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Hopes for Obama's Second Term

Bill Moyers gets post-election insight from veteran journalist James Fallows.

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And I read it, I watched the campaign informed by it. You were tough on the media in that book, and had been in many of your long articles. So what did we miss in this campaign? The mainstream press?

JAMES FALLOWS: I think that there is the mainstream press, there is a tropism that we both talked about towards the horserace of politics. And we did better in that part of the coverage than the right wing press, which I think is now shocked to realize they created a bubble for themselves which, until now, has been a message advantage. They could sort of discipline their troops. Now they're realizing it's a strategic disadvantage 'cause they didn't know what was going on in the world. They were caught by surprise.

BILL MOYERS: Talk about that bubble.

JAMES FALLOWS: I have a beloved family member who is a loyal, whose information intake is entirely from Fox News. This is an older woman who I'm related to. And she honestly believed that Obama was not born in the United States or think that's an open question. That it is a socialist agenda.

And I think that people in this bubble really did think that Romney was certain to win because everybody they knew supported him and opposed Obama. It's like the flip side of the old unfair joke about Pauline Kael who said, "How could Nixon win in '72?

"Everybody I know voted for McGovern." Apparently, she never actually said that. But we know the attitude it exemplifies. The right is now in that bubble. Everybody they know hates Obama. So how could all these people be voting for Obama?

BILL MOYERS: In the hours leading up to the election, Fox News devoted itself to speculation about Romney's win. Newt Gingrich and others were talking about how big the Romney landslide was going to be. Gingrich thought it would be 300 electoral votes at least.

NEWT GINGRICH on Fox News: I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 Romney, over 300 electoral votes, and the republicans will pick up the Senate.

BILL MOYERS: So are you suggesting that they, a conservative propaganda machine, was blindsided by its own ideology?

JAMES FALLOWS: I think that is so. And I think we may have seen a tipping point in this election because in all previous elections, notably the 2010 midterms, we were impressed by the way the conservative propaganda machine was able to really mobilize people who thought that the deficit was the greatest threat to the nation, et cetera, et cetera. And now, it seems to have shifted to the liability question 'cause they didn't know what country they were operating in, which was the way they would've caricatured liberals over the last couple of generations.

They don't know what the real America is like. Peggy Noonan, whom we both like. She wrote this before the election. "Now if I know anything about the real America, you know, the real America is coming together. We're--" and the real America did come together. And it wasn't the one they thought was there.

BILL MOYERS: You've been tough on those pundits whose chief claim to fame is that they know something so special, that their predictions are more credible than the rest of us. George Will, Michael Barone, Dick Morris all predicted a landslide for Romney. Are any of them likely to pay for being wrong?

JAMES FALLOWS: That's the why bookies are sort of morally preferable for pundits. The bookies have to pay. And I guess I have been heartened, I was heartened by at least the initial reaction in right wing pundit world, that some of them seemed shell-shocked, as opposed to being in denial and saying, the election, the win for the progressive side generally seemed to be so profound, that they were able to kind of move beyond what they would've preferred to say, which I think somehow this is all a fraud. Somehow it didn't really happen. So, we'll see if they pay, including Karl Rove with his consultant fees.

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