The Nov. 6 Reuters headline, "Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race," was laughable because almost everyone saw it. American voters by an 8-1 margin said they witnessed a pro-Obama press, and even Time's Mark Halperin said the "extreme pro-Obama coverage" represented a "disgusting failure of people in our business."
Sadly funny examples galore make up the evidence. The most famous was MSNBC's Chris Matthews saying on Feb. 12 that when Obama spoke, "I felt this thrill going up my leg." But during 2008 other journalists fell in love:
New York Times reporter Michael Powell in January: "He has that close-cropped hair and the high-school-smooth face with that deep saxophone of a voice. His . . . words mine a vein of American history that leaves more than a few listeners misty-eyed."
CNN's David Gergen in August: "It was less a speech than a symphony. It moved quickly, it had high tempo, at times inspiring, then it became more intimate. . . . It was a masterpiece."
Time's Nancy Gibbs in November: "Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope. . . . He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it."
The idea of Obama as savior of America, or redeemer, played out often, as in an Associated Press article about his Berlin speech: "Obama has raised expectations of a chance for the nation to redeem itself in a role that-at various times through history-Europe has loved, respected, and relied upon." One silver lining in the Obama victory was that it showed the inaccuracy of press assumptions like this one in an ABC question to Obama: "What do you think the bigger obstacle is for you in becoming president, the Clinton campaign machine or America's inherent racism?"
Meanwhile, just about every major news organization lost readers or viewers and announced substantial layoffs. Internet growth is the major cause, but a second reason is that journalists often did not ask hard questions. CNN's John Roberts sat down with Obama and said, "I want to stipulate at the beginning of this interview, we are declaring a Reverend Wright-free zone today. So, no questions about Reverend Wright. . . . Is that OK with you?" Obama replied, "Fair enough. That sounds just fine."
After months of denials, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards admitted on Aug. 8 to committing adultery with a campaign worker in 2006. The National Enquirer first reported the affair with Rielle Hunter, a 44-year-old videographer hired by the Edwards campaign to document his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Edwards released a statement saying he made a "serious error in judgment," adding: "In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic." Edwards canceled his trip to the Democratic National Convention, where he was scheduled to deliver a primetime speech.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned March 12 after being clearly implicated as a paying customer in a prostitution ring. As state attorney general Spitzer had won indictments against an international sex tourism business trafficking women and girls into New York-the first successful case of its kind-and human-rights groups that fight sex trafficking helped elect the rising Democrat.
Protesters showed up not only in the streets but in churches after the November general election as gay activists protested the passing of California's marriage amendment, Proposition 8. Voters in Florida and Arizona passed similar measures by greater margins, but only in California did voters turn gay-rights activists back: The state Supreme Court had in May legalized gay marriage, and Prop 8 erased that ruling from the books. While most anti--Prop 8 demonstrations were peaceful, homosexual demonstrators in Palm Springs were caught on film assaulting an elderly Prop 8 supporter. On Nov. 8, a group calling itself Bash Back disrupted a Sunday service at Mt. Hope church near Lansing, Mich., where two lesbians then kissed in the pulpit.
African-American leaders said they are outraged that gay activists, who compare same-sex marriage to civil-rights struggles, are turning on blacks who voted in favor of Prop 8. "The homosexual community has stated publicly that they believe that the 70 percent of African-American people that voted for Proposition 8 are ignorant and discriminatory because they voted for traditional marriage," said Rev. Ken Hutcherson, senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Wash. Hutcherson points out that gay activists have since Prop 8's passage "publicly called African-Americans the 'N' word," belying their own rally cry for tolerance.
When House Republicans demanding a vote on energy policy refused to leave for a Congressional recess this summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ordered staffers to turn off the lights, microphones, and C-SPAN cameras in the House chamber. But even the most powerful Democrat in the House couldn't stop one of the most powerful internet sensations of the year: Twitter.
As more than 50 Republicans stayed in Washington to make speeches on the dimmed House floor, Reps. John Culberson of Texas and Pete Hoekstra of Michigan sent updates to thousands through Twitter's online social networking service. "Call Speaker Pelosi at 202 225 0100. Demand vote on energy legislation," twittered Hoekstra.
Republicans demanded that Democrats vote to lift a ban on offshore drilling for oil. Democrats balked, accusing the GOP of grandstanding. Skyrocketing gas prices prevailed, and Congress lifted the 27-year ban in September. But don't count out more congressional twittering: With prices at the pump down, environmentalists hope to convince a Democratic president and Congress to reinstate the ban next year.