Do I believe that Meet The Press has improved under David Gregory? No, I do not. And as it turns out, in growing numbers, America is agreeing with me. As my colleague Danny Shea pointed out yesterday, "NBC's Meet the Press suffered its lowest ratings since David Gregory became moderator last week, dipping below the 3 million viewer mark for the first time since August 19, 2007.
I can't speak to why America is souring on David Gregory, but I can tell you why I am! Gregory demonstrates all of the reportorial tenacity of a dilettante badminton player under heavy sedation. The game -- oh, how it fascinates him! Look at the shuttlecock bob through the air, borne on the wheezing breezes of his hot air emanations and the gentle paddling of his racket! Back and forth and back and forth, if Gregory had his druthers, it would just go on forever, the rich panoply of process story unfolding endlessly until the end of days. In a world like that, it is a terrible thing, to have...you know -- standards.
Gregory made an appearance on Morning Joe Friday with this disease in full flower. He gently massaged the unfolding disclosures on torture into a passive reflection on Washington's eternal political sussurations:
GREGORY: I think -- this is another example of why the administration doesn't want to go down this road. Doesn't want to get this debate. I spoke to somebody yesterday that said the problem is that nobody comes away cleanly from this debate. Not a Republican and not a Democrat. And now the House Speaker is ensnared in these questions about why she didn't push back harder and when she actually knew about the techniques. So here we are in a position where Pelosi is blaming the CIA, accusing the CIA, misleading her. and you have other Republicans who are in these briefings saying wait a minute. We were all told what was going on. We all knew what was going on. Now calls for the release of the briefing in full. And this is not where the White House wants to be. This is not the debate that it wants to have. And it just goes back to a more fundamental point which is that the more you debate this, the more you realize the politics of the time are incredibly difficult. And as many people who oppose these techniques now have to acknowledge that in 2002, there were not Democrats who were willing to stand up to the White House and say no. We are not going down this road. This is wrong for America. That debate came later. A lot of the beliefs came later because of the time nobody really wanted to get in the middle or stand in the way of techniques that might prevent another terror attack.
I just don't know where to begin with this thicket of supine, cloying, dribble. David Gregory is talking about torture. He's talking about criminal behavior. He's talking about moral failings. And by his own admission, "nobody comes out cleanly." By his own admission, everyone was "told what was going on." Everyone "knew what was going on." You'd think that such a target-rich environment would lead a journalist to scramble all available resources to pin down all the wrongdoing, get to the bottom of everything, ensure that the whole matter comes out into the light. You will not be able to watch David Gregory in the above clip and feel like he is even remotely inspired to follow the story. All you get is shrugging, stooped, passivity.
Gregory is fascinated by Pelosi, and how shiny she is! On the matter of her being briefed on torture, Gregory reports something widely known: "There is no evidence she was pushing back even internally." But that's only part of the story! Pelosi is not the onion, she's the peel! There is no evidence that ANY of the people briefed on these techniques pushed back, even internally. One would imagine that watching Nancy Pelosi sidestep her way through an ungainly press conference might inspire someone to track down the rest of those who were briefed and stayed silent.
Gregory reports, "Other people who were [at these briefings], Republicans who were there, are saying it is clear as day. What they were asking for and what they were already doing." Does Gregory not realize that these sources have openly confessed to the very thing that the press is trying to hound out of Nancy Pelosi?
Gregory continues: "So that's the reality of the -- of the public record that we have so far. Now, maybe if we go down this road, maybe we will learn more and get a fuller accounting of what was contained in that briefing." YES, MAYBE A FULLER ACCOUNTING WILL FALL OUT OF THE SKY AND HIT US ON THE HEAD. And when it does, David Gregory will fearlessly document just how shiny its collision with the earth looked! Until then, we will have to dream of a day that someone invents REPORTERS, who actively seek out full accountings!
It gets even more ridiculous. Carlos Watson asks David Gregory, "What in your mind would be one or several tipping points that would move this towards a full investigation?" To my mind, the correct answer is, "Well, I am a dedicated, professional, well-remunerated reporter, and I have the obligation to bring this story in myself, and not wait around, passively hoping for a tipping point to spur me into action." But Gregory's answer is this:
"How about nothing?"
That's right! That's what he said. He added some important clarification: "Look, if the White House has the kind of political capital that it appears to have, they are going to make it very clear that they do not want this to be the discussion. they have a lot of other things they want to talk about." So there you have it. David Gregory and his colleagues are just paralyzed in the face of the White House's awesome political capital, which is the only thing for which they seem to have any respect. Gregory has been hanging around with too many political consultants. He's forgotten that he isn't one of them.
"The more you debate this," Gregory says, "The more you realize the politics of the time are incredibly difficult."
Well, boo hoo, you goddamned crybaby.