The Made-for-TV Election
Amid the white noise of blogs and Netroots organizing, TV—yes, good old-fashioned cranky, creaky TV—reasserted its news-making primacy, whether it was supposedly obsolete anchors like Charles Gibson and Katie Couric slow-basting Sarah Palin, or Tina Fey systematically dismantling half of the Republican ticket over a month in real time on Saturday Night Live, or the usual yeoman’s work from political pressure valves Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, providing their nightly catharsis. Sure, a lot of the telltale image-bites—“In what wespect, Charlie?”—were later diced up and forwarded digitally to a million e-mail in-boxes. But in this election, TV was the dog and the Internet was the tail. Obama’s speeches were expertly staged as TV-friendly spectacles, while McCain floundered in front of that ridiculous green backdrop (our digital-age analogy to the Kennedy-Nixon debates). Like McLuhan’s media, Obama was cool and McCain was hot. This time, cool won, in every respect.