Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama's remarks are often reported out of context

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Much of the coverage of Sen. Barack Obama's comments about small-town voters continues to report it out of context. He deserves to be questioned and criticized for the remarks, but he also deserves to be treated fairly.

Latest example: Some irresponsible commentator tonight on CNN, who would want us to mention his name, quoted Obama as saying that people retreat to guns in bad economic times. Others have said likewise about religion as a refuge from bad times. That is not what the presidential candidate was saying. He was talking about how those concerns influence voting.

Most of the published transcripts and recordings of Obama's remarks begin with him saying "You go into some of these small towns . . ." But immediately before that line, in response to a question from his California audience about how he can catch up in Pennsylvania, he said “Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives.”

Obama was talking about voting behavior, not general behavior, but there have been repeated references in news reports to “blue-collar workers” who are beaten down economically “clinging to guns or religion,” without any reference to voting. That was the context in which he spoke – what people think about when they decide for whom to vote – and that context should be reflected. At least the people should be referred to as "voters." For more on this, click here.

UPDATE, April 16: Writing on Slate, John Dickerson analyzes the problems Obama has created for himself but agrees with our previous and current observations: "He wasn't expressing a sweeping view of the human behavior of small-town people. He was making a tactical point about how politicians appeal to voters at election time, but that tactical point about electoral behavior still relies on an unflattering view of small-town voters. No matter what helping hand you extend him, Obama still claimed that voters have been hoodwinked on Election Day, and no one wants to be told that in the past they've been duped into voting for the wrong person." (Hat tip to Al Giordano of The Field)


Anonymous said...

I have observed several examples of this version of media bias. I have been wondering how to explain it. Is it enough to say simply that they support Clinton or McCain? Is it possible to say that sometimes this is an example of the persistence of racial prejudice? Or could it be that many of these corporate media people are junior members of the Global Investor Class and that they know who is less likely to change "trade" policies?

Al Cross said...

I don't think it's caused by bias, just the proclivity to simplify a story.