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Press Clips: Balz, Hearst Shine; eMeg Still Ducks

Jan29

Postman delivers: For political reporters, the most memorable scene in “The Boys on the Bus,” Tim Crouse’s classic chronicle of campaign coverage of the 1972 presidential race, comes at the close of a dreary candidate debate in California: “Walter, Walter, what’s our lead?” one of the reporting pack shouts at the great Walter Mears, of the Associated Press.

The now-retired Mears is known as one of the best ever at performing what Crouse described as “the parlor trick” of instantly finding the lede of a political story – recognizing and honing in on the most important, precisely correct point with which to begin a clear, concise and rational account of what is often a sprawling, complicated and uncertain event.

Amid the countless trees killed in the service of covering President Obama’s first State of the Union this week, the Washpost’s Dan Balz proved anew why he’s the premier political scribe among the Beltway Wise Men, by nailing a Mears-like lede in his thumb sucker on the speech, one of the toughest deadline stories on the beat.

After the theatrics and the rhetoric and the canned responses, two questions remain from President Obama’s first State of the Union address: Did he succeed in persuading nervous Democrats not to cut and run on his presidency; and will he succeed in making Republicans think twice about their united opposition to almost all things Obama?

Our old friend Dan next pulled out and featured, high up in his yarn, the key money quotes from Obama’s hour-plus oratory, focusing on the president’s effort at shaming congressional GOPers into doing something beyond trying to trash and de-legitimize his presidency:

After last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a super-majority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.

Unfortunately for Obama, the answers to the questions Balz raised in his lede are:

a) most likely not
b) NFW.

Limbering up for punditry: While Balz won top Calbuzz honors for Instant Analysis, Richard Dunham of the Hearst Washington Bureau captured the award for print’s Best Pre-Game Show, posting a series of Harper’s Index-style, by-the-numbers measures on Obama’s first-year as president.

Put up on the Chron’s “Politics Blog,” Dunham’s report was a terrific, value-added, online element that provided advance perspective on the speech, on everything from Afghanistan to the anger of voters, as measured by official stats and top-rank national polls.

There was great sadness in the newsrooms of the Chron, and of other Hearst papers, when the mother ship folded local Washington bureaus into a consolidated D.C. operation, but Dunham’s good work on the SOTU offers a case study of how journalistic efficiencies of scale can sometimes work.

eMeg speaks – but not to you! In her unstinting effort to be elected Governor of the United States, Meg Whitman hit her talking points sat for interviews with three national outlets on her big book tour this week, once again stiffing the media organizations that actually cover the California governor’s race.

Breathlessly gushing about her appearances with Today’s Matt Lauer , Neil Cavuto on Fox and NPR’s Morning Edition, her press shop offered this dreck –

Meg has been doing a series of interviews over the past few days, and doing a great job explaining how she will be a different kind of leader for California

– apparently utterly oblivious to the irony that she’s explaining what a swell leader she’d be to REPORTERS WHO ARE NOT IN CALIFORNIA.

Breaking news: 150 days and counting since Calbuzz extended its dinner invite to eMeg.

What difference does it make what he says? Ben Smith at Politico got into an interesting beef with Senator John Cornyn, who accused the journo of being “blatantly unethical” after Smith posted a press release the Texas Republican put out commenting on Obama’s speech – hours before it was given.

I understand why Cornyn and his office are unhappy about the item and that they intended the early release as a convenience. I respectfully disagree on both the news value and the ethics. My blog item didn’t suggest that the mild deception in which his office was asking reporters to participate was some kind of major crime. It was just an opportunity to lift the curtain on a bit of Washington artifice and cast a little light on the way the parties actually interact.

And traditional ground rules, which I’ve been clear about in the past, are that you can’t put something off the record or under embargo without a reporter’s consent.

Amen, brother.

Hurricane anticipation: Cornyn wasn’t the only one to engage in a little crystal ball gazing about the speech. Carly Fiorina opined that Obama was offering “gimmicks, not real solutions” in the speech nearly seven hours before Obama started talking.

“Carly on anticipated SOTU content,” read a release eblasted by her campaign at 11:07 a.m (PDT), recounting her interview with some radio windbag from San Diego. A mere eight hours and 34 minutes later, iCarly shared her thoughts on the actual speech on You Tube.

She said that Obama had offered “gimmicks, not real solutions.”

(Memo to Carly handlers: You really should let her know not to keep looking down at the script when she’s on camera, which makes her look, um, kinda shifty. Also: that buzz cut is looking a little poofy around the ears, no? We’re just sayin’).

This just in: Sarah Palin has arrived to help with the relief effort in Tahiti.


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There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar Ave7 says:

    Best moment of the State of the Union wasn’t even in Washington. It was the opening shot of the Governor of Virginia preparing to deliver his Republican response.

    In a state capitol chamber filled with top donors, friends, cronies, and staff pretending to be a legislature, the Gov was standing at a podium on the floor with two tiers of a ragtag crew of extras looking every bit like the Saturday Night Live skit I truly hope to see tomorrow night. With the overweight, polyester clad woman sitting sideways in her chair, the stern faced 15 year old African-American boy who didn’t blink or move his eyes off the Governor, the retired military senior citizen with the too-tight uniform and the rest of the politically-correct assemblage, it was just too perfect. They even nodded their heads at the same time and to the exact same visible-but-not-exaggerated angle. And there on the floor were the Governor’s sons, sitting at the desks of real legislators, swaying back and forth like they had never been in a swivel chair before.

    Poorly lit and populated with what looked like B-grade actors from the Richmond Improv Theater Troupe, the scene lacked only the tag line “Live from New York…” Far from competing with the majesty of the House Chamber and an actual Joint Session of Congress, this skit had all the ethos of a trailer park HOA meeting.

    But it was fitting that the Republican response started with an image of their man walking down the isle of his state legislature shaking hands, not with elected representatives, but with his wealthy corporate donors. Finally, some truth in advertising.

  2. avatar pdperry says:

    If the Reeps don’t agree with the Obama’s plans, why are they supposed to vote for them?
    The Dems don’t.
    Poor, poor Dems. If only your party was unified.
    Oh, wait… that’s your mantra about the Reeps!

  3. avatar sqrjn says:

    First Ave 7, hilarious.

    Second, does anyone think that maybe Whitman isn’t that interested in really being Govenor of California? Everyone agrees its a POS job no one rational would want. Why would she spend $40 mil of her own money buying such a position? So far I’ve been assuming its because shes an egotistical moron. But calbuzz harping on her out of state media access is starting to make me think that maybe shes got a significant secondary goal – national name recognition. 2012 VOTE Palin/Whitman The Double XX Ticket

    • avatar Cicero says:

      Just about everybody who gets elected Governor of California thinks that they are going to be elected President. Jerry Brown, Pete Wilson, Gray David (yes, he did!), Arnold (all I need is a constitutional amendment) Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown again (he’ll get himself cryonically frozen for the campaign and thaw out for the inauguration). I’ll bet Steve Poizner has dreams about being the first Jewish President. So Meg is probably no exception.

      As for the out of state media bit, Calbuzz, I think you should keep pressing Meg to speak to reporters here who are covering the race, but to be fair, the last time I checked, it is possible to catch the Today Show, Fox News and NPR in California. My advice, just don’t try doing it in the same day, that way lies madness.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      Sure, you can get the Today Show, Fox and NPR in California, but the people asking the questions have little understanding of California politics… And of course, one of our three rules of politics is this: They ALL want to be president of the United States.

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