Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Like it or not, did SNL have an impact?

Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton closed the intro skit between her and Tina Fey's Sarah Palin last week with the line, "I invite the media to grow a pair, and if you can't I will lend you mine."

Now, whether you found the skit funny or kinda flat, whether you found Tina Fey's Palin inspired or insipid, it would seem, from this week's events, that the media has, to some degree taken heed of that call. Just today the McCain campaign arranged for a big photo op/media moment surrounding Sarah Palin's meetings at the UN with various foreign dignitaries. These meetings were set up as an attempt to give Governor Palin more foreign policy cred, but to me seem, well, a bit showy and strange on their face.

At the last minute the campaign announced (this morning) that no actual reporting would be allowed of these meetings, only photographers and a video crew from CNN would be allowed in (with CNN to provide video coverage for other news networks). When this was announced, however, CNN reacted to the barring of reporters from this event by pulling their crew entirely, denying video coverage to what the McCain campaign no doubt hoped would be a nice press moment for their incredibly popular (some might say celebrity-esque) VP candidate. Ultimately it turns out that a producer was allowed in, but isn't this back-and-forth strange and troubling.

It also isn't something happening in a vacuum. The Huffington Post has a nice rundown of increasing press frustration with McCain camp unavailability (on the part of both the Presidential and VP candidates). Some are trying to spread the term, "No Talk Express" as a new substitute for the McCain classic image of the "Straight Talk Express."

Still, why does any of this matter? Certainly Obama isn't being grilled on a daily basis by the press, and when he is perhaps we can see reasons why McCain is more hesitant. Both men have made gaffes, from the one mentioned by Venice in a post late last week to some of the gaffes that almost immediately pre-dated the McCain camp moving to curtail reporter proximity to their Presidential candidate, and to end the famous bull sessions that gave the Straight-Talk name to McCain's campaign bus in the first place.

I was thinking through these sorts of issues when I watched Tony Blair on the Daily Show last night (it was a repeat from last week). Mr. Blair's courage to go on and face some comical, but ultimately tough questioning shows something I think we should ask our politicians for, namely more honesty and less spin.

Right now both campaigns are attempting to tightly orchestrate the choreography needed to move from a tight race now to a November victory, and in so doing they are both hesitant to take chances, risk mistakes, and open themselves to missteps. Even so, I think what I want most from either or both of them right now is to display the sort of confidence in themselves and in the American public that would allow them to be bold and actually get out there, put their feet above the fire, take hard questions and give real answers.

Will I see this anytime soon from Barack, John, Joe or Sarah? I'm not holding my breath. Still, if the media continues to push hard and act like they really want the investigative, independent, respected credentials they should be chasing... we'll see if anything will change.

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