The softball treatment the press has given Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was the topic on Sunday's edition of ``Reliable Sources'' on CNN hosted by Howard Kurtz.
In Washington, your Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet and Clarence Page of the Trib commented on the Obama treatment.
Kurtz sets up the discussion thus: "Does the senator walk on water, or have the media gone off the deep end?"
Clarence and I were billed as "Veteran Chicago reporters on the media's amazing swoon over Senator Barack Obama."
here are some excerpts.....
Kurtz: Lynn Sweet, what explains the unbelievable puffy treatment the media are lavishing on Barack Obama?
Sweet: Well, I think in the last week or two, it seems that the whole media establishment has just been snookered by the P.R. blitz designed just to sell the book.
Sweet: Snookered, yes. Snookered.
........ The only reason that he's on all these shows, stacked the way he is, is because of the book. And apparently, no one wants to either read more about the book, which does have some interesting things in it, or spent two minutes looking at some other parts of his legislative or political record to ask any other questions other than, "Do you want to run for president?"
KURTZ: Now, Clarence Page, in your column today you urge him to run for president. "Seize the day," you right. "So what about inexperience?"
So you've drunk the Kool-Aid, Clarence.
Page: No, I haven't drunk the Kool- Aid. I'm remembering Colin Powell.
You know, back in '96, Colin Powell had his moment and he didn't run. And he's never been that popular since. I can't imagine Barack Obama ever being more popular than he is right now, and chance are considerably less. The longer you stay in that Senate, that's where -- that's where the Kool-Aid is. And it's only going to taint his image in various ways.
He's getting this big blitz right now. Lynn is right partly. We saw this coming with the release date of the book, but also the fact that he's so unblemished in the middle of the Mark Foley scandal times and everything else, he's benefiting from that wave.
Kurtz: Now, look, Senator Obama is an impressive guy. He's traveled to Africa. You've gone there with him. But I come back to this question, why are journalists practically trying to -- including Clarence, practically trying to draft the guy into a presidential race when he's been a senator for just under two years?
Sweet: I think it's the compelling storyline. And he is also one of the luckiest political figures, as he himself admits.
You know, Howie, he hasn't even ever had a rough press conference. He's never had one negative ad run against him. He's untested, but that's the point.
He is a clean slate. That's why he is so appealing, because he has escaped some of the normal, you know, bad stuff that happens to people on the campaign trail. And here's the realization I think his people and Senator Obama is coming to, and it's this, you can't time timing.
And so they might have had a master plan, they might have had a big view...
Sweet: ... and that's being reevaluated, even as we speak.
Kurtz: The Obama blitz continues. This morning he was on "Meet the Press" with Tim Russet. But not everything is a wet kiss.
The cover story in "Harper's" magazine this month raises questions about his fund-raising. And Maureen Dowd in her "New York Times" column kind of makes fun of what she calls his "modeling gigs" for magazines like "Men's Vogue" and "Marie Claire".
But here's my question to you, Clarence. There's a war in Iraq, there's a battle against al Qaeda, and the media are clamoring for a guy who two years ago was a state senator in Springfield, Illinois?
Page: It's not just the media. The public loves this guy, too, partly because he is different from all the folks who are in power right now.
Kurtz: What percentage of the public do you think knows who Barack Obama is?
Page: Look -- well, just one question, Howard. Look at what the experience of George W. Bush has gotten us into. So, you know, how much experience do you need for this job? What kind of experience?
People see Obama as a man of integrity, and that's what people are looking for right now.
Sweet: Well, there's two different little, you know...... you're talking about here, and that is the press following the stampede of each other, and they're getting exclusives. This is an insider's show to a bit.
One of the reasons he's getting this is that he has not offered himself since Africa to be doing sit-downs. It's the lure of the sit- down, the lure of exclusivity. I mean, he is...
Kurtz: In other words, he has parceled himself out?
Sweet: Yes. Yes.
Kurtz: He has limited his availability, so that built up the...
Sweet: So you have a little pent-up demand now for the book tour.
Kurtz: What about Clarence's point about Colin Powell in 1996? But I look at it differently. What Colin Powell did consciously or otherwise, was engage in a great tease with the American public about whether he would run for president the following year, 1996, and his autobiography sold a couple of million copies. So how do you know that we're not see anything the same thing with Obama?
Sweet: I don't think we do. That's right, if you want to have a rational discussion about this, you have to take a step back when some of the book bloom, you know, wears off.
Joe Klein in his "TIME" magazine piece this week I think kind of nailed it that you have to just take a breath, take a look because of the Powell example. The more you do this, all this is doing is selling books by the moment, which is not bad.
Kurtz: And although the "TIME" cover packaged it as, will, should Obama run for president, Klein did raise the point in his piece that he's not all that bold when it comes to policy.
But I want to ask a more overarching question. Is there a hunger among journalists for a black politician who as seen as transcending race? Is that part of the appeal here?
PAGE: Oh, I think so. And I think the public as well.
Powell emerged at a time after the O.J. Simpson trial, right after the Clarence Thomas hearings, after the Million Man March. There was a lot of racial division in the country that now it's even broader. It's not just race now. It's a question of integrity and leadership, transformational leadership of the sort we haven't seen since the days of Dr. King, you know.
And the media, of course, we love a good story. I mean, this guy, I'd love to cover the Obama campaign. I would have loved to have covered the Powell campaign.
Kurtz: You would love it so much that you're trying to entice him into the race?
Page: You got it, pal. And that's also what my column says, "Beware, Barack, because we're going to turn against you as soon as you........''
Sweet: It's a foregone conclusion, I think, that anyone who is running for president would want him, even if he doesn't go himself, would want him as a running mate. And I saw that this week.
Kurtz: What about -- you're both journalists who have dealt extensively with the senator. Is he himself or his staff sensitive to any, for example, thing that you might write or say about him that is not laudatory?
Sweet: Absolutely. If Clarence and I say the wrong thing, right, we're going to get a call before we're out this door. And, you know, you how to find us. We know who we're talking about......
Kurtz: What do they say in these calls?
Sweet: They're very sensitive. They're very sensitive.
Kurtz: Why is that?
Sweet: Hypersensitive. I think partly because they haven't had a tough campaign. They had -- and again, Barack is the first one to say that he was blessed by the fluky set of events that set into place for him.
Kurtz Where he basically cruised to election.
Sweet: He cruised to -- I'll tell you, Mayor Daley's best day would be the word day for other people. And -- but if....... tests you, or people that come up through that kind of rough-and- tumble, you know, environment -- and he hasn't had -- and that's why I think they're a little -- I think they're a little hypersensitive.
Kurtz I'm sure Obama's office will send you chocolates over this morning's column, but have you ever gotten any flack from the senator or his people?
Page: Not directly. But, you know, if your calls aren't returned right away, that's a sign of something. But no, so far I've been on good relations, but I don't expect the honeymoon to last forever.
Kurtz: Also, in return they'll be IM-ing you before this is over.