Media Mash: Crashing an Obama Book | CNN: Getting as Bad as Fox

Chelsea Green, the independent, opportunistic Vermont book publisher, is crashing a new Obama book -- Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency by Bob Kuttner, co-founder and editor of the American Prospect -- to launch at the DNC next week in Denver.

The new book has the goal of encouraging Obama, should he get elected, to rise to the challenge of the multiple crises the country faces, particularly with the economy in deep trouble and the poor and middle class increasingly in crisis. But the book also has the potential to serve as an antidote to The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality by Jerome Corsi, a book that has been thoroughly discredited for its numerous falsehoods as well as its author's track record, which includes a slew of bigoted posts on the conservative website Free Republic and co-authorship of a discredited book attacking Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. Nevertheless, despite a critical examination by portions of the media, the Corsi book has received tons of publicity, and because of right wing bulk buying and heavy promotion on right wing talk shows, it debuted at the top of the New York Times best-seller list.

In contrast, an excellent book by Cliff Schecter, The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him and Why Independents Shouldn't, which documented a large number of little known but disturbing facts about McCain's political career, didn't remotely get the exposure in the corporate media that the Corsi book is getting. But there is still time to build a larger audience for this book. Buy it here.

Kuttner is a veteran economic writer and successful publisher of The Prospect, a consistently sharply written and insightful inside-the-beltway voice for progressive policy advocacy. As Kuttner explains in the book, transformative presidents have been leaders who rose to greatness in moments of extreme crisis, and who took themselves and the Republic to places that seemed impossible -- Lincoln, Roosevelt, and the LBJ of the civil rights era:

Now it is time for the wheel to turn again. Barack Obama has both the national moment and the raw material to be a transformative president. A 46-year-old freshman senator, an African-American no less, does not decide to pursue his party's nomination against a universally presumed certain nominee unless he has an unerring sense of timing, confidence, and a feel for the broad stroke. Obama has exceptional skill at appealing to our better angels, and a fine capacity to be president-as-teacher. He inspires, as only a few presidents have done. But Obama will need to be a more radical president than he was a presidential candidate. Radical does not mean outside the mainstream. It means perceiving, as a leader, that radical change is necessary, discerning tacit aspirations and unmet needs in the people, and then making that radical change the mainstream view for which the people clamor.
Chelsea Green will be distributing several thousand advance reading copies at DNC events as well as coupons for a special early discount in welcome packets to 15,000 convention-goers. The coupons are redeemable on and the book will be printed on-demand by BookSurge, part of the Amazon group of companies. The title will be available to order on as soon as coupons are distributed on the first day of the convention, August 25.

This is not the first time Chelsea Green has rushed out timely and provocative books. George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant! (2004) and Naomi Wolf's The End of the America (2007) were both published as original trade paperbacks to promote an activist, progressive agenda and became New York Times best-sellers. (Disclosure: Don Hazen, Executive Editor of AlterNet, wrote the introduction to Don't Think of an Elephant!)

Margo Baldwin, publisher at Chelsea Green, says:
The point is not to publish another Obama book; the point is to change the political conversation similar to what we did when we published Lakoff and Wolf. A President Obama holds great promise for this country but he needs to be challenged to step up and risk a bold, progressive agenda. The economic situation is dire. If he tries to play safe, he's finished. Bob Kuttner has brilliantly outlined the steps he needs to take to be that transformative leader. Now it's up to him -- and to us -- to make sure he takes up that challenge.

People in the TV biz know full well that when they repeat right-wing talking points, especially in headlines, they are both reinforcing the conservative frame and legitimizing the concept, no matter how absurd or outlandish. But they do it anyway. They think it titillates the audience. It's the political version of 'if it bleeds it leads.' Of course Fox News does this framing automatically, repeating over and over every negative stereotype about Obama they can generate or repeat from talk radio, the White House, etc.

CNN entered a new bizarre framing zone when they repeated a fabricated message from a campaign ad aimed at McCain's conservative base, when they took the opportunity to question whether Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ.

The ad is called The One, and it is an attack on Obama's celebrity, but the secondary message appears to be about his candidacy as the Anti-Christ.

Dave Edwards and Nick Juliano write about CNN's behavior on Raw Story:
Just so we're clear: Barack Obama is in fact not the Anti-Christ, sent here to feed on the souls of the innocent, resume Satan's reign over earth and bring about the apocalypse as foretold in Revelation.
Not. The. Anti-Christ.
That such a subject is even speculated about in any but the most backwards, unreconstructed segments of American society -- let alone on a 24-hour cable network -- is a testament (no pun intended) to the depths to which political debate has fallen. But there was the caption on CNN Friday in big bold letters: "OBAMA THE ANTICHRIST?" ( This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast August 15, 2008.)
Apparently a not-insignificant number of Americans, after viewing John McCain's Web ad The One, with its Messianic overtones -- come away thinking that Barack Obama has been sent from Hell to Earth to turn its citizens against God. For inspiration, some of these people seem to be drawing from the fictional Left Behind series, which posits a dystopian future where the Anti-Christ comes to Earth as a charismatic politician.
So, yes, this is the media terrain in which CNN travels. The Masher thinks it is time for those Fox Watchers at Brave New Films to start a new project and document some of the horrors of CNN .

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