Paging Katie Couric…

Has anybody noticed how freaking enraged I am about the double standard in the coverage of Obama and Clinton?  Cause if you haven’t, I GUESS I HAVEN’T BEEN WRITING IN CAPS ENOUGH!

Let’s take last night’s 60 Minutes pieces on Obama and Clinton, shall we?

Just for fun, let’s deconstruct the interviews:

Steve Kroft starts his interview of Obama with the following:

I know you’d like to consider yourself the underdog. But by the time
we’re finished with the next round, it’s possible, maybe even likely,
that you’ll have more delegates than Senator Clinton. Or that you will
have won more states. And that you will have raised more money. And
have more money on hand. So explain to me how you’re an underdog.

Fine.  Kroft sets Obama up as on a roll.  No problem. He is on a roll.  We see a lot of footage of Obama in front of cheering crowds,

Couric starts her interview with the following:

Barack Obama’s candidacy has undeniably gained momentum over the
recent months. Have you grappled with the idea, Senator Clinton, that
it could be him and not you?

In other words,  "how do you FEEL about the fact that you might lose?"   Could Kouric have possibly started with a question more laced with gender stereotypes about the primacy of emotion in women’s lives? 

Clinton answers, denying that she thinks that way.

Well, when you’re in the heat of this intense experience, the only way
I know how to do it is to believe with all my heart that I’m going to
be successful. That’s what I get up every day and tell myself. That’s
what I believe. That’s what I think is going to happen. So I don’t
entertain the other option.

Couric refuses to believe her answer and presses the point again.  Imagine, if you will, that when Couric articulates what she believes is Clinton’s internal voice, her tone is infused with a girlish whine, but you don’t need to take my word for it, cause you can go listen for yourself….

Even in your deepest darkest moments, when you’re exhausted, you don’t
think ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going through this, I’m spending so much money,
I’m so tired and this could be all for naught?’ What if that happens?  You have to, once in a while, think that. No?

Again, Clinton denies that Katie’s image of her emotional or intellectual experience is accurate.

No, Katie. You can’t think like that. You have to believe you’re going to win. Otherwise leave the field and let somebody who has the confidence and
the optimism and determination that a leader has to have get on that
field instead.

At this point we cut away to images of Clinton on the campaign trail with the following voice over.

Staying on that field requires stamina, especially when she travels to three or more states in one day.

I added the italics to give you an idea of how the "three or more" line was emphasized – as if this was some unprecedented achievement.  As if traveling to three states a day is not something that ALL candidates do.

Back to the interview, Couric next lobs this Clinton’s way:

How do you do it? I mean, the satellite interviews, the speeches, the
travel, the debates, the schmoozing, the picture taking, 24/7.

There really is something miraculous about Clinton’s capacity to run for President, right? I mean we all know that women are the weaker sex, so if a woman even tries to keep up with the men, it’s kind of amazing, right?

Clinton replies:

I do it because I really believe in what I’m doing.

Couric dismisses her reply:

I knew you were going to say that.

Note to Couric:  We don’t really care what you knew.  It’s not about you. 

Clinton says simply:

Well, but it’s true.

But the truth is not what Couric wants. She wants to repeatedly imply that somehow Clinton can not be standing up to the strain of it all.  So she continues with this:

But I’m talking about pure stamina.

Clinton replies calmly:

Pure stamina. I have a lot of stamina and I have a lot of resilience.

Clearly, in Katie’s world, a strong woman with stamina and resilience is not a possibility.  She must be on drugs! 

Having said that, do you pop vitamins, do you mainline coffee?

And at that point, when so much is at stake, Couric finally succeeds in maneuvering Clinton into talking about what is really important – her diet.

There you have it, the first 3 minutes 11 seconds of a 60 Minutes interview of a Presidential contender.

Paging Katie Couric:  You are needed back in morning television, STAT.

You are doing too much damage to the women’s movement in prime time.

Just for the sake of the equal treatment that is so FREAKING MISSING IN THE COVERAGE OF THE CAMPAIGN, let’s take a look at the first 3 minutes 11 seconds of the Obama interview.

Steve Kroft starts off with the following:

I know you’d like to consider yourself the underdog. But by the time
we’re finished with the next round, it’s possible, maybe even likely,
that you’ll have more delegates than Senator Clinton. Or that you will
have won more states. And that you will have raised more money. And
have more money on hand. So explain to me how you’re an underdog.

So here we have an interviewer saying to a candidate, "Hey you are stronger than you say you are."

Obama replies:

Well, she continues to have enormous name recognition. I think there’s
a lot of affection for the Clinton brand among Democrats. And, you
know, she still has more institutional support. So, you know, part of
what we have to do is, you know, score a convincing knock out. You
know, we’re like the challenger and she’s like the champ. And, you
know, you don’t win on points.

Only her opponent sees Clinton "like the champ."

Next we see campaign trail video with the following voice over:

On Super Tuesday, Obama picked up more delegates than almost anyone expected. And 60 Minutes was at Obama’s headquarters with his chief strategist, David Axelrod, when the first exit polls began rolling in.

Here we see Kroft exclaiming "Holy Cow" when looking at an exit poll from Connecticut on Obama’s chief strategists Blackberry.  Then, more voice over…

Early exuberance was tempered somewhat by losses in California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Later that night, the 60 Minutes team was invited to the candidate’s hotel suite, where he watched the returns with his family.

Back to the interview.  Kroft asks:

What do you think?

Obama replies:

Split decision.

Kroft  asks:

You feel like you’ve got the momentum?

Obama replies:

You know, seems like everywhere we go, the longer we are in this race, the stronger we get.

Back to the voice over.

The original campaign staff of 30 has swollen to 700, plus hundreds
of thousands of volunteers. Obama has received checks from 650,000
contributors and is raising a million dollars a day.

Thus ends the first 3 minutes and 11 seconds of the Obama interview. 

Kroft does get to the whole "how is the candidate taking the strain of the campaign" question but it comes 12 minutes and 20 seconds into the interview and it goes like this:

As a first-term senator, with no national campaign experience, some
pundits assumed that he would fall on his face, but through 12 long
months of mind-numbing, muscle-aching, adrenaline-fueled monotony and
exhaustion, there has been barely a misstep.

Barely a misstep.  Just for a second, let’s go back to Couric’s approach to Clinton on this issue, shall we?

Staying on that field requires stamina, especially when she travels to three or more states in one day.

Next, Kroft offers Obama:

Are you the same person you were a year ago?

To which Obama replies:

I don’t think I’ve gotten too screwed up through the process, I think.
It turns out that even under this kind of stress I’ve got a pretty even
temperament. I don’t get too high, I don’t get too low.

Kroft then remarks:

I’ve seen you in the morning. You look, I know you’re getting three, four hours sleep…

It is actually impossible to tell whether Kroft is saying he looks good in the morning or that he looks exhausted. Maybe that’s because we really don’t focus all that much on how men look now, do we?

Obama replies:

You know I’ve held up pretty good. But I’ve been
religious about getting my exercise. You know, so I’ve been working out
every morning. That helps.

And then we get to one moment in the interview which might be construed as having some racial bias.  Kroft interjects:

Playin’ some basketball?

Ah you know how all those black men love their basketball, don’t you?  But even so, this is an invitation for a candidate to show himself as so up to the task of campaigning that he has enough energy for a regular game of basketball

And – to show I can mix sporting metaphors like a man – who can blame Obama for hitting the softball out of the park:

Played a little basketball. We realized that we had played
basketball before Iowa and before South Carolina. We didn’t play
basketball before New Hampshire and Nevada. And so now, we’ve made a
clear rule that on Election Day, I have to play basketball.

There is no doubt in my mind that – in general – it is harder to be a black man in this country than a white woman. 

Only not if you’re running for President.





9 thoughts on “Paging Katie Couric…

  1. I tend to be less sensitive to dialog, particularly of the network news interview variety but I see your point. Having Couric interview Clinton suggests that the network made a decision to go “soft” on the interview, as if only a female can understand a female. It’ll soon be over and the winner announced and then we can concentrate on just how much the Christian right hates McCain and how that hatred and mistrust affects the Republican party’s future in this country.

  2. The true test would have come if Kroft had interviewed Clinton as well as Obama.
    That is, I think Couric would have asked a whole lot of touchy-feely emotional questions of Obama, too.
    Would Kroft have gone the touchy-feely route with Clinton?
    I think the largest mistake was in letting Couric do that interview.

  3. I tend to be a great deal disappointed overall these days with the competency level of journalists. What happened to an objective point of view? Or reporting with accuracy as priority one?
    My hats off to Clinton, though. No matter how much is thrown at her, she pulls it together and pulls it off. Just the sort we need in the White House!

  4. Hillary can’t have it both ways — she can’t play the “emotion” card and shed some convenient tears and then have supporters get offended when she’s asked how she “feels”. Emoting is part of her game plan.

  5. This is all really good food for thought, and I’ve been thinking. But…I agree that the different interviewers could have nearly everything to do with it. Even beyond that, I don’t think that it’s fair to say that when people comment on how “strong” Obama is, that it’s because he’s a man. Hillary WAS the front-runner. Everyone, but everyone “knew” that she would be the nominee. She said it herself: “it will be me.” And then came this guy from behind, that most pundits dismissed early on, and he WAS a stronger stronger than people gave him credit for, and she was a little less strong of a candidate than people had thought.
    I think an instructive analysis would be to compare the language used with and about Obama vs. that of McCain (who was also dismissed and surprised all by becoming the frontrunner) while comparing Hillary to Romney or Guiliani. Ideally, of course, this would all be with the same interviewer…
    I’m not sure that I agree with PunditMom that Hillary’s New Hampshire tears were convenient, but I do agree with her larger point – that Hillary’s emoting has helped her in many ways that it would never help a man. I’ve talked to people who have said that the New Hampshire tears were precisely what made them decide that she was their candidate…but could you imagine if Obama had shed those same tears? He would be dismissed. She wasn’t.
    Misogyny exists. I know that. I guess I’m just not convinced that these examples are quite such clear evidence of it. It’s all good food for thought, though, particularly since I lean pretty heavily toward Obama – different reasons, most of which have to do with his donor profile, which is radically different from hers. (from Newsweek: only 3 percent of Obama’s hundreds of thousands of small donors have donated the maximum allowed by law. By contrast, 70% of Hillary’s donors — and until recently, that was more like 90% — donated the maximum. Not to mention the PAC/lobbyist $ – which, okay, Obama has taken in the past, but not for this campaign, and she did. Okay, I’ll stop now, and get back to my main point, which is that yours is good food for thought as we listening to coverage).

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