Midterm Madness! Who Are the Media's Heroes & Villains

The following is a transcription of the October 28, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: The network evening news programs are doing more than three times as many stories about the 2006 midterm elections as they did about the 2002 midterm elections. And there seems to be more coverage than ever before on all-news cable, and more than ever before in print.

Cal, media heroes and villains?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I don't think there's any question that the media want the Democrats to win.

But beyond that, there's even more important in this, from the featuring of Barack Obama as almost a messianic figure for the Democrats. They want a contest in 2008. This is what builds the ratings; this is what gets people interested and buying the soap and the other products they sell. So they don't want to give Hillary Clinton a free pass.

Plus, they're kind of afraid that maybe she won't make it with her high negatives. So Barack Obama comes in as a totally clean guy, unknown positions, already according to the FOX poll, 38 percent think he'd make a good president. (They don't have a clue what he stands for.) So they want the contest more than anything.

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY COLUMNIST: I agree.

I mean, I'm old enough to remember Bobby Kennedy, who was a forty-something, one-term senator from a big state who got this unbelievable ride of publicity. And I think Barack Obama has gotten it in this year. I don't know why. But he has hit a chord.

And I think but I do think the big loser, and Cal touched on this, is Hillary Clinton. I think that - that there's so much suspicion among the media about Hillary as sort of a too-programmed robot calculating her way to the presidency, and Elizabeth Edwards kind of stuck to her in that Ladies Home Journal article, that the media are now kind of rushing over to Obama for awhile.

BURNS: Neal, you got a villain for us, if Obama is the hero?

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Oh, lookit, where do we start?

THOMAS: The entire Republican party, right?

GABLER: I mean, the Republican National Committee for the ad in Tennessee — the racist ad in Tennessee against Harold Ford, Jr. The Ohio Republican Party for putting phony words in the mouth of Al Franken, and then tying him to their senatorial - the Democratic senatorial candidate Sherrod Brown. Tan Nguyen, in the California 47th District, for — whose office distributed a letter telling immigrants that they weren't allowed to vote.

So there's an awful lot of villains.

Mort Halperin, the political director at ABC, for pandering to the conservatives and saying that ABC's coverage this time is going to be "sensitive" to conservative needs.

PINKERTON: It's Mark Halperin.

GABLER: Mark Halperin, excuse me.

Heroes? There are no heroes, it seems to be. Because we expect our political officials and those running for office to serve our interests.

There are beneficiaries. Cal and Jim are right. So far, Barack Obama is a beneficiary. But not, I think, because of the liberal press. So much of it is because of the conservative press. It was David Brooks who was - who was saying, of The New York Times, a conservative columnist, "Gosh, wouldn't Barack Obama make a great candidate?" This is what's called the "briar patch" strategy...

(LAUGHTER)

PINKERTON: I love that. Neal — Neal figured it out!

(LAUGHTER)

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Can I get in here? Let me just say, you know, [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, on this network and others, is being painted over and over as, "do you know who she is? — She's going to have San Francisco values," which I guess means, you know, that she's friendly to gay people. It's code for that. She is getting vilified, just in anticipation of the possibility, which seems a little early. I totally agree about Barack Obama. I think the media are bored by Hillary Clinton, and are not sure she can win. And so in some ways — I mean, that Time [cover story on Barack Obama] was very interesting, I mean to say "who could be the next president."

BURNS: Yes.

HALL: That is promoting his candidacy!

BURNS: Is this the media leading, or trying to lead public opinion, Cal?

THOMAS: Without question.

BURNS: It's not to any extent a reflection, in your view, of Obama, let's say, because he is the big hero — of Obama's stature, it's the media trying to push stature.

THOMAS: Sure. They've done this before. Mario Cuomo, when he addressed the Democratic National Convention, terrific orator. People promoting him in the media. Jesse Jackson — many others.

HALL: And guess who else?

BURNS: And it serves...

HALL: And guess who else? George W. Bush ...

GABLER: Yes.

HALL: ...in 2000 was on the cover of Time and Newsweek.

BURNS: It serves the media to pick a figure and promote him or her, Jim, for what reason?

PINKERTON: Well, I think they.

BURNS: Just because it's a celebrity culture?

PINKERTON: He's a liberal Democrat, who they want to be president, or at least they want to be president — now. I mean, I think the fact that, as you intro-ed this segment ,saying that there's three times as much coverage in this midterm election as four years ago, I think the media smell Republicans are going to do badly this year. And they're celebrating.

GABLER: Wait a minute, Jim.

HALL: They also covered when Newt Gingrich came in to power, be honest.

GABLER: Exactly.

THOMAS: Yeah, but in a different way, different way.

GABLER: This is a huge watershed election. — That's why it's getting the coverage. This isn't just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill midterm election. This is huge, and both houses of Congress may change, as happened in 1994.

BURNS: Jim, quickly.

PINKERTON: 2002 was a watershed election. 2004 was a watershed election. 2000 was a watershed election.

GABLER: Historians do not regard those as watershed elections.

BURNS: We have to...

GABLER: 1994, 1974, this one - those are watershed elections.

THOMAS: We have to go to a commercial.

BURNS: How did you know? Did I give it away?

THOMAS: I can read your mind.

GABLER: (INAUDIBLE)

BURNS: Cal's right; it's time for another break.

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