Bob Franken


December 20, 2007
Get Real (Bob Franken)
@ 10:48 am

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We in the media are rougher on some of the candidates than others, specifically Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama gets away with simply being cool, a suit with an open collar. We spend little time trying to determine whether the suit is empty or whether his platitudes are. At the same time we cut Hillary no slack whatsoever.

Mike Huckabee still is able to gloss over his hellfire-and-brimstone conservatism with jokes and rock ‘n’ roll. Mitt Romney is routinely portrayed as a stiff.

You can argue all you want that reporters are supposed to be evenhanded — that we should put aside our personal feelings. Sad to say, we don’t. And won’t. So the question is: personal feelings about what?

Here’s what: To put it bluntly, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney come across as phonies, contrivances of poll-driven campaign staffs, whose every public utterance is a calculated expedient. But it’s more than that.

“Phony,” “calculated,” et cetera, could describe every one of the candidates. The real issue is that neither Hillary nor Mitt is good at it. Neither seems able to look spontaneous. To paraphrase an old line, “The key to success is spontaneity. If you can script that, you’ve got it made.”

Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney come across as stiff — robots programmed by their advisers to recite their “message of the day.”

Journalists don’t like it one bit when all they get to cover is an automaton, so they pounce any time they see the slightest crack in the facade, or imagine one.

So it is worth contemplating when Clinton and Romney or their surrogates gripe that their media treatment is unfair. It is a heartfelt complaint. The problem is it’s about the only thing heartfelt that we’re allowed to see.

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