Hillary Clinton’s campaign complained loudly that the media treated Barack Obama like a rock star instead of a presidential candidate.  Saturday Night Live made itself relevant for the first time in a generation by skewering the love affair that the mainstream media had with Obama, finally embarrassing them into asking a few tough questions of Obama — after more than a year.  Now, with Obama embarking on his world tour, all three broadcast networks will have their anchors trailing him, apparently hoping to record every bon mot that escapes from his lips:

Senator John McCain’s trip to Iraq last spring was a low-key affair: With his ordinary retinue of reporters following him abroad, the NBC News anchor Brian Williams reported on his arrival in Baghdad from New York, with just two sentences tacked onto the “in other political news” portion of his newscast.

But when Obama heads for Iraq and other locations overseas this summer, Williams is planning to catch up with him in person, as are the other two evening news anchors, Charles Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS, who, like Williams, are far along in discussions to interview Obama on successive nights.

And while the anchors are jockeying for interviews with Obama at stops along his route, the regulars on the Obama campaign plane will have new seat mates: star political reporters from the major newspapers and magazines who are flocking to catch Obama’s first overseas trip since becoming the presumptive nominee of his party.

CBS tried to explain this away by underscoring the novelty of the trip. Paul Friedman, senior VP of CBS News, said that if this were John McCain’s first trip to a war zone, the networks would cover it similarly. Unfortunately for Friedman, that’s demonstrably false. McCain has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, both before and after announcing himself as a candidate for the Presidency, and the networks mostly ignored his trips.

And this is not Obama’s first trip abroad, and not his first trip to a war zone.  He visited Iraq in January 2006, when rumors had already begun to swirl about his burgeoning presidential ambitions.  In fact, Obama spent more on travel than any other freshman Senator in the 109th Congress.  He racked up over $28,000 in bills for his junkets, which included stops in Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Kenya, and South Africa.   The biggest question is why he didn’t travel to Afghanistan during this period, since he had a subcommittee chairmanship on US-European relations, which covers NATO and the mission in Afghanistan.  Of course, he still hasn’t held a meeting of his committee on this topic.

Here’s a video on this subject we posted last month:

So the news media can’t even claim novelty when explaining this effort.  When was the last time we saw any network anchor doing a remote, let alone all three at the same time?  Not even the Iraq War merited it after the first elections in 2004-5, and I don’t believe that involved all three anchors at any time.  Afghanistan hasn’t merited it.This is nothing more than the media fawning over Obama, and looking to give him as much earned media as they can.  Their pretense of objective reporting has been ripped away, and the media looks like little more than groupies vying for the attention of a pop star, hoping that some of his popularity rubs off on them.  This should embarrass journalists, but instead they’re busy rationalizing their utter lack of self-respect.  (via The Anchoress)

Update: I bumped this to the top as AOL used this post for today’s Hot Seat poll.