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Hillary and Barack on ’60 Minutes’: That Wasn’t Journalism...

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by David Zurawik

(Daily Download) Watching the actual interview Sunday night, I am certain it was about something both much more immediate and long lasting. It was President Obama using TV – and the folks at 60 Minutes happily allowing themselves to be used – to write the first draft of history on Clinton’s performance as secretary of state.

In a most immediate and partisan sense, it was Obama using one of the biggest tents in popular culture to slap down Senators Rand Paul and Ron Johnson for their insistence during the Benghazi hearing last week that Clinton was not worthy of the office she held.

It was as if Obama was saying, “You guys think you’re going to shape the perception of her tenure with your grandstanding attacks in a Senate hearing, watch this. I can have the biggest news audience in television, one of the biggest audiences in all of popular culture with this Top 10 show, any time I want it. CBS News always plays ball with me — ever since I gave them that exclusive with my ‘brain trust’ right after the election in 2008. This is how you use TV to write the first draft history. And, by the way, boys, it isn’t journalism writing the first draft, as you guys like to say. This is stage-managed, prime-time show-biz TV doing it.”

I say that because the CBS News interviewer, Steve Kroft, sure didn’t look like he was doing anything I would call journalism in his softball interview, especially when he brought up the issue of the 2008 primary campaign and failed to ask Clinton about her husband, the former president, saying in no uncertain terms that the Obama campaign had played “the race card” on him after the South Carolina primary — to the point where he felt compelled to say he wasn’t a racist.

I am thinking about the way prime-time show-biz TV shapes our shared memory this weekend, because of the whimpering end to Sarah Palin’s dance with fame that we witnessed Friday night when it was confirmed that she was gone from Fox News after a spotty three-year run. She is as much yesterday’s news as Kate Gosselin.

Read more here at the Baltimore Sun, where David Zurawik is the television and media critic.

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