Pennsylvania is over, and Hillary Clinton got the victory that the media said she had to have in order to keep her campaign afloat. So where do we go from here? The race for the Democratic nomination has become brutal, nasty, “bitter” and increasingly personal. Sen. Hillary Clinton is way past throwing the kitchen sink at Sen. Barack Obama. He is now being hit with lawn furniture and anything else they can find in the Clinton bag of campaign tricks. Clearly, he is becoming damaged goods, even if he wins this nomination. Yet something is definitely happening with Obama, and we in the media are a big part of it.
Obama is one of the greatest campaign speakers in the last 50 years and perhaps the best of all time. It’s becoming increasingly clear that giving a speech in front of thousands of fawning fans isn’t the same as handling tough criticism and rough questions, even if they aren’t especially relevant.
Obama was moving forward in Pennsylvania, making strides and spending obscene amounts of money on TV commercials which all started to shrink Clinton’s lead. Then, much of the first 45 minutes of an ABC News debate between the two Democratic candidates was spent trying to figure out how patriotic Obama really was; why exactly he didn’t wear an American flag pin, and what his relationship is with not only the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but also with Bill Ayers, some obscure former underground figure who has said hateful things about the United States. Those first 45 minutes of the ABC debate was nothing but distractions, nothing but playing the “gotcha game.”
Obama has brought a lot of this on himself. He hasn’t won in five critical states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Michigan and Florida. He hasn’t put Clinton away, and she has figured out how to make the most of his mistakes, which included his latest blunder in San Francisco, when he thought he was speaking at a “private event,” saying certain working- class voters in Pennsylvania were “bitter” about their lives, which caused them to turn to religion and guns. Clinton took that and ran with it.
She made the case that Obama was an elitist, who didn’t care about regular folks. To prove that she was, in fact, just another hometown girl from Pennsylvania whose Grandpa worked in the mills, she invited everyone in the media to watch her throw back a few shots and chase it down with beers.
Much of this adds up to nothing but a huge distraction. It doesn't actually matter whether Obama actually salutes the flag, whether he wears an American pin on his lapel or whether he’s a bigger elitist than Clinton. They are distractions about who is tougher, and who actually is going to answer the phone at 3 a.m. The mutual Democratic destruction continues, and we in the media eat it up. We love the conflict. We love the horse race; we love the numbers and the polls.
What are we missing? Oh yeah, we forgot, 40 million Americans don’t have health insurance, the economy is in the toilet, over 4,000 soldiers have been killed in Iraq and millions of lives have been destroyed in a war that’s going nowhere fast. But I’m sure we’ll get to those things, and the media will help the campaign get back on track and talk about what’s really important. Talk about the things that matter in the lives of the American public. That’s all going to happen in the not too distant future. If only Barack Obama would put that American flag pin on his lapel, and Hillary Clinton would stop drinking in public, then maybe, just maybe, we can all get on to what really matters. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath.
is an MSNBC analyst focusing on national politics and media issues. Write to Steve Adubato at .