Sometimes, you watch MSNBC to see what kind of blazing pink tie Chris Matthews will wear, and sometimes you watch because your boss is on TV. In any case, it's hard to rest long on any of the cable channels without seeing something of note for this column — a passel of Hooters girls, perhaps, or a fridge with a Victoria's Secret bag chilling undies for later — and last night during "Abrams Country" there was one such moment. (Oh, fine, "MSNBC Live With Dan Abrams." Spoilsport.)
Abrams did something very smart, which the cablers have been shockingly slow to start doing: Running juxtaposed "gotcha" moments laying bare inconsistencies in positions made by public officials in a splicing of clips that shows just where and how the inconsistencies and obfuscations have taken place. It's a signature move of "The Daily Show," and one that they've perfected, the clip-show highlight reel, often times just a collection of goofy cable moments like throwing to a Paris Hilton story or something, but just as often clips of President Bush or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld making statements and then baldly contradicting them elsewhere, thinking no one would notice. Well, Jon Stewart and his staff have been noticing for years — but surprisingly, not too many in the news biz have noticed that it's a method that really, really works.
So kudos to Abrams and his staff for noticing, or at least adopting what proved to be a very effective formula (if not exactly executed with a laugh a minute), noting that Bush hasn't exactly been unwavering in his description of "success" in Iraq:
I have often wondered why the cable nets didn't plunder the Daily Show's modus operandi on more fronts, since it is often so effective (it seems to be the only news outlet that seems to mine C-SPAN for material — yeah, I said "news outlet"). It's true that "Meet The Press" has perfected the "gotcha" moment (well, gotcha-moment-as-less-gotcha-than-predictible-TV-by-the-time-it-airs, but still, it remains effective), but this struck me as a new and welcome take on a proven format. In any case, it worked.
Also enjoyed last night on MSNBC, this time Hardball: HuffPo contributor and VoteVets.org co-founder Jon Stoltz making absolute mincemeat out of former Bush aide. Ron Christie. And more props to Abrams for using an MSNBC clip on his sounds-like ETP segment "Beat The Press," calling out one of his own network's guests on saying that someone "wasn't gay, they just liked to have sex with men." (That's a paraphrase, but not entirely unrelated to the notion of Dan Abrams Beating his own Press. Or maybe it is, but I wanted to write that anyway. Rawr.)