Sunday, October 12, 2008

TV: Some moments should stay undercover

Last fall, NBC launched their network's best show. Chuck is a blend of comedy, action, romance and possibly even the Bush doctrine if Charlie Gibson would like to define that for us. In the world of Chuck, things are rarely as they seem and about the only thing you can count on is that you will be entertained for an hour (the first hour of prime time on NBC Mondays).


Would that all shows could make that claim. Two Fridays ago, Charlie Rose amused us with his tired gas baggery as he sat across the table from Big Momma's Mouth herself, Donna Brazile. Apparently having had a Brazilian wax done to her upper lip, Donna looked better than usual and it appeared she'd even had the hair done. A sure hint that Donna was in distraction mode. Either that or she was off to the Dinah Shore Golf Classic -- and isn't that months away?

Regardless, there was Donna shooting the s**t or, at least, spreading it.

Our favorite moment was probably when 'regular gal' Donna felt the need to inform Charlie that "I talk to White people, Latinos, everybody." Are your sides aching yet?

The same Donna Brazile who declared in May, "Well, Lou, I have worked on a lot of Democratic campaigns, and I respect Paul. But, Paul, you're looking at the old coalition. A new Democratic coalition is younger. It is more urban, as well as suburban, and we don't have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics. We need to look at the Democratic Party, expand the party, expand the base and not throw out the baby with the bathwater."

The only response to Donna's claim to to "talk to White people, Latinos, everybody," is to ask, "And do they speak back to you?" Charlie, of course, avoided that obvious question. Then again, maybe Donna was referring to those angry e-mails she's become so infamous for with pithy little sentiments such as "Message to the Base: Stay home."

Donna got off a few truths, to her credit. She noted of Barack, "he's mixed race -- he's bi-racial." (She later referred to him as "half-Black".) She rejected the notion that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000 noting, "Had Al Gore won Tennessee, we wouldn't be having this conversation." She noted the responsibility was Gore's ("Al Gore had to close the deal"), that he was polling low ("he was in the mid-40s") and, "Put Nader aside . . . I didn't fight hard enough." (Donna was the campaign manager of Gore's 2000 run.) But this being Donna Brazile, the hilarity always stands out more than anything else.

And we're were laughing so hard, at the end of the interview, when she gave her credits to Charlie, "I work four jobs, I love it. I write for Roll Call, I'm a syndicated columnist, I teach, I'm on CBS, CNN." Are you laughing too? If not think about what periodical has allowed Donna's tired ass to write for them? That's right, Donna's on PBS and can't even plug Ms. magazine. Doesn't it all seem so fitting? That's gratitude for you and it reminded us of how a DC hostess has christened Donna "The Ass With Sass." Were truer words ever spoken?

Certainly never from Big Momma's Mouth but Donna's always played like a double agent, whether hob-knobbing with Karl Rove or dropping in for a home visit with Dick Cheney's pregnant secretary. On NBC's Chuck, secret agents, double agents and even triple agents are not all that unusual. The title character is a secret agent himself. He works at a variant of Circuit City in the "Nerd Herd." But he's also a secret agent as a result of his friend Bryce e-mailing him a file that (it gets complicated) his college training under a CIA agent helped him prepare to absorb. What he absorbed is The Intersect -- a sort of super computer data base of government files on various international criminals, terrorists and spies. On the first episode this year, he and secret agent Sarah were having dinner when he "flashed" on someone's face and realized the man was a criminal and that they were, in fact, surrounded by criminals.

If everyone had "The Intersect" in their own heads, we'd assume they'd be onto Bill Moyers and Dr. Kathy. Friday found the two gas bagging yet again and doing damage to sensibilities and the English language with such wanton disregard that it really should have been seen as act of intellectually dishonesty.

Dr. Kath wanted to gas bag over an ad by US Senator John McCain that asserts US Senator Barack Obama " is attacking the troops for killing civilians."

Dr. Kath: Let me read to you what Senator Obama actually said in the real context. "We've got to get the job done there. And that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there." He was talking about military strategy. He was talking about a need to increase the number of troops to have a different kind of strategy. That wasn't an indictment of the troops. That was an indictment of the strategy. And this in a context in which the Defense Secretary, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, has apologized for civilian casualties. That's a consequential ad, if you believe that, you might draw a bad inference.

Actually, Dr. Kath, when he talks 'strategy' by stating, "We've got to get the job done there. And that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there," he is stating that the troops are killing civilians. Is he attacking them for that? That depends where you stand on the issue and, for Republicans, it is an "attack." Dr. Kath tries to bring in the "strategy." She's not doing that nor is Barack. The strategy as of today, according to Barack (and we agree with him on this), is resulting in air raids and the killing of civilians. We are aware that many Republicans see our opinion as an attack on US service members and we're certainly not attempting to do that. But we do understand why many Republicans would see it that way.

We will give Dr. Kathy credit for the following which showed common sense (and left Bill Moyers eager to move on to another topic):

I worry whenever someone stands up and treats the name Hussein as if somehow that's illegitimate, as if that constitutes an indictment. We've really failed when a name that many, many, many Americans have, a perfectly legitimate name, is somehow now automatically associated with terrorism. Why should it? Why does it? [. . .]It means there's something so wrong- [. . .] That, well, that's the other problem. I mean, look, every time someone says, "Senator Obama is not a Muslim." You know, how dare you say that he might be a Muslim? How do you hear that if you're a Muslim? We ought to be able to say Senator Obama is Christian without making being a Muslim something that is something we've tagged as being a negative identification.

We'll give her credit for that. It's all the credit she earned in the lengthy gas baggery. Doubt us? There was a debate last week. It was moderated by a male (Tom Brokaw) and Dr. Kathy was surprisingly less eager to dissect him than she (and Brooke) had been with Bill last week when ripping apart Gwen Ifill for not doing things that Gwen actually had done. On Barack in the debate, here's Dr. Kath:

There's a question that's asked in the debate this week, about Social Security and Medicare and the fact that what we essentially have are unfunded obligations. It's an important moment for the candidates to explain their differences and their similarities. Now, what doesn't Barack Obama tell us? Barack Obama doesn't tell us that he is proposing to raise the payroll tax on those making over $250,000. He won't do it for about ten more years.
It will be a two to four percent increase. But, nonetheless, he has a plan that will help. It won't solve but it will help to solve the shortfall in Social Security. Now, why doesn't he say it? He doesn't say it because before he came to this position, he considered the possibility of raising the payroll tax on everyone from $102,000, the current payroll tax limit, to $250,000 and all the way up.
[. . .]
He just put it as an option. He didn't say he supported it. But it sits in the record. He's afraid that if he says, "That's what I'm going to do," Senator McCain will come back and say, "Yes, but weren't you really considering the option — the other option? Is that really what you plan to do?" So the American people didn't learn that he actually took a position that would help us address a problem.

Dr. Kathy, we agree Barack Obama doesn't tell a whole lot. But when he does tell something, we (unlike you) point out that the press doesn't cover it. To listen to Dr. Kathy, one would assume she'd been combing through policies and discovered something never addressed in public by Barack. From the April debate broadcast on ABC:

OBAMA: What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax because millionaires and billionaires don't have to pay beyond $97,000 a year. That is where it is capped. Now, most firefighters, most teachers, you know, they're not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6 percent of the population does.

And I've also said that I'd be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.

But understand the alternative is that, because we're going to have fewer workers to more retirees, if we don't do anything on Social Security, then those benefits will effectively be cut because we'll be running out of money.

GIBSON: But, Senator, but that's a tax. That's a tax...

OBAMA: Well, no, no, look...

GIBSON: ... on people under $250,000.

OBAMA: Let me finish my point here, Charlie. Senator Clinton said she certainly wouldn't do this, this was a bad idea. In Iowa, when she was outside of camera range, said to an individual there she'd certainly consider the idea and then that was recorded. And she apparently wasn't aware that it was being recorded.

So this is an option that I would strongly consider, because the alternatives, like raising the retirement age or cutting benefits or raising the payroll tax on everybody, including people who make less than $97,000 a year...

GIBSON: But there's a heck of a lot of...

OBAMA: ... those are not good policy options.

GIBSON: There's a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200,000 and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes...

OBAMA: And that's...

GIBSON: ... that's going to raise taxes on them.

As Charlie Gibson pointed out, it was a tax increase. But we didn't get coverage of the responses in that debate (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), we got the Cult of Barack hissing how unfair the questions were for poor little Barack. We got FAIR issuing one of their increasingly laughable "action alerts" for cyber thugs everywhere to scream and hiss at ABC in e-mails because the moderators of the debate dared to question the Christ-child and because said child was unable to respond.

That proposed tax increase got ignored as FAIR's goons yacked on and about Charlie Gibson being interested in capital gains taxes. (That's the section that immediately precedes the excerpt above.) Following that debate, we did not see a working press, we saw the Cult of Barack on a mission to destroy.

Take David Corn who blogged twice at Mother Jones and was twice wrong. In the April debate, the issue of Bill Ayers was raised and Barack lied about his involvement (Dr. Kath, you got it wrong as well: It's "boards," not "board") with Ayers and quickly tried to distract from his friendship with Ayers by immediately suggesting then-President Bill Clinton had pardoned two members of the Weather Underground when no such thing had taken place. David Corn was far from alone in repeating the lie but he disgraced himself on the conference call where he kept insisting two Weather members had been pardoned and insisting those were the facts and they couldn't be argued with. Those weren't the facts but that passed for 'journalism' coverage of the debate in which Barack was forced, by Gibson, to admit he was planning to raise payroll taxes and not just on those making more than $250,000 a year.

We'll be kind and not dwell on Bill having to correct Dr. Kathy ("They've done that") and just note that Dr. Kathy declared, "I think the debate needs to clarify the fact that Senator Obama has no plans to increase taxes on those couples making less than $250,000. I think the debate has confused people about Senator McCain's health care plan." It's certainly confused Dr. Kathy. The issue was raised in April and it's those making less than $97,000 who would face payroll taxes. Know your facts before you attempt to peer behind them.

Chuck (Zachary Levi) knows he loves Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) but, unlike the audience, he's not sure where she stands with regards to her feelings for him. It resulted in some of last season's finest moments. Sarah had a connection to Chuck before she ever met him: his old college buddy Bryce was her boyfriend. In fact, last season ended with Chuck assuming Sarah had gone off with Bryce and this season started with no attempt to even acknowledge that cliff-hanger. That might be one reason the show's off to a slow ratings start. No "might"s about it, NBC refusal to air Chuck over the summer is a strong reason why the first episodes of the fall has to climb a mountain in order to regain last spring's following.

It was a really dumb move as was the sad-sack premiere two Mondays ago which found Chuck in a smelly funk the likes of which hasn't been seen since Buffy the Vampire Slayer left the WB and moved over to UPN. It was a downer of opening that left viewers confused from the first scene. It also appeared that Chuck had an idea Sarah really loved him which outraged viewers who (naturally) expected that such a realization would be televised for their enjoyment instead of taking place off screen.

See, NBC tried to sell the show last year as a racy action show. The commercials featured Chuck and Sarah and Sarah would be zipping around in the Nerd Herd mobile while she and Chuck were pursued by the baddies. But that really didn't make the show and, if it had been the selling point, you would have been left with, more-or-less, a rip off of the sad, sad V.I.P. What made the show and got the audience excited was Chuck and Sarah.

Because Chuck has The Intersect in his head, he must be protected. CIA agent Sarah has to pose as his girlfriend. Throughout last season, Chuck would have very difficult moments where he could not deal with their cover as a couple because he was honestly in love with Sarah -- this woman that he knew nothing about. That could have made Chuck come off pathetic (think Herb on WKRP in Cincinnati). But the audience knew that Sarah had feelings for Chuck as well. That's the dynamic that brought the show an eager audience.

Not only do they make a good couple, and play longing well, there's the root of the conflict which audiences can identify with: Neither thinks they're good enough for the other.

This year, that seems to be forgotten and the first episode found the idea being floated that Sarah's job -- once the protect Chuck mission was over -- would take her elsewhere and that was the source of the relationship problem. That really came from Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and he's floated it before last season but audiences can usually dismiss it. They couldn't in the opening because they were thrown. Instead of picking up with Chuck thinking Sarah had gone off with Bryce, it was rush-rush through a caper with no mention of the cliff-hanger. With no mention of Sarah having gone off with Bryce and a badly written date scene for Chuck and Sarah (that existed only to set up an action scene), the audience was only offered Casey's usual skewed view of reality and that's what they went with.

Skewed view of reality is all Amy Goodman offers these days. It's so bad many doubt even she believes it when she identifies herself as a journalist these days. Based on one report (in The Washington Post), Goody tried to tease out a story of Governor Sarah Palin speaking to a crowd that yelled "Kill him!" about Barack Obama. That didn't happen and your first clue is that only one outlet covering the speech mentioned it. Your second clue came when the Secret Service investigated the paper's allegation and found no evidence to support it. Goody, of course, issued no correction so her October 7th bit remains part of the public record:

On the campaign trail, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain square off tonight in a town-hall debate in Nashville, Tennessee. Republicans have intensified attacks on Obama as polls show McCain losing ground in key battleground states, including Ohio. On Monday, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin continued to invoke Obama's connection to Bill Ayers, a former member of the militant 1960s antiwar group, the Weather Underground.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: "I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America: as the greatest source for good in this world. I am afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect
enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country."

Obama was eight years old when Ayers was a Weather Underground member. Today Ayers is a tenured professor and leading expert on education reform. Ayers and Obama have few ties beyond living in the same Chicago neighborhood and having once served together on the board of two nonprofits. Ayers also hosted an event for Obama when he first ran for the State Senate. As Palin spoke about Obama, an audience member yelled out "kill him." It's unclear if Palin heard the remark, but she did not respond.

What's unclear is how Democracy Now! remains on the air at this point. With Rush Limbaugh, Goody's equivalent, he'll remain on the air as long as advertisers are willing to buy spots on his show. Democracy Now! airs on public radio, on the tax payer dime, and the sort of crap she's tossed out this year should have had Pravda on the Hudson pulled from the airwaves.

We've dealt with the remarks that never took place and Goody's refusal to correct her LIE. Let's fact check the rest of her garbage in the headline above:

On Monday, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin continued to invoke Obama's connection to Bill Ayers, a former member of the militant 1960s antiwar group, the Weather Underground.

Goody damn well knows Weather was not a "1960s" group. She interviewed Jennifer Dohrn when Deep Throat was revealed and Jennifer (sister of Bernardine Dohrn, leader of Weather and married to Bill Ayers) was talking very clearly about seventies incidents (and the clip shown of Jennifer speaking was from the seventies). Jennifer was spied on (and, in fact, Mark Felt had the FBI steal a pair of Jennifer's panties) after Weather went underground. Weather went underground in 1970. For Goody to declare Weather a "1960s" group is not an error, it is an outright lie. But she's become a serial liar which is why Friday's broadcast found her insisting, "On Thursday morning, the McCain campaign issued its first ad tying Obama to the 1960s militant Bill Ayers." Back to October 7th:

Obama was eight years old when Ayers was a Weather Underground member.

Again Goody is LYING and she damn well knows it. Bill Ayers was a member of Weather Underground throughout the seventies. He and Bernardine turned themselves into authorities as 1980 drew to a close and only after that year's election saw Ronald Reagan emerge victorious. They thought they'd have a better chance under Jimmy Carter's outgoing presidency than under Reagan (a good guess to anyone who knows Reagan's history as governor of California). Obama was not eight years old for 11 years. It's a cute little lie from an ugly liar.

Howard Zinn is among the many we've found useless this year. But Zinn made his name as someone rescuing history. An honest appraisal of what Goody's doing would be: Burying history. Do you agree with Weather's actions or not? That's a judgment call and we're certainly open to the debate. But when you declare a group that was bombing targets in the US at least as late as 1975 a "1960s" group, you're dishonest and harmful to history. Every time Goody tells that lie, she warps history a little more, postpones the debate needed on Weather and robs the left of its own history.

Like Goody, Major John Casey's an unsavory character. He is, however, a fictional character and Adam Baldwin brings the stick-up-his-ass NSA agent to life perfectly. His best scene remains last season's hopeful makeout that found him in his boxers and handcuffed to a bed. We couldn't imagine Casey simmering more if he and Chuck had to go undercover as a bondage couple and Chuck was the Dom leading Sub Casey around on a leash. Simmer and resentment are at the core of Casey and Baldwin's found new layers bringing those emotions out. Four readers have written in about the first two episodes this year saying that were especially disappointed with Casey's character (they were disappointed with the entire episodes). That's understandable because, while there was no time in the season debut to explore Chuck and Sarah's feelings for one another, Major John Casey wasn't just in touch with his own feelings, he was fondling them. It was not a pretty thing to watch.

Sarah and Casey get along only enough to work together. Their agencies are at odds and more so than Sarah even knows. Last season, we learned what Sarah didn't know, that the NSA Director wanted Casey to kill Chuck as soon as they had another Intersect up and running. That is Casey's standing order. When the season started this fall, the CIA and NSA thought they'd recovered The Intersect (before it blew up) and Casey was ordered to carry out his mission. He struggled with it to the point that it's doubtful he can do it. That's really a season finale cliff hanger and not a plot point you dismiss with in the opening of season two.

The tone is off this year and the only one benefitting is Ryan McPartlin who plays the significant other to Chuck's sister. McPartlin's been praised by us before. Here he was praised for his comic abilities as the co-star in Living With Fran and, in a piece Jim bumped for something we don't even remember, we praised him in our review of Pepper Dennis where he was the guest star for one episode portraying an in-the-closet football player. (The review ran in the gina & krista round-robin.) McPartlin truly is talented and if that's not coming across in Chuck it's only because his character, Devon, is a bit of an air head. And that's his charm. Don't try giving him an inner life, not only will it mess with the show, it will alter the relationship Chuck's sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) has with him. With one relationship already messed up for the viewers (patience, they're getting back on track with Sarah and Chuck), the audience can't really afford another loss at this point.

Mucking things up is all Saturday Night Live can do these days. Last night, it was already time for the show to go back to repeats. Yes, the show did just make its season debut August 28th and it's already resorting to repeats. NBC thought they could grab a Thursday night show and have a live show. Apparently, that will require giving the 'live' show mulitple weekend's off. This despite the claim that the whole point of the half-hour, prime time Thursday show is supposed to be that so much is going on the country -- no, the world! -- needs the Saturday Night Live point-of-view and it's blunt edge comedy to navigate the current political peaks and valleys.

If you caught Thursday night's debut, you know they aired a debate sketch that felt longer than the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates debate (which aired Tuesday). If a skit lasts nine minutes and feels like twenty, what do you know, they can work one Barack joke into it.

They did another joke on McCain and it felt so familiar. In the skit, McCain was getting people's names wrong when responding to their question, creating names for them. It reminded us of what Pravda on the Hudson's Amy Goodman elected to air of the debate. In Wednesday's "Faltering Economy Takes Center Stage in McCain-Obama Debate," she started with Oliver asking a question and McCain replying with a comment that included, "And that way, Americans can -- like Alan, can realize the American dream and stay in their home." McCain wasn't mixed up. He wasn't calling Oliver "Allen." Right before Oliver asked his question, Allen had asked, "With the economy on the downturn and retired and older citizens and workers losing their incomes, what's the fastest, most positive solution to bail these people out of the economic ruin?" McCain mentioned Allen because it was the same basic question (Oliver asked: "Well, Senators, through this economic crisis, most of the people that I know have had a difficult time. And through this bailout package, I was wondering what it is that's going to actually help those people out?") But Goody's 'report' made it appear McCain was calling Oliver "Allen." And that misrepresentation was turned into a repeated 'joke' on SNL every time McCain spoke.

It wasn't funny, nor was the debate. Tom Brokaw did a bad job moderating but we searched in vain for anyone to point out that the first two questions he took from the audience were the same questions (Allen and Oliver's questions). Many noted that Brokaw stuck the rules, which we don't blame him for but he did get a bit school marmish about it in the way he insisted this was what both candidates had agreed to. He avoided the issue of Bill Ayers in the questions he asked and in choosing the pre-selected questions from the audience. That's strange only if you're not aware that Brokaw and Ayers dated sisters from the same family long before The Days of Rage. That's how far back the two go. We noted last week that to avoid the issue of Ayers, there was no better choice for Barack than to have Brokaw moderate this debate. In fairness to Tom Brokaw, he did not attempt to amuse the audience. That said, he also refused to hold candidates to their agreed upon time limits.

Barack? Petulant comes to mind.

Brokaw: Sen. Obama, we have another question from the Internet.

Obama: Tom, can I respond to this briefly? Because...

Brokaw: Well, look, guys, the rules were established by the two campaigns, we worked very hard on this. This will address, I think, the next question.

Obama: The tax issue, because I think it's very important. Go ahead.

[. . .]

Obama: Well, why don't -- why don't -- let's talk about this, Tom, because there was just a lot of stuff out there.

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility. Let's start with that.

[. . .]

Obama: Tom, just a...

Brokaw: Sen. McCain...

Obama: ... just a quick follow-up on this. I think...

McCain: If we're going to have follow-ups, then I will want follow-ups, as well.

Brokaw: No, I know. So but I think we get at it...

McCain: It'd be fine with me. It'd be fine with me.

Brokaw: ... if I can, with this question.

Obama: Then let's have one.

Brokaw: All right, let's have a follow-up.

McCain: It'd be fine with me.

Obama: Just -- just -- just a quick follow-up, because I think -- I think this is important.

Brokaw: I'm just the hired help here, so, I mean...

Obama: You're doing a great job, Tom.

What a big, whiney baby. Over and over throughout the debate, Barack insisted upon having a follow up after both campaigns had agreed not to have one. He can't even stick to the rules he agrees to. Petulant. Does not play well with others.

Who won the debate? A number of gas bags have said, "Oh, well, Barack, of course." A few have added, "McCain didn't deliver a knock out blow, so Barack won."

What world do those idiots live in?

Democrats fall into this trap every time. When Democratic candidates show up for a presidential debate (or vice-presidential), they look at the debate as something apart from the campaign itself. They see it as something they just have to win and then are surprised by what follows. Republican candidates view it differently. The debate is not a separate or significant event. It is part of a week's actions.

John McCain's goal was to show America there were no horns. That was important because of the fact that Team Obama (and all it's allegedly non-partisan counterparts) have attempted to paint John McCain as George W. Bush the II. It became even more important with the McCain-Palin decision four days prior to go after Barack's friendship with Bill Ayers.

Dems always focus too much on the debate in isolation. They think that what matters is the points they score during the debate and don't grasp that the debate has to benefit your campaign as part of it. Bully Boy or John Kerry? Honestly, who won those debates on the stage? John Kerry. Even the last of the true believers probably has to admit that today. John Kerry was smarter, he was well spoken, he had a grasp of even the smallest details. But it didn't mean s**t.

Democrats never get that. Bully Boy is a complete fool and looked it in every debate with John Kerry. It didn't matter. The debate 'win' is not scored by the GOP on the basis of points racked up. They use the debates (and they've been doing this since at least 1980) to counter-balnace potential problems emerging from the road. So if McCain is calling out Barack's friendship with Ayers on the road, it's really important that the audience see another side of him onstage in the debate. (In this regard, Bully Boy proved more capable than Poppy Bush who refused to listen and was described as "anal" by those attempting to coach him. Either because Bully Boy's never mistaken himself for smart or because he doesn't know what smart is, he was more than happy to turn the debate into an aw-shucks, he-he-folks series of moments.)

Arrogance on the part of the Democrats repeatedly trips them up each debate cycle. They're convinced that if they come off as smarter, they win people over. They never grasp (especially true of the 'voices' offering advice in columns) people watching aren't watching for the same reaons or that a large number of people look back on the class show-off with distaste. They could spend all night correcting a Republican opponent and the reality is that they don't win over the non-supporters with that approach.

Barack came off as his usual haughty self and someone really needs to speak to him about head angles especially. He has one more debate where he can look like someone people could identify. Team Obama, that's your tip: Work on his head angles.

Barack lost because of those head angles and because he kept harping on a point that McCain finally allowed (looking generous to many in the audience). There was Barack, coming off like a child, insisting, "I want! I want! I want!" (A follow-up.) Brokaw repeatedly noted that the candidates agreed to the rules ahead of time. To many, Barack couldn't stick to the rules he agreed to. He lost.

McCain scored there by letting Barack whine repeatedly and then looking like the adult attempting to make the little tyke feel better. But the larger point McCain had to make, and why he won, was he had to convince the American people that he had no horns. He was not Satan walking across the stage. A number of commentators whined that McCain was too low-key.

That's a valid criticism if you're a strong Democrat. But the electorate includes many more factions and, no, they don't see it the way you do. One of the greatest gifts of the 2008 election cycle was in our not feeling the need to support either a Democratic or Republican presidential ticket. It allowed us to step back and watch from a distance.

A key 'point' moment went to McCain when Barack couldn't answer about the mandates in his non-universal health care plan. McCain noted, "But they certainly are a little nervous when Sen. Obama says, if you don't get the health care policy that I think you should have, then you're going to get fined. And, by the way, Sen. Obama has never mentioned how much that fine might be. Perhaps we might find that out tonight." Barack ran off at the mouth (he's still not learned how to give concise remarks) and, at the end of it, McCain could rightly ask, " I don't believe that -- did we hear the size of the fine?" If you're just scoring on points (and leaving out the self-presentation, which is what the Republicans focus on), Barack was appalling in that moment.

John McCain floated that fines will exist under Barack's non-universal health care. (It covers children and it's mandated.) Barack didn't answer that in his response and McCain pointed that out after the response.

In the February debate with Hillary Clinton, Barack was spinning madly on health care (his program covered fewer people than Hillray's would have) and blathering on with comments like this, "And the mailing that we put out accurately indicates that the main difference between Senator Clinton's plan and mine is the fact that she would force in some fashion individuals to purchase health care. [. . .] Now, Senator Clinton has not indicated how she would enforce this mandate." Hillary rightly responded, "Senator Obama has a mandate in his plan. It's a mandate on parents to provide health insurance for their children." And what did Barack then do? He raised the issue of fines. For the issue of fines as a result of mandating that people have health insurance (not providing them with it, mandating that they have it) to come up in a debate eight months after that matchup with Hillary and Barack still not be able to address it is appalling.

By not addressing it, the take-away is that there will be a fine. (And, if it's mandated, as Hillary pointed out of both her and Barack's plan, there will be a fine.) Egg heads in the Cult of Barack probably thought he switched the topic as he blathered on and ignored the issue of fines. They're not thinking like the voter who's struggling to make ends meet and, as soon as she or he heard "fine," immediately started thinking how much the fine was for driving without car insurance (liability) and waiting to hear Barack answer if the fine would be that high or higher.

So if you want to score on points, that's where Barack lost. (His only good moment was when he referenced McCain's "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb" Iran remark. Shorter statements like that which call up things the audience already knows would allow Barack to honestly win the final debate -- provided someone works on the head angles with him.)

McCain won the debate. His goal was to present himself as some likeable and warm and he did that. We didn't buy it. But that was the self-presentation that Republicans focus on in each presidential debate. They know the average viewer, having carved out 90 minutes for these farces, does not also have time to track down every alleged fact mentioned for accuracy or inaccuracy. They grasp that it is the self-presentation that wins or loses the debate.

Don't throw out your groups that agreed to go on camera or your insta-web polls. Republicans win the debates because they focus on self-presentation and they grasp that as the other side focuses on points and recounts them over and over in the days after, a lot of people think, "Well I watched the debate and those people are being a little harsh." Governor Sarah Palin basically gave the blue print in her debate when she spoke of going "over" the heads of the media. Republicans do not get up on stage and focus on their opponent. They get up on stage and focus on presenting themselves to the American public.

That's why McCain-Palin currently has an effective strategy. It's what's allowed them to keep up in a year that people have been saying (since 2007) has to be, just has to be, the year a Democrat (any Democrat) carries the White House.

And the failure to grasp who Republicans pitch to and how is why Democrats so often lose. It's not about 'framing' or some other piece of garbage hula hoop. Regardless of this year's presidential election outcome, Democrats would be smart to start learning how the other side plays.

Someone will no doubt bore Ty (who reads most of the e-mails) with a claim that Barack is ahead in the polls. Don't bother boring Ty (and we're not going to read it ourselves). That's nonsense.

Karen Tumulty didn't do her Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte imitation on this week's Washington Week. Instead she offered up her Katharine Hepburn in The Madwoman of Chaillot as she declared Barack was winning in the polls "outside the margin of error -- or pretty close to it!" For the statistical idiots who insist upon gas bagging and pretending their experts on polling, "pretty close to it" is meaningless. That's the first point.

The second, as anyone who's ever had to devise a scientific (if you will allow the social sciences as a form of science) poll knows, there's such a thing as a loaded question and you're not going to get an accurate response to a loaded question. If you ask a question that presents an answer which is socially unacceptable (or thought to be), you're not going to get a lot of honest responses.

In fairness to the pollsters this go round, the loaded question they're asking is a loaded one not because of them. Matthew Rothschild, Bob Herbert and a lot of other idiots (include KPFK's Margret Prescod who was shameless last week) have created an environment where a basic question asked in every election poll is now a loaded one. They did that by repeatedly insisting that racists won't vote for Barack and by arguing repeatedly that those not voting for Barack were racists. We pointed out how damaging that was to the polls when the Democratic Party primary was ongoing. And if you check those polls against the actual results in many of the states Hillary won, you'll see less votes for Barack than the polling predicted.

Polling is not an exact science and the only poll that matters is the election vote. Polling works as an indicator (when it works) and not for who's going to win the election but for where campaigns should and should not invest time.

But it does not work when an egg head class has repeatedly told the American people that those who will not vote for Barack are racists. We've tried to figure out why idiots push that nonsense? Maybe they think it will intimidate on election day? Most likely, it won't. Most likely, people will say, "I voted for Barack" and won't vote for him. How many? No one knows. But when so many idiots have pushed to make a vote for anyone other than Barack a vote for racism, you can't expect to get honest answers in the polling.

Someone should have called them out on it a long time ago. We're told (by friends with the Barack campaign) that they're aware of the problem and it's created a huge issue for the campaign. They're trying to figure out what's the magic number to lead by. They have no clue -- not because they're idiots but because Idiot Rothschild, Idiot Herbert and so many others have made it impossible to get an honest answer from the most basic polling question of whom are you going to vote for?

Smart observers have already grasped that even exit polls on election day will now be in question due to idiots turning "who are you going to vote for?" into a loaded question. If Barack loses (we have no idea who will win), some of the harsh words should be aimed at the people who repeatedly attempted to make it vote-for-Barack-or-be-a-racist. It was stupid. And it never should be allowed to happen again. If Barack loses (and he may win, we're not saying he's going to lose), a large part of the blame will have to go to those who so poisoned the well that his campaign was denied accurate polling numbers. (That's not arguing that the problems in the primaries don't matter. In this, we're speaking of the general election phase and how the polling is damaged -- a fact that became very clear as the primary process wrapped up.)

Some people never give honest answers when polled. That's a given. It's a small number. Equally true is the die-hard Republicans aren't going to worry that their supporting their candidate means someone screams "Racism!" But by refusing to run from the left, Barack has made this election about swing-voters and independents. That's the area that's most effected by this vote-Barack-or-you're-a-racist nonsense. (Most Hillary supporters heard that false charge so many times that they no longer give a damn.) And if you look at polls on the election that go beyond just who you will vote for, you can already see disturbing trends for Barack with independent voters. With independents, for example, last week's polling found off the chart sympathy for Palin. It was a much larger number of independents than regularly say they will vote for McCain-Palin. Are they just more sensitive to the sexism aimed at Palin?

Could be. But we don't know because the polling is flawed more so than in any other election. The Obama campaign made a big ad buy in a state they're not going to win. We asked friends with the campaign about that. (The state has not gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1976 and Barack lost that state's primary to Hillary. Large regions of the state will not go to Barack.) They don't believe they have a fighting chance but the polls say otherwise and no one wants to be wrong. While Barack has his own personal money tree, the fact of the matter is that money should have gone into a swing state and everyone knows what the swing states are. They are the same ones from 2004 and 2000 more or less. Instead, because of the polling, they're spending a large amount of money in a losing state. (Much larger than the press is aware of. They've also gone the syndication route and tried appealing to demographics that didn't pan out in the primary when they advertised late nights and in the afternoon in the same state.)

Saying he can't win that state is a prediction. But it's based on pattern and it's based on looking at the state's big race this year (the US Senate) where an incumbent very much tied to the White House is leading outside the margin of the error (and that was before last week's debate which a friend with one of the state's PBS stations told us was a disaster for the Democrat who was tag teamed by the Republican and the Libertarian candidate). That state is not rejecting the candidate so closely tied to the White House. That state is not embracing the 'change' Senate candidate. And if you compare the 2002 polls when the same Republican won his Senate seat, you see that a huge western section of the state, left out in the polling due to a number of issues, turned out for that candidate. The same section is being left out again in the polling and he probably has that as sewn up as he did in 2002.

But Barack's got to spend money in that state and we actually feel sorry for him on that issue. Despite the gas bags self-love, polls are not an instrument/resource to say "My candidate's winning!" but a tool to clue a campaign in on where it needs to focus the attention. Obama-Biden is flying blind and, if they lose, post-analysis better include the gas bags who created a climate in which who-are-you-going-to-vote-for became a loaded question.

Guns are loaded on Chuck a great deal. They rarely go off. It's a point so important we should probably repeat it but we're too lazy. Lazy is how the first two episodes have played out this year. The first was a complete waste with a lot of plans by Chuck for a new direction which, by show's end, were all called off. The second grabbed an eighties TV name for a showy role that no one gave a damn about. It was practically Chuck visits the set of The John Laraquette Show. That is a big concern for this season which has already lined up a number of name and 'name' guest stars. If it works, it will be like Must See TV's Will & Grace. If it fails, it will have the stench that attached itself to Friends in the immediate aftermath of the bad Billy Crystal - Robin Williams guest spot. A good guest appearences works with what the show (whatever the show is) has to offer. A bad guest appearences derails the show and has nothing to do with the regular characters or plots.

The lack of bang-bang, shoot 'em up moments on Chuck last season didn't harm the show because it is a character driven show (with a wonderful supporting cast that we haven't really mentioned). The bad news is the first two episodes aired in the first place. The good news is Monday's show gets back to basics. If you've never watched the show before, we've covered enough to catch you up. If you're a fan of the show from last year, this episode will feel like the season two debut you've been waiting for.
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