Will MSM Guilt start working for Mitt?

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Will MSM Guilt Start Working for Mitt? “Like Ali, Obama Floats Like a Butterfly”–that’s the headline Real Clear Politics gave Howard Fineman’s latest post. But even though Fineman is Editorial Director for leftish Huffington Post (and appears regularly on MSNBC) his piece isn’t what you’d expect. It’s basically a plea to the MSM to start covering Obama they way they’d cover a normal candidate. According to Fineman, Obama has bounced back in the polls

without having to seriously and substantively defend his first-term failed promises or shortcomings, and without having to say much, if anything. about what, if anything, he might do substantially differently if he is fortunate enough to win again. …

Obama was such a cool and uplifting story to so many in the media in 2008 that they essentially ceded ground to him that they have yet to reclaim. He ran a tightly controlled message campaign then, and has run an even more tightly controlled White House, with few press conferences and deep access only to those most likely to write positive stories. Univision didn’t get the memo, and its reporters hammered the president about immigration last week. It was a rare moment.

An MSM veteran, Fineman, in essence, is agreeing with conserviative critics of his profession: they’ve been cutting the President way too much slack, failing to take him to task in areas (the Woodward  portrayal, Libya, the jobs numbers ) where they would have hammered another candidate. Hence the strange, empty, helium-filled trajectory of the Obama campaign so far.

Does Fineman’s analysis, from within the belly of HuffPo, suggest an impending surge of MSM Guilt? That could be what just Romney needs at this point–in any case it’s probably the best he can hope for. He can’t do much to remove the protect-Obama instinct in the subconscious of so many in the press. But he can hope that the media’s superego, as given voice by conscientious non-whippersnappers like Fineman (and Alessandra Stanley, among others) artificially produces for at least a short time the sort of Obama-skeptical attitude that should have been normally and naturally forthcoming.

Remember in the 1988 Democratic primaries –OK, I remember–when the press suddenly curdled for Bruce Babbitt, previously the MSM’s favorite (he had even joked that the press was his “base”). Reporters became embarrassed by their Babbitt-boosting–the issue became “Why aren’t they giving him a hard time?”  Babbitt’s free ride came to an end–even though most reporters, in their hearts, probably still liked him (as did I).

Fake fairness is better than no fairness.

Mickey Kaus