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Discussing the online video "Obama Girl" in an appearance on MSNBC, washingtonpost.com "Channel '08" blogger Ed O'Keefe asserted that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "perhaps is, you know, big on style, not enough on substance," rehashing a baseless critique of Obama advanced by Washington Post staff writer Chris Cillizza and MSNBC anchor Peter Alexander -- among others -- despite Obama's numerous detailed policy speeches. O'Keefe later said: "[H]ere we are four days after the video surfaced talking about this and not perhaps talking about what the Obama campaign would want us to talk about. I don't necessarily know what that is."
Anchor Alex Witt said that she had a "concern" that the online video could encourage a "dumb[ing] down" of "political discourse." O'Keefe responded that the "Obama Girl" video "reinforces that debate and I think it's an important one, you know, is Obama a guy that we can trust with the presidency? Does he have good ideas?" None of Obama's "ideas", nor those of any other presidential candidate, were discussed during the segment.
While O'Keefe noted, "[H]ere we are four days after the video surfaced talking about this and not perhaps talking about what the Obama campaign would want us to talk about. I don't necessarily know what that is," Obama gave a speech on June 15 discussing ways to "strengthen families" in a "new economy." In that speech, he discussed his health care plan, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Nurse-Family Partnership and a "transitional jobs" program. From Obama's speech:
As President, I will double the number of single workers who receive the EITC [Earned Income Tax Credit] and triple the benefit for full-time workers making the minimum wage, from the $175 they get today to $555.
And instead of waiting every ten years for Congress to fight over raising the minimum wage, I will finally make the minimum wage a living wage by permanently indexing it to inflation so that it actually pays the bills.
While Witt expressed "concern" for the effect of "Obama Girl" on "political discourse," her own cable network has given extensive attention to "Obama Girl." MSNBC was indeed still talking about the video for "four days after the video surfaced," as O'Keefe noted. MSNBC News Live covered the "Obama Girl" video on June 14, 15, and 16; immediately prior to O'Keefe's appearance, Witt aired a clip of an interview with the woman featured in the "Obama Girl" video, Amber Lee Ettinger.
From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the June 17 edition of MSNBC News Live:
WITT: Joining me now from Washington is Ed O'Keefe, political reporter with the washingtonpost.com. She really is great. If you get a chance to interview her, she's darling, so --
O'KEEFE: I'm not going to lie, Alex, I would love to interview her.
WITT: I knew you would! I'm thinking, "Yeah, right, here we go." First of all, though, do you agree with "Obama Girl" this video is a good thing for Obama and his campaign, or do you think it might hurt him?
O'KEEFE: I think it's both. I think there's a little bit of good, a little bit of bad. It's good because I think it reinforces what the I think the Obama campaign wants, that he is a fresh face, he's -- he's -- you know -- he's a new option, he's not been in politics for 20 years like some of his opponents. On the -- on the minus side perhaps, though is it's the same thing: he's young, he perhaps is, you know, big on style, not enough on substance, you know a bit of a suit perhaps. And I know we have a blog at washingtonpost.com focuses almost exclusively on this kind of stuff, and a lot of the comments have been saying," This just makes my point. He is too experienced. He's too young. He's too good-looking to be president."
WITT: Ed, here is a concern I have about this. What kind of, I guess, political discourse does this encourage? Does it dumb it down in a way?
O'KEEFE: It dumbs it down a little, but I think, again, it reinforces that debate, and I think it's an important one -- you know, is Obama a guy that we can trust with the presidency? Does he have good ideas? Does he have enough experience? Do I want a fresh face? You know, do I -- do I want to go with someone completely new next year when I go to the polls? And I think that, you know, is a serious part of what is sort of a light-hearted aspect to the campaign.
WITT: You know, political campaigns are hugely crafted, very carefully so. They're controlled by managers, etc. So what happens when a wild card is thrown into all this -- and in this case is a video that is not made by the campaign?
O'KEEFE: Well, it does throw them off a little bit. And you know, here we are four days after the video surfaced talking about this and not perhaps talking about what the Obama campaign would want us to talk about. I don't necessarily know what that is. And in a lot of cases some of the campaigns now are beginning to try to control their Internet meshes -- message.