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Downplaying The Differences

DOWNPLAYING THE DIFFERENCES.... In early June, Paul Krugman had an interesting item on the media's coverage of the presidential campaign, as the dominant story shifted from a primary race to the general election. When the focus was on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, it was in the media's interest to exaggerate differences between two candidates who agree on almost everything. When the focus shifted to Obama and John McCain, it made the media's job easier -- there are, as Krugman noted, "stark differences on issues between the candidates."

There's no way to argue that Obama and McCain -- a classic story of contrasts -- offer similar ideas and solutions. Krugman noted that eight years ago, news outlets ran far too many stories downplaying the differences between Bush and Al Gore -- stories that look comically ridiculous in hindsight -- and wondered whether journalists might try a similar tack this year.

It seemed unlikely. Obama and McCain are so different -- personally, ideologically, professionally, temperamentally -- the media just can't screw this up.

But as the latest analysis piece from the AP demonstrates, they're going to give it their best shot.

John McCain and Barack Obama share common ground on a surprising selection of issues where the age-old Republican-Democratic divide doesn't cut it anymore.Both want the United States to join the campaign against global warming in earnest. Both want to cut taxes for the middle class. [...]

As much as the candidates would be loathe to admit it, circumstance and the evolution of war policy have even diminished their differences over the course in Iraq.

Call it the McBama agenda, a limited but striking bipartisan convergence.

The LA Times recently had a similar front-page item downplaying the enormous differences between the two candidates, as did Bloomberg News.

There's just no excuse for such bizarre reporting.