The following question was posed yesterday afternoon on CNN’s Inside Politics:

Announcer: A divided America?

John Edwards, speaking at the Democratic National Convention: The truth is we still live in a country where there are two different Americas.

Barack Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.

Announcer: So who’s right?

Is CNN onto something here? Are Edwards and Obama at odds over this issue?

Um … no.

Look at the speeches: Edwards, as he has done for months, spoke in economic terms, saying, “We shouldn’t have two different economies in America: one for people who are set for life … and then one for most Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.”

Obama, for his part, talked about culture: “[T]he pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.”

Edwards is clearly speaking of an economic divide, while Obama is arguing that there exists a cultural unity. So who’s right? Well, maybe one, maybe the other, maybe both, maybe neither. Whoever’s right, CNN’s misleading juxtaposition of the two quotes implies a rhetorical opposition that just isn’t there. As such, we weren’t terribly surprised when we watched the whole show and saw that Bill Schneider’s report on the topic shied away from the “who’s right” question posed by his own announcer.

But viewers must have been left feeling like passersby taken in by a carnival barker employing the time-honored bait-and-switch. In the end, the two-headed dog just wasn’t there.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.