes to allow reporters to chronicle what he's just said. It's made all the more maddening when we are rushed to our buses only to sit and wait for 30 minutes or more because nobody seems to know when Obama is actually on the move.

Maybe none of this means much. Maybe a front-running campaign like Obama's that is focused solely on victory doesn't have the time to do the mundane things like print up schedules or attend to the needs of reporters.

But in politics, everything that goes around comes around.

Good Lord! Where to start? First, Reynolds seems to be extremely cranky.

When I went to hear Anderson Cooper give a talk in Miami recently, I noticed that no matter how affable he was (and he was absolutely charming), he still had the air of a rather pampered man who complained very easily about lack of access to campaigns, and snidely dissed Fox News all night without actually naming them.

This is precisely the kind of manner Reynolds is giving off here. Maybe he is justified in his complaints, but it seems like this is payback given his ending salvo, "everything that goes around comes around".

Reading this, I am also reminded of the facile comparisons of Conservatives and Liberals by none other than Chris "Leg Tingle" Matthews of MSNBC. He was comparing members of both Parties by making a fatuous analogy of moviegoers and how each Presidential convention played out.

Matthews said that the RNC resembled moviegoers who plan ahead of time which movie they will watch; they buy tickets ahead of time; they arrive 15 minutes before the session starts to make sure they have good seats.

But the DNC resembled moviegoers who decide on a movie at the last minute, and arrive yelling and screaming to the theatre when the feature is already underway. They then proceed to talk loudly throughout the film, having a ball throughout.

Oh dear. How stupid and unconsciously bigoted this man is.

Still, you can see shades of this perception (perhaps based on genuine fact, but still it's disconcerting to hear it) from Reynolds' post.

So Team McCain are polite, the plane is clean, and on the occasions when McCain meets the press, he is affable, but Team Obama are a mess, running constantly late, keeping others waiting, they are overworked and inconsiderate, and Obama is an aloof guy up close?

This can only come as a shock to anyone who hasn't been paying attention to both campaigns. Given Senator Obama's renowned air of superiority, no one should be surprised that he's not the bantering sort with underlings, and also-rans.

Remember what British Ambassador to the US, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, wrote about Obama in his Foreign Office précis to the Prime Minister?

He describes Mr Obama's "decidedly liberal" voting record in the Senate where "the main impression is of someone who was finding his feet, and then got diverted by his presidential ambitions".

Some of his comments, suggesting there is "little track record to refer back to" and that charges of elitism or being aloof "are not entirely unfair" may be seized upon by John McCain's campaign which has consistently sought to portray Mr Obama as inexperienced and out-of-touch with working class voters.

This impression about "Snobama" isn't fictitious, people. Everyone can see how he is. It does you no favours to bury your head in the sand about it, although it shouldn't affect whether or not you vote for him. But not acknowledging it, even to yourselves, makes you look really out-of-touch and leads to the delusional cultism associated with being an Obama supporter.

Think of Bill Clinton.

He ran on "Clinton time", you recall. Perpetually tardy, his writers were often composing States-of-The-Union address in the limousine on the way to Congress. He was just that kind of undisciplined guy, but since he was down-to-earth, and could be genuinely charming, it was difficult to stay angry with him.

But don't think that attitude didn't filter down.

When Team Clinton vacated the White House, staffers thought it was darling to take out all the "W"s from the computer and typewriter keyboards. David Frum revealed in his White House memoir, "The Right Man", that the carpets had to be pressure-cleaned, and everything wiped clean with Lysol, because the desks in the offices were "sticky".

God...stinky, sticky.

This is the kind of minor detail which doesn't matter one whit, but I tell you, it just repulses me. I am a total neat freak.

You know, maybe Tingle Matthews is on to something, after all.

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  • The come back, Victoria, is that O is doing 2 -3 shows a guy, McCain only one.

    But -- and that is a big but -- previously Obama has been shown to be somewhat of a nasty-neat guy with a spotless desk and office where things are all lined up.

    There is a connection with the Clinton White House though, as Obama, if he gets in (please, no) will discover he may be POTUS but he is no longer his own man.

    Anyone have any idea what the President's schedule looks like every day? Holy cow.

    The courtesy thing will also be on the floor, as he will need them no more.

    And people will get annoyed by the His Majesty routine.

    Having a doting grandmother raise an only child is a recipe for what we call in the south getting "spalt."

    By Blogger JAL, at Thu Oct 09, 09:17:00 am GMT-4  

  • Dean Reynolds smelt it, he probably dealt it. Bet the plane smells better with him off it, now.

    By Anonymous Steve, at Thu Oct 09, 11:38:00 am GMT-4  

  • The difference is military background. I learned punctuality in the Army [if you're not 10 minutes early, you're LATE!] and I learned that for my husband, punctuality = love. If you don't run on time, people get hurt and so you learn. Hell, people can be court-martialed for being late [it's not AWOL, it's 'missing movement' and that has nothing to do with one's bran intake.] Discipline in small matters helps overall discipline in large ones.

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Thu Oct 09, 11:41:00 am GMT-4  

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