fluff.jpgEric Boehlert takes a look at what passes for “substance” when covering Democratic presidential candidates:

The media’s comical obsession earlier this month with the tone and frequency of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s laugh didn’t just represent another head-smacking moment in the annals of awful campaign journalism. It also served as a preview of what’s likely to come in 2008.

Anybody who thinks that if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination that the Cackle narrative won’t be revived has not been paying attention in recent years. That’s why it’s so important to take a moment to understand the press dynamics that allow a story like The Cackle to flourish, and why pointless stories like that — and John Edwards’ Haircut or Al Gore’s Sighs during a 2000 presidential debate — only affect Democrats.

You simply cannot find examples in recent years of Republican presidential candidates’ physical ticks or trivial personal foibles that the press has pounced on and announced to be wildly important and deeply revealing. That’s just not a distraction Republican candidates have to deal with. The media phenomenon only applies to Democrats and the phenomenon only exists because journalists manufacture it.

Meaning, there’s zero proof that voters actually care about Sighs or Haircuts or Cackles, stories that consume so much of the press corps’ time, energy, and interest. For instance, throughout the extensive Cackle coverage, I don’t remember reading or hearing a single quote from an actual voter who expressed interest, let alone concern, about Clinton’s laugh….

Enough with the fluff. We have enough real issues to tackle after the last few years in Bushworld. How about we talk about all of those instead of making up some sort of tabloid distraction malarky that no one but the Heathers really care about? And while you are over at Media Matters, do give Jamo’s column a read — nothing like a bit of manufactured non-newsy CYA being called out for what it is, I always say.

(Photo of a shelf full of fluff via Ben McLeod.)