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Commentary: Coverage of Obama trip almost embarrassing

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By Glenn Beck
CNN
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Editor's note: Glenn Beck is on CNN Headline News nightly at 7 and 9 ET and also hosts a conservative national radio talk show.

Glenn Beck

Obama drives ratings, but media are focusing on the sizzle over the steak, Glenn Beck says.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "Sometimes it's hard to tell if Barack Obama is running for president of the United States or Mr. Universe."

If you're guessing that's a quote from Michelle Obama, you're wrong. It was the first sentence of a recent article about Obama's frequent gym visits, published by the esteemed Associated Press.

So many Americans have apparently been worried that Obama might lose his great six-pack abs, the AP felt obligated to step in and put our minds at ease.

"The Democratic presidential contender exercises regularly," the Pulitzer-worthy article continued, "but over a 24-hour span this week, he took it to a new extreme. Twice on Wednesday and again Thursday morning, Obama traveled to a lakefront apartment building near his Chicago home to work out with a friend at his gym."

Whew.

But as a media outlet that claims to offer news "of the highest quality, reliability and objectivity with reports that are accurate, balanced and informed," the AP knew that it couldn't stop there. Its hard-hitting investigation revealed the answer to another question that's kept so many people up at night: "What does Barack Obama wear when he goes to the gym?" The jaw-dropping answer? "A baseball hat, white T-shirt and black sweat pants."

Wow. Sleep well.

But the AP realized that to have its reporting taken seriously, it would need to go even deeper and reveal exactly how much Obama perspires. Fortunately, it has world-class resources at its disposal: "When he shot hoops earlier this year with members of the University of North Carolina varsity men's basketball team, (the photographers accompanying him) didn't see Obama sweat."

My gosh, it's like he's not human! I'm surprised they didn't report how much he bench pressed, the incline level he used on the treadmill or what songs were on his iPod. Then again, I probably just didn't look hard enough.

To reiterate, this wasn't a hometown newspaper, local television affiliates or a left-wing blogger reporting this "news" about Obama's exercise routine. It was a mainstream, international, "unbiased" news organization.

Of course, anecdotal evidence that Obama probably polls somewhere around 95 percent with members of the media has been around for years, but now there are some actual statistics to back it up.

According to the Tyndall Report, a service that monitors the three network news broadcasts, ABC, NBC, and CBS have spent a total of 114 of their national airtime minutes covering Obama since June. They've spent 48 minutes on his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain.

And then you have the almost embarrassing way the media have gushed over Obama's trip to the Middle East. There were 200 requests for the 40 press seats available on Obama's plane, and all three top network anchors (Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams) made the trip and are broadcasting live from each country Obama visits.

You can't buy that kind of publicity. And neither could McCain.

McCain made a trip to the Middle East in March and didn't have to worry about finding seats for any network anchors, because none of them wanted to go. And while Obama was flying from country to country this week in a plane packed with celebrity reporters, McCain flew to an event in New Hampshire. After his Boeing 737 landed in Manchester, he stepped out onto the tarmac and glanced at the one reporter who'd bothered to show up. Yes, one.

And then you have the print media's fascination with Obama. He's been on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, GQ, Rolling Stone, US Weekly (twice), Time and Newsweek (a combined 12 times) and will soon be on the cover of Men's Vogue for the second time. To be fair, Men's Vogue also did an in-depth story on John McCain but, strangely, a photo of McCain didn't make their cover.

Why the disparity? According to Men's Vogue deputy editor Ned Martel, there's a simple explanation: Obama "is what is called in the magazine world an 'interest driver.' " Translation: Obama sells magazines.

As a conservative, I can't argue with that logic. "The Media" aren't around for their health, they're around to make money, and if Obama drives sales or ratings, then I can't really blame them for continuing to tap that well until it runs dry. I could make an argument that McCain's campaign has plenty of interesting angles that would sell and rate -- but, quite honestly, until this media infatuation phase is over, they're not even worth bringing up.

I do, however, find it funny that many of the same people who are clearly not fans of big business or truly free markets have embraced this "run what rates" philosophy. I guess capitalism is evil until it's you whose paycheck is at stake.

But all of this points to a larger point: We've become a country that continually chooses the sizzle over the steak. McCain may not get my vote, but he gets my admiration for at least offering some substance and new ideas when he speaks. Obama, meanwhile, is like the rock star who's realized that he can just scream unintelligible words into the microphone between songs, and the entire stadium will still scream. When your fans already love you, there's no reason to risk it by offering anything that might be controversial. Remember the Dixie Chicks?

As candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain are ironically a lot like the way the media treats them: Obama is the glitzy magazine cover that screams for people to buy the issue, and McCain is the fact-filled article buried inside that makes you glad you did.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About MediaBarack ObamaJohn McCain

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