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If there's one thing I hate more than the MSM's obsessive coverage of the presidential campaigns, it's the gross fickleness and inanity inherent in the coverage itself. Given that the next president will need to tackle a whole host of weighty issues immediately upon taking office -- global warming, the Iraq war, healthcare and the deficit, just to name a few -- you might think the press would be busy providing in-depth and insightful analysis of each candidate's policy proposals and relevant prior experience. Well, you'd be wrong.

And while this early presidential season is already rife with blatant instances of journamalism -- the focus on Obama's middle name (Hussein, OMG!) and his suspect Muslim-tinged upbringing, the inner workings and power dynamics of the Clinton couple -- the press' favorite subject of schadenfreude has to be Democratic candidate John Edwards. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about: even if you are unaware of his views on poverty, healthcare and climate change, I have a feeling you've probably heard of his infamous $400 haircut.

Yes, while admittedly a gaffe on the part of his campaign, never has so much ink been spilled or words uttered on such an inconsequential, minute issue. How much coverage has his haircut received, you wonder? Well, according to Media Matters' Jamison Foser, quite a bit:

"Those random mentions of the haircut in the midst of news reports really add up: a Nexis search for "John Edwards and haircut and $400" returns 894 results -- it may well be above 900 by the time you read this. Some of those results, like John Solomon's landmark piece of haircut journalism, are news stories devoted to nothing but the pressing topic of Edwards' hair. But many simply treat "$400 haircut" as though it is Edwards' middle name, or his prior profession -- a key part of his biography that must be included in every article. On June 1, for example, the wire service UPI began what was billed as an "analysis" of Edwards' energy plan with a reference to ... $400 haircuts. When The Washington Post profiled local barbershops on May 20, the article began by questioning the "propriety of John Edwards's two $400 Beverly Hills haircuts." When NBC chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski spoke May 1 before the Rhode Island Business Expo (in exchange for $30,000 from the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce), he talked about Iraq, about al Qaeda, about the Bush administration's response to the September 11 attacks -- and he told his audience that John Edwards is a "loser." Why? The haircut, of course."
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That's right: we're talking about more than 900 articles that make either a direct or indirect reference to Edwards' prize haircut. So much for that "liberal media" bias we always hear right-wingers screaming about. After all, if that were true, this is the type of "insightful" coverage we could've been treated to had the same MSM standards applied to the Republican candidates:

"If the leading Republican candidates were held to the same standard, every news report that mentions Romney or McCain or Thompson or Giuliani wanting to make the Bush tax cuts permanent would include a sentence like this: "Romney's support of tax policies that overwhelmingly benefit the superrich -- like Mitt Romney -- may remind middle class Americans that he is not one of them." You've probably never seen an article like that. But if the media's approach to John Edwards were applied to the conservative candidates, you'd see it every day. (Instead, Romney's incredible wealth and large house, when mentioned, is portrayed as a "valuable asset" to his campaign.)

News reports about Rudy Giuliani making security issues a centerpiece of his campaign would note his decision to put New York's emergency response center in the World Trade Center complex -- one of the few places in America that had recently been the target of a terrorist attacks. Not once or twice -- hundreds of times. The absurdity of Giuliani's choice of Bernard Kerik to run the NYPD -- and, later, his lobbying of President Bush to put Kerik in charge of Homeland Security -- would be constantly invoked by journalists as something that undermines his security credentials and judgment. Instead, he is regularly declared "America's Mayor" and the "Hero of 9-11."

Right, who am I kidding? Whether or not you like Edwards as a candidate is besides the point: we should all just agree that the MSM has a duty to provide the type of serious, analytical reporting we will need to make informed decisions about the different candidates come the primaries and, eventually, the election. Not this brand of gutter, gotcha journalism.

Unlike previous Democratic whipping boy John Kerry, however, it appears as though John Edwards is at least willing taking the fight to his critics and the media and has just released an excellent video poking fun at all of the coverage of his haircut. Notice which issues he seems to think take precedence... (h/t to John Aravosis)