Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Enough About Them
--Claire Brinberg, 360 Producer

Enough About Them

Let's talk about ME and my feeeeelings, and why I find myself consumed with anxiety as my flight lifts off from New Hampshire.

I'm in a cramped window seat, in the back of a small and noisy prop plane. Behind me, in the very last row, sits Wesley Clark, the retired general who mounted a much-anticipated, but ultimately disappointing run for the White House four years ago.

I remember traveling to Little Rock with Judy Woodruff, my former boss and dear friend, to interview Clark the day before he announced his campaign. It felt like such a big deal...a real moment in history. For a brief time that summer, Clark embodied the dreams of the Democratic party, and dominated the media chatter. He had worldly intelligence... military integrity... charm. He was an outsider, but not a freaky outsider. Just outsidery enough to seem like a refreshing break from the status quo.

And now he's back with me in steerage, on a flight that doesn't even offer a choice of beverage. Just water. Twice the flight attendent scolded him that his bag wasn't properly tucked away.

General Clark reminds me how often we in the media lose touch with reality. We find an ambitious man, make him the vessel for all our hopes and dreams, build him up and watch him fall. We don't know him all that well, but we decide that he counts.

Fred Thompson is this year's Wes Clark.

Clark was in New Hampshire this week to campaign for Senator Hillary Clinton. For a huge swath of 2007, we reporter types were measuring the White House drapes on her behalf. And now we're gleefully zooming-in on her tear ducts.

For most of 2007, I believed Senator Clinton would be the next president. She seemed organized and inevitable...thoroughly prepared for a bruising campaign. I was convinced she'd be the Democratic nominee, much as I was certain that John McCain would not be his party's pick.

But this year booms went bust and busts went boom.

The 2007 campaign was dominated by boomlets and anti-boomlets. The summer boomlets (Fred the Gipper, Rudy Beloved-By-All-Republicans) and anti-boomlets (remember Timid Obambi and Imploding McCain?) feel like a whole 'nother era.

If I've learned anything this year, it's that the only relevant boomlets and anti-boomlets are the ones that happen two weeks before an election. The others just give us talkers stuff to talk about.

On Caucus Thursday, I had no idea how Iowa would vote. On Primary Tuesday, I feel like I've got a better handle on New Hampshire.

But I'm still anxious. 'Cause after tonight the whole game will change. But I have no idea how. That sense of uncertainty is both exciting and unsettling.

When we land, General Clark and I are the last ones off the plane.

"Gotta love the back," I say.

"Keeps you humble," he replies.

Indeed it does.
Posted By CNN: 12:51 PM ET
Well I think that we don't know enough about Obama to be saying that he should be the next prez or that Hillary is done. I mean we really barely know anything about him. To me he seems more like a Wesley Clark. I mean he is the outsider that noone really knows with charisma, poise and a great ability to give speeches. But once the others start digging into his past and seeing where he truely stands on issues I think some of that shine will fade away from him. IMO no one has really grilled him enough...as in the media! He has been given a free ride! Now is the time for him to answer the tough questions and let us really see what he is made of. Who knows...he may fade off in the distance like Clark once his views are truely out there!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 1:20 PM ET
Thanks Claire for the behind the scenes glimpse. General Wesley Clark in steerage? Ah how the mighty have fallen. I don't think the avg. American would recognize him if they saw him on a plane. But looking forward to Anderson's coverage in S Carolina - with the weather about to turn winter again, it might be colder in the Carolinas than it was in N Hampshire!

And take Anderson out for a salad when you get there OK? No more fast food.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Detroit, MI. : 1:22 PM ET
I'm afraid that I'm needing me a little Wes Clark or Colin Powell today. Badly!

Portland, Oregon
Posted By Blogger Lewis : 1:29 PM ET
I don't think Fred Thompson would qualify as this year's Wes Clark. I mean, really? Maybe by standards of poll placement, but certainly not by character and ideas.

Thompson can barely answer questions even if they injected them into his veins. He wasn't built up to the degree of Clark, it was simply his recognizable face from TV (and I'll admit, I had no idea who he was on TV).

The election process never comes without a few surprises. It's happened every time and we should continue to predict the unpredictable.
Posted By Anonymous AA, St. Paul, MN : 2:15 PM ET
I find this election refreshing and exciting. I am ready for an evening full of twists and turns.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 2:43 PM ET

Got an error message on my first try, so I'll try quickly once more. Having trouble with this new system, and had given up blogging for awhile. Hope this doesn't go through twice. I know exactly what you mean about the back of a turbo prop plane. The worst is getting the last row -- the one with 5 seats across, no aisle, and you're in a window seat!

Though North of the border, I'm still interested in the US election -- though growing a bit weary about the duration. Up here, our elections are over and done in about 2 to 3 months. I'm wondering if the candidates will get questions that most of us get on job interviews-- e.g., "Tell us about one instance in which you were an agent of change or worked in a bipartisan manner, how you accomplished this, and what was the outcome?" I was disappointed that NOLA was rejected for a Presidential debate location, and hope the issues there will become part of the discussion, as it seems the issues are similar to other areas of the country but more severe. Also wondering if Barack Obama ever took Anderson up on the invite to NOLA -- that would be an interesting way to discuss specific plans for hope and change!
Posted By Anonymous Vicky, Ottawa, ON : 2:47 PM ET
Thanks for the NH coverage and safe travels in the back of the plane! On to South Carolina... wasn't Anderson mistaken for Wes Clark earlier in his career by another reporter who approached to ask a question?!
Posted By Anonymous diane - providence ri. : 3:16 PM ET
Claire, it doesn't matter where you sit on the plane, it all gets there at the same time, (hopefully!). Does this mean you're now a Primary Princess?

They need to give you a huge raise (then you can get some winter footwear!).
Posted By Anonymous Twilight Sky : 3:29 PM ET
All this talk about how Hillary Clinton isn't getting enough coverage and that the press is favoring Obama. Hello??? OBAMA IS NEWS PEOPLE!!!
Further the fact that President Clinton is attacking Obama publicly, a democratic candidate is just unbelievably disgusting. Whether his wife is running or not. Unconscionable.
Posted By Anonymous nancy : 3:50 PM ET
Ahh, Wesley Clark! If only he had stayed in the race our world might be so different today.

Thanks for the behind the scenes account, very interesting. I always wondered why candidate's have to withdraw their names from the ballot. Why can't they stop campaigning if they don't have the funds but still remain on the ballot so their supporters can still vote for them. This way it looks like you are buying the election.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 4:50 PM ET

I think what makes this election even more exciting is that we do not have an incumbent president or vice president running. (Darth Vader is not on the ballot).

So both political campaigns have not only separated from the Bush administration but are defining what the next presidency should look like.

I believe the word change is being used.
Posted By Blogger Sharon from Indy : 6:07 PM ET
...and it's clear that this year Obama is the media's "hopes and dreams man." But I think unlike Clark, this time it's quite different. He brings in so many more people to the political table, and that is why CNN and related media sources put him in "can do no harm" territory. You see, the more people who gain an interest in politics, the more power CNN has. The folks at CNN don't have the courage to actually run for a position of power, and so they sit back like cowards and attempt to "pull the strings" of our puppet-like American public, giving us their OPINIONS and not the unbiased news. The more people Obama brings to the party, the cooler the folks at CNN seem. It's like high school all over again.
Posted By Blogger Derek : 6:50 PM ET
I was becoming increasingly disturbed by the partisan remarks by Bill Bennett with his calculated reference to "Barack Hussein Barama".

But Amy Holmes cynical and hateful remarks today about Hillary Clinton are beyond the pale.

These "insights" do nothing to enlighten the viewer about the political process. It just makes me want to change the channel.
Posted By Anonymous dee houston tx : 8:45 PM ET
Is Bill Clinton Calling the American Dream a Fairy Tale?

Any significant progress in this country has been the result of Americans working hard to achieve their dreams. The definition of the American dream has always implied men and women in the face of adversity, braving obstacles to make their dreams come through. If Bill Clinton is calling Barack Obama's bringing hope to those American men and women a fairy tale, then him and Hilary Clinton are certainly not for change. Therefore, they are either contradicting themselves and their slogan for change or they are trying hard to deceive the American people. The American people should not be taken for granted. They deserve respect and honesty, which Barack Obama has consistently demonstrated throughout this campaign. Barack Obama has brought hope to generations of Americans regardless of their background(s) through his bipartisan policy proposals for change and a positively refreshing view on politics in general. People need a clear definition of who is running for president and what they stand for. The question to the Clinton campaign is: who is really running for president? Is it Bill or Hilary Clinton? Or are we in for a Clinton Dynasty? If yes, what do they stand for? Absolute power or real change?.
Posted By Anonymous AL, Madison, WI : 2:50 AM ET
The only thing I am sure of is that the last time a Clinton was in office, I had money in the bank. I suspect a Clinton/Obama ticket and them Obama 8 years from now.
Rosa Lokey
Posted By Blogger rosa lokey : 6:56 PM ET
A behind the scenes look at "Anderson Cooper 360°" and the stories it covers, written by Anderson Cooper and the show's correspondents and producers.

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