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Print view: Are the Sunday guest lists balanced? We hope someone does the work
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RACHEL PRESENTS THE LINEUPS! Are the Sunday guest lists balanced? We hope someone does the work: // link // print // previous // next //

Obama likes to hang out with the Jews: Pretty amazing.

Cornel West appeared on last evening’s Ed Show. West has been annoyed with Obama, as Big Ed revealed at the start:

SCHULTZ (5/17/11): OK. You used the term “black mascot.” You have also called President Obama a "black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs" and a "black puppet of corporate plutocrats." And now he has become "head of the American killing machine and is proud of it."

Is this personal?

“It’s certainly not personal in terms of somehow saying that he is outside of the human race,” West somewhat comically said. But soon, we hit the part which was pretty amazing. Once again, West complained about the way Obama likes to hang out with the Jews:

SCHULTZ: OK. You’ve also chosen to analyze the president on what seems to be a very deeply personal level. Your quote is, "I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men." What did you mean by that?

WEST: What I meant was that I think that—keep in mind, I affirm his humanity and I want to respect and protect him. But what I meant by that was his formation is such that I think he does have a predilection much more toward upper middle class white brothers and Jewish brothers, and has a certain distance from free black men who will tell him the truth, both about himself as well as what’s going on in black communities, brown communities, red communities and poor white, working-class communities.

Obama has a predilection toward whites and toward Jews.

Let’s be clear: On balance, we have always been a major fan of the way West talks about race. But that remark struck us as very strange—though neither Schultz, not later guest Melissa Harris-Perry, said a word about it.

And yes, we used the term “once again.” West was booked on Big Ed’s show because of the remarkable interview he recently gave to Chris Hedges. For Hedges’ full report, click this. Here’s the part about the way Obama likes to hang out with the Jews:

HEDGES (5/16/11): “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says.

Obama “feels most comfortable” with white and Jewish men. But at least it’s “understandable.” And not only that! As it turns out, Obama is “just as human as” West.

We strongly suggest that you read the whole interview, one of the most amazing we have ever read. As we said, we’ve always admired the way West talks about race—although we’ve never been able to form a view about his actual scholarship. That said, West has been a Very, Very Important Person for a very long time—and he is very, very peeved at the way Obama ignores him.

Bill Clinton made Newt Gingrich use the back door of Air Force One. And not only that! Barack Obama doesn’t return West’s phone calls!

To our ear, the price we pay for celebrity culture simply shrieks out from that interview. So does the danger in the freedom we liberals have been giving each other to talk major smack about race.

Across the Atlantic, another professor has been talking major embarrassing nonsense this week (just click here). Is Cornel West a serious scholar? We’ve never been able to figure that out. But we feel fairly safe in saying this:

Most professors pretty much aren’t, not in any way which matters. People like Paul Krugman excepted, this only seems to become more true the higher you go up the ladder.

At any rate, Obama likes to hang with the Jews! Neither Schultz nor Harris-Perry seemed surprised by that.

An historical note: During Campaign 2000, West was a major player in the Bradley campaign. There was nothing wrong with that, of course—in our view, quite the opposite. But that was the same campaign in which the mainstream “press corps” fly-specked Naomi Wolf’s three books, looking for any tidbit they could use to slime Candidate Gore.

As we’ve noted in the past: On any page of The Cornel West Reader, you could find racial and sexual statements which were more “transgressive” than anything Wolf ever wrote. (That doesn’t mean those statements are wrong.) But the “press corps” didn’t fly-speck West. You see, he was working with Bradley.

It’s good that the mainstream “press corps” didn’t make a joke of West’s work. But they played the fool about Wolf for a month, in amazingly ugly ways. And of course, Jonathan Chait kept his trap tightly shut.

William Kristol and William Safire both spoke up in defense of Wolf. Not a peep out of Chait, who was so clear—last week!—about how vile this was.

To read our account of that month-long disgrace, click this. (Careful, though—there are millions of words! We’ll finish the chapter early next month.) Presumably, this was the kind of conduct Dan Kennedy had in mind when he said that the coverage of Candidate Gore amounted to “a virtual wilding.”

How strange, that so few “liberals” spoke up! Until twelve years later, we mean.

One last point: Candidate McCain was paying $20,000 per month to Richard Quinn, who really was way out of the mainstream in certain ways. For the most part, the press corps averted its gaze about that. (Saint McCain was the world’s greatest man!) One surprise: In that case, the New Republic got off its duff and actually did some good work.

RACHEL PRESENTS THE LINE-UPS (permalink): Due to our weekend travels, we’re a bit late with this one. But we thought it was worth reviewing an ongoing topic—the composition of the guest line-ups on Sunday morning’s news shows.

Last Friday night, Rachel went there again. As she started her report on this topic, she reviewed the guest lists from the previous Sunday (May 8). Then she looked ahead to the upcoming May 15 shows:

MADDOW (5/13/11): Last week, the week after the Obama administration announced the death of Osama bin Laden, the guest list on the Sunday political talk shows was 3-1, Bush administration and Republican officials to Democrats. If you thought or perhaps hope that that ratio might have been an aberration, the good news is you’re right.

This week is ratio is no longer Republican to Democrat 3-1. This week, the ratio is Republican to Democrat, 8-1.

Sad. By this time, Maddow had had all week to get herself straightened out about those May 8 programs. On that day, all five Sunday shows had presented a Democrat as featured guest; in each case, that Democrat’s segment was longer, sometimes much longer, than the subsequent segments with Republicans (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/10/11). But so what? Five nights later, Maddow was still handing you that baldly misleading crap about the 3-1 pro-Republican ratio.

That presentation was technically accurate—but it was grossly misleading. We’re so old that we can remember when liberals got upset with “journalists” who played their viewers like that! At any rate:

Looking at that presentation, you have two choices: Our Own Rhodes Scholar is totally hapless, along with her staff. Or Our Own Rhodes Scholar is deliberately playing you—treating you the same darn way Sean Hannity treats his rubes.

Which is it? You get to decide.

At any rate, as the darling child continued, she announced the guest lists for the upcoming May 15 shows, “as reported [in advance] by the Associated Press.” In this case, her presentation was largely accurate. The guest lists on last Sunday’s show heavily favored Republicans.

That said, she put her thumb on the scale in the case of one guest. This darling loves to play you:

MADDOW (continuing directly): This is the guest lineup for this weekend’s Sunday morning shows, as reported this morning by the Associated Press:

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, a Republican. Sheila Bair, chair of the FDIC, appointed of that job five years ago by President George W. Bush. She’s a former Republican Senate staffer and a Republican—and Republican congressional candidate.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, now running for the Republican nomination for president. Current speaker of the House, John Boehner, obviously a Republican. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, now reportedly contemplating a run for the Senate.

Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell. Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who just announced he too is running for president. And last but the least, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

So, what’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine announced marquee guests. And of those nine, one of them is a Democrat, Dick Durbin. Dick Durbin, this weekend in American politics—Dick Durbin, you are holding up half the sky!

The darling threw in Sheila Bair, making the ratio just a bit worse. Should Bair have been counted in the way Maddow did? Here is Christiane Amanpour on This Week, introducing the pundit panel which included Bair:

AMANPOUR (5/15/11): Joining me now, Doug Holtz-Eakin, who ran the Congressional Budget Office and served as John McCain's chief economic adviser in 2008. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman of the New York Times. Sheila Bair, who is wrapping up her term as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And Roger Altman, a former deputy treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. Thank you all for being here.

As these things go, that was a balanced panel—but should Bair have been counted in the way she was, as “a marquee guest?” And if Bair was counted, why not count Holtz-Eakin and Altman? One distinction: Bair is the current FDIC head (appointed by Bush); Holtz-Eakin and Altman are former high officials. But can we talk? One reason a person like Altman gets booked is because the White House won’t make current officials available.

Should Bair have been counted? That’s a subjective judgment, but we wouldn’t have done so. On the other hand, someone who hands you that 3-1 crap about last week’s programs may not be playing things straight.

By the way, using guest lists on Friday night can be a tricky business. Maddow missed one Republican guest, Mike Huckabee; at the last minute, Fox News Sunday had him join Ron Paul for its opening segment. So even if we don’t count Bair in the way Maddow did, the ratio stays 8-1. Unless you count a Democratic official, Barack Obama, who was briefly featured (on tape) on Face the Nation, being interviewed by Harry Smith, the show’s guest host.

(In her 3-1 ratio from May 8, Maddow is counting Condoleezza Rice, briefly interviewed on tape by Christiane Amanpour. By the way, she’s a former official!)

Let’s establish one key point: Maddow baldly misled her viewers about the May 8 programs. That point established, let’s ask the key question:

Was something wrong with the guest lineups from the May 15 shows? We’d have to say the answer is no, for several reasons:

For starters, these shows aren’t booked in unison; Meet the Press doesn’t consider who Fox News Sunday is booking when it plans its show. Meet the Press interviewed Newt Gingrich this week, then offered a segment with a balanced panel. Presumably, its bookers didn’t say, “But we shouldn’t do that. We have to balance Fox, which is booking Paul and Huckabee.”

For our money, there was nothing grossly wrong with the line-up on any of these shows. But duh! The balance of any particular program can’t be established on any one Sunday! You have to examine a program’s guest lists over a significant period of time. As we’ve noted, several news orgs—Media Matters, for one—have authored such studies in the past. We’d love to see someone do the work on these programs over (let’s say) the past year. Of course, we’d like to see the ratios for each of the five Sunday programs, considered on its own terms.

Over a significant time span, what have the ratios been? We would love to see the work, but only if it’s done carefully. (You pretty much have to do word counts.) By way of contrast: When Maddow picks and chooses one week at a time, she is behaving like a hack—especially when she baldly misleads you, as has done with that May 8 ratio.

But then, what else is new? Two final points:

The reasons for some of last Sunday’s bookings are perfectly clear. Why did Meet the Press book Gingrich? Duh. He had just announced he was running for president! (So had Ron Paul. Huckabee had just announced that he wasn’t.) It’s silly to think that every such booking has to be balanced on that very program. But Maddow’s a fairly silly person. Except for her considerable performance skills, she’s almost wholly unprepared for her current job.

Finally, liberals may have to get used to this, at least to a certain extent. We’re entering a long, drawn-out, inane campaign season in which a lot of Republicans will be running for president, against one lonely Democrat. Obama won’t go on the Sunday shows; presumably, a bunch of Republican candidates will. It’s stupid to ignore this dynamic—to jump up and down, crying in pain, every time a candidate gets interviewed.

And by the way: Do you think Sunday’s interview helped Candidate Gingrich?

That said, your DAILY HOWLER keeps getting results! Steve Benen was on slightly better behavior regarding this ballyhooed topic this week. (To read his post, click here.) He held off until Sunday morning before discussing the reported guest lists. Even better: Although he cited Maddow’s Friday report—keister must be kissed, after all—he didn’t count Bair in the way Maddow had. Amazingly, he didn’t repeat that 3-1 ratio from the May 8 shows—a bogus claim he largely invented. And not only that! He finally stopped repeating his baldly inaccurate claims about the February 13 shows (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/19/11).

Your DAILY HOWLER keeps getting results! On balance, Steve was still being foolish. But a lot of the steamier nonsense was gone—and the nonsense had been very steamy.

No, really—don’t thank us!

Unless Maddow’s so thoroughly dumb that she really doesn’t know what she’s doing, we think her report was the latest disgrace. But then, we’re so old that we can recall when progressives complained about conduct like this—conduct in which $2 million per year corporate hirelings treat cable viewers like fools.

On the other hand, it’s probably good for Rachel’s ratings. So we liberals all win, all around!