Sunday, May 04, 2008

TV: The Beauty & The Grump

We're eagerly anticipating Bill Moyers appearance on CW's Beauty & The Geek. We can't wait to see the makeover he's given and hear the beauties carping about him. The announcement hasn't been made yet but we're sure it will be shortly. After all, he already willingly took part in Austin Kutcher's Punked. But we'll get to that.

We're envisioning his whines while he's put through some man-scaping, while he's forced to work out and while someone finally takes a pair of scissors to demolish what is basically a chili-bowl haircut. Secretly, we're hoping he's one of the Geeks left out in the cold because the whiners and piners are so much funnier than the ones who can adapt.

Bill Moyers inability to adapt led to his Punked. We wrote about it last week ("TV: Mission Impossible"), his embarrassing stroking of crackpot and hate monger Jeremiah Wright. Bill was on a mission to save Barack Obama's presidential nominee campaign and he was more than willing to look like an idiot in order to do so. Just so you know, what freaked out the Obama campaign about last week's review was bringing up Wright's remarks about Natalee Hollaway. They feared what might happen if Wright's condemning of a missing woman really got amplification. Fortunately for them, that was among the many topics Bill avoided in order to try to convince America that Wright was . . . well, right.

Among the many not sending valentines to Moyers last week were Alessandra Stanley (New York Times) and Howard Kurtz (Washington Post). We wonder if they got the same whining from people at PBS that we did? If so, we'll assume they only had to endure them, as we did, until Tuesday afternoon. After that, PBS friends stopped calling to whine. That's when the chickens coming home to roost started getting counted or, as a friend on the CPB put it to us, "I was planning to gripe but then I heard how many complaints we were getting on the interview."

On Thursday, Michael Getler, PBS ombudsperson, would weigh in:

On the other hand, as ombudsmen often say, this came across to me more as a conversation among theologians than it did as a truly probing interview with a truly controversial person who had said some truly inflammatory things and had become deeply inserted into a tight, hard-fought and historic race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
While I don't endorse the language or the broader criticisms below, I do feel that there were not enough questions asked and some that were asked came across as too reserved and too soft, considering the volatility of the charges. For example, after replaying at length a Wright sermon delivered the first Sunday after 9/11-- in which Wright invoked America's role in slavery, taking the country from the Indians, bombing Grenada, Panama, Libyan leader Gaddafi's house, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Iraq, plus state terrorism against Palestinians and black South Africans to conclude that the 9/11 attacks were "America's chickens are coming home to roost" -- Moyers asked: "When people saw the sound bites from it this year, they were upset because you seemed to be blaming America. Did you somehow fail to communicate?" As Howard Kurtz wrote in The Washington Post afterwards: "Thought he was blaming America? Where did anyone get that idea?" It would be hard to formulate a more delicate way to put a question to Wright about that sermon without challenging any of its content.
Moyers did seek to draw Wright out about his "G** damn America" statement, and he called Wright to task, still rather gently, about Louis Farrakhan. But others of those inflammatory, and inaccurate, statements that Moyers himself laid out at the top of the program went largely unchallenged and those that did come up didn't really get addressed until well into the hour-long program. Some comments, such as the HIV accusation, didn't get addressed at all, nor were other questions asked about whether, for example, the U.S. should have invaded mainland Japan at the cost of countless lives, American and Japanese, rather than dropping two atomic weapons.
One of the more curious aspects of that sermon right after 9/11, in which Wright clearly blames America's policies, is that he wrapped this whole idea that "chickens are coming home to roost" as something that other people have said. He referred specifically to a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck, and an appearance that Peck had made on Fox News just a day earlier on Sept. 15, 2001. Wright said: "America's chickens are coming home to roost! Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y'all, not a black militant."
Actually, Peck never used the phrase about chickens coming home to roost.

The Peck issue is one we wish we had caught; however, we don't watch Fox "News." But it goes to the larger problem of Wright and people like him. Regardless of race, they stand up in front of a congregation, using the 'moral authority' that's been vested into their role, to proclaim 'facts' that often aren't. Like when Wright smeared Natalee Holloway. Or when he declared AIDS was invented by the US government to destroy African-Americans. They lie and they lie not to fill time but to enrage a congregation. Rage gets the blood boiling and shuts off questions. That's why so many are so comfortable enraging.

So Bill got Punked and the press noticed. It smarted. Smarted so much he had to open his show Friday with it, as if he were picking at a scab, via a lengthy commentary. A lengthy and embarrassing commentary in which Bill tried to justify Wright's post-interview statements and to defend his own embarrassing interview from the previous week.

Insisting there was a "double standard," he then went after John Hagee (a popular target for Bill) endorsing John McCain. McCain's a Republican and we're really not shocked by anything that party does -- seven years and counting of the Occupation of the White House, we lost the ability to be shocked around July of 2001. But it was cute that Bill brought up Hagee's remarks about AIDS, having worked overtime during his interview with Wright to avoid Wright's crackpot talk on the subject. Then Bill was -- apparently reading from Movement publications -- insisting that it was no different from when "Jerry Falwell said the attack" 9-11 "was God's judgement on America for having driven out of our schools and the public square" -- driven what? Bill was so worked up he forgot to include the direct object to his statement.

The Falwell canard is a popular one and a telling one. Falwell made those crackpot statements. The two are not the same. When Falwell and Pat Robertson had that "discussion," they were immediately called out including by the White House. Yes, Bully Boy was quicker in responding to that sort of hate speech than was Barack Obama. They love to leave that detail out. They love to play it as if Falwell and Robertson made those remarks and never got called out when, in fact, they were called out across the political spectrum. The same sort of calling out that Moyers and others attempted to shield Wright from. Who's the hypocrite?

Then, apparently still on "double standards" but it was hard to tell because it was Bill as ornery as a Texas tick on a hound dog in July (or however Dan Rather would word it), he was off to Billy Graham and his deplorable comments about Jews. "Jon Stewart recently played a tape" of the comments, Bill tells you. We're far too busy for basic cable so we'll take Bill at his word and just wonder why that tape was played since it's at least a year old. But, and pay attention because Bill doesn't want you to grasp this, it came out this decade. It was thirty years old. We called it out when the tape surfaced. But comparing remarks from the early seventies to Wright's modern-day tirades is really a stretch.

Bill concludes that this "means it is all about race, isn't it?" What? He leaves out the part that all of his examples have resulted in calling out. He leaves out the condemnation (from all but John McCain, the non-straight shooter) and he does that because he wants to falsely claim the criticism of Wright rests on Wright's race. Give it a rest Bill, you've prostituted yourself out enough for one candidate already. We doubt you even worked up this much defense for LBJ.

But he wasn't done whoring. It was time to meet back up with Dr. Kathy. To get our positive criticism out of the way, Kathleen Hall Jamieson looked professional. She was dressed her best yet and her hair was perfect. (For those late to the party, the program went into crazed mode over one of our critiques of Dr. Kathy and Bill, insisting that we never offered "positive feedback.") We also think Dr. Kathy provided a great service: Reminding Bill Moyers that there were two candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If you have comprehension issues and haven't yet grasped whom Bill favors, note that it was always "Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton" out of his mouth when mentioning the candidates. A curious and non-alphabetical listing that never varies. (Though sometimes he words it "Obama and Clinton.") You could also watch the dialogue and notice that, were it not for Dr. Kathy, Hillary might not have come up. There was Bill -- who sees racism everywhere (except in his own hiring practices) -- waxing on about Barack non-stop. He really doesn't enjoy talking about Hillary and he really doesn't enjoy women.

That probably registered best when Bill and Dr. Kathy spoke of Elizabeth Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards is trying to put the focus on issues and has written a column for The New York Times and appeared on a host of programs in order to do so. But stop a minute. Now think. What show hasn't had Elizabeth Edwards on?

Bill Moyers Journal. He's got plenty of time to go slack jawed over Jeremiah Wright -- while insisting that Wright is a non-issue -- but a woman trying to turn the focus to issues? Still hasn't made time to sit down with her.

Did anyone else think Bill squirmed when Dr. Kathy uttered the word "gender"?

Dr. Kathy actually provided a service in her commentary this week by reaching back into the past. She hasn't always done that and we'll rate her critique as superior than in the past. Explaining what Barack's currently attempting, she reached back to 1980 to address how Ronald Reagan did the same thing. In the "issues" debate, Dr. Kathy noted that character has always been a part of American politics and that politicians have always done various things to convince the public that they have the character to be president. If Dr. Kathy was doing that before and we missed it because she didn't offer examples, our apologies to her. But we will praise her for being sharp and prepared Friday night.

It was such a high note that we turned off the TV -- that and we're not fond of lengthy segments that result from favors called in. Mainly, we're just sick of Bill Moyers Locker Room trying to pass itself off as Bill Moyers Journal. It truly is amazing that someone who could probably divine racism in the growth of an onion is so willfully blind to sexism.

Now to note two positives, on Washington Week, Gwen noted the Democratic primary race was a dead heat. We were impressed with her command of the facts. The other?

NOW on PBS. The program was just awarded the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best TV Documentary for their investigative report "Child Brides: Stolen Lives" reported by Maria Hinojosa.

We're not fans of David Brancaccio (obviously) but we're never hesitant to applaud something worth watching and Brancaccio deserves praise for Friday's show as do guests Willie Brown and Dan Schnur who provided frank insights into the Democratic primary and into the role of super delegates. Sadly, the program doesn't provide transcripts but if you're able to stream online and utilize video or audio, you'll find more of value on the topic than you've gotten in weeks of media coverage (mis-coverage).

But for hours of enjoyment, you'll have to join us in imagining Bill's upcoming appearance on Beauty & The Geek. We were worried that his moniker had already been taken but then a friend with the show put us wise, a previous season featured "The Navy Diva," not "The Nasty Diva." We asked what the chances were of Bill being invited on since he's clearly angling for invite and we were told that "he's a little too old for our core demographic, by like 100 years!" but "maybe he could interview the contestants." Talk about spoiling a perfectly good fantasy. If there's one thing the world doesn't need right now it's more soft ball interviews from Bill and that's before you add in the fact that he'd ignore the women and zero in on the men the way he does each Friday night. "It's just as well," our friend told us. "We'd have to change the title to Beauty & The Geek & The Geezer."
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