Politics & Policy

Hot Stuff

Celebrity makes a big difference in this election.

Did Barak Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson announce health-care plans? I bet that they did. So did the rest of the Democratic field, I suppose. But the trouble for them is that most people, even those who still watch the news, didn’t hear too much about their plans. Nor do those same people seem to care.

But when Hillary announced her $110-billion-dollar “American Health Choices Plan” it led the evening news on two out of three of the network broadcasts. Reports flooded the cable news channels. She managed a long-winded follow-up interview with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning, America. And some on the network news shows, especially Dr. Tim Johnson — the health expert on ABC and a longtime Hillary Care fan — were jumping out of their skin to show enthusiasm.

But the details of her plan were not so much the subject of discussion. Why? Well, because let’s face it, details don’t make good television. The reporting, just like so much of the coverage of her campaign, was all about Hillary herself. Today’s underlying theme was “gutsy Hillary”– older but wiser, trying once again to find the way to do what she thinks it right. Yes, yes, we know she has the scars to show for her last attempt at Hillary Care but now she’s learned, she’s changed, and after taking a look at the videos from 1994 you realize that, if nothing else, she finally has a better haircut.

Unlike any other candidate, Democratic or Republican, Hillary is still the only superstar. Obama, no matter how much money he raises, and Rudy, no matter how well he may be doing in some polls, still remain B-List-ers in this election. She has made headlines for so long; she has the soap-opera story we all know so well. And now she has even turned her first attempt, that colossal failure at health-care reform, into just another part of her ongoing personal melodrama.

When she was droning on at Diane Sawyer on Good Morning, America — and even given a nearly ten-minute segment, Hillary still can’t help being the wonk and drone — she declared that her concern about health care was “a commitment of a lifetime.” But now, she likes to claim, “I know much more about the way to get things done….It is important to keep trying. I don’t give up easily. I keep coming back…” She was emphasizing the now-familiar talking points of her well-oiled campaign: her experience combined with her ability to learn, which will lead to the inevitability of her candidacy. No matter what policy she is espousing, deep down Hillary is really always selling Hillary.

And, let’s admit it:This strategy appears to be working very well, especially with the Democratic-primary voters who are her current focus. According to a new CBS poll 61-percent of those who plan to vote in Democratic primaries express confidence in Clinton’s ability to make the right decisions about health care. Even more significantly, registered voters see Clinton’s experience with a failed health-care proposal as an asset rather than a liability. 66-percent of all voters, and 77-percent of Democratic-primary voters, say her past experience will help her to reform health care if she becomes presidents. Take a bow, Mrs. Clinton. They’ve drawn exactly the conclusion that you wanted.

This, of course, is not good news for either her Democratic or Republican opponents. And, yes, the media does have a bias in Hillary’s favor, which has been made obvious in the reporting of the last couple of days. And maybe it is because they agree with her politics. But just as important for TV news coverage is all the video available of her through the years. Wasn’t it fun seeing her going down to defeat in her circa-1994 purple power suit. What’s most important, however, (and Hillary and the media both are well aware) is that it is celebrity that sells. So for the foreseeable future, Hillary is the A-lister on whom the media will continue to lather attention. That is, if she can hold her own against O. J.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


The Latest