Chris Matthews HEARTS Hillary Clinton on Valentine’s Day


(Alternate title: Ratings and Relevance – Why the Media Elite Need Hillary to Stay in the Race)

Like many of you, I am fascinated by our Elite Media’s collective reaction to the Obama surge. They appear to be tripping over themselves to minimize the importance of his victories this week. They are muddling the delegate count to make it appear like we have a neck-and-neck horse race, rather than an obvious clear leader today. Tim Russert has to stand on his head wearing those 3-D colored glasses in order not to sound like a complete idiot when he says ‘As I read the results, there is no clear picture in the race today, Chris’. Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, and the rest are all saying how uncertain things are, when in fact we have a darn good idea of what is happening.

So what’s going on here? Aren’t these the same people who couldn’t wait to trash Hillary Clinton from the moment she announced her candidacy? Weren’t these folks practically wetting themselves when it looked like she had a legitimate challenger in the Democratic primary? Yet now, you get the sense they are all cheering her on behind the scenes, although of course they can’t be so blatant as to say so on national TV.

What’s changed?

What’s changed is she looks like she might actually lose. Pretty soon, our media elite might not have Hillary Clinton to kick around any more. And I suspect this is a scary thought to many of them.

There are two reason why having her around is important to them – Ratings and Relevance.


Here is a partial list of media figures who saw their career prospects soar while Bill Clinton was President:

Bill O’Reilly

Chris Matthews

Sean Hannity

George Stephanopoulos

Wolf Blitzer

Andrea Mitchell

Ann Coulter

Rush Limbaugh

In a fair and equitable world, Monica Lewinsky would be getting a cut from each of these people’s salaries for life. Back in the day, beating up on Bill Clinton wasn’t just good for ratings, it was great for ratings. To put it mildly, these people have the ‘Attack Clinton’ gene built right into their DNA.

So they continue the pattern when Hillary Clinton announces her candidacy. And then, lo and behold, along comes Barack Obama. Suddenly, a legitimate contender to the Clinton throne! How exciting! So they rush to report just exactly how exciting it is, and whaddya know, ratings go up again! Ah, the power of a knock-down fight with one of the competitors named Clinton. It is ratings gold to these folks. What’s that you say, there’s this pesky fellow named Edwards mucking up our story? Not to worry, we can ignore him till he drops out, then we’ll add to the drama by saying how he shaped the race for the two remaining combatants. Drama! Ah yes, more ratings gold. What a great story! Let’s make sure we give Obama some good press to keep things close for a while, shall we?

Of course, when Hillary beats her challenger in the primaries, we can then move on to the heavyweight championship. Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain! OMFG can you just imagine! We’ll probably also have to pump up John a bit to keep things close and exciting, but that’s not a problem – we’re experts at the game by now.

Ah yes, our ratings will be through the roof in 2008. How wonderful not to have to report on those depressing topics like The War or The Economy for a whole year…

But wait. Oh noes! What’s that? Barack Obama is winning? That, well that just can’t be happening…but…ok calm down…stall for time…maybe we can still have our dream title match…doesn’t look good you say?…um, what if we make it seem like it’s closer than it really is?…I suppose it’s all we can do for now…jeepers I sure hope Obama says something stupid soon…er, does anybody around here have a plan B?

Bottom line, I believe commercial considerations are driving about 90% of the spin we see today in political reporting. Explaining in full detail how Hillary Clinton really is in deep trouble does little for their ratings, so they make it seem like things might just be closer than they are in reality. After all, it’s not yet 100% impossible for her to win, so run with it while we keep those eyeballs tuned to our oh-so-exciting ‘news’ programming! While we’re at it, let’s support Hillary’s call for more debates so we can gain the temporary ratings boost AND we can help spin the results back into her favor if we get desperate enough. Not much of a plan, but you gotta do what you gotta do…


Going back to the list above, it’s surprising to see just how many of our media elite today owe their careers to Bill Clinton and his personal peccadilloes. With Hillary Clinton in the White House, they are all nearly assured of continuous influence, ratings, and relevance. And of course, the paycheck that comes along with said relevance. Natch.

But what happens if Barack Obama not only wins the Democratic nomination, but also the White House? Will this change signify a public shift away from not only the two families who have run the show for ages, but also a deeper shift towards a new way of politics? What if talking about blue dresses and cigars just won’t bring folks to your program like it used to?

I don’t think our media elite have fully thought this through yet. Individually, their egos are big enough to believe ‘it won’t happen to me’. But, subconsciously, I think it’s starting to register. You can see it in their eyes. Change is coming, and they don’t know what to do. It’s not clear, but it is possible this could be the beginning of the end to their relevance. It has to happen eventually, so why not now?

Of course, if Barack Obama wins the nomination they will make the best of it. But I suspect their hearts won’t be in it, and they just might start looking over their collective shoulders to see what other change might start heading their way. It’s enough to make you downright nervous in this oh-so-competitive day and age. I mean, what happens if folks decide that, in addition to Bushes and Clintons and such, they are tired of Matthews’s and Mitchells and Russerts and Blitzers and Limbaughs too?

Now there’s a truly scary hopeful thought this Valentine’s Day.



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  1. As Little Bill would say (if you don’t watch Noggin, you’re missing some great TV!)

    Apologies in advance for little to no commentary. AFK for the foreseeable future.


  2. of honesty, I’ve heard some of these folks actually admit that they’re hoping for as much high drama in this process as is possible – good for the ratings.

    Here’s the dilemma I see. If Obama is elected, the right wing “think tanks” will work to craft a narrative to neutralize him as well. It will be handed to Tweety, Russert, et all so that they can run with it. Part of what I both fear and anticipate is that the narrative that’s developed might have its roots in race. I both fear the consequences of such a movement, and wonder if it might not finally get this dark part of our county’s soul out on the table for discussion.  

    • nocatz on February 14, 2008 at 18:33

    Mathews is getting a little tingle from Barack

  3. Hillary Clinton: building a bridge to the 20th Century

    I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this video was made this decade – let alone this month.

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