The political coverage at The New Republic is often brilliant. But sometimes the writers seem to get lost in the data points and other arcana generated by the daily news cycle. They overdetermine. They gin up intricate arguments that lead nowhere. It’s the curse of being very smart and marinating in really stupid campaign coverage – there’s only so much you can say, but TNR has to say more.
Take this piece by Isaac Chotiner, who writes of his experience with MSNBC: “I increasingly started watching the channel last year because of its political focus, and for the novelty of seeing outspoken liberals on television. How often does one hear a news anchor rant against the corruption of Bush’s Washington, after all?” But then he notes that MSNBC (actually, he is talking mostly about Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann) is notably pro-Obama and anti-Clinton, in addition to being anti-Bush. And that the pro-Obama slant seems to be based not on a cool analysis of policy differences or leadership potential, but crass, button-pushing emotion. And this is bad, because it’s like Fox News. Except, not really:
If an Obama presidency were to bomb in a way similar to George W. Bush’s (unlikely, sure, but I’m speaking hypothetically here), it’s difficult to imagine that MSNBC would treat Obama as reverentially as Fox still does Bush. (In fact, I could see an issue like press access leading to a break between the channel and President Obama even if he thrives in office.)
MSNBC has found a crass, semi-winning formula that is entertaining, gives liberals a voice, and is probably not as bad as Fox. Given the state of the cable news business, that sounds pretty good. He also warns that the pro-Obama spin creates a false impression of the candidate’s support. True enough, but how many people regularly watch MSNBC, and how many of them take Chris Matthews seriously?