NEW YORK (AP) - A trend toward gushing about rather than analyzing political speeches was apparent during television coverage of the conventions even before CNN’s Piers Morgan compared Bill Clinton to Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Jr.
Perhaps fueled by a pressure to stand out and a more partisan media, analysts frequently seemed star-struck by speakers and slipped into blurb-happy evaluations of the news in front of them.
He was hardly alone. “I’m giddy,” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz declared after Clinton’s speech. The former president “never ceases to amaze,” said CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Just an amazing speech,” said CBS‘ Bob Schieffer. He was “filled with vitality,” ABC’s Diane Sawyer said. “An amazing performance,” evaluated MSNBC’s Steve Schmidt. It’s probably the moment that re-elected Obama, raved CNN’s Alex Castellanos.
And the latter two are moonlighting Republican operatives.
Michelle Obama’s speech was “probably a grand slam,” Blitzer said. Schultz dubbed her a star. Fox News Channel’s Steve Doocy called Romney’s address “absolutely electrifying.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews raved about San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro making one of the best speeches he’d ever heard.
There were attention-getting pans, too. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s address to Republicans was nicknamed a “me-note” instead of a keynote address. Fox’s Charles Krauthammer said Clinton’s speech was a “giant swing and a miss” and Barack Obama’s acceptance speech “one of the emptiest speeches I have ever heard on a national stage.”
“What you’re seeing is a much greater emphasis on what the political pros call optics,” said Bill Wheatley, a former top executive at NBC News who now teaches at Columbia University. “There’s an increasing amount of theater criticism, if you will. There’s often more being said about how things look compared to how things are.”
Conventions in general are pep rallies, and this year more than ever Democrats and Republicans are intent upon firing up their supporters to get out and vote.
Networks and TV personalities that appeal to partisans _ MSNBC on the left and Fox News on the right _ increase the likelihood of cheerleading. Only four years ago MSNBC displaced Keith Olbermann from political night coverage in favor of more dispassionate anchors. Now their opinion hosts hold sway. The network’s ratings for the Democratic convention were up sharply and Fox led every network for the GOP gathering.
“I don’t think the coverage overall deserves too much criticism,” said longtime CBS anchor and current AXS-TV host Dan Rather. “But if there is any criticism _ and I don’t exempt myself at all from this _ is that there is not enough analysis and way too much commentary.”
Rather sheepishly admitted to tweeting that Clinton had hit “a home run” in his convention speech.View Entire Story
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