TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads
Today is a good example of how covering these Sunday shows is like staring down the barrel of a gun. See, thanks to Senator Obama, who couldn't come up with a way of explaining the thesis of Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter With Kansas?, to a room for of Bay Area Democrats that wasn't wholly inept, we can comfortably predict that this Sunday morning, instead of a vital discussion of the unbelievably goofy and, well, UNBELIEVABLE testimony proffered by David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker on Iraq, we're instead going to listen to the Sunday Morning hosts and panels give a national conversation on elitism. This, despite the fact that they are, to a man, out-of-touch by several million degrees and so elitist that they are practically toffee-encrusted. Meanwhile, McCain looks good, Obama has to once again prove he can gin up lemonade from his lemons, and Hillary Clinton - well, even I'm a little embarrassed to see the woman who recently thought the answer to her problems was to swan about in New York City with the rich rock star who believes that the late, wealthy, jet-setting former Princess of Wales "lived her life like a candle in the wind" posing for pictures like this and making Hangin' With The Common Folk look like such a minstrel show.
Like I said: barrel of a gun. Time to choke up on it. As usual, send emails, leave comments, and pray for a quick and painless death.
Fox News Sunday
There are just nine days until Pennsylvania? Hooray. First good news Fox has ever given me. Today, Tom Daschle and Mayor Michael Nutter yell at each other. Nutter says Obama's views don't represent "small town Americans" that as the MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA he doesn't know. Pennsylvanians are "optimistic" because they don't have to get up week adter week and liveblog Sunday morning talkshows. Daschle's response is heavy on hagiography and Obama's good works. But they turn to guns and religion? Daschle says that there are those (REPUBLICANS) who push those buttons and make guns and religion divisive.
Nutter says, no, I've not heard that sort of conversation in Pennsylvania. He's obviously not aware of the rich editorial traditions of Mr. Richard Mellon Scaif'e's newspapers. But Daschle says Nutter needs to go "to his own hospitals and unemplyment lines." He says that Obama is going to win on this message (and I've heard it said that Obama has the pick and roll in play right now on these comments). We'll see!
Nutter's walked the "streets of Philadelphia" - or at the very least, hummed the Bruce Springsteen song. Or he saw The Philadelphia Story.
This is just a periodic reminder that General Petraeus said some inane things about the Iraq war this week. Sigh.
Daschle says that Clinton can't escape her own "questionable record" on Colombia or on hiring Mark Penn. And then firing Mark Penn. And then NOT firing Mark Penn. Really, is there anyone out there who can explain Mark Penn to me? Could someone lend me the money to HIRE Mark Penn for a day just so I could fire him a day later and PROVE he could stay fired? The Clinton camp makes it look like Penn just cannot be gotten rid of, like he was poltergeists or herpes or poltergeist herpes or something.
The Olympics! They are being held in China and nobody likes China. So nobody likes the Olympia. First, Stephen Hadley lies and says that Prime Minister al Maliki has been making bold decisions in confronting threats to the Iraq government when in reality al Maliki is learning that he cannot do anything to stop militias like the Sadr Mahdi Army from rattling their sabres whenever they want. He says the Iranians have to choose - have good relations with Iraq or destabilize it. I think Iran will choose what's behind Door Number Three: have good relations with a destabilized Iraq.
Hadley, by the way, went to Cornell and Yale. ELITIST! Also: I am an elitist!
Straight up and down, Hadley is the person who needs to be receiving strong pushback. Instead, we got Daschle and Nutter debating each other on how many bitter angels can dance on the head of a Kinsley gaffe.
Here's a fun fact about all of this: last Monday, one of the ladies I see smoking in our parking garage said, "All Obama needs to do right now is shut up for a while." Ha! So true, as it turns out! The ladies who smoke in our parking garage, by the way? Brilliant and warm and funny. You would like them. If I had my own Sunday Morning show, it would be me and the ladies who smoke in our parking garage, and I would just sit back and allow them to SAVE THE WORLD.
Joey Cheek, speed-skater, is talking about the Olympics and how it's a sporting event that demands an embracing of human rights and peace and justice. On China: "When a nation comes of age, you have to start acting like an adult." Nice! Joey Cheek for President? I still prefer Elizabeth Edwards on the top of the ticket.
Oy. Panel Time with Hume, Liasson, Kristol and Williams. Hume says, maybe Obama didn't put his thought well, but that Obama's statement is alienating. "Hillary pounced immediately and continues to." She's still doing shots in rural PA bars? Liasson says it's not a Michael Kinsley gaffe, and she's wrong. Totally is.
Kristol and Wallace take up the issue of the words "cling" and "bitter," Kristol says the vocabulary walk-back is smart but...blah blah, Reverend Wright. It "could be" a big deal. Williams, naturally, defends Obama, and then everyone gets on down to throwing San Francisco under the bus. Also: liberal Huffington Post and their bad audio!
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton telling whoppers. Hume says, "But for Barack Obama's comments, this might have made more news." GOSH, KNOW WHAT DID MAKE SOME NEWS? OR SHOULD HAVE MADE NEWS? OR IS STILL MORE NEWSWORTHY THAN ALL OF THIS? Petraeus and Bush say we shall never ever leave Iraq,
Now they are analysing the "different approaches" the candidates had in addressing the American Idol audience for fifteen seconds each. Everyone thinks McCain's totally funny! And Kristol says Obama's wrong for encouraging ordinary people to do things! What has this panel of elitist toffs done for the world, besides their weekly walk backwards up their own alimentary canal?
By the way, commenter: Elton John rechristened "Candle In the Wind" for Princess Diana many years after writing it about Hollywood megastar Marilyn Monroe. You can...look it up. And I'd think twice about challenging me on pop music history again.
Stephen Hadley, by the way, can also look up where Nepal is. It is "bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China to the northeast," but not the Tibet Autonomous Region itself. Commenter BradinGA wins the smart watcher prize on that score. (Note: we have no actual prizes.)
Finally, Iraq. Hume still thinks the al Maliki government took "initiative" and just didn't get "all the results" they wanted. He's just impressed that they even tried. Woo! Wallace is surprised that we've moved from confronting al Qaeda in Iraq and moved on to Iran. Kristol is all, "That's good! We've got the 800 or so people in AQI on the run! Woo! We totally played a miniscule, quasi-terror group to sort of a tie! Time to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran!
Williams thinks that Bush should be confronted on the lack of political progress in Iraq. But who's going to do that? And why would Bush suddenly allow himself to be confronted?
Williams actually finds a way to make a provocative and compelling point about the Olympics: Bush should go to the Olympics if he has any desire to put pressure on China. If he stays at home, China only gets more isolated and nationalistic. Good point!
And, Wallace ends the show on a note we can all agree on: Alex Ovechkin in awesome.
From a commenter: "A minstrel show? Sorry, no. I just saw the video on MSNBC. She looked like she was having a good time, relaxed, and she didn't order arugula. It plays well. And, IMO, the voters who count will see it that way."
You're right on the matter of it being a piece of pageantry intended to serve as catnip for voters, but, as for having a sincere good time, please. Politicians do this crap all the time and you can see it in their eyes how quickly they want to wash off the stink of the hoi polloi. I give Clinton some credit: she lived in the state of Arkansas for a long time. Being an elitist myself, I can tell you that I would rather spend an hour with my face buried in the white-hot crotch of the Devil's own pet goat than live there for even a week. But, I can say with confidence that Clinton's much happier at home with her arugula and the ghost of Mark Penn banging around cutting the side deals that she wants but can't sell to Joe Sixpack. But hey, the election is over this year. I am putting a twenty dollar bill in an envelope right now, and if, during the calendar year 2009, when there is nothing at stake, you can provide photographic evidence of Hillary Clinton, cheek-to-jowl, hoisting a lager with a union grunt from Western PA, I will hand deliver the twenty bucks to you.
Face The Nation
The extent to which Barack Obama buggered the chances of a substantive Sunday conversation on Iraq is probably not best felt on Fox News Sunday, where they would have stood on their heads and whistled "In A Gadda Da Vida" to avoid saying too many discouraging words about our Great National Quagmire. But on Face, we might have a different story of the damage done.
A commenter, by the way, says that I am "guilty of exactly what he complains about: more blather about the Democratic campaign, and zero about the Iraq hearings."
Schieffer gets right into it, citing how Petraeus failed to specify what an end game might look like. Gates says that "half of Iraq" has transitioned in the way we like. I guess that includes massive sectarian cleansing and the hardening of factions and EVERYONE being armed. "I think people want certainty about things no one could know," Gates says. No, Mister Gates, this is not about an EXISTENTIAL DILEMMA. This is about the United States trapped in a co-dependent relationship with a non-functional government that failed against Sadr, who we're offering public attaboys to while Iran entrenches their alliances with the players who are really in power.
Will there be chaos if we leave Iraq or if we stay? Poppa Brzezinski worries we might "stumble into" a conflict with Iraq. Gates says no, the process is "headed in the right direction." But isn't the direction a conflict with Iran?
Gates is calling it "Maliki's Offensive in Basra." It was in Basra. And it is offensive.
"Who is the enemy," Schieffer says, "You don't hear much about al Qaeda?" Yeah...because al Qaeda in Iraq were a bunch of nobodies to begin with. Gates says, "Those who won't participate in the political process are the enemy." But Iraq's main factions haven't wanted to participate in political processes with each other for several generations! Saddam cowed the Shia and Kurds through brutality. Maliki's not even remotely even-handed in his dealings with the minority sects. And the Kurds will lose their ever loving minds if the Kirkuk referendum doesn't go their way.
Gates wants "more help from NATO." He ought to study what NATO is doing in Afghanistan, and apply it to Iraq: namely, they are not running around, arming everybody willy-nilly.
Pelosi says that the Bush strategy amounts to nothing more than "kicking the can down the road." She says, "the real war on terror is in Afghanistan." What about the chaos that happens if we withdraw? Schieffer wants Pelosi to describe what will happen if we withdraw. Frankly, that's galling, and here's why: why not ask Petraeus to answer the same question? Again and again he was asked, "What is going to happen if we stay? Tell us what we're getting for this?" And Petraeus NEVER answered that question.
Anyway, how many things that "could" happen if we withdraw haven't happened already anyway? Most of them? All of them?
"Can you do anything as a Congress to change the direction," Schieffer asks. Pelosi thought that the American voters would have "been heard" by the President, but the President has a "tin ear." Okay, okay, Nan, but you guys do have a majority in both houses. I think the American people expected that their voices would be heard there, too.
Pelosi says that she placed the Colombia trade bill on a new timetable to specifically address the problems in the economy. Bush says that the decision is bad for national security because Colombia is a big ally. I am going to spend a few seconds in which we count on the Colombian government on being a vital ally to our safety. Hmmmm, hmmmm. NOPE. Can't do it. Too terrifying.
Oh, my! Schieffer suggests that Bill Clinton might be trying to undermine his own wife's White House bid! Pelosi really, really, really doesn't want to touch that one: she writes it off to "late night...adult moment." Cue a flurry of conspiracy theories about Bill Clinton having it in for his own wife, blogosphere-wide.
Schieffer says he believes that "neither side knows what to do" in Iraq, and that grave consequences will be the result of any decision. What is at the end of the tunnel may or may not be a light.
Ahhh. So, Face The Nation, outside of perhaps that wiggedy-wack moment on the Clinton marriage, was the oasis of seriousness and sobriety I hoped it would be. Good! This is good! What do I have next up?
Meet The Press
Oy. It was nice while it lasted. Meet The Press, where the elite and effete meet and greet, press their meat in a vigorous bleat! Take a seat with bourbon, neat, and suckle on this droopy teat.
Emails first: Chris Blakely, who will get a gift certificate to the Huffington Post Sunday Morning LiveBlog giftshop if we ever open one, says:
After watching the weekly installment surrogate "cat fight" (on FOX News Sunday) between former Senator Daschle and Mayor Nutter (unfortunate name!) on the battle for the Democratic nomination, I can't help but notice how Obama has become a magnet for many of the wannabes in the Democratic party. Barack has quite a collection: Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Tom Daschle, Bill Richardson, Dick Durbin, etc. Let's face it, these folks did not hop on the Obama bandwagon out of the pure goodness of their hearts. Just as long as the line of career politicians jumping on the bandwagon will be the line on the bandwagon's backside looking to cash in their support. When Obama finishes paying these pipers, the "change we can believe in," unfortunately, will greatly resemble the Washington establishment he has railed against. Can we continue to ignore the irony of a campaign promising to eliminate the same old Washington ways being staffed and supported by a crew best known for the old Washington ways? Of course, Hillary's hypocrisies abound, the latest being the conflicting Colombia positions foisted on us by herself, her husband, and her former campaign director. What is a democrat, who tires of being on the wrong side of presidential elections, to do?
Join me in supporting the candidacy of Elizabeth Edwards, maybe? I'm afraid I have no opinion on Durbin one way or the other - and, for the record, I urge you to reconsider your stance on Chris Dodd, he might be one of the few Dems on the Hill sporting a real, live sack of something in his britches - but the point is well taken. Many of those guys - especially Kennedy and Daschle and Kerry - fall into the category of Democrat that I would not give a prime-time convention speech slot.
As far as an Obama supporter goes, I am (or at least was, she's so ever-present now on teevee she's gone all stale) more enthusiastic about Claire McCaskill than any of the names (except Dodd!) that you've mentioned. He should be locking down his fellow freshmen Senators! And if Obama wanted to do something that might actually greatly impress me and maybe even KEEP me impressed for a good long time, he would go out and work to obtain the endorsement of my Senator, Jim Webb, by whatever means necessary, because Webb bring double barrelled intelligence not only on Iraq, but on the income equity questions that Obama's all tripped up in right now.
Eliz. Edwards/Webb 2008? Could do a lot worse!
From John Pollet:
Why do you bother to cover the Chris Matthews Sunday show?
Good question! Self-hatred maybe? Atonement? A naive belief that by staring into the maw of the absurd, I may yet touch the divine? Maybe I just like Katty Kay's shoes.
And a comment:
How can anyone take any of these talking heads seriously? They go to the same churches, attend the same weddings, christenings, funerals, graduations, lawn parties. The same events that are equally attended by the same politicians they supposedly cover. Do you think any of them wish to absent themselves from that access? They are all having too good of a time.
The incest of access and the country-club atmosphere is, indeed, depressing. If I ever get to attend a White House Correspondent's Dinner, don't be surprised if i wear a shirt that says "Steven Colbert was right about all of you people."
Anyway. Meet The Press.
Oh, frak. It's the reconvening of the most tired panel in politics. Shrum, Carville, Matalin and Murphy.
Russert runs through all his charts of delegates. NONE OF THIS HAS CHANGED FOR SIX WEEKS, Chris?
Here we go! Rich jerks talking about how bad elitism is!
Carville says jobs went up in Pennsylvania under Bill Clinton! Were they jobs with health benefits, James? Non minimum-wage jobs, James? Secure against economic downturns, like your "job," James? Carville has eight guns, so, if you want to see him gone from these panels, now you know what you are up against.
Shrum says, woot-dee-doo, too bad he didn't use some different words! And Carville lies about jobs. And Clinton can loan herself five million more dollars too make ads about elitism. Bosnia!
Matalin says: Growl...mewl...Democrats lose and they suck. Like I always say! Please pass the Xanax! What is an endive? Arugula? Republicans eat corn from the can and iceberg lettuce, only.
Murphy says that Republicans take steroids and that Clinton's a slightly bigger loser than Obama, who should try to stop explaining the world to cloistered San Franciscans.
Shrum says, "I dissent! Because my role is to do so." And Obama could win this point at the debate.
Murphy asks: "Is what Obama is saying true?" Carville says, "There are people who hunt for pleasure!" Uhm, there are people who eat arugula for pleasure, too! Everyone can be bitter, though!
Matalin: "It's called a global dynamic economy!" And it's been really global and dynamic to people like Matalin! She's going to have a home in New Orleans and Washington, DC now, you know! So, preach on about the common folk, Mary! Speak truth to credit rating, baby!
Murphy says that Obama is turning into Mike Dukakis and that John McCain can confuse the Austrians and Australians all he wants.
Carville, for some reason, leans into his microphone and rasps, "Again, and again, and again" and it is now the ringtone of my "Cajun-style" nightmares.
So, why did Bill Clinton inexplicably keep the Bosnia story alive? Is he just stupid? Or does he, as Bob Schieffer suggested this morning, an attempt to undermine her candidacy? We'll get to it after Russert runs through all his mighty clips.
Carville explains it all by saying that the Clintons need to make the election about the voters. AMAZING THAT THIS IS WHAT IS BEING SAID ON TEEVEE BY POLITICAL EXPERTS RIGHT NOW. Then Carville says, "Gurgh, glug, gurgh. I don' love me some Clintons SO MUCH."
You realize: We have segued, seamlessly, from a discussion on elitism...and the guy who was, one moment ago, hectoring Obama by saying, "He needs to learn some cultural history" is now mooning over Bill Clinton: "I loves me this man who made me rich! I loves me the man who made it so I could have a bunch of different houses to study cultural history in!" So bankrupt!
Murphy: Bill Clinton's become a self-parody, and "that's why we're all laughing at him!"
From Jarvis Cocker's famous song about elitism: "Yeah? Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here. Are you sure?"
Penn and Colombia bad? Shrum says that "Mark Penn's problem is...coming up with a strategy that left her as the establishment candidate in a year of change." Uhm...could he have done something about that?
Carville: "He is no longer the chief strategist!" But he still the Clinton campaign "something," right? Then he goes on to say that Hillary was never that big a fan of NAFTA, it was more Bill Clinton. And, are they BOTH right? Because, James, you just said you loved Bill Clinton about ninety times. "it was the only time I was in a different place than she was."
Mary Matalin then launches into her own version of Fred Armisen's "Nicholas Fehn" routine, only not funny.
Murphy: "You can't question McCain's courage on these issues [of trade]." You can, however, question whether he has a solution to any of the economic dilemmas facing the nation.
Russert points out that the Clinton campaign has shaken up staff, and deeply in debt. Is it fair to say her campaign reflects what sort of presidency she would have? Matalin says yes. Carville says some extreme stuff about how she is the "toughest and most courageous candidate we've seen in our lifetime."
Carville: "Her personal tenacity is awesome. I can't defend her campaign." Shrum: "The problem is they ran her as a semi-incumbent."
Matalin: "I'm for John McCain." Don't you mean, "Now, I'm for John McCain?" Because you were deep in the tank for Fred Thompson...and when it comes to bad judgement...
Murphy thinks that Mitt Romney would make a good vice president. The idea of Mitt as the Veep makes me bitter, maybe even gun-clingy! Carville says, that McCain needs to pick Colin Powell. No one wants to speculate on Condi Rice? Really? Really?!
Ahh. My favorite part about Meet The Press. The first commercial. When it finished, you know the show is about two-thirds over.
Russert finally gets to Iraq, and specifically Colin Powell's advice to the next President. Simple stuff: the military is in dire straits, we'll need to get out of Iraq, but we won't be able to "turn off the switch." I can see the simple wisdom in all of what he's saying. I think he might be being a mite optimistic that the status quo in Iraq - an imperfect status quo, mind you - can even be sustained until Bush is gone. And let's remember that events in Afghanistan aren't exactly unfoldling at the convenience of our Iraq misadventures.
Matalin believes that it boils down to "Are we at war?" Well, Mary, we're not at war. War has not, in fact, been declared.
Shrum has McCain is a "hostage to events" in Iraq and could be hurt by his support for the war. Murphy says, "that's a Democratic primary argument" and not a general election argument - and Shrum goes a little apoplectic and I do not blame him. Reducing events in Iraq, and the decisions that were made to get there, and the people who choose to support those decisions, to an equation where it "counts" only during the Democratic primary is about as reprehensible a statement as I can fathom. People die. Lives are ruined or lost. If that can't be a "general election" issue, then why even have a general election?
Carville just doesn't want to pay as much for gas so "things will have to change fast." But he's not an elitist!
Finally, we address the McCain/Rice polling. Carville isn't so impressed. Me, I sort of worry that McCain/Rice is a winner.
Oy. Murphy apparently takes the National Journal rankings of "liberality" seriously. "Obama's the most liberal candidate since McGovern!" Your other choice? A woman who campaigned for McGovern! (But never ever ever ever admits it! And I have to say, George McGovern, who backs Clinton, is far kinder than I would be. If I endorsed someone and then watched that person go out and pretend to not know me, I might get a little cheesed off!)
Murphy thinks McCain is "different on the war from Bush." I have nothing to add to this self-explanatory piece of insanity. Though Shrum does add later that McCain might be even more Bush-like than Bush is!
"John McCain is going to inner-cities and Appalachia," Russert says. Carville snaps that he's also going to Iraq and acting totally dotty.
Then, my eyes glaze over for a while as everyone launches into esoterics. Then there's a tight show of Matalin looking angrier then the Cloverfield monster and I'm woken from my reverie.
Oh, dear sweet Jeebus. We're really going all the way back to Carville's "Judas" remark? Know what? Carville screwed up. He screwed up! The Clinton camp got it right when the news first broke: the Richardson endorsement wasn't that important, and Richardson wasn't doing that great a job as a surrogate (his first Sunday, Richardson basically had only apparently read the "My First 'Why I Love Obama' Reader" to draw on). Then, Carville threw a pointless, internecine counterpunch and it only managed to a) inflate Richardson's profile, b) sharpen Richardson's surrogacy, and c) remind everyone about when a poisonous den of in-fighting the Clinton camp can become at a moment's notice. He messed up, and his whole, "I'm glad I said it" line here is so childish that it makes me want to burp the man and powder his ass with talcum.
Oh, and after that, he says that whoever wins the Democratic primary needs to demonstrate respect to the one who loses. Spare us your lecture on respect, James!
Thank God that's over. Did the word "Petraeus" come up once? Well, I have had all I can possibly stand, today. It wasn't quite the day of elites holding forth on elitism, but it was a sad day for people who wanted to see some serious discussion on Iraq. Color me bitter, I guess!
Final note: I had the opportunity to stop by the Newseum this weekend - just like all the other elites! - and while the price for tickets is quite dear ($20? Really? That's the best Arthur Sulzberger's money can do?) it's nevertheless a fine museum to the press and the First Amendment in general. I didn't get to see everything - who has the time? I could spend another four hours just in the Pulitzer Prize winning photography section of the museum. What I saw, I liked. Especially a movie about the First Amendment that featured the angry editorialists of yesteryear (where men dared call one another "toad carriers") and how the Sedition Act threatened our right from the outset. I'm glad that the Sedition Act is a relic of the past. If I didn't have sedition, well...what reason would I have to get up in the morning. Have a good week.