Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Debate Pundits: "Where Was Obama?"

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Updated Oct. 4

CNN Poll Has Romney Winning Round, 67%-25%

Poll: Blacks Watch TV News More Than Whites, Hispanics

Conservatives Hype 5-Year-Old Obama Speech

George Will: Voters Don't Want to Fire a Black Man

CNN's "Latino in America" Back With Look at Voters

Short Takes

CNN Poll Has Romney Winning Round, 67%-25%

If the progressive cable news channel MSNBC represents President Obama's base, then that base was stunned by the president's lackluster debate performance in his first face-off with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Wednesday night.

Competitor CNN's flash poll of registered voters who watched the debate found that 67 percent said Romney won, while only 25 percent chose Obama. Such a departure from the usual close split between the two candidates means "you have the president's supporters saying he just got spanked," CNN's John King told viewers.

"Where was Obama tonight?" Chris Matthews asked on MSNBC. "He should watch — well, not just 'Hardball,' Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, he should watch the Rev. Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence [O'Donnell], he would learn something about this debate. There's a hot debate going on in this country. Do you know where it's being held? Here on this network is where we're having the debate. We have our knives out. We go after the people and the facts. What was he doing tonight? He went in there disarmed. What was Romney doing? He was winning. If he (Obama) does five more of these nights, forget it."

Watching cable news is not Obama's favorite pastime. Michael Lewis, who recently spent hours with the president for a lengthy Vanity Fair piece, told NPR interviewer Terry Gross last month that Obama has ". . . decided that nothing on cable news is worth listening to. He doesn't watch it. He thinks it's totally toxic, like it affects your brain, and he won't turn on the TV."

The MSNBC pundits said the president seemed to view the debate as something to be endured, and to his detriment, he took pains not to detract from looking "presidential."

Host Rachel Maddow ticked off the issues that Obama failed to raise: Romney's secretly videotaped comment that 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and consider themselves victims, immigration, union rights, abortion, women's rights, the Bain Capital private equity firm Romney headed and Romney's jobs record in Massachusetts.

They weren't the only missing questions. In the 90 minutes of discussion of domestic policy, it seemed as though no concerns surfaced from the journalist of color associations, which submitted questions to the Commission on Presidential Debates that were presumably forwarded to moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS.

The National Association of Black Journalists' suggested topics were unemployment and the economy, particularly black joblessness; the Affordable Health Care Act; education; crime and law enforcement, specifically the stop-and-frisk laws; and the nation's changing demographics. The questions from the Hispanic and Asian American journalists associations emphasized immigration and jobs; those from the Native American journalists were specific to American Indians.

Lehrer stuck to questions about the economy, the budget, tax plans and the president's health care plan, which Obama said he did not mind being nicknamed "Obamacare." Not that Lehrer had much control of the debate or a chance to get in many questions. Former ABC anchor Carole Simpson, who moderated the 1992 presidential debate among Bill Clinton, President George H.W. Bush and independent H. Ross Perot, tweeted, "Oh, Barack. What happened to you? And Jim Lehrer, what happened to you? You lost control of the debate. A change has gotta come and soon."

However, O'Donnell said on MSNBC that he liked Lehrer's approach because "the moderator was not a factor. Romney came out to this debate determined to make it a debate."

"Lehrer got rolled over by Romney again and again, and it was the president's fault that he didn't try the same thing," Maddow said.

Jack Murchinson of the Huffington Post agreed. "It was Lehrer's 13th time moderating, but he was largely unsuccessful in his attempts to corral the candidates. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney rolled right over him as, with increasing plaintiveness, he tried to get them to stop talking. 'No, no, no,' he said to Romney at one point."

It will never be known whether another moderator — none of color was chosen for any of the four debates — would have had better luck.

The commentariat debated what went wrong with the president and why Romney had done so well.

"He was off his game," MSNBC's Ed Schultz said of Obama. "He was afraid to call out Romney because he didn't want to look angry." It was one of the few comments with racial implications, in that it harkened to an observation made often of the first African American president and the "angry black man" stereotype he is said to have worked hard to avoid.

Black journalists such as Roland Martin of CNN, Eugene Robinson of MSNBC and Juan Williams of Fox News Channel were missing from the commentary immediately following the debate.

Van Jones, an African American environmental advocate who was chased out of his administration post early in the administration after a right-wing campaign, appeared as an analyst on CNN. "I think they had the wrong strategy," Jones said of the Obama team. "I think he thought he could come on and have a conversation with the American people like Romney wasn't there, and treat it like a town hall format with nobody else there." But Romney was able to "out Obama Obama. On the connection piece, on the authenticity piece, on the being able to tell the story."

CNN analyst David Gergen, former adviser to several presidents, said on the same network, "I suspect that the president had never been talked to like that in the last four years. He was surprised that Romney was flat-out lying; it threw him off his game." The same fate had befallen other incumbents facing hungry challengers, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, he said.

Another MSNBC host, Chris Hayes, said of Romney, "The one thing he did was lop off the right wing of his party. Whenever the president raised a popular idea, he was for it." James Carville said on CNN, "He just threw his whole tax plan under the bus."

Sharpton, who hosts MSNBC's "PoliticsNation," agreed with others that a full assessment would take days. The activist said of Romney, "He made a good testimony, but he will be indicted for perjury. . . . Romney's problem is this is 2012, not 1812. We can go back to the tape. No doubt Romney was his best tonight, but his best was not good enough. . . . We have heard him say things contrary to this. His problem is going to be [the previous] Mitt Romney."

The CNN poll included 224 men and 206 women; 359 whites and 71 nonwhites; 158 Democrats, 130 independents and 142 Republicans, Sam Feist, CNN Washington bureau chief, told Journal-isms by email on Thursday. [Updated Oct. 4]

Poll: Blacks Watch TV News More Than Whites, Hispanics

A greater percentage of black consumers watches television news than do whites or Hispanics, according to a study of news consumption trends by the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press.

Sixty-nine percent of blacks said they received their news the previous day from television, compared with 56 percent of whites and 43 percent of Hispanics.

Forty-one percent of blacks said they watched the nightly network news regularly, and 50 percent watched cable news channels, compared with 26 percent of whites for the nightly news and 34 percent for cable news, and 21 percent of Hispanics for the nightly news and 27 percent for cable news.

African Americans have traditionally spent more time in front of the television than others.

The survey said Hispanics consumed news less than whites or blacks. When asked how they had received their news the day before, 33 percent responded "no news yesterday." Fourteen percent of whites and 15 percent of blacks responded "no news yesterday." No comparison with previous years was immediately available.

Overall, "The transformation of the nation's news landscape has already taken a heavy toll on print news sources, particularly print newspapers [PDF]," the center said in a report Thursday. "But there are now signs that television news — which so far has held onto its audience through the rise of the internet — also is increasingly vulnerable, as it may be losing its hold on the next generation of news consumers.

"Online and digital news consumption, meanwhile, continues to increase, with many more people now getting news on cell phones, tablets or other mobile platforms. And perhaps the most dramatic change in the news environment has been the rise of social networking sites. The percentage of Americans saying they saw news or news headlines on a social networking site yesterday has doubled — from 9% to 19% — since 2010. Among adults younger than age 30, as many saw news on a social networking site the previous day (33%) as saw any television news (34%), with just 13% having read a newspaper either in print or digital form."

The Pew Research Center provided Journal-isms with a breakout of blacks and Hispanics this week. Some 3,003 people were in the sample; 281 were black and 300 were Hispanic.

Conservatives Hype 5-Year-Old Obama Speech

"One night before the first presidential debate, conservatives Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson hyped footage of a five-year-old speech by then-Sen. Barack Obama, widely covered at the time, in which the presidential candidate suggested the George W. Bush administration was discriminating against the victims of Hurricane Katrina," Dylan Byers reported Wednesday for Politico.

"But when footage finally aired on Hannity's Fox News program and on Carlson's Daily Caller website at 9 p.m., following hours of anticipation spurred by Drudge's promise of controversy and Hannity's promise of a 'bombshell', it fell flat.

" 'What's the "So what" of this video? I don’t think it's going to really go anywhere,' Republican Rep. Allen West said on Fox News.

" 'I don't think this particular speech is definitive,' said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, though he added that it was at least a 'reminder' of Obama's 'pattern of dishonesty.'

"If the footage failed to impress, it may be because Sen. Obama's remarks were widely covered — by Carlson, by Fox News, and by the mainstream media — when they were made on June 5, 2007. . . ."

George Will: Voters Don't Want to Fire a Black Man

"Washington Post columnist George Will has a novel explanation for why President Barack Obama continues to lead challenger Mitt Romney in the polls: it's because Obama is black," Joy-Ann Reid wrote Tuesday for the Grio.

"Seriously, that's Will's reasoning.

"The idea is this: the country, its economy, and the Obama administration are in 'shambles,' to quote Will. Unemployment is at 8 percent. Durable goods orders are down! And who among us doesn't hinge our vote on the metric of durable goods? Tesla Motors isn't doing well — TESLA! — despite a major cash infusion from the Department of Energy, and as we all know, as goes Tesla, so goes the nation. Therefore, Romney should be mopping the floor with Obama.

"So why isn't Mitt ahead in the polls? Will's explanation starts with his Frank Robinsonfavorite metaphor: baseball…

" 'A significant date in the nation's civil rights progress involved an African American baseball player named Robinson, but not Jackie. The date was Oct. 3, 1974, when Frank Robinson, one the greatest players in history, was hired by the Cleveland Indians as the major leagues' first black manager. But an even more important milestone of progress occurred June 19, 1977, when the Indians fired him. That was colorblind equality.

" 'Managers get fired all the time. The fact that the Indians felt free to fire Robinson — who went on to have a distinguished career managing four other teams — showed that another racial barrier had fallen: Henceforth, African Americans, too, could enjoy the God-given right to be scapegoats for impatient team owners or incompetent team executives.'

"And how is Barack Obama like Jackie Robinson? I think you can guess. . . "

State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., left, is among those interviewed in the next "Latino in America" episode. Kihuen had hoped to be Nevada's first-ever Latino U.S. congressman. He dropped out of the race in February. (Video)

CNN's "Latino in America" Back With Look at Voters

CNN's "Latino in America" series returns on Sunday as Soledad O'Brien, CNN anchor and special correspondent, "reports on how Democrats and Republicans are reaching out to the swing voter demographic of Latinos, with a lens on the pivotal state of Nevada, a state with both the fastest-growing Latino community in the nation, and a state that has voted for the last 24 of the last 25 U.S. presidents," CNN announces.

Asked what message there would be for fellow journalists, O'Brien told Journal-isms by telephone on Wednesday, "We take a very nuanced approach to this important population. I was surprised by the degree that both parties have serious challenges. Latinos are feeling very unheard. Some of it is immigration and some is the message carried out in the GOP primaries."

O'Brien, daughter of a white Australian father and a black Cuban mother, was named "Journalist of the Year" by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2010. NABJ called her "the impetus of CNN's acclaimed 'In America' franchise, which began with CNN's "Black In America" in 2008." Later the series looked at "Latino in America" and "Gay in America."

In March, CNN laid off dozens of employees in its two documentary units, including the "In America" unit. But it promised the "In America" series would continue. The last "Latino in America" aired aired Sept. 25, 2011.

"Latino in America: Courting Their Vote" debuts on CNN/U.S. on Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and PT, repeating Saturday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and PT on CNN/U.S.

Kimberly Arp-Babbit is the senior producer. Cameo George, Robert Howell, Tina Matherson, Elizabeth Nunez and Dave Timko are the producers.  Jennifer Hyde is the managing editor and Bud Bultman and Geraldine Moriba executive produced the documentary for CNN. Howell and Timko are no longer with CNN.

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Obama's lousy inner circle

Obama lackluster performance revealed a number of issues about our president besides having a passive demeanor. It was obvious he misplayed his approach in debating Romney. I reason this was a failure on Obama's part and his inner circle, which remains handicapped because of the lack of impressive Black males. It is not too late for a reset by Obama's team but he cannot afford another free fall in his debate performances.

greg hit it on the head

I agree Greg, his inner circle is so concerned with making Obama the non-threatening Negro they emasculate him politically. He tries to be the smiling singing peaceful Black man to the point he is not feared by the opposition. Hopefully he will "man up" and come out aggressive next debate. Next term Obama needs to add some brothas to his inner circle so they can defend Valerie Jarett !

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