Sunday, October 05, 2008

TV: The Comedy of Errors

"I to the world am like a drop of water," declares Antipholus in Shakespear's The Comedy of Errors and what was TV last week but a comedy of errors played out on multiple nights?

The Republican and Democratic vice presidential debate was Thursday night, Governor Sarah Palin debated Senator Joe Biden with Gwen Ifill 'moderating' and the 'moderator' is a good place to start because PBS Friends asked us to comment.

Actually, they asked us how we thought Gwen would do? We replied our crystal ball was on the blink and we weren't holding Tarot Cards. The issue that had PBS concerned was the strongest criticism Gwen's ever come under which took place last week. Gwen has a book, to be published inauguration day, which includes Barack by name in the subtitle.

Was it a problem for PBS? Of course it was. PBS guidelines (NPR's as well) are very specific that a conflict of interest is not the only problem to avoid, the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to make someone excuse themselves from any assignment or duty.

Right-wingers were calling out Gwen's book. Greta Van Susteren of Fox "News" raised the valid point that, in a court of law, Gwen would be in trouble. Michelle Malkin raised the issue of profit and how Gwen's book would sell better if Barack Obama won the presidency. Both women raised valid issues.

And sadly, the center and the left largely took a pass. Among the few exceptions were Bob Somerby who called it out and Jeff Bercovici who sprinkled in good words for Gwen but was clear in the fact that she needed to step down or disclose.

PBS friends said, yes, it could be a problem but did we really think Gwen couldn't be impartial?

We reminded them the issue in PBS' own ethics guidelines was not "could you be" but was there the "appearance of conflict." Clearly there was the appearance or so many of Gwen's guests and wanna be future guests wouldn't have taken to writing, "I trust Gwen with my life" type pieces. It doesn't really matter what journalists think, this was a public debate and what matters is if Gwen's actions have done anything that could contribute to the appearance of a conflict of interest. Clearly that was taking place ahead of the debate.

Okay, PBS friends agreed, but would we watch and weigh in after because they honestly, honestly don't believe it will effect Gwen's performance? We never knew our opinion mattered so much but, it was explained, we're seen as two of the harshest critics PBS has (largely because so many stay silent) and they pointed out that we've called Gwen to the carpet before and we've praised her as well.

So our PBS friends can breathe easy, let's note first off that Gwen showed neither candidate any special treatment.

If they're already hitting "print" on their computers and planning to pass this around, they may miss the next point: a debate about issues needs to be treated seriously, by the person moderating.

Gwen shouldn't moderate and we searched in vain for that criticism in newspaper accounts of the debate but found none.

In 2004, Gwen briskly replied to then Vice President Dick Cheney that thirty seconds was all the time he had. Last week, some Republicans argued this meant Gwen was in the tank for Democrats. And then some Democrats tried to come back with proof of how Gwen was in the tank for Democrats but others were in the tank for Republicans -- a sort of 'adult' version of did-not-did-too. In one of the most slapstick moments, some Democrats attempted to drag Tom Brokaw into it arguing that Brokaw doing what the network had asked him to, establish a dialogue with John McCain's campaign, indicated Brokaw was in the tank for the Republicans.

The sheer idiocy of that claim left us gasping for air and clutching our sides. We grasped how truly uninformed so many are. Our first thoughts was to Brokaw's voting record, our second was to his famous relative and our third went to what may be an issue in an upcoming debate: Bill Ayers. Saturday, The New York Times published an account by Scott Shane of Barack Obama and Ayers' ties. CNN then (no longer able to produce their own news?) ran with it throughout the day. So there's a good chance that Ayers may be an issue in one of the two remaining debates between Barack Obama and John McCain.

To those Dems having night sweats over Brokaw, we ask, "Who would you rather have?"

Seriously, outside of some old timers on NPR, no one's going to tread more gingerly around the Ayers issue than Brokaw. Or is the whole world unaware of how long Brokaw's known Bill Ayers? (Answer: Since before The Days of Rage.)

The charges and counter-charges were comical but so was the idea that Gwen's biggest conflict or failing was that she might toss to one side. She played it down the middle, as she always does. But, as we've noted in repeated commentaries on her Washington Week, that's not the issue. The issue is Gwen plays to Gwen.

She finds herself pithy and amusing. No one else seems to but that hasn't corrected her opinion. And it's been going on for years, long before we noted her attempts at humor ("For the record, Helene really does only care about what happens in her neighborhood.") in 2006.

That's what should have bothered everyone.

Gwen declared at the start, "The audience here in the hall has promised to remain very polite, no cheers, applause, no untoward outbursts, except right at this minute now, as we welcome Governor Palin and Senator Biden."

So she outlines the rules and then breaks them. She got laughs with one line and none with another. On the latter, she stopped in anticipation of the big chuckles. When none came, she moved on. Those were not her only attempts at one-liners but those were the two most noticeable. In the day-after (print) press coverage, there was some fretting over the fact that the debate was not more issue-centric. Well who the hell sets the tone?

The moderator does. When Gwen's making it clear that she finds the whole thing a hoot, if you're disappointed in the tone, take the criticism where it belongs.

That wasn't a new development. It was totally expected. Gwen finds herself so damn amusing and she's so bound and determined to share her 'wit' with all. That really was the issue and it should be the issue when moderators are next chosen. Want a serious tone? Don't ask Gwen to moderate.

Let's move on to what PBS offered after the debate and then return to Palin and Biden. During the Democratic and Republican convention coverage, PBS friends heard from us. Some might have wished they could change their home phones. We were outraged by the absence of women. We were outraged that, at one point, women voters and First Ladies were being discussed by eight 'voices' and all eight were men.

The post-debate coverage was a huge improvement. It's still not where it needs to be, but it was a huge improvement. First, Judy Woodruff was utilized prominently (for the brief post-coverage) and she was PBS' only bright spot in either convention. That alone was an improvement. In her segment, she interviewed a journalist and one of those who think they are but we just consider him a blogger. The journalist was Kate Zernike of The New York Times and she's certainly had her slams from both of us; however, we're not afraid (as we've done with Gwen before) to applaud anyone when they do something right. Zernike and the male were supposed to be commenting on what the two campaigns were saying. Zernike, assigned by the paper to the McCain-Palin campaign, stuck to that. She was very clear about it and didn't let her own personal opinions surface. She played it straight as The New York Times policies dictate. She did so even after the man at the outlet with no ethics (let alone an ethics policy) thought he was on to discuss his opinion of how Joe Biden won the debate. Repeating, both were on to discuss what the campaigns were saying. Zernike handled her part beautifully. Praise for Kate Zernike.

The panel of three presidential historians included three presidential historians. That's an improvement and you're only puzzled by that remark if you didn't catch us pointing out how an associate professor of Afro-American studies was brought on PBS during the conventions to pose as a presidential historian. They stuck to presidential historians and, low and behold, they were able to find a female one. See, they do exist. We knew we weren't dreaming.

The other part of PBS' post-debate coverage was Jim Lehrer speaking with Mark Shields and David Brooks. It's a rare moment when we ever feel sorry for David Brooks so let's note that if Mark is told he has only thirty seconds to reply to a direct question and eats up that time with a response that has nothing to do with the question, maybe it's time to retire his ass? PBS has a hard break coming up, where the live feed would be stopping, and Mark rambled on before Lehrer interrupted him to re-state the question. That left Brooks with about five seconds to answer. During the debate coverage we heard Mark Shields yammer on incessantly about change and breakthroughs and we might suggest to Mark that his stepping down would allow for some change and a breakthrough.

The debate?

It actually wasn't the comedy of errors. For that you needed to catch Saturday Night Live last night.

And where to begin with that?

How about, "Tina Fey's career is over!"

Last week, we quoted male comedians and that led to a number of women in comedy (writing, producing and performing) calling us. They wanted a say and we were happy to hear it, whatever it was.

"Tina Fey's career is over!" is a direct quote but it was echoed by others in similar statements. Why is that?

What makes a female comedy star?

Hint, not bitchy.

Joan Rivers was able to assemble some sort of following who enjoyed her bitchy put-downs of others (predominately women) but it was the bitchy nature of her humor that had Johnny Carson pass over her as a possible successor. (Which began the Rivers meltdown that continues to this day.) Find a successful bitchy female comic?

You can't. You've got the women who mock themselves (as Phyllis Diller did so famously) and you've got the women who do observational humor (such as Ellen De Generes) and you've got the women who examine humanity (such as Lily Tomlin). Bitchy? There's never really been a market for it or a future in it for women.

We'd used the word "bitchy" last week quoting one male comedian (who was once with SNL) specifically and also, at other points, because it perfectly captured the new Tina Fey. But it took women working in comedy to point out to us that entering her bitchy stage has killed Tina's career.

"You can get some laughs at the start," said one stand up, "but then it becomes your image and, to men, you're the bitchy nag. To women, it's why are you slamming other women? It cuts your audience of both genders and kills your career. And Tina can't do the gay club circuit because she doesn't have the style or looks."

A comedy actress wanted to point out how Tina needed to wear a wig when doing Palin because "that stringy hair just makes her go from 'America's sweetheart' to what the cat dragged in. And there's not a woman working today that doesn't grasp that even while you're getting the laugh, your looks are being judged. No women except Tina."

We heard about how bad her attempt at speaking like Palin was, we heard about how mean spirited Fey really was and how this 'characterization' was being absorbed by the same America that would be required to buy her "as the next Mary Tyler Moore when 30 Rock starts airing." We heard how she couldn't survive on stage at a comedy club for one minute. We heard it all. Including that well written lines are not a performance and that a performer does not exist from the chin up.

And those comments and so many more were proven true in the opening sketch last night where Tina Fey again 'returned' to Saturday Night Live to 'do' Sarah Palin in that bitchy way Fey has. It was based on snark and lies but, hey, there's got to be a reason Fey's so bitter, right?

Late Friday night, an SNL friend called to insist that the skit they were going to do was so funny and they really went after Joe Biden too. "We're really playing fair now," he insisted.

Yet another boastful man who couldn't deliver what was promised.

That was apparent as we watched. The sketch over-did Biden referring to himself in the third person. We remember him mentioning himself twice. The first time was completely understandable as he was referring to the differences between the two tickets and listed himself (last, he wasn't being a glory hog) as he mentioned Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin. The second time? "Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden." That's one line. We like Joe Biden and maybe we're being overly sensitive? We don't think so. We think it goes to the dishonesty of so many SNL sketches which we've long pointed out.

But we waited and we waited. And before we knew it, the sketch was over.

It was over before the one moment that SNL should have mocked -- and goodness knows they did so with Hillary. That would be what Bill Moyers calls the "moisty moment" -- at least he calls it that when it involves a woman.

Here's that moment via the CNN transcript:

PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that's extremely important.
But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there also so that connection was important.
But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation. But together, we represent a perfect ideal. And that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this world.
John McCain and I share that. You combine all that with being a team with the only track record of making a really, a difference in where we've been and reforming, that's a good team, it's a good ticket.
IFILL: Senator?
BIDEN: You're very kind suggesting my only Achilles Heel is my lack of discipline.
Others talk about my excessive passion. I'm not going to change. I have 35 years in public office. People can judge who I am. I haven't changed in that time.
And, by the way, a record of change -- I will place my record and Barack's record against John McCain's or anyone else in terms of fundamental accomplishments. Wrote the crime bill, put 100,000 cops on the street, wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which John McCain voted against both of them, was the catalyst to change the circumstance in Bosnia, led by President Clinton, obviously.
Look, I understand what it's like to be a single parent. When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I understand what it's like as a parent to wonder what it's like if your kid's going to make it.
I understand what it's like to sit around the kitchen table with a father who says, "I've got to leave, champ, because there's no jobs here. I got to head down to Wilmington. And when we get enough money, honey, we'll bring you down."
I understand what it's like. I'm much better off than almost all Americans now. I get a good salary with the United States Senate. I live in a beautiful house that's my total investment that I have. So I -- I am much better off now.
But the notion that somehow, because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone, I don't know what it's like to have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it -- I understand.
I understand, as well as, with all due respect, the governor or anybody else, what it's like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They're looking for help. They're looking for help. They're not looking for more of the same.

Joe choked up while stating, "Look, I understand what it's like to be a single parent. When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I understand what it's like as a parent to wonder what it's like if your kid's going to make it." Saturday Night Live avoided it (even during Weekend Update). Joe Biden was weeping the week prior onstage at an official campaign event and, Thursday night, he almost did again in the midst of the debate.

You can't have a comedy of errors without Bill Moyers and, if he can no longer provide journalism, at least he can still keep the home audiences in stiches.

Here's how the moment translated on Bill Moyers Journal Friday:

And then, he talked about his own biography, and his experiences as a single parent, choked up. But what struck me about that wasn't just that, oh, he had an emotional moment, but that in a campaign where gender is so important, he played what I call the "Tootsie" card. Not only am I as good a woman as you, but with my defense, with my Violence Against Women Act and outrage against Alaskans having to pay for rape kits, maybe I'm better.

Though folksy ("Tootsie" card?) what stands out is that Brooke Gladstone is speaking, bringing it up on her own, with no question asked to her about it. For the record, you inept fool, Kramer vs. Kramer is the reference you were looking for (where a man parents). Let's contrast that with when Hillary eyes welled up (as did Joe Biden's) and when Hillary didn't choke up (as Biden did onstage):

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: But that's not the whole story. In the Hillary moment, characterized very differently by people-
BILL MOYERS: The moisty moment?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, whatever adjective or adverb you use, Hillary Clinton has this moment in the diner.
BILL MOYERS: The national press was cynical. Clinton is hoping that showing that other side will bring women in particular to the polls, almost as if she had done it deliberate. We don't know whether she did or not. But the two significant newspapers in New Hampshire didn't cover the event at all. And local television coverage in New Hampshire was pretty matter of fact about it. It became a bigger national story than it did a local story.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Mm-hm. But what's also interesting to me is you're not sure whether she did it deliberately or not.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I live in a different world. When Governor Romney becomes emotional talking about soldiers coming back from the war in Iraq in the context of having sons-- when he gets emotional talking about his father, as he did Thursday of this week-- when President Bush reports becoming emotional and you see him being emotional in circumstances, when President Reagan, in one of the finest speeches of his presidency, recalls the boys of Pointe du Hoc. and the men who took the cliffs and his voice is quavering and he speaks of Lisa Zanatta Henn who came back to Normandy because her father, who has since died, wanted to come back and she's representing him, and he is on the edge of tears when he says it, we don't say, "Is that real?" We accept it.
Why is it that we raise the question about whether it's feigned with Hillary Clinton? Is it that we assume that because Hillary Clinton is so calculating, she must be able to do this? Is it because we assume that that's not really who she is? Must be fake? Or alternatively, do we have a view of personality that says we all have a range of possible facets of personality and sometimes some are on display and others are not? Why would we not accept at face value expressions of emotions from candidates? I do. I don't question it. Now, you know, you may say that's naïve. But I don't think someone not trained as an actor is going to be able to counterfeit emotion in a credible fashion. And I find all of these expressions, Democratic and Republican, to be credible.
BILL MOYERS: In watching the Obama camp respond to her victory in New Hampshire, I thought we saw a precursor of the campaign to come. I want to show you a little sound bite of Jesse Jackson, Jr., Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.-- who is a strong supporter of Obama, as he tries to put Hillary Clinton's camp on the defensive about, quote, the Hillary moment. Take a look at this.
Jesse Jackson Jr.: Not in response to voters -- not in response to Katrina, not in response to other issues that have devastated the American people, the war in Iraq, we saw tears in response to her appearance. So her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Much of the commentary about that moment is simply a Rorschach read on people's ideological relationship to Hillary Clinton. The question for the electorate at large is: Does it speak to her capacity to lead? It's the same question that one should ask of everything one sees of candidates.

That's the transcript of the January 11th discussion with our addition of Jackson's comments which the Moyers team renderes silent through the clever transcript practices of creative elipses. Hillary didn't choke up. She hadn't cried on stage (repeatedly) the week prior. But three sentences is all that's worth examining? Three brief sentences? Dr. Kathy was present Friday; however, strangely, she didn't feel the need to talk about it or even suggest, "It's the same question that one should ask of everything one sees of candidates?"

Dr. Kathy, we didn't get a Phd in hyprocrisy, so correct us if we're wrong, but by your January statements, Joe Biden's weeping the week prior and choking up in the debate should prompt the electorate to ask: "Does it speak to his capacity to lead?"

Dr. Kathy wasn't interested in that this go round and heaven knows Brooke's never missed a chance to stab a woman -- any woman -- in the back. Which is why Brooke prefaced her remarks excerpted above by describing it as "when Biden chided Palin for suggesting that because she's a mom and she's a woman, that she understands better what it takes to raise a family." Oh really?

That's what Biden was responding to because these are Palin's exact words regarding family:

But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there also so that connection was important.

Brooke really inhabits her own hell, doesn't she? Palin's speaking of her qualifications and there's Brooke hitting the ceiling with another crackpot theory. Palin was asked about her qualifications and just including her qualifications as a woman is too much for Brooke who has to insist that that Palin was "suggesting that because she's a mom and she's a woman, that she understands better what it takes to raise a family." We call that projection and suggest therapy for Brooke. She should have plenty of time to get the help she so sorely needs, after all, she showed up to gas bag with Bill Friday about a debate she appears to have only paid fleeting attention to (which is how she manages to bring up "rape kits" -- for the record, not discussed in the debate playing on TV but apparently playing in Brooke's demented head).

Remember when we said Gwen's biggest problem is her desire to go for the chuckle? We stand by that. And you can agree or disagree and we really won't sweat it. But we didn't invent things that didn't take place. Brooke and Dr. Kathy, however, did just that.

Brooke maintains that Gwen "never asked any follow up questions" and Dr. Kathy just had to break herself off a piece of that insisting, "You asked about the journalists and their constraints. A journalist is now on live television. And when a question isn't answered, could say, 'For my next question, could you please answer the last question?' 'For my next question, could you please answer the question that I asked earlier?'"

Dr. Kathy goes on to praise Jim Lehrer's performance in the John McCain and Barack Obama debate and we have no quarrel with that, we've praised his performance in it ourselves. But we don't have the need to build up Lehrer by ripping apart Gwen with lies.

Dr. Kathy, your sexism is yet again showing or maybe it's just further proof that you gas bag about things you know nothing about. Here's Gwen early in the debate, "Governor, Senator, neither of you really answered that last question about what you would do as vice president. I'm going to come back to that... ... throughout the evening to try to see if we can look forward, as well." Or how about when Joe tried to dance around the issue of gay marriage and Gwen stated, "Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?"

Uh, Dr. Kathy, Brooke, it appears Gwen was doing just what you both lamented hadn't taken place. We have no problem calling out Gwen but when we do, it's for things she actually did. We don't make up things to go after her with. Catty girls Brooke and Dr. Kathy cannot say the same.

Now it can be argued that Dr. Kathy and Brooke and Bill chose to ignore it because it made the point -- clearly -- that both Biden and Palin danced around questions and the talking point Bill Moyers Journal (aka PBS Gives Me A Full Hour Each Week To Elect A Democratic President) was pushing was that Sarah Palin refused to answer questions. No, gas bags, both candidates refused. We should note that serial women abuser Dr. Kathy had to drag Hillary through the mud yet again, "Well, when she [Palin] uses the word mandate, she's evoking the Hillary Clinton plan. And if you'll remember, Hillary Clinton's big point was you can't get to universal coverage without a mandate. And Barack Obama didn't have one. He only has a mandate for covering children. Now, here's another deception. If you take him at his word, it is not a government-run health care plan. And it's not — he probably isn't going to get to universal coverage." Dr. Kathy, you sad, sad woman. "Barack Obama didn't have one [mandate]. He only has a mandate for covering children." Which is it, dottering fool, he has one or he doesn't? (And they wanted to ridicule the way Palin spoke?)

You know Bill wasn't going to ask that anymore than he was going to bring up Biden's mistakes in the debate (including Biden's mistake that Barack Obama had not said he would sit down with the Iranian president). Brooke proved to be the ultimate Catty Girl -- so much so we expected her to turn to the camera and explain what flavor or Purina Cat Chow she eats -- as she delved into "Sarah Palin's persona" and appeared to decry the public wanting to be able to relate to a candidate as some sort of "an aspirational figure. You know, as we do when we flip through 'Vogue Magazine'. " Silly Brooke, you're describing Barack, not Palin. That would be the same Barack currently (yet again) on the cover of Men's Vogue. (And show us a man who reads Vogue -- Men's or otherwise -- and we'll show you a man with a stash of Honcho, Inches and assorted other mags under his bed.)

The crying, the choking up.

There's a real effort going on currently to cover up Biden's Thursday choke up. As a general rule, whenever Team Obama gives marching orders, there's a reason. They're trying to distract.

So the question people should be asking right now is what are they trying to cover up?

Now we're getting to the point we weren't planning on making. Why the need to paint Joe Biden as a caring father?

As two who know him, we found that surprising because he's a wonderful father. So why did they get so touchy and send out the marching orders (which Brooke and so many others are following)?

Your answer was in the debate and it came from Gwen. Brooke boo-hooed about how viewers have to do work after a debate. Yes, Brooke, life is so very hard for the very lazy.

Unlike lazy Brooke, we know Biden's position on the Iraq War and we'll stick to the public statements. In the April 26, 2007 South Carolina debate, he declared o

And the real question is:

Are we going to be able to leave Iraq, get our troops out, and leave behind something other than chaos? In order to do that, the president should start off by not vetoing the language which we just -- he says he's going to veto, we just passed today saying, "Begin to drawdown American troops right now and move toward a political solution."

April 10th he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the treaties masquerading as SOFAs and declared, "Just understand my frustration, we want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."

Are you getting why Biden's choke up (and earlier weeping) are being played by Team Obama as some sort of parental superiority?

If you're not, you need to go to Thursday's debate for this question by Gwen: "You both have sons who are in Iraq or on their way to Iraq. You, Gov. Palin, have said that you would like to see a real clear plan for an exit strategy. What should that be, Governor?" They both have sons who are serving in Iraq (Biden's son deployed last week).

What are their positions on the illegal war? Palin's for it. She thinks the Iraq War is winnable and, like her running mate has been saying publicly since May, she thinks the 'win' is taking place. Joe Biden?

That's what Team Obama doesn't want you thinking about.

They don't want you to ponder that because what does it say?

Palin is for the Iraq War. She thinks her son is off to fight a noble cause. We certainly disagree with her. But, from her stand point, it makes sense. What is Biden's stand on the Iraq War? And with that stand, his son is going to fight in it.

It's really important to Team Obama that you be distracted from that point. One says the illegal war is a mistake and yet stands by while his son goes off to fight in it. The other thinks it's correct and is proud of her son for fighting in it.

That's why it's important to attack Palin as a mother because if Team Obama can't shift it over to that area, too many people might be asking about the Hopey-Changey ticket, "If they're against the war, why is Biden's son going over there?"

Sorry if we 'harshed' your mellow. We've avoided going there for some time. But when Sarah Palin's going to be attacked for her Iraq War stand and as a parent, it's past time some questions were asked of Obama and Biden. The wrong war at the wrong time? That's how Barack put it and Biden's on that ticket. What kind of a parent sends their child to the wrong war at the wrong time?

Now an explanation can be made (and Biden can make it powerfully) but Team Obama doesn't want it even raised. ("S**t" was the one word response when we informed a friend with the Obama campaign -- thereby informing the entire campaign -- we were noting this.)

It's really not fair to Governor Palin (whom we don't know) for us to include the following; however, as John McCain noted last week, life isn't fair. So we'll again repeat, Biden is a wonderful father who loves his children very much. But the rah-rah 'anti-war' movement on board with Obama's campaign has never noticed the obvious. And Team Obama is really, really hoping that they don't notice it.

Palin's being attacked for Biden's choked up moment. Hillary was attacked when her eyes welled and now Palin's attacked because Joe choked up onstage in the debate. It's never a win for the women in a sexist media (which includes the likes of Dr. Kathy and Brooke attempting to destroy women).

Over thirty years ago, Biden faced a tragedy. He and his sons made it through that. Now one of his son's is going off to an illegal war started with lies. And this is the 'anti-war' movement's Last Chance Texaco of a Ticket?

As noted earlier with Kate Zernike, we're not opposed to praising anyone who warrants some. Amy Goodman so rarely does and was lying last week about Palin indicating that the non-God believing Goody should lay off of 'covering' religion. (If she laid off for all races, we'd be spared her airing of homophobia on the part African-American clergy. She always enjoys those moments, now doesn't she?)

But Goody gets her praise for a debate she offered Friday morning (text, video and audio)between Matt Gonzales (Ralph Nader's running mate) and Rosa Clemente (Cynthia McKinney's running mate). Both were shut out of Thursday's debate and with Women's Media Center so busy carrying the Democratic Party's water (or it is performing oral sex on the party?), you knew they weren't going to raise that issue. So it was left to Goody and she (and Juan Gonzalez) came through with a lively debate which even included a testy moment for the two candidates when the prison-industrial-complex was raised.

Because Iraq has fallen off the radar, we'll note the exchange on that topic:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Biden, talking about the war in last night's debate. Rosa Clemente, Green Party vice-presidential nominee, what's your viewpoint on the war?

ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, the Green Party's viewpoint -- and Cynthia has been very clear, and the party has been very clear -- an immediate end to the war, an immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan. And, you know, one thing Cynthia agrees with a former colleague of hers, Dennis Kucinich, is that we now have to talk about creating departments of peace. And we have to also talk about withdrawing troops wherever they reside in other people's homelands. I always found it interesting -- or, you know, the fact that we, as the United States government, and we, as the people in this country, allow our military to be placed in other people's homelands. And being from Puerto Rico, I'm very clear on why the military does what it does. But we would never allow another country to have a military base there. And that might be a little simplistic kind of thing to throw out there, but I also think it speaks to the way we want to move forward in the future. And I don't think that either party is planning on ending the war. I think that the Democrats are more about transferring troops to Afghanistan and potentially preparing for a war in Pakistan. And even yesterday, Joe Biden talked about the possibility of putting troops in in Darfur. And I think that's something that we have to say immediately is unacceptable and that the majority of young people in this country have been clear for the last five years that we want an end to the war right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Independent vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez?

MATT GONZALEZ: Well, I certainly -- and Ralph Nader supports getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. I think the problem with a lot of the rhetoric that we're hearing is that if you concede that the surge is working, which we do not concede--but the moment you do that, you are going to run into a problem with the so-called timetable. Are the Democrats going to stick to a timetable if, as they start to draw down troops, there's increased sectarian violence? And I think the answer to that is really unclear, and probably no. I think the only way that we can successfully get out of this country is if, at the outset, we make it clear we're going to -- we're going to work quickly to get our troops out of the region, that we're part of the reason why the region remains unstable.

What might the Thursday debate have been like if they had been included? As well as Wayne Root (Bob Barr's running mate on the Libertarian presidential ticket) and Darrell Castle (Chuck Baldwin's running mate on the Constitutional Party's presidential ticket)? All the whining from Brooke about people have to watch the debate and also do some work might be for naught. Certainly, Rosa Clemente and Matt Gonzalez demonstrated they were more than able to hold their own and to provide the sort of information which Brooke lamented viewers would have to find for themselves after the debate.

That tends to happen when you shut out voices. Amazingly, Bill and his two gas bags wanted to talk about how unfair the debates were. Of course, they weren't concerned with who got invited, they just wanted to moan about the format. Brooke called them "kabuki" and, no doubt, thought that made her pass for informed. Bill wanted to whine about how the "Debate Comission" controls the rules -- but not about how the Republican and Democratic "Debate Commission" prevents candidates from participating in the debates?

It wasn't about democracy, it wasn't about information.

In Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, twins Dromino and Anitpholus are so similar, they're mistaken for one another leading to much gas baggery, nail biting and sturm und drang. A lot like "presidential debates" and "vice presidential debates" that only invite the Democratic and Republican candidates to participate. Shakespeare provided the comedy onstage, but in this age of insta-pundit, gas bags provide the real comedy as they work themsleves into a frenzied lather pushing one side's talking points. The two candidates themselves play it out as though they've absorbed Shakespeare's line, "Let's go hand in hand, not one before another" -- which explains why they rush to offer tiny variants of degrees between themselves and their opponents. That really isn't change, now is it?

Last week, a debate aired Thursday night and another on Friday. Gwen didn't play favorites with anyone except her own ego (as expected to any paying close attention). Saturday night, SNL tried to cut loose but only underscored that all they have to offer passed off as political comedy is bitchy, little one-liners and Friday Bill Moyers & Company offered their own laugh-lines. It was all a joke. Or, if you prefer, a prank played on the public. If you need a belly laugh right about now, note this:

It's what happens when an interlocking media system filters through commercial values or ideology, the information and moral viewpoints people consume in their daily lives. And by no stretch of the imagination can we say today that the dominant institutions of our media are guardians of democracy.

That's Old Man Fibber himself, Bill Moyers, poniticating at the January 2007 National Confrence on Media Reform. Laugh because the presidential election takes place in mere weeks and not only will Bill Moyers not book Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney to appear on his show, they (and actual democracy and actually informing an audience) mean so little to him that he doesn't even bother to include them as topics for his Endless Gas Baggery.

At the end of The Comedy of Errors, the two lead characters are revealed to be twins and everyone has a hearty laugh. In the real world, every four years gas bags work overtime to divide up the duopoly twins and pretend there's a huge difference between the two.
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