John Edwards and the mainstream media

The unserious battle to be taken seriously

By Mark Kilmer Posted in Comments (4) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

In jeans and a blue button down, implying that their were two New Orleanses, John Edward looked the media dream when he announced in the Big Easy yesterday, though John Kerry's hometown Globe thought their boy merited at least a subhead in this big Edwards deal. It should have been parenthetical, but the Boston daily proclaimed that somehow Edwards' announcement had put "added pressure on his former running mate, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, to decide whether he will make a second bid for president." I suppose they still have to pay attention to that guy in Beantown.

Will Edwards win the collective heart of the mainstream media (MSM) this campaign? The first signs are uncertain.

Read On...

On Edwards's big announcement,'s Mark Finkelstein, the man who keeps an eye on the network morning shows, caught ABC's George Stephanopoulos giving John Edwards a rough time on ABC's Good Morning America yesterday:

Steph was on the offense from the get-go: "Back in 2004, you criticized President Bush for exploiting the tragedy of 9/11 by having his convention in New York City. Aren't you exploiting Katrina by announcing your candidacy in New Orleans?"

Edwards didn't respond directly to the exploitation allegation, asserting only that he was seeking to draw attention to New Orleans's plight. And not to himself? At the risk of reading too much into every jot and tittle, I'd say that Steph's formulation "aren't you exploiting?" is considerably more accusatory than would have been "are you exploiting?"

Follow the link for more.

Mike Rule at has NBC's Matt Lauer joining Steph in hassling North Carolina's John Boy, with Lauer accusing Edwards of hypocrisy: talking the language of the little guy while rolling in his own cash. Steph's main problem was the exploitation of the train they call the city of New Orleans.

Rule felt that CBS' Harry Smith lobbed softballs at Edwards.

Then again, Steph, Lauer, and Smith are not solid MSM-types: Lauer's an entertainment reporter; Steph's a political operative; and Harry Smith is… well, he's there, I suppose.

The Washington Post's Dan Balz, as MSM as one can be, sees Edwards as something of the exciting maverick, deftly using the MSM to his potential advantage:

Candidates have used non-traditional venues to launch their campaigns in the past. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson did an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" to declare his candidacy in 1984. Texas billionaire Ross Perot used CNN's "Larry King Live" to signal his desire to be president in 1992.

Edwards turned that model upside down, in essence choosing to give exclusives to everyone, confident that the more individual outlets he spoke to, the more time each would devote to his campaign. Piece by piece, he was trying to build a bigger audience.

Nor did Edwards hope to spread his message by putting himself at the mercy of others. Like all candidates now, Edwards has his own Web site and his own videographer. As he did some volunteer work in the 9th Ward on Wednesday afternoon, he taped a message that his campaign posted later that night on his campaign Web site and on What he said in that video was nearly identical to what he said to a bank of network and local television station cameras on Thursday.

Smart candidates know the old command-and-control structures of politics don't work anymore. Instead, campaigns are all about building communities and speaking directly to supporters, whether through email or podcasts or what the Edwards team calls "webisodes." As part of his announcement day, he spent a few minutes answering questions on the Daily Kos site, an influential liberal blog.

Straight-to-the-Nutroots, Balz sees Edwards as the wave of the future in projecting himself to the masses through the media using the new-fangled tools of "dynamic messaging and niche marketing." Forgive me, Dan, but was that fawning or swooning?

But to play to the new MSM, shouldn't John Edwards jump on Oprah's couch? Sit in judgement of blonde party-girls? Start a career as a Hip-Hop performer? Put on peep shows for the paparazzi?

Edwards has the organization to win his party's nomination, and he is raising the necessary funds. (He just just sold his Georgetown house for $5.2-million, anyway.) Key for Edwards will be media Hillary-fatigue and how long it will take for the Obama novelty to wear off. Key to the country beyond that, populism of the Edwards variety is shallow, consisting of tired slogans, so Republicans would need a candidate who can kick over the rock.

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John Edwards and the mainstream media 4 Comments (0 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

but anyone is better than Hillary.


I do not understand the Democratic Party's fascination with one term senators who have accomplished so little in their public careers. McCain was in a P.O.W. camp longer than Obama's been a senator and Edwards, I believe, had among the worst attendance of any senator during his time in Washington. To me, the Edwards "Two Americas" talk is reminiscent of Depression Era populist rhetoric. Obama beat Alan Keyes, gave a nice speech, and wrote a best selling autobiography - and people want to make him president? Why? Because he takes positions their definition of moderates find appealing? Is image really everything? Bill Clinton's first years in office and the entire Carter presidency should warn Americans that the White House is not a place for amateurs. This might be the only time I thank God veterans like Clinton, Biden, and even Kerry stand in the path of these demagogues.

Edwards' campaign will be based upon class warfare, emphasizing "two Americas" -- haves and have-nots -- that he spoke about during his 2004 campaign. I find it very disingenuous when multimillionaires say they want to campaign on behalf of the downtrodden.

I have a hard time taking Edwards seriously. After campaigning practically nonstop for three years he has failed to raise enough money to pay the bills from his campaign for the 2004 nomination. How will he compete against Clinton, Obama and the other eight prospective Democratic candidates in fundraising?

This guy has spent a lot of time here in Iowa and has polled well among his party in recent state polls. I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards beat Hillary in Iowa.

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