Mere weeks after he didn't announce his campaign for the presidency, liberals at The New Republic and Media Matters are defending Barack Obama from a right-wing media assault. The tapeheads at MM find Dick Morris saying this:
[A]nybody who thinks about Obama for five minutes knows the guy's never introduced a bill. He's never been important. He's spent 100 weeks in the Senate. He's basically a -- no foreign policy experience.
This is both weird and inaccurate. Weird because Morris only exists to attack the Clintons and battle Hillary's presidential bid. He's written three books on the subject. If her bid collapsed, so would he, like an assassin choking down the cynanide capsule once the bullet sinks into the Generalissimo's brain. Inaccurate because, well Obama has introduced bills. Beyond what Media Matters lists, Obama co-sponsored, with Tom Coburn, a transparency bill that would let voters see every earmark their representatives inserted into a spending package. That right there is more impressive (to me) than anything John Kerry or John Edwards ever passed. And I'd bet it has more salience with voters than the mushy warmongering and video game bashing of the former First Lady.
At TNR, Conor Clarke argues that the media is trying to create an anti-Obama scandal out of a story about the senator getting a cushy Chicagoland real estate deal from a friend who was later indicted.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz writes forthrightly that this "may not be a big deal in the larger scheme of things." In fact, he "mentions" the issue only because his reading and "sense of political dynamics" tells him the story "is about to break out of the Chicago media and go national." By "go national," Kurtz apparently means something other than receive 1,500-word treatment from The Washington Post, the seventh-biggest paper in the country. Slate commits basically the same offense. Dickerson writes that "we're going to hear a lot more" about Rezko if Obama runs for president--though he also insists that "this is not Obama's Whitewater" and "there's nothing here so far that seems politically life threatening." But we're already reading plenty about Rezko: We're reading about it in Slate, which titles Dickerson's piece "Barackwater" and lures you toward the link with a promise to bring you "inside Obama's shady land deal."
Well, so what? If the tone of the coverage is a bit much, the story still deserves coverage. When a politician gets as much glowing, contentless praise as Obama does, the responsibility of the media to uncover his past is even greater.
In any case, Obama's principled stance on earmarks - which was praised by more than a few Republicans I talked to for a story I'm working on - should really dispel claims that he's a lightweight or a media creation. He's not benefitting from the kind of pathetic man-crush I had on Jim Webb. But if in two years the Republicans vomit up nominee McCain and the Democrats pick Obama, and a land deal and some Dick Morris sneering are all of the knocks against him, I know who's got my vote.