Jay Leno Sees Oil Spill As Consequence of Tea Party Views

Many right wingers have liked Jay Leno in the past primarily because he is not David Letterman. Leno might have reduced his standing on the right while Rand Paul has had a couple of days of really bad television coverage. It was bad enough when, after being only the third person in history to cancel an invitation to be on Meet the Press, David Gregory spent the first ten minutes of the show looking back at all of Paul’s gaffes. David Gregory then appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno Again. Leno got a couple attacks in on the Tea Parties:

Meanwhile Jay Leno wanted to know how come the Tea Partiers are showing up now and not back when the Bush administration was stomping all over the nation’s civil rights? Gregory thinks it’s simply because they’re more organized. But Leno persisted: “BP is the perfect example. BP seems to have done this on their own, they don’t pay attention, they essentially make their own rules, they pay off everybody…that’s what the Tea Party wants. That’s unregulated and look what happened.”

Rand Paul Chickens Out of “Meet The Press” Interview

After demonstrating that he is not ready for prime time (or to serve in the United States Senate), Rand Paul has now chickened out of a planned appearance on Meet the Press.  Actually David Gregory should be a lot easier to handle than Rachel Maddow.I doubt Gregory has the intelligence to challenge Paul’s beliefs, and demonstrate how absurd they are, as Maddow did.

If he’s not going to appear on MSNBC or NBC, does he have the guts to do another  interview on NPR? I’d love to see him do an interview with Terry Gross as I think back to what she did to Bill O’Reilly (who walked out without finishing the interview).

I imagine he’ll do what Sarah Palin did when she couldn’t handle real interviews and spend a lot of time on Fox.

Chuck Todd To Have Weekend Political Show

After Tim Russert’s death Chuck Todd was my top pick to take over as moderator of Meet the Press assuming we were limited to people at NBC News. I didn’t really think that Todd would receive the post due to his relative inexperience, suspecting that Russert was grooming him for such a job at a later date. David Gregory got the post instead, but has not been very impressive. Perhaps NBC sees the need to rapidly prepare Todd for such a high profile spot. The New York Observer reports that MSNBC is preparing a weekend political show for him:

The new show on MSNBC, to debut in late spring, would give Mr. Todd more experience as a political moderator and provide him with a good opportunity to develop his long-form interviewing skills. At the same time, it would give MSNBC an original political program to show off on a weekend schedule that is currently dominated by crime documentaries and taped content.

According to sources, the specifics of the show—live vs. taped, one-on-one interview vs. a panel of guests, half-hour vs. an hour, Saturday vs. Sunday—are still being worked out. Presumably the show will originate out of NBC’s Washington D.C. bureau, where Mr. Todd is stationed. Staffing has yet to be determined.

The only problem is that there are now far too many political shows to even try to keep up with, unless someone wants to spend a big chunk of the weekend watching television. Besides the major interview shows from each network there is a growing number of additional shows. Chris Matthews has one Sunday show where he is generally calmer than he is on Hardball. Perhaps the best of the newer Sunday interview shows is Fareed Zakaria — GPS on CNN.

Update: On second thought, Todd has been disappointing in some of his questions since moving to White House correspondant (as I noted here). Hopefully he will improve on an interview show.

David Gregory: The Safe Interviewer

I had doubts about David Gregory taking over as moderator of Meet the Press. Television reviewer Verne Gay isn’t very impressed with the job Gregory has done so far:

The new moderator often seems like he’s wearing a suit made for someone else – Russert – and as a result has yet to clearly establish why he got this gig instead of anyone else in the conga line of potential successors. Gregory is terrifically polished, well-informed, a good listener and has the talking points of both sides down cold. But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points. Recent interviews with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) felt like a waterfront that went on for miles – an endless vista of chatter and spin. His exclusive interview with Defense Secretary Robert Gates was thoughtful and probing, but not particularly memorable.

BOTTOM LINE “Meet the Press” is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning – “safe,” that is, for those being interviewed.

Gregory has been handed perhaps the most important program in television journalism. It’s time to start acting like the king who rules wisely yet ruthlessly. Otherwise, his legacy will match that of Garrick Utley or Bill Monroe – moderators who were highly respected but not highly feared. In this job, it’s vital to be both.

Colin Powell on the Republican Party

While the networks dominate the Sunday morning talk shows and the premier of Meet the Press under David Gregory might receive the most publicity, the show to watch today might be Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN. Zakaria interviews Colin Powell who has some comments on the state of the Republican Party. An example:

“I think the party has to stop shouting at the world and at the country,”Powell said. “I think that the party has to take a hard look at itself, and I’ve talked to a number of leaders in recent weeks and they understand that.” Powell, who says he still considers himself a Republican, said his party should also stop listening to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

“Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?” Powell asked. “Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?”

Unfortunately that is the kind of party the Republicans have become.

Great News For Bob Scheiffer and George Stephanopoulos

David Gregory is reportedly to take over as host of Meet the Press. He did have his good moments when pressing the Bush administration during press conferences, but he has all too often repeated lame Republican talking points. Are there also any political junkies who do not consider him one of the most boring hosts of network or cable newscasts?

Gregory’s credentials are summarized by Mike Allen:

Gregory, 38, celebrated his 30th birthday — complete with cake — aboard George W. Bush’s presidential campaign plane, the assignment that solidified his stature as a network rising star. Enjoying a gravitas boost from his prematurely salt-and-pepper mane and friendships with Tom Brokaw and other of the legendary figures of NBC News, the Los Angeles native quickly became one of the hottest personalities in network news.

Eating cake with Geroge Bush, being a friend of Tom Brokaw, and having premature gray hair does not make one a great journalist.

Since I did not think there was much hope that Jon Stewart would get picked, or even that NBC would go with Steve Benen’s top choice of Rachel Maddow, I was hoping that Chuck Todd would be chosen. I think that he was the only one now at NBC who could maintain the current position of Meet the Press as the top Sunday interview show.

Shake Up At MSNBC

Poor MSNBC has always been on the bottom with respect to cable news. For several years it attempted to be a conservative Fox News imitator, believing that’s where the money was. It never did a very good job of it and conservatives never had any reason to leave Fox. After Keith Olbermann became a hit they finally realized that with conservatives dominating the broadcast media, and with CNN having turned into the Conservative News Network(although far less biased than Fox) after Ted Turner left, there was money to be made with offering a home to liberal viewers.

This never worked out too well either. More Democrats wound up watching the convention on CNN than on MSNBC (with Republicans still sticking with Fox). Having Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews anchor political coverage was often more interesting than the other networks, but it was, to be mild, journalistically flawed. This especially proved to be a problem as the reputation of MSNBC also affected the reputation of NBC. The New York Times reports that Olbermann and Matthews are to be removed as anchors for the remainder of the coverage of the election.

From an entertainment point of view I am a little disappointed. MSNBC was often the network to turn to when the actual news was slow. It certainly could not be called objective journalism but it was the next best thing to having Jon Stewart as anchor. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to have a serious anchor and mix in personalities such as Olbermann and Rachel Maddow for commentary from the left, Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough for coverage from the right, and I’m not exactly sure what Chris Matthews might be good for beyond random screaming.

For now the plan is to have David Gregory anchor the coverage the nights of the debates and for election night coverage. There will be episodes of Countdown both before and after the debates. Other nights liberals will also have Rachel Maddow, whose new show begins on Monday.

John McCain, Big Ideas, and Big Lies

Think Progress comments on how Bobby Jindal, appearing on Meet the Press, was unable to cite any big ideas which John McCain has had. It is actually unfair to say that John McCain has no big ideas. Making people pay even more of their health care costs out of their pocket might not be a good idea, but it is a big idea. Staying in Iraq for one hundred years is insane, but also might qualify as a big idea. Perhaps giving even bigger tax cuts to the top one tenth of one percent than George Bush gave them might also be considered a big idea. It must be tough acting as a surrogate for a candidate who has nothing but bad ideas.

I was actually bothered far more by another one of Jindal’s answers. He attacked Obama by repeating all the same lies about Obama’s tax plans which have been repeatedly debunked, including twice by Factcheck (here and here.) Host David Gregory let this go by without a follow up question. Instead he asked Tim Kaine a different question. As Obama’s surrogate, I wish that Kaine had responded to Jindal’s untrue statements as opposed to only responding to the question he was asked.

Bush Kept On Plame Leakers Despite Promises

The New York Daily News quotes George Bush as promising that any staffer proven to have leaked CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity “would no longer be in this administration.” They note that Bush hasn’t fired anyone even though Libby’s trial showed that at last ten others had leaked Plame’s name:

Vice President Cheney
When Libby reminded his boss the vice president that he learned about Plame from him, Cheney tilted his head quizzically and said, “From me?”

Karl Rove
Bush’s top political mastermind told reporters Robert Novak and Matt Cooper about Plame.

Richard Armitage
The former deputy secretary of state gossiped about Plame to Novak, and marveled to Watergate icon Bob Woodward, “How about that?”

Ari Fleischer
Bush’s former spokesman got immunity before admitting he told reporters John Dickerson and David Gregory about Plame. Reporter Walter Pincus said Fleischer told him about her, too.

Dan Bartlett
Fleischer claimed Bush’s counselor blurted out to him on Air Force One in July 2003 that Plame “worked at the CIA.”

Robert Grenier
The top CIA official overseeing Iraq operations got nervous over Libby’s pestering and later “felt guilty” about telling Cheney’s chief of staff about Plame.

Bill Harlow
The CIA spokesman told Cheney flack Cathie Martin.

Cathie Martin
She told Cheney and Libby about Plame.

Marc Grossman
The No. 3 at the State Department also told Libby about Plame.

Craig Schmall
Cheney’s CIA daily briefer discussed Plame with Libby.

It sure looks like you can’t trust George Bush to keep his word, and you can’t trust Republicans to keep a secret regarding our national security.

Frank Rich on Truthiness in the 2006 Elections

Frank Rich sees this election as confusing truth and fantasy:

The 2002 midterms were ridiculed as the “Seinfeld” election — about nothing — and 2006 often does seem like the “Colbert” election, so suffused is it with unreality, or what Mr. Colbert calls “truthiness.” Or perhaps the “Borat” election, after the character created by Mr. Colbert’s equally popular British counterpart, Sacha Baron Cohen, whose mockumentary about the American travels of a crude fictional TV reporter from Kazakhstan opened to great acclaim this weekend. Like both these comedians, our politicians and their media surrogates have been going to extremes this year to blur the difference between truth and truthiness, all the better to confuse the audience.

Rich looks at “the president’s down-to-the-wire effort to brand his party as the defender of “traditional” marriage even as the same-sex scandals of conservative leaders on and off Capitol Hill make “La Cage aux Folles” look like “The Sound of Music.” Any discussion of reality versus fantasy would inevitably lead back to Iraq:

And always, always there’s the false reality imposed on Iraq: “Absolutely, we’re winning!” in the president’s recent formulation. After all this time, you’d think the Iraq fictions wouldn’t work anymore. The overwhelming majority of Americans now know that we were conned into this mess in the first place by two fake story lines manufactured by the White House, a connection between 9/11 and Saddam and an imminent threat of nuclear Armageddon. Both were trotted out in our last midterm campaign to rush a feckless Congress into voting for a war authorization before Election Day. As the administration pulls the same ploy four years later, this time to keep the fiasco going, you have to wonder if it can get away with lying once more.

Given the polls, I would have said no, but last week’s John Kerry farce gives me pause. Whatever lame joke or snide remark the senator was trying to impart, it was no more relevant to the reality unfolding in Iraq than the sex scenes in Jim Webb’s novels. But as the White House ingeniously inflated a molehill by a noncandidate into a mountain of fake news, real news from Iraq was often downplayed or ignored entirely. It was a chilling example of how even now a skit ginned up by the administration screenwriters can dwarf and obliterate reality in our media culture.

On the same day Mr. Kerry blundered, the United States suffered a palpable and major defeat in Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, once again doing the bidding of the anti-American leader Moktada al-Sadr, somehow coerced American forces into dismantling their cordon of Sadr City, where they were searching for a kidnapped soldier. As the melodramatic debates over how much Mr. Kerry should apologize dragged on longer, still more real news got short shrift: the October death toll for Americans in Iraq was the highest in nearly two years. Some 90 percent of the dead were enlisted men and nearly a third were on extended tours of duty or their second or third tours. Their average age was 24.

When the premises for war were being sold four years ago, you could turn to the fake news of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” to find the skepticism that might poke holes in the propaganda. Four years later, the press is much chastened by its failure to do its job back then, but not all of the press. While both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert made sport of the media’s overkill on the Kerry story, their counterparts in “real” television news, especially but not exclusively on cable, flogged it incessantly. Only after The New York Times uncovered a classified Pentagon chart documenting Iraq’s rapid descent into chaos did reality begin to intrude on the contrived contretemps posed by another tone-deaf flub from a former presidential candidate not even on the ballot.

In retrospect, the defining moment of the 2006 campaign may well have been back in April, when Mr. Colbert appeared at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Call it a cultural primary. His performance was judged a bomb by the Washington press corps, which yukked it up instead for a Bush impersonator who joined the president in a benign sketch commissioned by the White House. But millions of Americans watching C-Span and the Web did get Mr. Colbert’s routine. They recognized that the Beltway establishment sitting stone-faced in his audience was the butt of his jokes, especially the very news media that had parroted Bush administration fictions leading America into the quagmire of Iraq.

Frank Rich includes a link to the video of Colbert’s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in his column. I have also  placed the  transcript below the fold. (more…)