I have a confession to make. I actually watch the network news. Maybe I should enter into a twelve-step program or something.
But I don't watch the news for fun, and I certainly don't watch it for, you know... news... since it has largely become a substance-free zone. But I do watch it because I want to see what pap is being fed to America each and every night by the giant corporations that pre-package it and serve it up to us all.
I do, however, draw the line at cable news, since the dent in my living room wall from my forehead is already deep enough. To say nothing of the dent in my forehead. Ahem.
I don't know if it's just me, but this is how it all is beginning to sound ("[Click]" is where I get totally disgusted and switch to another channel):
BYRON WONTIUMS: Tonight... on this very evening... right here in New York City... what we have found out tonight, here in the Big Apple... is that this particular evening Americans all across this country, the country we call America, here in the U.S.A., are right now, on this summer's night... they are looking to us, the media, the bringers of news... from our offices here in New York... for some sort of commentary about what is going on today and what is still going on tonight, that we will report to you tonight... this very night... right here. In New York City. Tonight. But we'll get right back to that, as we're out of time and have to pause for this commercial.
KAREN CREAMCHEEZIC: Hi everyone! Let's talk about some politics first, OK? Wow! John McCain ran an ad last night and we're going to show it to you here in a minute. He apparently ran this ad only once, after midnight, on a 100-watt station broadcasting out of Guam, for which he paid twelve dollars. But we're now going to give him a multi-million-dollar free gift by running this ad on our show so everyone can see it. Just in case you miss it, McCain says in this ad that Barack Obama is a "whippersnapper," and that he should "just get the hell off America's lawn, ya damn kid!" He goes on to mumble incoherently for ten seconds and then repeats the word "America" fifteen times before the ad ends. So come on, America, let's all scratch our heads together while we watch this ad, brought to you for free by us...
BYRON WONTIUMS: Americans have shown that they really want the facts... just the facts, Ma'am... and would prefer talking about issues in the presidential campaign. We go now to our Washington political analyst for his take on this situation.
VERY SERIOUS WASHINGTON BUREAU GUY: That's right, Byron, people apparently want facts. Here is a video of one of the candidates speaking. He seems to be talking about some issue or another, but you can't tell that because we have the sound off and are talking over his words. These are probably the facts which Americans are so desperately in need of and want, coming out of his mouth right now. You can even see his lips moving in this video I'm talking over, so assumably he's talking about some policy or issue that he's got a solution to. But rather than get into that, let's look at a poll. These poll numbers just in show that seventy percent of Americans would like to know some facts about the candidates. But in the same poll, both Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were well-known to over ninety percent of likely voters, so I'd like to take the rest of my time to talk about Paris Hilton's reaction to being used in a McCain ad. I have about ten minutes' worth of this stuff, so sit back and relax as we (figuratively) delve into Paris... and Britney!... on the presidential campaign.
KAREN CREAMCHEEZIC: Gosh, that was an interesting ad! You know what, I don't think everyone saw that. Some people were out in the kitchen getting a snack. So let's run it over again, shall we? Maybe after watching it a second time I'll come up with a question or a comment or something... the first time it ran, I was busy practicing looking all serious and forehead-wrinkly and concerned, just in case I have to interview anyone who says big serious things...
GARY SNUFFLEUPAGUS: Good evening. I am a hard-hitting reporter who is not afraid to ask the tough questions, as I did in that debate last spring... (Remember? I hosted a debate!)... and we have with us now Scott McClellan, former press secretary to President Bush, who as we all know wrote a tell-all book about the Bush White House and is now trying to cash in on it. So, Scott, how's that been going for you? Made a bunch of money yet?
SCOTT MCCLELLAN: Well, Gary, not as much as you made with your tell-all book which you released while the president you served was still in office. I mean, seriously, you really set the standard for all of us to follow, and I can't wait until I get rewarded with a network news program myself! Your baby face is getting a little wrinkly around the edges, and therefore I've been in talks with your producer about replacing you...
SNUFFLEUPAGUS: I'm sorry, but we're out of time. Thanks for watching the evening news with us, the people who tell America what to think.
Actually, to tell the truth, I rarely make it to the end of the broadcast, and usually wind up just watching PBS to see some actual news. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what passes for "news," but sometimes I admit that it's just too overwhelming. Sigh.
Maybe we should all stop calling them "anchors" since that implies something with some actual weight to it. Maybe they should all be called "balloons" instead. I'm just saying....
But enough of that! We've got some awards to give out, and then some talking points to cover. So let's get right to it, here, tonight... on this very evening... right now... tonight.
There were a few minor contenders this week for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, but I have to give the award to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, for signing a law which overturns a previous (and outdated) law which barred people from getting married in the state -- if their home state didn't recognize the marriage. This law was passed in 1913, to avoid having to marry interracial couples from other states. But it was dusted off recently, when the state legalized gay marriage, to again bar people from getting married in the Bay State unless they were residents.
Now, it can be argued that Massachusetts took a close look at what happened in California when they legalized gay marriage for all (including out-of-state couples), and reaped a flood of tourist money as a result. So it may have been a decision born of the bottom line, instead of some higher reason. But I'm not going to read too much into Massachusetts' reasons for overturning this racist law on their books, and am going to call it impressive nonetheless. Of course, there are a lot of folks in the Massachusetts legislature who also deserve some credit, but one of the perks of being governor is being the public face of things, sometimes.
So congratulations Governor Patrick for opening your state's marriage bureaus to couples from other states (and opening your tourist industry to their vacation dollars). You are hereby awarded the MIDOTW award for doing so.
[Congratulate Governor Deval Patrick on his official contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
For the first time in six weeks, there will be no Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. There were a few Democrats who annoyed me in a minor way last week, but none that rose to the level of "most disappointing." Of course, I could have missed someone, so feel free to nominate your own in the comments. But I consider this a positive development overall.
Volume 41 (8/1/08)
I have to say, I am slowly seeing signs of the media turning on John McCain. Now, so far, it's a fairly subtle thing -- they haven't started asking him any really tough questions on his policy, his history, or his record, for instance. But they have noticed the change in tone since the Karl Rove people have taken over McCain's campaign strategy. And it's turning them off. They are like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a years-long nap, blinking sleepily and confusedly while wondering "Who is this new John McCain? Where's the straight talker I went to sleep dreaming about?"
It's going to take more time before the media truly begins to examine McCain in a critical way, but at this point I am cautiously optimistic that we may have reached a turning point. The more silly mudslinging ads McCain runs, the more we may see evidence of this happening. We'll see whether the media collectively goes to sleep again, or whether they truly wake up in the weeks ahead.
But now it's onward to the weekly talking points, for Democrats facing weekend interviews. As always, I urge them to cut these out, paste them onto three-by-five cards, and have them ready for their Sunday morning appearances.
The price of oil, and the price of belligerence
Democrats really need to jump on the price of oil and gasoline as a political issue. I wrote about this yesterday, and more and more it is looking like this is going to be the one and only issue Republicans think they can win on this year. Republicans actually just staged a stunt in the House, by giving a tantrum of speeches after the House had gone home -- to point out that Nancy Pelosi adjourned without allowing oil companies to drill wherever they liked. Democrats laugh at this and brush it off as "no big deal" to their peril. In a nutshell: This will be the main issue Republicans are going to campaign on. Democrats had better be ready.
"The day after the Bush administration announced it would hold a diplomatic meeting with Iran, the price of oil fell by over ten percent. It's been on the way down ever since. That's because the two are tied together. While Bush and Cheney were threatening war with Iran, the world got nervous and the price of oil went up. When diplomacy was tried, the price of oil went down. Americans are paying an enormous 'risk premium' on oil, and the more belligerent we are to the Middle East, the higher the price goes. When Barack Obama said he'd talk with Iran, he was denounced by the right wing. When George Bush actually followed Obama's lead, the price of a barrel of oil came down twenty-five bucks in two weeks."
No SOFA for you today, sorry
President Bush gave a speech about Iraq yesterday. He said that American soldiers going over there (but not the ones who are actually already there) will now only have to serve a standard 12-month tour instead of the extended 15-month tours he's been demanding up until now. Anyone who can add can immediately tell that this is a meaningless promise, since it will be up to the next president to determine when those tours end -- but that's not the important thing about this statement. What is important is what Bush didn't say.
"I see that President Bush spoke the other day about Iraq, but what he failed to mention is that he didn't meet his own deadline for hammering out a Status Of Forces Agreement with the Iraqis. This is because the Iraqis are demanding a timeline for U.S. troops to withdraw from their country -- just like Barack Obama has proposed. While the White House continues to try to twist Prime Minister Maliki's arm into redefining the word 'timeline,' the chances that this law will pass the Iraqi Parliament by the end of this year become more and more dim, as time goes on. Maybe Bush should just get a three-month extension, so that the next president can bargain in good faith with the Iraqis, rather than try to force them into agreeing to something which their own people are going to reject."
Media bias (part 1) -- McCain's numbers don't add up
We've all heard the media relentlessly beat the drum of "Obama's all fancy speeches, and no specifics." To their credit, Politico finally took a look at this myth, and found exactly the opposite -- Obama had much more specific proposals than McCain did, and where McCain had any proposals at all, his numbers just don't seem to add up.
"You know, when news organizations have been telling Americans for months now that Obama is 'light on details' and 'offers no specifics,' they have never seemed to apply the same standard to John McCain. Finally, the Politico website has written about this, leading the story off with, quote, the domestic policy plans of John McCain have been notably short on details, unquote. I look forward to the rest of the media following up on this story by pointing out over and over again that Obama has concrete proposals, whereas McCain has put forth numbers that economists agree don't add up. When I hear that McCain is 'light on details' and 'offers no specifics' from the media, then I will know they are doing an unbiased job once again. But I'm not holding my breath waiting."
Media bias (part 2) -- McCain's son
I'm still waiting to hear the words "Keating Five" on any national television news show. I mean, you'd think that in the midst of a banking crisis, with banks failing and taxpayers having to pay for it, that someone somewhere in the media would do a quick check of McCain's record on this. And perhaps his son's, as well.
"Just imagine for one moment that Barack Obama had been involved with a banking scandal in his past. Now imagine further that his son just resigned an executive position of a bank that was on the verge of failure. Do you think we would have heard about this in the media? Perhaps on an hourly basis on the cable news shows? Over and over and over again? Then ask yourself why nobody seems to be paying the slightest bit of attention to Andrew McCain, or, for that matter, even mentioning the words 'Keating Five.' And yet somehow the media is supposed to be on Obama's side? It just boggles the mind."
Celebrity (part 1) -- Is that the best you can come up with?
Obama got a good line off the other day, when talking about the whole Paris Hilton/Britney Spears tactic from the McCain camp. This needs no further explanation or elaboration.
"Given the magnitude of our challenges when it comes to energy and health care and jobs and our foreign policy, you'd think that we'd be having a serious debate. But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election's about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?"
Celebrity (part 2) -- So is "celebrity" a bad thing, or not?
"John McCain's new campaign team, trained by Karl Rove, is throwing a lot of mud over Barack Obama being a 'celebrity,' even running an ad McCain said he was 'proud' of, featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Funny thing, though, McCain used to be proud of wearing the label 'celebrity' himself. On his own campaign site -- until they deleted it this week, that is -- was an Associated Press story which ended with, and I quote, A political celebrity, McCain is considered a top contender for the nomination, unquote. So John McCain should really decide whether being a 'celebrity' is a good thing, or a bad thing. Or maybe it's just a good thing when McCain is being called a celebrity, and it's now a bad thing because he's calling Obama a celebrity? I honestly couldn't tell you what McCain is thinking these days, since he's flip-flopped on so many of these types of things."
The continuing self-destruction of the GOP
And finally, more good news from the Republican leadership. They have given the green light for all rats to abandon ship, apparently. This includes encouraging them to run against their own party and to skip their own convention this year, because the Republican brand name is so toxic with voters. At least they have the good sense to realize it.
"The chairman of the Republican committee who is supposed to be in charge of getting more Republicans elected to the House this year just gave an astounding conference call with their candidates -- which, even more astoundingly, he let reporters listen in to. In his own words, Republican approval ratings are, quote, worse than we had on the eve of losing the majority... Don't be afraid to say you are disappointed in fellow Republicans... don't hesitate to be anti-Washington, D.C., unquote. He was addressing Republican House candidates at the time. He even told them not to bother attending the Republican National Convention this year, saying it would be a 'waste of time.' It's not often I agree with Republicans on campaign tactics, but I would have to agree that attending the Republican National Convention would indeed be a waste of time. For anyone."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground