WHY NOT THE BEST! On Sunday, the countrys most famous news hosts asked the worlds most useless questions: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2011
Already on tape: Were late today because we taped the Marc Steiner Show with the University of Marylands Sheri Parks. The program airs on WEAA, Morgan States NPR affiliate.
We worked our way out from the Murdoch debacle. For a mixed time, just click here.
Maureen Dowd has nothing to say/Thomas L. Friedman is quoting himself: Maureen Dowd has nothing to say. Her new column shows how a Pulitzer-winner deals with this time-honored problem:
First, you kill four paragraphs with silly clatter about a time-travel claim out of Hong Kong.
After that, you toss in some pop culture pap. (Marty McFly, Cowboys & Aliens.) Then, to kill a bit more time, you revisit your silliest hits about the current president. Bring back the Nicorette reference. Re-warm your bromance narratives:
Hang on! Youre nearing the end! Believe it or not, this is what the Pulitzer-winner ended up saying in todays column: Even though Obama compromises ridiculously easily, the Republicans are showing no willingness to compromise at all.
What does it mean when one of the press corps biggest players has nothing more to offer than that? Were not sure, but on the same page, the increasingly fatuous Thomas L. Friedman was pretty much quoting himself. As he started, he offered some deeply silly ideas about what Obama should have done in 2009. And good lord! Friedman is empty all the way down! After conducting a series of hearings in which he listened to people who sound much like Friedman, a much wiser Obama should have ended up saying this: O.K., given our current fiscal predicament, where should we cut spending and where must we raise new tax revenues so that we can bring our government back to solvency and, at the same time, reinvigorate our formula for growth and success?
Soon, Thomas L. Friedman is quoting himselfor doing a near-equivalent. He quotes the co-author of his own forthcoming book. That co-author is offering advice which is blindingly obvious:
Would anyone in the current debate disagree with that highlighted statement?
As he closes, Friedman returns to his current jag, the crying need for a third party. In this, his worthless column from Sunday, he said that third party will be run by Kahlil Byrd, the C.E.O. of Americans Elect, who was quoted speaking from its swank offices, financed with some serious hedge-fund money, a stones throw from the White House.
As your nation slides toward the sea, the culture of the Times op-ed page has never been so blatantly fatuous. But Thomas L. Friedman has now seen the cure! And of course, as you might have guessed, the cure will emerge from a set of swank offices, financed with big hedge-fund smack.
Your nation is sliding into the sea. If it doesnt happen next week, its going to happen later. These frauds have been running the discourse for decades. Eventually, things fall apart.
PART 3WHY NOT THE BEST (permalink): On Sunday, Teresa Tritch broke the news to New York Times readers concerning those Bush tax rates. In her EDITORIAL/DECONSTRUCTION, Tritch authored the following claim:
Say what? If the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012, our future deficits revert to sustainable levels? If Tritchs claim is actually true, shouldnt someone have mentioned this fact to Times readers a long time agolong before last Sunday? Out on the newspapers front page, perhaps? Where a whole lot of readers might see it?
On-line, the liberal world jumped on Tritchs piecefor, you know, maybe a day. In this familiar feckless manner, the liberal world has long arranged to let the discourse be ruled by those of other persuasions. Tomorrow, well review the familiar way the liberal world advanced Tritchs claim. But first, lets review the banana republic behavior of a few of our most famous broadcastersby the famous folk who host our Sunday news programs.
Meet the Press has long been considered the Sunday morning gold standard. Last Sunday, as the nation neared disaster, its host offered this question to Bill Daley, Obamas chief of staff:
Gregory noted the rapid rise in federal debt, then asked a truly peculiar question. Why shouldn't the priority be on spending cuts alone when we've got this kind of debt situation?
We know, we know: On face, Gregory was merely asking if Daley could understand th[at] point of view, which is held by the other party. But his imploring question seemed to suggest that this point of view made some obvious sort of sense, given the size of the federal debt and its rapid rate of increase. He seemed to suggest it was somehow strange for the White House to say that we've got to increase the amount of tax increases (sic).
In fact, the larger the debt and the deficit get, the more difficult it would presumably be to solve the problem with spending cuts only. A smaller amount of debt might be cured with cuts. By why would someone think that a massive debt suggests a cuts-only solution?
Gregorys question was really quite strange. In fairness, Daleys answer was almost as bad.
That said, Gregorys extremely weird question was matched all around the dial this Sunday as tribunes of the upper-end press corps displayed their intellectual skills. On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer came out with this strange question, speaking with Senator Kyl, the Arizona Republican:
Say what? Does raising the debt limit involve raising taxes? No it doesnt, yet that was the obvious implication of Schieffers plu-pitiful ask. Meanwhile, over at This Week, Christiane Amanpour was playing it tough with Tim Geithner:
Like Amanpour, we have no idea what was actually said at those endless budget talks. But were all sides really saying that? Were all sides saying that Boehner and Geithner shook hands on a deal that involved $800 billion worth of revenue? Of course they werent, as anyone would know from reading the previous two days newspapers, or from watching Obamas Friday press conference.
From the front page of Saturdays Washington Post: White House officials said that there was no handshake agreement on taxes.
How do these major broadcasters get to be so clueless? Were not sure, but Candy Crowley even got steam-rolled by Tim Pawlenty on Sundays State of the Union! We knowa broadcaster cant be ready for every claim a guest might make. But Pawlenty made a remarkably basic claimand Crowley failed to challenge it:
Say what? Its true that the deficit for fiscal year 2008 was roughly $450 trillion. But, as Crowley surely knows, that fiscal year ended in the fall of 2008, with Candidate Barack Obama still on the campaign trail. On January 7, 2009, the CBO issued its deficit forecast for fiscal year 2009a year which had now been under way for three months.
Obama was still two weeks from taking office. But on the front page of the Washington Post, Lori Montgomery explained where the projected deficit stood:
A key word there is president-elect. Due to the economic disaster, the 2009 deficit was already projected at $1.2 trillion, even before Obama took officeeven before any Obama stimulus measures had been enacted. Once again, the fiscal year was already three months old.
This is a very basic matter. Whatever one may think of Obamas budget policies, you dont understand recent budget history if you dont understand this framework. But on Sunday, Crowley seemed to frame her response to Pawlenty from somewhere southwest of Mars:
Pawlenty went on and on from there. When he finally finished his speech, Crowley raised a new topic.
Is it fair to the American public when their most prestigious Sunday news shows are hosted by people like these? Of course, the hapless incompetence of these people has been driving the nation to ruin for a very long time. Last Sunday, Tritch discussed those Bush tax cutsa tax cut proposal Bush rolled out in December 1999. Five days after Bush made his proposal, Cokie Roberts co-hosted This Weekand she completely misstated the size of the cuts, apparently having been misled by a poorly written headline. (George Stephanopoulos bailed her out, covering for her remarkable ignorance. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/6/99.) Ten months later, ABCs Ted Koppel still had no idea how big the tax cut proposal was. One night after Bush and Gores first debate, he spoke with Larry King:
Ten months after Bush released his proposal, Koppel didnt seem to know how to explain the size of the proposed tax cuts. (Bush set the cost of the cuts at $1.3 trillion over ten years. Gore said $1.9 trillion.)
What does it mean when a societys most famous journalists conduct themselves in such ways? Inevitably, it means a society will end up where we finally are this week, in a state of complete public lunacy. Are Americas most famous journalists able to clarify any discussion? On Fox News Sunday, this is what happened when Chris Wallace tried to interview Boehner about that $800 billion in new revenuethe revenue Boehner said he and Obama agreed on:
At this point, Wallace moved on to another topic. So how about it: Had Boehner agreed to raise taxes? It would have been easy to clarify this matter by asking the obvious question: Did you achieve the $800 billion in new revenue by closing tax loopholes? (Tax deductions, tax breaks, tax expenditures.) Or was this, as Boehner wanted the rubes to think, $800 billion in new revenue created by a growing economy? It would have been easy to ask that questionand surely, Wallace understood the conceptual scam. But Republicans have been playing semantic games to confuse the issue of what theyre proposing. Wallace was only one of several hosts who failed to untangle this ball of twine in Sunday mornings programs.
What had Boehner agreed to propose? Wallace and others agreed not to ask, leaving gorilla dust in the air. Our question: What will happen to a society which suffers from such Potemkin discussions? Were not sure, but the analysts groaned when the hapless Schieffer posed this question to Senator Chambliss, the Georgia Republican:
Schieffer is the only Sunday host who is restricted to a half-hour. He wasted a chunk of that time this week with this utterly worthless question, correctly noting that the question might have occurred to a child. (Chambliss gave a pointless, scripted reply. The exchange was not his fault.)
Can we talk? Were not sure we saw a single useful question asked anywhere on Sundays programs. But then, this clowning has long been the norm. Go back and see what Cokie said when Bush proposed his tax cuts!
Last Sunday, Teresa Tritch advanced a claim about those famous tax cuts. Liberals hooted and cheeredfor a day. Tomorrow, well review what they said.
Tomorrow: What liberals said