Sunday, December 23, 2007

TV: The Weak Get Weaker

Before endorsing Al Gore in 2000, Wesley Clark (former general and 2004 Democratic presidential primary candidate) met with No-One-Could-Have-Guessed (or at least not her) Condi Rice because his wife, a former staffer for Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, said it was only fair he hear from the other side. He made a call and Condi was eager for a face to face. To hear him tell it, the two might have exchanged blows had it gone on any longer because it was obvious to him that Condi and the team she was on (Team Bully Boy) had no concept of the real world, had no concept of foreign relations, had no concept of how to interact with others and thought they could bend reality to their will. He did pretty much everything but call her a nut job (since he didn't, we will, "Condi, you're a nut job."). He offered a lengthy comparison of an election run to parachuting and refused to speculate on whether or not, should Hillary Clinton win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, he would be her running mate ("I'm interested in getting Hillary elected.")

He explained all of that (and more) in an interview with Krys Boyd for KERA's Think. Think is both a radio program and a TV program. Boyd is attracting some serious attention from PBS nationally for the work she's done including an interview with The NewsHour's Ray Suarez that people higher up nationally are very proud of. (Ourselves, we wish Suarez practiced even half the lofty journalism principles he preached in that interview.) We think Boyd does a strong job and watch the tapes when they're passed on by friends at PBS. We think she is more than qualified to go "national." (KERA is the Dallas-Fort Worth, NPR and PBS station.) We've been repeatedly asked to note her work and we're doing so now for two reasons. One, Dallas was kind enough to check if this show we get on videotape is available online? It is in radio and TV form. (Note that the formats are not offering the same program. Clark was on the TV show.) There are, however, no transcripts. Two, we're about to rip apart another PBS program (national) and our friends at PBS -- who used to beg for PBS to be included in our commentaries -- have gotten a little less thrilled that, due to the writers' strike, they're now suddenly popping up each week. As requested, we will include a link to the show we're about to carve up. As we explained repeatedly last week, there were no links provided in our last review because that edition went on too long and we were too tired.

So, to our PBS friends, we are including links and we have praised Think and the work Boyd does. Those were your kind words and the kind word section is now closed.

What is the worst show PBS offers up? That's far too difficult to narrow down. They provide a lot of bad programs across the land. But of the public affairs/news programs, the worst offender consistently has to be . . . No, not The Charlie Rose Show. Even as bad as it so often is, there are watchable moments and the rare segment that actually works. The envelope please.

The worst is Washington Weak. "I can't believe you're about to attack the show again," said one friend. Well we hadn't planned to and then we watched. (Click here for the program's website.)

We actually had high hopes. Gwen Ifill appears to be modifying her Miss Beasley hairstyle so there was no longer a reason to laugh just because she was shown on camera. However, Gwen was in a giving mood, as she herself noted early in the program, and, at the end of the program, she demonstrated how many laughs she could give when she went out with the worst teleprompter reading the world may have ever seen on an alleged PBS news/public affairs program. What was with the head, Gwen? What was that all about? It was as though she thought she was filming a Wella Balsam commercial and about to become the new Farrah Fawcett or at least the new Brooke Shields.

She also felt the need to wish viewers a merry Christmas ("Merry Christmas everyone and goodnight!") and we had to wonder about that because we don't recall a Happy Hanuka being tossed out this month let alone any other holidays. (And, sadly, we've seen every episode of Washington Weak this month.) But before she got to her gutsy-brava finale, she'd already provided many other comic moments.

The show began with Gwen seated at the table with Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Jeanne Cummings (PO'LIceandTICksOh) and, like us, you may have wondered, does this half-hour of fluff fear it's packing so much information that it needs to drop from four to three guests?

If the show needed to drop down to three guests, the most easy to ditch was Cummings who wouldn't be missed because she has nothing to offer and always needs assistance when she's attempting to make a point. Case in point, speaking of Mike Huckabee's TV advertisement involving a cross, she was all over the place from the start as she noted that he stands "behind what appears to be a very large cross." Oh really? Huckabee, running for the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination, is not front and center in his own TV ad? Well that would be news.

But she was wrong and Gwen helped Cummings float back down to earth by correcting her that Huckabee stands in front of the cross. Nodding eagerly and sporting a thousand tics, Cummings agreed, "Yes, in front of." She is an Estelle Parsons character come to life and, in a news medium, that isn't a good thing. McManus tried to provide a bit of logic and honesty when he suggested that everyone stop obsessing over polls and provide them with "not so much attention". Gwen and the other two weren't having anything to do with that suggestion. Doyle, if they stopped talking about polls, Gwen would be required to do more than 2 minutes 'research' for her weekly show. "Money," one offered as to the influence of polls causing Cummings to nearly go cross-eyed as she cooed of a candidate, "Yeah, he's got a lot of money."

"Yeah, he's got a lot of money." And Huckabee stood behind a cross. (She was wrong.) Why is this woman even brought on TV? As hideous as Washington Weak is, when you are the character actress of the news set (one who seems determined to parody Kim Stanley in the closing of The Goddess), why are you even invited on? We could provide more of Cummings' nonsense but we fear doing so might create a She's-so-bad-I-love-her! response and lead some to begin e-mailing Washington Weak requesting that she be featured even more often.

The segment was over very quickly and we were already wondering about the lack of a fourth guest and about to turn off the TV when Gwen revealed that she had more guests but they were too numerous to fit around the roundtable. Instead, she was doing one-on-one interviews with them. (Taped ahead of time.)

As awful as the show is, the most recent episode demonstrated that it can get even worse. What's worse than four gas bags chatting and chewing with the ultimate gas bag (the latter would be Gwen)? A plethora of them. A parade of gas bags. All offering the verbal equivalent of can-can kicks as they moved quickly on and off, tossing out key phrases and exploring very little.

That's probably how you grab the time to note that Scooter Libby left the White House, that he had to because he was indicted but you, somehow, never say the words "Valerie Plame." (Plame was an undercover CIA agent. The White House outed her in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson speaking out about Bully Boy's lead-up to the illegal war lies. Scooter was indicted for lying to the grand jury during the investigation.) Facts and issues? Really not present. But a lot of faces, a lot.

We're pretty sure we only fantasized Broadway veteran Ann Miller in the proceedings, but that's because, while it was awful, it moved so quickly. And a rush to include everyone (Michael Duffy?) left no time to address anything. Most of all we were confused because US and World Reports' Gloria Borger looked like she needed her face sanded. (Or, worse, that she'd had a skin peel and it had burned her facial skin. What were those vertical -- vertical, not horizontal -- lines spaced out across her forehead?)

The New York Times David E. Sanger demonstrated, if nothing else, why print was a wise medium choice and, though we've seen Sanger before, we weren't aware that he had developed so many more chins than common sense. What he had to say was useless and, in his case, we were thankful it was over very quickly.

Humanized pond scum John Harris (PO'LIceandTICsOh) vied with Borger in The Biggest Lie Most Pompously Delivered Derby. We're not sure who won and we'll let you judge for yourself. Harris, a really bad 'reporter' and someone whose departure from his previous job actually led to his former employer throwing a bit of a celebration party, got a tiny dollop of reality out before he started spinning. He dubbed the illegal Iraq War "the biggest disappointment." Having gotten that bit of truth out, he was off to the derby and insisting that the Democratic leadership in Congress had done all that anyone could (not true -- they didn't filibuster, they didn't send bill after bill to Bully Boy on Iraq to force him to veto it, they didn't make everyone do a roll call vote on Iraq every day for a prolonged period of time), insisting that hoping the other side would change it's mind qualified as a strategy ("peel off Republican support" sounds so much more active than the 'plan' was if only because it was so weak to begin with) and that this all goes to history (he's talking the southern strategy) which has "made the Democratic Party more liberal." More liberal, John-oh?

More liberal than nut jobs that want to deny evolution? More liberal than pigs in a sty who want to launch non-stop attacks on women? The fact that Pat Buchanan's controversial 1992 GOP Convention speech (or for that matter Dan Quayle's nonsense at the same convention) now seems 'normal' to the mainstream media only indicates how far right-ward the media and the country's two largest political parties have gone. Two, John, two parties, because the Democratic Party is far from liberal today. But he founded that trashy site whose slogan could be "Proud to Be a Republican Apologist Daily," so lying comes very easy to him. Just as easy as future employment at The Washington Times if the plug gets pulled on his 'brainchild'.

Before we get to Borger, ABC News' Martha Raddatz showed up -- looking like Martha Stewart and bubbling like Annette Funicello. Here's the thing with Raddatz and Iraq, you have to let her bubble. You have to wait until she's burped up all her Happy Talk and then, at the end, she may slip in a little does of reality. But when you're talking about a news person who uses 'words' like "totality," probably most are already snoozing by that point. Maybe her talk of Bully Boy's "legacy" (and how "that has to be on the president's mind" -- it has to be, has to?) had already sent them dozing? Our notes show that Raddatz "flashed a frightening smile." We've both added exclamation points beside that note so, obviously, at that moment it left a mark. However, the long parade of faces allows it to now fade from memory.

In our notes, we also noted The Washington Post's Peter Baker looked good on camera and wondered what could be done with AP's Charles Babington's hair? (We do like Charlie, but that hair has really become a problem and, if nothing's done and done quickly, we feel he will soon be auditioning for an off-Broadway production of David Lynch's Eraserhead) Time magazine's Karen Tumulty was wasted in her brief moments commenting on the election due to Gwen selecting the most obvious, most belabored points (such as there "is no front runner"). Like Tumulty, The Washington Post's Dan Baltz might as well have avoided sitting down with Gwen considering what made it to air ("frustration").

Jeff Zeleny demonstrated he will have a long career at The New York Times since there's no fact he is not willing to bend and misshape in order to lie to the people. In his brief bit, he was speaking of senators and 2008 Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and noted that there was no difference between the two's health care plan (there is a difference, Clinton's is more inclusive and maybe the paper's own Paul Krugman needs to walk Zeleny threw that). Having bent reality, he was now ready to offer up the paper's version of an acid trip. Watch, kiddies, as the walls run liquid gold and the carpet turns to fire while Zeleny goes on to insist "and really all the candidates . . . there's no difference on health care." Dennis Kucinich doesn't have a difference on health care? (Kucinich favors true universal health care.) We'd suggest the paper begin drug testing but, the truth is, they love Zeleny doped up.

Gloria Borger is just a dope period. After we got over the shock of her face (and a new hairstyle and color), we were left with the same old Gloria, pushing water cooler spin off as fact. We watched in wonder as she lied and proclaimed (prefaced with the weasel words "I think") "the big issue that surfaced on both sides is immigration." "We think" she's got too many miles on her to think anyone sees her as young and fresh despite all the work done.

From FAIR's "The Lou Dobbs Primary" (December 7, 2007):

Media coverage of the 2008 presidential election identifies immigration as a key issue for the U.S. electorate--even though, according to most polling, it does not rank as a top priority for voters.

[. . .]

That's not what voters have been saying, though.The Iraq War still tops the list of priority issues for both Democrats and Republicans. "It's raised twice as often as the next-ranking issue, the economy," according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll (11/30/07-12/1/07). Another recent poll (L.A. Times/Bloomberg, 11/30/07-12/3/07) found only 15 percent of Americans ranking immigration as one of the top three issues of concern to them. In fact, noted L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten (12/1/07), "more than nine out of 10 Americans think something matters more than immigration in this presidential election."

The FAIR release, in fact, notes Borger and that she has claimed that immigration is one "killer issue" -- you kind of picture her pulling a large comb out of her back jean pocket to work on her feathering while saying that -- as well as "Independent voters are unhappy that nothing has been done on the matter, and anyone who wants to be president needs to keep independent voters happy." Facts really don't matter to Gloria. Except maybe one: Anyone who wants to be on TV needs to work on being presentable. We'd suggest a dermatologist visit immediately.

What stood out the most were the bits of bravery from Bloomberg News' Janine Zacharia. True, Zacharia did note Condi Rice was "putting out fires everywhere" without noting that all of those fires she started or co-started (Lebanon, Iraq, go down the list) but Zacharia also noted how unpopular Gwen's evening meal time pal was. When you know who's cooking with Gwen, it takes a lot of guts to discuss how Condi had the press cheering her on in 2005 and now people are a wee bit wiser. It wasn't up there with Wesley Clark's remarks about Condi but, considering the forced smile Gwen was giving Zacharia, we think Gwen's head would pop off if she'd been sitting across from Clark.

Gwen called this nonsense a "gift" and we think calling it a "gift" is a lot like calling Gwen "the managing editor" of Washington Weak. Which, for the record, they do. We're not sure whether that's repeated so often to give credit or to make sure all viewers know who deserves the blame. Gwen more than earned it as she presented Night of 100 Snores. We look forward to seeing next year's extravaganza when she will, no doubt, be decked out in an off-the-shoulder Nolan Miller original.
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