A lot of people are talking about the big speech Barack Obama gave today calling for multilateral nuclear disarmament. But I wanted to focus in on what I think is a significant aspect of the speech that has little to do with the actual policy questions addressed here. Specifically, I'm talking about Obama's repeated attacks on the Beltway media establishment.
Obama came back to this theme again and again today. Here, for instance, Obama makes a clear reference to the D.C. punditry, pointing out its astonishing addiction to Republican narratives and frames in the aftermath of September 11 and in the run-up to the Iraq invasion:
"We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act and vote like a Republican."
Here Obama targets the manifold failings of the media in the runup to the war -- specifically, the now-well-documented credulousness in the face of administration claims about Iraq WMD:
"Because the American people weren’t just failed by a President -- they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war."
Here's Obama fast-forwarding and attacking D.C. pundits for their endless fascination with the MoveOn-bashes-Petraeus story:
"The fact that violence today is only as horrific as in 2006 is held up as progress. Washington politicians and pundits trip over each other to debate a newspaper advertisement while our troops fight and die in Iraq."
What's striking about these lines is how tightly they're in sync with the liberal blogospheric critique of the Beltway media. All these points hit on by Obama here -- the frequent pundit assertion that Dems will look weak if they don't walk in lockstep behind the GOP; the uncritical acceptance of administration spin; the punditry and media's willingness to parrot the GOP line on stories such as the MoveOn ad flap -- are central pillars in that media critique.
This shows us yet again how this sort of media crit, and this sort of pushback against both mainstream and right-wing media figures, have really gone mainstream in Democratic Presidential politics. Sounding this media critique has not only become de rigeur for Dem Presidential candidates as they seek to appeal to Dem primary voters, but has also become an arena where the campaigns are competing to outdo each other, often quite aggressively.
Recall, for instance, that early on in the campaign, John Edwards took the lead in pulling out of debates sponsored by Fox News -- and more to the point, challenged his rivals to do the same. Elizabeth Edwards, too, has taken a lead role in attacking right-wing pundits, going after Matt Drudge and directly confronting Ann Coulter on the air.
Meanwhile, Hillary hired press critic Peter Daou as her internet outreach chief. The Hillary campaign took great care to play up Bill Clinton's on-air attack on Fox's Chris Wallace as a way to get cred with bloggers and Dem activists. Both Hillary and Chris Dodd competed to most aggressively attack Bill O'Reilly when he went after YearlyKos. And here you have Obama saying things about the Beltway press and punditry that could have been written by Atrios or Glenn Greenwald.
Cynics will be tempted to dismiss all this as so much pandering. But the fact is, all this has amplified and given a higher-profile to the liberal press critique. This sort of pushback against the media -- historically the province of Republican candidates -- has become something no Dem campaign can afford to be without. It's an interesting development indeed.