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13 November 2008 Edition

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Media View BY ROBBIE SMYTH in New York





No honeymoon for Obama

Deciding on a breed of puppy for your new house, which school to send your children to, or prioritising the policies and strategies that will guide and shape the USA over the next four years – Barack Obama has a busy agenda this week and he has to take all of these ‘vital’ decisions with the US media following every step, though some  news outlets are giving more prominence to the choice of puppy and schools over economic policies.
Oh! and by the way, if you think Europe or any of of our concerns are high on the US media agenda, forget it. Right now the US is looking inwards at the first family in waiting and a growing economic crisis that is driving up unemployment, business closures and pushing many states into budget deficits and cutbacks as tax revenue crashes. Any of this sound familiar?
The US media have gone deep on Obama watching and we have a unique insight into the intimate details of what CBS News terms the “Transition to power”.
I know where Barack had dinner last Saturday as he and Michelle hit downtown Chicago courtesy of the New York Post’s front page headline, Monday, November 10, “1st date – Romantic night out for Prez-elect and his lady”.
The Murdoch owned News Corp tabloid told readers that Obama had a “historic date” in Chicago’s Spiaggia restaurant, their “favourite” apparently. The New York Post have also selected a puppy for the president. He’s called Gisepy, the mongrel Yorkie languishes in a Washington City dog pound.
While the news media have been following the President elect and his “Transition Team”, the themes as a news story have jumped daily. Last Thursday it was all about his possible appointments. The weekend media on TV and in papers was more reflective with Larry King taking us through the “Best of the Obamas” highlighting his key interviews with the incoming president, while CNN also had their “Memo to the president”, discusing with an endless panel of experts just what Obama should do.

Writing on November 9th, the New York Times Peter Baker claimed that the new administration was debating a “big bang strategy of pressing aggressively on multiple fronts versus a more pragmatic, step by step approach”. Apparently this discussion has been ongoing for months.
Dissecting the election vote has become a daily ritual for the NYT. For example, Sam Roberts reported Monday 10 November that even though New York City residents voted in greater numbers for Obama than they did for John Kerry or Al Gore, the margin was small and some districts in Queens and Brooklyn swung to McCain.
On Tuesday the Times reported how some voters in Texas, Kentucky and South Carolina voted more republican than in 2004.
However an analysis in Sunday’s NYT of an exit poll jointly funded by the Times, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC provided a detailed analysis of how Obama won taking key demographcis such as 56% of women voters, 66% of voters aged 18 to 29 , 95% of Black voters and 63% of voters who had not graduated from high school.
However if this is getting too technical and you just want some more fluffy analysis turn to the coverage given to the Obama’s White House visit. CBS news gave equal prominence to the tour of the private residence given by Laura Bush to Michelle Obama. The Post even have a special web report on the visit and told us that Michelle will be “Mom-in-chief” a name tag echoed in the Daily News.
An interesting aspect of the visit was Obama’s decision to raise the case of a bailout for the US motor industry, something key in his own state of Illinois. However the wider agenda was not far away as the American Civil Liberties Union took full page ads calling on Obama to close Guatanamo. The ad read, “On day one, with the stroke of a pen, you can restore America’s moral leadership in the world”.

Finally it looks like Obama will also have to deal with Sarah Palin. Starting with a sympathetic Fox News interview and onto a CBS special “At home with the Palins”, the Alaskan Governor has been opening her heart to the US media.
So Palin is giving back the $150,000 wardrobe, she does know that Africa is a continent not a country, can name the members of NAFTA and is gunning to run for the Republicans in 2012. It seems that the next election has already started.

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