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The Volleys Of TV's Political Analysts


If you're following the conventions you better get a scorecard. Many of the big political players and the people giving color commentary on news shows bear a striking resemblance to one another. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is covering the coverage for us.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: If you don't listen closely to the talking heads on television, you won't notice when a question isn't being answered. Take this exchange from last night. The first voice belongs to CNN anchor Campbell Brown, the second CNN political analyst Hilary Rosen.

Ms. CAMPBELL BROWN (Anchor): Why isn't Barack Obama able, at least not yet, to connect with those working class women that Glory was just talking about?

Ms. HILARY ROSEN (Political Analyst): Well, you know, he hasn't spoken yet, so give him a chance. I think that there's a real focus on the economy and on jobs over the next couple of days...

FOLKENFLIK: Your honor, I object. CNN's political analyst didn't really address the question. And why didn't she? Well, maybe it's inconvenient to acknowledge Obama's troubles. Rosen's not just on the sidelines. She's a Democratic strategist and a donor this year, first to Hillary Clinton and more recently to Obama.

Lest you think CNN is one-sided, it also has Republican strategists on call, such as Leslie Sanchez, who last night saw divisions between Clinton's political hopes and those of Obama.

Ms. LESLIE SANCHEZ (Political Analyst): But it's almost as if she threw the gauntlet down and said women are really in charge of - I wrote it here. The needs of women - we need to fight for change as women.

FOLKENFLIK: Awfully convenient for a Republican to accentuate the negative. I don't mean to pick on CNN in particular. It's just following the golden rule of television coverage. If you want someone on call, you've got to put him or her on the payroll. Sometimes they know more than the average bear, but what independent assessment are we viewers getting here? Not that much. So over on Fox News you can find Clinton loyalist Lanny Davis and the so-called architect of President Bush's political career, Karl Rove, is now ubiquitous there. Not surprisingly, he found Michelle Obama's address to Democrats far too liberal.

Mr. KARL ROVE (Former White House Adviser): Finally, she utterly failed to help, I think, people understand what it would be like as a first couple. I didn't get a sense of connectedness of the two of them. Yet in a very sort of business-like relationship. I didn't get the sense of deep warmth there.

FOLKENFLIK: Speaking of relationships, speakers at the convention are trying, in the words of Fox News analyst Nina Easton, to tie President Bush's record around Republican John McCain's neck. So wouldn't Rove have some incentive to undercut the Democrats?

Fox News anchor Brit Hume challenged Rove a bit and then teased him about his past identity.

Mr. BRIT HUME (Anchor, Fox News): We know that thousands of Democratic delegates are looking forward to your arrival and they will cheer you on and welcome you as they have us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROVE: Exactly.

FOLKENFLIK: It all got a bit giddy and a bit weird last night. CNN's Jeanne Moos acknowledged some pundits joined Democratic delegates in dancing on the convention floor.

Ms. JEANNE MOOS (CNN): Political analysts Paul Begala and Donna Brazile were supplying their own moves to analyze.

(Soundbite of music)

FOLKENFLIK: Wait, are they analysts or Democratic bigwigs? Is that Donna Brazil party superdelegate or her pundit-izing doppelganger? And that's the thing. These aren't career-changers, like ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who quit the Clinton White House, or former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, now with MSNBC. Most have kept the day jobs, usually consulting gigs. Being on TV often helps them drum up more business. But it doesn't help viewers waiting for actual answers to the questions they'd like to have asked.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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