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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Did Media Hype Obama?; McCain v. Palin
Aired November 9, 2008 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice-over): The history and the hype. Did some journalists get carried away during Barack Obama's election victory? Are they looking like cheerleaders, and will excitement over America's first black president change the way he's covered in the White House?
Pummeling Palin. McCain aides leak word that the VP nominee was a shopaholic who could barely find Africa on a map. Was the press right about her lack of experience all along?
Plus, a dissenting view. Why Whoopi Goldberg isn't happy with me.
KURTZ: What once would have been unthinkable was coming. The media told us again and again a previously obscure Illinois state senator, an African-American, was on the brink of capturing the presidency. And yet, on election night, even as key red states such as Ohio turned blue, most of the anchors and pundits were understandably reluctant to announce the obvious.
Finally, when the polls closed on the West Coast and Barack Obama had won, the talk shifted from horse race to history. And for some black commentators, the political was personal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: This is truly an incredible moment of American history. I can't think of another country in the world where you would have a significant minority that was once so maligned and so oppressed finally have one of its sons rise to this level.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN: Obama got his start in politics in Springfield, Illinois. It was a race riot in Springfield, Illinois, that led to the creation of the NAACP.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But it wasn't only journalists of color. White pundits were recalling the flawed promise of the Declaration of Independence, quoting Martin Luther King, and in Bob Schieffer's case, recalling his childhood in Ft. Worth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: I went to segregated schools in the segregated South. When I graduated from high school, no black student had ever attended any school that I attended. Now, that was in my lifetime. Look where we have come in just less than my lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So how had the media handled this climax of the hard- fought campaign, and how will they cover President-elect Obama and the new administration?
Joining us now here in Washington, Jake Tapper, who's just been named senior White House correspondent for ABC News; Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the "Los Angeles Times"; Michel Martin, host of "Tell Me More" on National Public Radio; and in Chicago, CNN Correspondent Jessica Yellin.
Michel Martin, how did you feel on election night? And can you, should you separate that from the way you report on Obama winning the presidency?
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: No, because your mother gave birth to a human being and not a journalist. And I think that's part of the story. The emotion is part of the story.
One of the things I think that some of the critics are forgetting is that this campaign was a cultural phenomenon, not just a presidential campaign. And to fail to cover that is not doing your job.
KURTZ: Doyle McManus, but people already think the press was way more favorable to Obama than McCain during the campaign. Is there a danger that all this will be seen as some kind of love-fest involving the media?
DOYLE MCMANUS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Sure. There's a danger it's being said that way already. But look, this wasn't just a moment for African-Americans, it was a moment for the whole country. You had White conservative pundits like Bill Bennett on CNN, Peggy Noonan, even Karl Rove saying this is a historic moment.
Look, as soon as Barack Obama starts making decisions as president, starts being a politician who has to tangle with Republicans and Congress, with his own Democratic majority in Congress, guess what? He's not going to be the African-American phenomenon anymore, he's going to be just the plain old president of the United States. He's going to have to contend with all of that.
KURTZ: Well, one conservative, Jake Tapper, Tucker Carlson on MSNBC, said this was the media narrative, that America is a better country because Obama won, and the implication was that if you voted for John McCain, you were somehow against racial progress.
JAKE TAPPER, SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: I think there was some of that. Look, as Michel said, we're all human beings. My daughter is 14 months old. She will never know an America where an African-American cannot be elected president. That will not be a reality, unlike for all of us, that she grows up in.
KURTZ: I found myself thinking about when I was growing up there were no black characters on TV shows until Bill Cosby was on "I Spy" in 1965.
TAPPER: Right. I mean...
MARTIN: No, no. There were no inoffensive black characters on television. Because there were. There were characters in black face who purported to be black. There were...
KURTZ: Right. But I meant role models, leading men and women.
MARTIN: That we would actually want to look at, yes.
TAPPER: The problem is not the post-election coverage of Barack Obama and the historic moment that we're now in. The problem is that in the pre-election part of this campaign, too many members of the media, in my view, were caught up in this phenomenon, not necessarily because of his race, but because of his politics, I think. I mean, I don't think the media was balanced.
MARTIN: I'm going to dispute this narrative. I'm going to dispute this at all.
First of all, I think race is such a deep stem in this country that it's very hard for people to separate their perception from the reality, which is why I think we're going to need to talk about this for a very long time afterwards.
Secondly, the perception of what is positive and what is negative is very much driven by perspective. I was talking to a senior member of the House leadership who said to me of another African-American, fast-rising African-American politician, "I don't see him as black as all." He perceived that as a compliment, I don't. So the perception of what is a positive evaluation and what is a negative is very much driven by the perceptions of the people asking the question.
KURTZ: Let me go to Jessica Yellin in Chicago.
You're out there covering the transition. Is it hard to get information at this stage? And do you feel a little silly -- and all journalists do this -- having to engage in this speculation about which luminary is going to get which job?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is it hard to get information? Are you kidding? I mean, it's a lock box over there.
Look, we're just hopeful that they do not treat the press as a nuisance. We're waiting to see what happens.
Yes, it's a speculation game, it's silly, it's what we always do. The list of names are, you know, a combination of what people want, and they're leaking it themselves and what's really happening.
And, you know, Chicago is a little bit of a tough city to crack when you're coming in from the outside and they're all operating in an office building. But I have to say, you know, the press out here has been covering him for a long time, and there is a lot of growing skepticism and wariness because the press has been maligned in this campaign. And I think we'll be judged in the end by how we cover him in office as much as we were -- how we covered him on the campaign. People will be very vigilant to be as critical in office.
KURTZ: On this question of fairness, Michel Martin, did you try to get both Obama and McCain on your NPR show?
MARTIN: Absolutely. And I tell you -- I must tell you, I think the McCain campaign missed so many opportunities.
If you look at the groups which where they fared the most poorly, they were ethnics and minorities, blacks and Latinos, primarily, is what they're talking about, and college-educated whites. Well, guess who happens to listen to my program?
We were able to get Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, and we repeated outreach to the McCain campaign, were never able to get any high-ranking person from the McCain campaign. And it isn't just personal. Obviously as a host you take everything personally. But they skipped the opportunity to talk to a group of African-American -- not just -- multiracial at the Unity Convention every four years. The journalists of color hold a combined convention for the precise purpose of attracting these kinds of high-level guests, and it's the African-American, Latino, Native-American and Asian-American journalists, and the McCain campaign skipped that opportunity, which is crazy.
Now, on Friday, the president-elect held his first news conference, and we want to play for you one of the questions that was asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I am wondering if, first of all, you responded to President Ahmadinejad's note of congratulations. And second of all, and more importantly, how soon do you plan on sending low-level envoys to countries such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba to see if a presidential level talk would be productive?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: All right, Tapper. Admit it, you asked that question to be provocative and to try to force him to make some news.
TAPPER: Well, isn't that my job, to force him to make some news? Other than the details of the kind of dog that they're looking for their daughters, it was a relatively news-free press conference, which is kind of what they intended it to be. KURTZ: Right. Well, Lynn Sweet, who asked the dog question, I mean, that got replayed on every station in the world.
TAPPER: Well, but, look, I wasn't trying to be provocative. He wanted the big selling points of his campaign -- and maybe it was born from a gaffe during a debate in the primaries -- but one of the big selling points was we're going it talk to our enemies in an Obama administration, we're going to try diplomacy.
Here you have Ahmadinejad sending a letter of congratulations, the first time that has been done since the Iranian revolution in 1979. So what's his response and how soon is he going to start this new policy?
KURTZ: And he finessed your question, clearly.
TAPPER: Well, he didn't answer the question, right.
KURTZ: Doyle McManus, you mentioned how President Obama will be covered once he starts making decisions and so forth. Let me play for you the reaction of Chris Matthews on MSNBC. I think he made pretty clear where he's going to stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work. And I think...
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: Is that your job? You just talked about being a journalist.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that's my job. My job is to help this country.
SCARBOROUGH: So your job as a journalist is to make this presidency work?
MATTHEWS: To make this work successfully, because this country needs a successful presidency more than anything right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCMANUS: That is not the job of the reporters covering Barack Obama. Chris Matthews, you will recall, is the pundit who had a thrill running all the way up his leg when he heard Barack Obama speak. So...
KURTZ: And apparently it hasn't vanished.
MCMANUS: I guess it's still there. I think he needs to see a neurologist.
But, look, honest reporters like Jake, like the rest of us love crisis. They want to illuminate the problems, they want to illuminate the choices here. And I think if you look at the coverage in the first week, that same press corps that people were worrying about were trying to push the envelope. He promised that there would be a news conference on Wednesday, and it didn't happen until Friday -- press conference-gate. Rahm Emanuel was supposed to be chief of staff -- Rahmgate. Did it happen or not?
At that news conference, President-elect Obama made a gaffe. He said he wasn't going to have any seances like Nancy Reagan, and he had to apologize to Nancy Reagan.
We're going to push and push and push. There's going to be a lot of conflict there.
Look, if you're worried about predominantly liberal reporters going into the tank for a president that they're disposed to like, look at Bill Clinton's first six months. Absolute chaos. And it was covered as absolutely chaos.
MARTIN: But look, for every Chris Matthews who -- and I don't know where he's coming from on that -- there's a Rush Limbaugh who called the new incoming chief of staff and the president-elect thugs. So I think that there's dual narratives going on all the time. And to just sort of pretend that this is all one big soup and everybody is kind of a little vegetable in that soup is just wrong. It's just incorrect.
KURTZ: Let me go back to Jessica Yellin.
As you're out there in Chicago trying to penetrate what you call this lock box, the chief spokesman for the campaign, Robert Gibbs, word has leaked that he will be the new White House press secretary. What does he like to deal with, and how do you think he will fare standing behind that podium?
YELLIN: Well, the good news about Gibbs, if he's a press secretary, is that he's trusted by Barack Obama and he's in the inner circle. So if a policy decision is made, he's in a position to probe and say, why are we doing this and what is this really about?
He hopefully will know the decision-making process and could be in a position to bring that to us, as compared to what we saw during the Bush years, where much more frequently we were sort of delivered talking points and there wasn't that behind-the-scenes interaction, that we weren't aware of what was going on back there. So, he's in the position to share that with us. He has yet to demonstrate whether he's open to doing that.
So, we have to see if, as I said before, they'll treat the press as more than just a nuisance, and I'm not clear that they will.
KURTZ: As you know, Jake Tapper, there were complaints throughout the campaign that Barack Obama, despite all the favorable press he received, was not all that accessible, particularly to the traveling reporters who were following him around the country. Now, this is a campaign that mastered communications through the Internet, that's big on Facebook, that does the text messaging thing. Will he try to go around people like you and the mainstream media as president?
TAPPER: I don't know. You know, especially in that last week in the campaign, a lot of us in the traveling press corps got very frustrated because we weren't getting answers to questions, we weren't getting access to him. And certainly I understand that a presidential candidate, especially in the last week, would be cautious.
But, you know, he was doing interviews with Ryan Seacrest, with Sway from MTV, with Mario Lopez from "Extra." And, you know, we would gripe about it. I would gripe about it.
If the Obama campaign, if the Obama administration, incoming, thinks that they can use Mario Lopez, Ryan Seacrest and Sway to get their policy agenda through Capitol Hill, then I think that they will find that that is a flawed policy. But I don't think that they're planning on doing that, and I think they recognize that they are going to have to deal with the press a little bit better, especially the beat reporters.
KURTZ: Will he get an initial honeymoon from the press, Michel, especially given the historic nature of his victory?
MARTIN: I would argue that he's going to get a honeymoon because of the historic nature of the problems addressing the country right now. I think that this is...
KURTZ: Here he is coming into office...
MARTIN: Coming into office. I mean, I don't want to be...
KURTZ: ... with a huge financial crisis and two wars, and a lot of other things.
MARTIN: And two wars. I mean, I think I would liken it to the period right after 9/11, when the press was very uncritical of the president because you couldn't afford to be. The public had a certain boundary that they were willing to allow you to play, and after a certain point that boundary relaxes. But I think it's really more the underlying circumstances, not so much his status and demographic.
KURTZ: And by the way, it was a very exciting week for newspapers.
Doyle, you'll appreciate this.
"The Chicago Tribune," "New York Times," "Washington Post" and many other papers selling out on Wednesday morning, something that almost never happens, having to print hundreds of thousands additional copies because so many people wanted a piece of that history as represented by those newspaper front pages. There were lines around the block at "The Washington Post."
When we come back, civil war. Unnamed McCain aides unloading on Sarah Palin's shopping, her attitude, her knowledge of geography. Is it possible the press was too easy on the rookie governor?
KURTZ: The trashing of Sarah Palin went into overdrive this week, not by the so-called liberal press, although some journalists certainly acted as a willing conduit, but by McCain aides who slimed the former running mate without having their names attached. "Newsweek" reporting that Palin spent even more than the $150,000 in party money on clothing, some of it for her husband, Todd. And once greeted campaign officials in a hotel room wearing nothing but a towel.
And then there was this report from FOX's Carl Cameron and the governor's reaction to the use of these anonymous sources.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: She didn't know the nation's involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement, we're told. Those, of course, being the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. She didn't understand, McCain aides told me today, that Africa was a continent and not a country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: I consider it cowardly. If there are allegations based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about NAFTA, and a continent versus a country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context. And that's cruel, it's mean-spirited, it's immature, it's unprofessional, and those guys are jerks if they came away with it taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news. It's not fair and not right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Palin with CNN's Gary Tuchman talking about jerks. But isn't it fundamentally unfair for some of us to keep reporting these slurs, "whack job" and so forth, from unnamed McCain advisers who are not willing to have their names attached?
MCMANUS: No. Yes. Both. Look...
KURTZ: Take a stand.
MCMANUS: Sarah Palin is a politician who wants to have a national future. She's not a private citizen. She is a potential future presidential candidate. And so, for the next two years, she is going to try and rehabilitate herself.
I predict those cruise ships of conservative pundits are going to go up to Juneau, and she's going to do a whole lot of seminars on foreign policy in Africa and other continents. But this was actually the first round in the Republican presidential nomination race four years from now.
KURTZ: Already? I thought I was going to get a break.
But you know, we played some of this last week when we were up in New York, this constant repetition of the slurs from the unnamed sources. Let's just show a little bit of it right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Today the term was "whack job."
MATTHEWS: A whack job. Not just a diva.
DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC: People are calling her a whack job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain aides are saying that she's a diva and a whack job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And we don't even know who the source is. That was something that was said to Politico.
Does that bother you at all?
TAPPER: Look, what's really going on here is this is revenge or retaliation for Governor Palin doing things that some members of the McCain campaign were...
TAPPER: ... serving Governor Palin and not serving John McCain. Governor Palin made a number of comments throughout the presidential campaign that people thought that she was being disloyal to John McCain, and there is a point in which a close pundit, Fred Barnes, went on FOX News and inaccurately assailed Nicolle Wallace, who was a McCain/Palin aide.
So I think a lot of what's going on here is retaliation from McCain people for what they feel was her unprofessional conduct.
KURTZ: Let's look at her knowledge. Let's face it, her interview with Charlie Gibson on your network was not that great. Her interview with Katie Couric was appalling. And I think journalists were reluctant to come out and say just how prepared they thought she was for the vice presidency for fear of looking biased.
TAPPER: I think that's probably true, and I think probably her gender probably played a role in that. And also, the incredibly strong pushback that the McCain campaign did when she was introduced. And they immediately began attacking the media, lumping in liberal bloggers and "The National Enquirer" with the rest of us who were actually trying to cover the story, and being very, very aggressive, putting a lot of us on the defense. That said, Governor Palin, I think the American people took a measure of her and walked away thinking she was not prepared.
MARTIN: Yes, I agree with you. I don't think that the media needed to characterize those interviews. That's the reason you have interviews, so that people can judge for themselves the person's abilities based on how they react in that situation.
KURTZ: Of course she did very few interviews, which some people thing was part of the problem. So much attention was paid to those because she was not, unlike now, where she seems to have a lot to say...
MARTIN: That was their fault. I mean, this is another example where I think the McCain campaign's press strategy did not serve them well, and they need to -- they're suffering the consequences for that.
KURTZ: Jessica Yellin...
TAPPER: Can I interrupt for one second?
KURTZ: Go ahead.
TAPPER: I don't know that keeping Governor Palin cordoned off from the press was a bad strategy when you look at her answers to questions.
KURTZ: You're saying it could have been worse if she had talked more.
TAPPER: I'm saying it could have been much, much worse. And there was -- clearly that decision was made within the McCain campaign -- oh my god, if we put her out here it's going to be -- every day there's going to be one of these stories where she can't name newspapers she reads.
MARTIN: Yes, but look at Dan Quayle. When he was first named vice president, a lot of people -- obviously he was a sitting senator and had a little bit more experience in public life than she did. He did a lot of interviews to just get his sea legs, and they put him out immediately. So, I mean, that was another way they could have approached it.
KURTZ: Let me go back to Jessica Yellin.
Look, it's not that unusual to have some sniping after a ticket loses a presidential campaign, but do you think what's being said about Governor Palin is more personal and more harsh than might have been the case if she wasn't a woman?
YELLIN: No, this -- oh, this isn't about gender. This is just a toxic mess.
I mean, they felt burned by their relationship with her. These are sources obviously that reporters trust and have long-standing relationships with.
So, the question should be, do we ever cite anonymous sources? Do we ever quote what they say? We do. And this situation shouldn't be different, because it's obviously coming from people that -- who were in the room and they believe are being truthful. The bigger problem is, Sarah Palin comes from -- I spent two weeks in Alaska. They have a completely different relationship with the press.
This is so new to them and to her. She was very trusting of these guys. She made some mistakes herself in not bringing her own people onboard sooner. And so I think we're going to see her lash out for a while now.
KURTZ: And just briefly, the McCain campaign was not shy about naming news organizations that they said were being horribly unfair to Sarah Palin, even while they themselves, at least privately, had doubts about her readiness.
MCMANUS: Well, they were in the middle of a campaign. You're right, you're talking about a campaign that was full of people -- and we actually talked to them at the time -- who said -- during the campaign they would say, well, this is a gamble. This could -- you could tell that about 80 percent of John McCain's people thought that Sarah Palin was a big mistake.
But they were in campaign mode. Now they are in, as Jake said, revenge mode.
KURTZ: Right, exactly.
Now, on election night, CNN had 12 million viewers, behind only ABC, with 13 million, beating two of the broadcast networks. I think it shows you something about the shift to cable news on these big political stories. And I think the reason really had something to do with this.
Jessica Yellin, was it an out-of-body experience to be a hologram?
YELLIN: It was a lot of fun, to be honest, Howie. I knew I would take some heat over it. I understood that.
But I think that, you know, television, in part, is about all these -- it's about fun, a little bit, as long as that doesn't take away from the story. And also, we do all these different things to try to make the news and the stories seem more intimate, HD and all these different tricks, and gadgets with technology. No harm, no foul. It was a lot of fun.
KURTZ: Well, you certainly provided some fodder for "The Daily Show."
Jessica Yellin in non-hologram form, Doyle McManus, Michel Martin, and Jake Tapper, thanks for joining us this morning.
When we come back in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, no laughing matter. Now that liberals won't have Bush to kick around anymore, where are they going to get their punch lines? Stephanie Miller and Clarence Page join us from the left.
And then from the right, Amy Holmes and Michael Medved.
Are conservative pundits taking a wait-and-see approach to President Obama, or is it already open season on Barack?
KURTZ: For eight long years liberal pundits have had one big, fat, juicy target, the Bush administration. Whether it was George W's mangled syntax, Dick Cheney's hunting skills, Karl Rove's Machiavellian methods, the war, Katrina, the financial meltdown, the left was on offense. Now we're looking at four years of President Barack Obama and a heavily Democratic Congress.
What are the libs going to do?
Joining us now in Los Angeles, Stephanie Miller, who hosts the nationally syndicated "Stephanie Miller Radio Show." And here in Washington, Clarence Page, columnist for "The Chicago Tribune."
Stephanie, you have been on offense against the Bush crowd for eight years. What happens now?
STEPHANIE MILLER, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: Howard, I am here to officially announce the death of comedy with President- elect Obama. However, I did hear that Rush Limbaugh already said Friday that the Barack Obama recession has begun.
I speak for many of us when I say, huh? He's not even president yet. So we're on defense now.
KURTZ: Are you planning to go to the store and buy some pom-poms and be a complete cheerleader for Obama?
MILLER: No, no, no. I can find a fart joke in anything. You know that, Howard.
KURTZ: All right.
Clarence Page, you're a Chicago guy. You know Obama. You're on the liberal side. Are you going to be an Obama supporter?
CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, you know, I think Chris Matthews -- you were quoting him earlier -- he misspoke. I think he said -- he meant to say his job is to support the institution of the presidency, and I think that's the job of all of us. How could that job be done better regardless of who is there?
Now, for liberal or conservative columnists, what's important is you've got certain principles and programs you want to see enacted. There were promises Barack Obama made to all sides. How well is he going to execute those?
From the comedy point of view, hey, there is never a dearth of comedy. I think our comedy has punditocracy has been remarkably chicken, Howard. I mean, they've been afraid to really satirize Barack Obama because he's black. I mean, this is an incredible political correctness. There was even a debate over whether or not "Saturday Night Live" -- and I'm just blanking on the name of the wonderful...
KURTZ: Fred Armisen?
PAGE: Fred Armisen. Thank you. Fred Armisen, who is racially mixed himself, whether he ought to be playing a black or racially mixed political candidate. Now, come on. Are we going to give everything over to chocolate news now to be courageous, shall we say?
KURTZ: Stephanie, how do you plead to this very serious charge of going easy on the president-elect for racial reasons?
MILLER: Howard, I think you listen to my radio show and you know we don't go easy on anybody. So I think, can we make fun of Barack Obama? Yes, we can. I think "Yes, we can" is still operative.
PAGE: Well said.
KURTZ: But is it harder to be funny when you're talking about what a great job the president is doing?
MILLER: Yes, it's a little hard to top George W. Bush in terms of comedy. The whole well-spoken thing is really throwing us off in the comedy world. But we'll find something.
KURTZ: All right.
Now, is it -- you know, you mentioned race, so let's put it on the table, Clarence.
KURTZ: Is there an assumption that you will defend Barack Obama, no matter what, because he's African-American and you're African- American and there's some sort of bonding?
PAGE: Yes, there's that presumption, and it cuts both way. There are some folks who view that negatively. There are others -- there are black folks who presume I'm going to be the great defender of anything that the black candidate or the black officeholder does.
Both sides are in for disappointment, and I think it takes you a couple of years in this business to get used to the vitriol that gets thrown at you. But I figured out early on that the people who hate my commentary today may love me next week, become the best thing since slice bread, simply because they agree with that one and didn't agree with the earlier one. So, I mean, our job is to take the brickbats from both sides, but also to help provoke people to think.
KURTZ: Stephanie, I assume that you'll still have some pretty juicy targets in Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and other denizens of what you call right wing world. But I'm wondering if you think that the Obama presidency will help in any way liberal radio in general, which, after all, has been just a fraction of the markets which are dominated by conservative talk show hosts?
MILLER: Oh, yes. I'm already planning to send Sean Hannity cell phone pictures of me in the White House just to taunt him.
You know, I think we've talked about this before, Howard. Good talk radio is about entertainment, really. It's not about a political movement. And everybody said when Clinton was gone, oh, what's Rush going to do? Well, Rush is a great entertainer. He's going to be fine.
You know, we're on defense now. The people that are good entertainers and get ratings on the liberal side will continue to thrive. And I think that it will be good to see Sean and Rush scared.
KURTZ: But you really combine both of those, because you...
MILLER: Let me -- and Howard, let me paraphrase something that John McCain said. I would rather lose the comedy war and win an election at this point as a liberal.
PAGE: Here here.
KURTZ: So, in other words, you're so happy as somebody who did not like Bush and obviously likes the president-elect to have him heading for the Oval Office, even if it means you give up a few yucks?
MILLER: Yes, I'm willing to lose the comedy war.
KURTZ: Did I put that eloquently enough?
MILLER: I am a fine American. I'm willing to lose the comedy war to win the election for this country.
KURTZ: Clarence Page, do you have much of a relationship with Barack Obama like, for example, Jesse Jackson in Chicago?
PAGE: I used to.
KURTZ: You used to?
PAGE: I used to before he got successful, you know.
KURTZ: Now he's left you behind?
PAGE: I have the same access problem as everybody else, I think, although I got -- I mean, I'm not going to complain. I got a lot more access than most people, too. But I think -- what's your question, Howard?
KURTZ: My question is, why do you think that President-elect Obama didn't go out of his way to try to cultivate people in the press, particularly columnists who might be seen as his natural allies?
PAGE: Well, I don't think either campaign did, but obviously Obama's campaign was more successful as far as the public image and coverage was concerned. Michel Martin said earlier all the opportunities the McCain campaign missed to come on to her show. They invited him and all.
And I think right now, frankly, what's important about -- to remember about Barack Obama is that he, obviously, has great image discipline, great message discipline, and that has benefited him. If you want to talk about criticism or satire, the man has got a sense of humor, and it does show once in a while. When he said the other day "... to mutts like me..." that was such a profound little aside that he made, especially for us pundits. We can write for weeks on something like that.
KURTZ: Yes. I know, I think he has been keeping his sense of humor under wraps. And we saw more glimpses of it at the press conference on Friday.
Here's a sign of the new era. I want to play for you a little bit of tape, Stephanie Miller, that I'm sure you've seen, "Saturday Night Live" making fun of somebody from your side of the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Mr. Lieberstein, you speak of consideration to the rights of others. How dare you, sir? How dare you? Mr. Lieberstein, sir, if you yet retain any trace of honor, you must at once resign as president of this coop. Indeed, sir, justice and decency demand you so to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
KURTZ: Now, was that an accurate portrayal of your crazy friend Keith Olbermann?
MILLER: If I didn't want to marry him that would be so much funnier.
You know, I think Keith played it on his show, and I think he has a good sense of humor about it. And, you know, for a liberal woman, the madder he gets, the hotter I get for him. I think you know that, Howard.
KURTZ: You're not making any bones about it.
I've got half a minute, Clarence Page.
When you were talking more regularly to Senator Obama, did he just -- was he always weary of the press, or was that more so when he became a potential nominee and a potential president?
PAGE: No drama Obama, that's him. I mean, his rapport with the press has always been good, and I think he works crowds and people very well.
What's remarkable, David Brooks has written about how -- what a sojourner he is, though. You know, he engages people easily, he fits into all kind of different environments, navigates across all kinds of color lines and other lines, but what is he really committed to? We're going to learn more about President Obama after he becomes full- fledged president, I think.
KURTZ: Well, you both will have four years to analyze him, psychoanalyze him, and in Stephanie's case, make fun of him.
Stephanie Miller, Clarence Page, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
After the break, we make a right turn. Amy Holmes and Michael Medved will examine whether the mainstream media will be cheerleaders for the Obama White House.
KURTZ: Well, it's been a tough week for commentators on the right, as the candidate they weren't all that wild about at the start, John McCain, went down and Republicans lost ground in the House and the Senate. So, how will they deal with President Obama?
Here's a glimpse from FOX News, from Brit Hume on election night, to Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity after Obama had won an impressive 350 electoral votes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: This is a man who you may regard in some respects as risky or even dangerous, but you couldn't help but like him. I mean, this is an enormously appealing human being.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: We're not going to nitpick Barack Obama and we will not demonize him, because that's not fair.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: I want Barack Obama to succeed. But this is what my fear is. I don't believe America knows the real Barack Obama. I think the real Barack Obama, I fear, is the guy that had these radical associations of 20 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Well, that was a brief honeymoon.
Joining us now are two conservative commentators here in Washington, Amy Holmes, CNN political contributor, and in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on Salem Radio and author of the book "The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Distortions About Our Nation."
Michael Medved, so, where will you be in the age of Obama? Are you willing to give the guy a shot?
MICHAEL MEDVED, NATIONAL SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: Well, sure. And as a matter of fact, I'm one of those conservatives, and there are a bunch of us, who welcome the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff. I think that's a good sign. The one thing that troubles me most, Howard, has been I think the malfeasance of the mainstream media in covering the election itself. One of the things that is out there that bothers me a lot is this story about how this turnout was huge and there were all these new voters coming to the polls. And you've heard about how we had 148 million and we had 13 million new voters.
Look at the numbers. This is the same turnout, almost exactly to within two million, of what we had in 2004.
KURTZ: That did turn out to be a little bit overblown.
MEDVED: Hugely overblown, and people haven't corrected it. This has become sort of part of the national myth, and we really should be honest about this stuff.
KURTZ: That's a fair point.
Amy Holmes, do you, even as a conservative commentator, see Obama's election as a racial breakthrough?
AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Of course I see it as a racial breakthrough, and I see it as a wonderful moment for America to be making this progress in terms of race. But I think in the coverage of Obama moving forward, that we need to treat him like president of the United States, president of all the people. And frankly...
KURTZ: Are you skeptical that that will happen?
HOLMES: Well, after the past two years wouldn't you be skeptical? But, you know, frankly, this should be boon times for conservative journalists. When you have a Democratically controlled House, Senate and White House, this is a target-rich environment for conservatives who will want to be putting it to the president. Actually Republicans, too, putting it to them for principle.
KURTZ: Michael, we saw Sean Hannity just a moment ago talking about Obama's radical associations. Rush Limbaugh on Friday was talking about the Obama recession, which apparently is already here.
Is there any risk of a backlash against those on the right who are seen as jumping on the president-elect, even before he takes office, and maybe in the first few days after he takes office?
MEDVED: I think it was a mistake. I think there is a great hunger in this country for everybody, for me, for Amy, for everybody, except for people who professionally feel they must attack President Obama, President-elect Obama. There's a hunger to see people coming together a little bit to face this financial crisis.
It is a huge crisis. I mean, you have 6.5 percent unemployment, 10 million people unemployed. It would be very, very smart for people on the right to say, OK, we're going to roll up our sleeves, we're going to get together, and we're going to solve this problem together and deal with the emergency. And there will be time later to begin to make fun, even if not of Barack Obama, Joe Biden -- talk about target- rich environment. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, these are gifts that keep on giving.
KURTZ: Liberal commentators, critics of the current president, were sometimes accused of Bush derangement syndrome. Is there any chance that some version of that will happen to some on the right?
HOLMES: Oh, certainly. I mean, if you reflect back on the Clinton years, the right opposition to him was considered hateful and, what was it, the personal destruction, that kind of thing. But in terms of what Michael Medved was saying about rolling up our sleeves, I don't think that's actually the role of the conservative press or the press in general.
It's to be illuminating the issues at hand, letting the American public know what's at stake. And I think that the conservative press can be very helpful in doing that.
I mean, let's think about Obama's first 100 days, promises made, promises kept. Conservatives need to be right on top of that. And in terms of Republicans, when are Republicans being obstructionist and when are they really advancing the ball in terms of policy?
KURTZ: But I think, Michael, that the Clinton administration also provides us with an example of the mainstream press being pretty tough on a Democratic president who many of its members might agree with in terms of its agenda, and yet leaving aside Monica and Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers, I mean, you had Whitewater and Filegate and Travelgate and fund-raising, the Lincoln Bedroom.
It would be hard to argue that the press gave President Clinton an easy ride.
MEDVED: No, particularly his first couple of months. But he made key mistakes at the very beginning.
What he did at the very beginning of his presidency is he didn't fulfill what he had campaigned on. He started out with gays in the military, he junked his middle class tax cut which he had promised and did a tax increase.
I don't think Obama's going to be that stupid. And if he is, Amy's completely right, of course we have to hold him to account. But we're in an anomalous position, Howard.
I don't want Obama to keep his campaign promises. There are a lot of things that he has promised to do that would be disastrous for the country from a conservative point of view, and I hope he does abandon those.
KURTZ: But at the same time, even as a journalist, even as a commentator who disagrees with a lot of the Obama agenda, don't we all want him to cooperate with Republicans to the degree that they can begin to dig us out of this huge financial hole that we're in?
HOLMES: Well, I think what we want him to do is pursue policies that will. And...
KURTZ: Well, you can't call him a socialist after Bush has already nationalized the banks, right?
HOLMES: I would agree with that. But, you know, there's this -- we can have this fetish about bipartisanship, but if bipartisanship is taking us in the wrong direction, look, that $700 billion bailout, that was a bipartisan bailout. And, you know, we just found over the weekend that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have written a letter to try to get part of that for the auto industry, something that was supposed to be for banking.
So I think we do. We need to keep their feet to the fire in terms of what is the right policy direction and whether that has partisan or bipartisan support. I think the conservative press needs to be going in that direction.
KURTZ: That bailout has changed in many ways under the Bush administration how it was originally sold.
Michael Medved, wanted to touch briefly on Sarah Palin. The media accused throughout this campaign of being unfair to Governor Palin. Now you have all these unnamed McCain aides saying she was a whack job and a diva, and she didn't know which countries were in NAFTA, and all of that.
So was the earlier criticism on target, or is this just a lot of sour grapes by people who don't have the guts to speak for the record?
MEDVED: Well, the real villains here are not the people in the press who are covering this story, it's the people in the McCain campaign, whoever they may might be, who are putting this material out. The one good thing about what Amy Holmes is saying, I think very appropriately, about holding people's feet to the fire and going after the Obama administration on the issues is, for goodness sake, in the few days since the election there's been too much going on in the conservative media about attacking Governor Palin, about attacking Senator McCain.
Look, these are two people, both of them honorable people, who ran a good campaign, losing campaign, under very difficult circumstances. And I think that, frankly, the backbiting on the right wing, the hitting one another and blaming one another, that's not constructive right now for our movement or for the country.
KURTZ: But why let journalists off the hook for giving these people a megaphone? If somebody wants to come on the record and say Governor Palin did not have the knowledge required to be vice president, fine. But instead, it's all anonymous sniping.
HOLMES: It is anonymous sniping, and it basically sounds like gossip. But Rich Lowry over at "National Review," he called up Steve Began (ph), who's a former colleague of mine in the United States Senate for Senate Majority Leader Frist, and he called up Steve Began (ph), who was Sarah Palin's foreign policy adviser, and Steve said this is nonsense. Sarah Palin knew that America, Canada and Mexico are in NAFTA, that this is vicious sniping, there's an agenda here.
That's an example of real reporting, someone willing to go on the record to defend Sarah Palin and tell the truth.
KURTZ: I'm totally in favor of real reporting. And this will have to be continued.
Amy Holmes, Michael Medved, thanks for joining us this morning.
And we'll have more from both sides of the aisle later on a CNN special. It's called "After Party: Where We Go From Here." It airs today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Still to come, as the campaign reached its dramatic climax, why the ladies of "The View" stopped arguing with each other and took aim at me.
KURTZ: On the final day of the twisting, turning, media- saturated two-year marathon of a presidential campaign, it finally came to this: Whoopi Goldberg talking about me.
KURTZ (voice-over): I wrote this week about the impact that lighter shows such as "Ellen," "David Letterman" and "The View" had on the campaign, and I pointed out the obvious: The ladies gave Barack Obama a pretty easy time last spring.
JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": Say it. Say it.
BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": Maybe we shouldn't say this, but we thought you were very sexy looking.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, thank you.
KURTZ: When John McCain came on in September, the atmosphere was far less friendly.
BEHAR: We know that those two ads are untrue. They're lies. And yet, you at the end of it say, "I approve this message." Do you really approve them?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually, they are not lies.
KURTZ: Now the women felt the needs to explain themselves.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, "THE VIEW": Howard Kurtz, who writes for "The Washington Post," and also has a TV show called "RELIABLE SOURCES" on CNN, wrote saying Obama had a much easier time on talk shows than McCain. He wrote, "The contrast was equally striking on 'The View' when Obama chatted up the ladies in March. ABC newswoman Barbara Walters told him, 'Maybe we shouldn't say this, but we thought you were very sexy.'"
WALTERS: I knew the day -- better I should have said he had skinny legs. I don't know. KURTZ: Whoopi then explained the timing of the Obama love-fest.
GOLDBERG: Howard, you know, when he came here he wasn't the nominee yet. Let's get that very clear, because you're all about reliable sources. He wasn't the nominee. When John McCain came the first time with us, he was not the nominee, and we had a great ride with him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Barack Obama is yet to come...
GOLDBERG: Yes, I was going to get to that.
KURTZ: That's an excellent point, Whoopi, and one I made in my piece. In fact, I quoted your executive producer Bill Geddie as saying so.
KURTZ: Whoopi also said she was talking about how judges interpret the Constitution when she asked McCain whether she had to worry about going back to slavery. Fair enough.
And Elisabeth Hasselbeck said she has also asked McCain some hard questions about Roe v. Wade.
WALTERS: For 12 years I have tried to control you women. I have not had any chance.
KURTZ: "The View" is fun to watch. It's not "Meet the Press" or "Face the Nation" or "LATE EDITION." The women get to say whatever they want and don't have to be journalistically balanced. But if they're going to play big-league politics, they have got to expect some razzing.
Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.
I'm Howard Kurtz.
Join us again next Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.