ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

Campaign 2000: Already, a Media Bias!

By Jeff Greenfield

TIME magazine

(TIME, Nov. 9) -- No cheering in the press box."

For a political journalist, this has always been our Hippocratic oath, our Pledge of Allegiance--until now, that is.

For, as we clear away the clutter of the midterm elections and turn our energies to the next two years of presidential speculation, many of us find ourselves rooting unabashedly for one candidate in particular to enter the race. Who is that candidate?

Bob Smith.

I refer not to the buckskin-clad host of The Howdy Doody Show, whose recent death would appear to pose an insurmountable liability to his candidacy, but to Bob Smith, U.S. Senator, who says he is leaning toward a long-shot presidential run. This Bob Smith is not just a Senator. He is a Senator from New Hampshire. And therein lies the key to the excitement his potential candidacy stirs in the reportorial breast.

Every four years the political press corps digs into closets, rummages through attics and basements, dragging out the industrial-strength parkas, the mukluks, the Gore-Tex vests and the flannel-lined chinos, as we prepare for winter in New Hampshire. Pause for a moment at that last phrase: "winter in New Hampshire." Unlike "April in Paris" or "autumn in New York" or "springtime in the Rockies," no one has ever written a song titled Winter in New Hampshire. Ever wonder why?

We have to go to New Hampshire in the winter because it is the "First in the Nation!" primary, just as we have to go to Iowa in the winter because it is the "First in the Nation!" caucus. We have to go to these places because the national political parties are afraid to tell these states that the Constitution nowhere guarantees them the permanent right to 75% of all prenomination press attention. So we are doomed to quadrennial pneumonia. Unless.

Unless we are saved by the Tom Harkin Rule. In 1992 Iowa Senator Tom Harkin decided to seek the presidency; his fellow Democrats left the Hawkeye State to the native Hawkeye. While that left Iowa's hoteliers and restaurateurs in despair, it liberated a few thousand of us from the joys of standing ankle-deep in frozen mud while a candidate talked to four shivering Iowans, seven cows and 35 camera crews.

This is the promise that Bob Smith holds for every frostbitten media type in America: the promise that Smith's entry into the race will persuade every other Republican to bypass New Hampshire and head straight for California, whose primary in 2000 will be held on March 7. Surely, surely the most populous state in the Union will absorb weeks--nay, months--of every candidate's time, once New Hampshire is off the boards. What does it mean if Mr. Smith runs? Instead of the frozen tundra of Manchester, the sandy beaches of Montecito; instead of a frozen glass of apple cider from Nashua, a fine Cabernet from Napa.

More than 80 years ago, Woodrow Wilson won re-election promising America neutrality and offering a simple campaign theme: "He kept us out of war." With Bob Smith in the race, every journalist would abandon neutrality and rally to the Senator's unspoken theme: "He kept us out of Laconia."


Cover Date: November 9, 1998

Search CNN/AllPolitics by infoseek
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.