From Bloomberg

Commentary by Jeremy Gerard

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) — Jimmy Stewart and Davy Crockett are the latest American heroes to jump on the bandwagon for Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

That would be the reasonable take-away from NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday morning, no kidding. They’re dead, you say? Write a letter. Network news endorsements don’t grow on trees.

Correspondent Bob Faw began the program’s campaign coverage by introducing the country’s largest morning news show audience to Palin (whom he dubbed the “Wonder from Wasilla”) with Stewart in the famous filibuster scene from Frank Capra‘s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” As if that weren’t enough, Faw reminded us that Jefferson Smith wasn’t the first political gadfly to capture the public’s imagination, and there followed a clip of Fess Parker in full Crockett regalia, coonskin cap and all.

“That’s how we like our stalwarts,” Faw intoned. “Unvarnished. Plain spoken.”

It’s unlikely that Faw or the “Today” show brass saw this as an endorsement; they may even have seen it as humor, especially when the Palin choice was referred to as “brilliantly screwy.” Won’t she be fun!

By contrast, “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart also used old clips when he recapped John McCain‘s acceptance speech last week at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

First Veto

The faux-journalist showed McCain declaring, “The first big-spending, pork barrel, earmark bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. I will make them famous, and you will know their names.”

“Yeah,” the chin-stroking Stewart commented. “Like the wasteful jackass mayor of a town in Alaska with only 6,000 people who requested $27 million in government earmarks.”

Then Stewart juxtaposed clips of McCain promising to “change the way we do business in Washington,” to restore “a culture of life” and to “shake up the bureaucracy” of failing schools — with old clips of George Herbert Walker Bush using exactly the same words on the stump.

So those serious folks at NBC News went for comedy in dealing with a presidential election fewer than eight weeks away, while the clowns at Comedy Central, which presents “The Daily Show,” were busy making serious political points.

Stewart did his reporting on deadline — that montage was shown the day after the RNC ended. NBC News, on the other hand, had a whole week to come up with the “Wonder from Wasilla.”

Impact

Perhaps “The Daily Show” is having an impact: Yesterday, when “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer showed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama saying, “You know, you can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig,” the clip was immediately followed by one of McCain using the same expression.

The campaign coverage on the networks’ morning news shows isn’t completely idiotic. Yesterday’s “Good Morning America” featured a lengthy investigation of Palin’s record on censorship while mayor of Wasilla.

Confirming the fact that Palin had raised the subject of book banning with the town librarian, ABC News actually tracked down the librarian in question, who said off-camera that although Palin had broached the issue, no titles had ever been mentioned, as far as she could recall. Nevertheless, she said, she resigned two years later (after Palin’s failed attempt to sack her) because working for the mayor was “really tough.”

Meanwhile, CBS’s morning news show was reporting that Palin, “the new star of the Republican Party, has some real bite” and the Empress of Earmarks and cheerleader for Creationism is “is someone “two-thirds of women voters say they can relate to.”

Good work, Davy.

For my campaign coverage, I think I’ll take Jon Stewart over Jimmy.

(Jeremy Gerard is an editor for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: September 11, 2008 00:01 EDT

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