Off Message March 2007

Twinkie Time

The recent dustup between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama over remarks by David Geffen was a classic specimen of the wispy stuff of modern campaign coverage.

With 20 months to go before the 2008 presidential election, the candidates have to work hard to keep the campaign interesting and the voters engaged.

Meanwhile, news outlets are in exactly the same predicament: make this race feel fresh every day, or risk losing the readers—the eyeballs, the audience share—that keep the old media barge afloat. Political news has become a wildly competitive business, and to thrive you need a constant flow of content.

It's not easy. Once a candidate has announced for president and made the usual rounds—Iowa, Russert, New Hampshire, Stephanopoulos—the string starts running short. There are only so many ways that a campaign can frame and reframe its message, only so many times that a scribe can slice and dice the same bio, voting record, and stump speech.

So what are these two supposedly antagonistic tribes, the news people and the political people, to do? What comes naturally, of course. They work together, hand in glove, to keep the campaign stories coming. It's not a true conspiracy. There's no secret clubhouse where they gather to plot tomorrow's story line. Nobody ever says, "Hey, gang, let's make up some news!" Both sides just stay alive to the possibilities: potential tempests, dustups, flares, and flaps that are the wispy stuff of modern campaign coverage.

Last week's Clinton-Obama flap was a classic specimen. As you'll recall, Hollywood billionaire David Geffen gave an interview to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd "by a crackling fire" at his Beverly Hills home. Geffen was once a great supporter of the Clintons, but as the column made clear, he has ditched them in favor of the senator from Illinois.

Presented by

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Politics

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In