Sunday, July 03, 2011

TV: Who's the dick?

Mark Halperin stated the obvious on MSNBC's Morning Joe last week, "I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday." (Click here for video.) The Time magazine writer had a point. Here are some others. Every man is not a dick. Nor is every lawyer. But there are a number of men who are lawyers who are dicks. And with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 857,7000 practicing attorneys in 2018, just 10% of those men and women being dicks, well, that's a huge number (85,770).


USA's new series Suits revolves around attorneys and Harvey Specter (played by Gabriel Macht) may turn out to be a total tool but currently he's just 'toolish.' He mentors newbie Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), hired by Harvey despite not having a law degree or having gone to law school. How does that happen?

Harvey resists doing anything he doesn't want to. That's obvious when Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) gives Harvey a pro bono case and tells him she wants him to handle it personally but he still palms the work off on Mike. So it's not really surprising that Harvey, made partner by Jessica and told to hire an associate from Harvard, would resist and go a different way.

Mike's a con artist with a granny who is sick, institutionalized and supposedly the most important person in his life. Actually granny's just a plot device and that's why she's so quickly and so often forgotten. Mike makes quick cash by taking the bar for law students who can't, or don't think they can, pass. His buddy Trevor (Tom Lipinski) deals weed and keeps trying to get him to do a drop. Trevor and Mike got kicked out of college for selling answers to a math exam. That's put Mike on a course where he runs cons, smokes pot and has apparently only one rule: He won't deal drugs.

But when plot device granny's medical bills increase and there's a chance that she might end up in a state facility ("I won't put her in a state facility"), Mike grabs Trevor's office. But the drop at the Chilton Hotel is a set-up and Mike, who remembers everything he's ever read, recognizes the signs from a novel he read in elementary school. To escape the cops, he barges into the hotel suite that Harvey's set up for interviews and Harvey's assistant Donna (Sarah Rafferty) mistakes his "Look, I'm just trying to ditch the cops, okay? I don't really care if you let me in or not." for humor and waives him in with a wink of approval to Harvey.

Despite being a con artist, Mike doesn't attempt a con -- possibly in part because his briefcase has fallen open and spilled all the drugs on the floor. To pass the time until the coast is clear, Harvey and Mike discuss Mike's background. Harvey had asked Donna to give him a sign if any of the candidates for the job reminded her of him.

Donna: What are you looking for?

Harvey: Another me.

Mike fit the bill. And because of that and because he refuses to do what he's told, Harvey ends up hiring Mike with the agreement that Jessica must not know that he didn't go to Harvard or that he doesn't have a law degree.

While focused on Harvey and Mike's relationship, Suits shines. Torres, Rafferty and Meghan Markle (as paralegal Rachel) glow as well and keep the show chugging along. But it hits a pot hole nearly every time Rick Hoffman shows up as Louis.

Hoffman's not a bad actor. He's not even giving a bad performance. He's playing a total dick and he's completely believable. But he's written meaningless. After Glenn Close's tour de force as Patty Hewes (on Damages), any show featuring a malevolent attorney was always going to have to work a lot harder but the writers at Suits don't really seem to be trying. So Louis' blackmailing Mike with fake results of a drug test (and Mike getting the better of Louis) never seems that threatening or suspenseful.

If you listen closely, it's as though you can hear Patti Austin and James Ingram singing "How Do You Keep The Madness Playing?"

Some dicks manage to.

Take Barack Obama and his tantrum at the press conference last week (here for transcript). At the top, Barack declared that "$4 trillion in savings" had to be found and the best he could offer was apparently cutting the "tax break for corporate jet owners." So proud of this 'plan' was he that he mentioned it six times in his press conference. US House Rep. Eric Cantor responsed that cutting that tax break will save $2 billion and that he didn't see that as a big deal. The response online was astroturf entitled "Did you see Eric Cantor's response to Obama wanting to eliminate tax benefits on private jet planes?" which popped up everywhere. Over the airwaves, the water carriers spouted it as well -- everyone from Corporatist Stooge Rachel Maddow on MSNBC to Communist Gerald Horne on Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod (KPFK). They repeated it and thought they sounded so smart doing so. (Hint, Horne, when you footnote your own opinions to Paul Krugman and Chuck Schumer, you don't sound smart at all.) $2 billion is a drop in the bucket. With other drops, it could matter. And you can make that point. But when Barack and you have staked your reputations on this as an 'answer,' you can't be surprised when someone notes that it's 1/2,000,000 of the amount Barack says need to be found.

After his prepared remarks, Barack went to questioning and made the sort of comment that used to get Bully Boy Bush into trouble with those of us on the left: "So, with that, I will take your questions. I've got my list here. Starting off with Benn Feller, Associated Press." That's Barack speaking. You're forgiven for thinking it might be Bush.

During the exchange, he made many comments, such as, "What I have done -- and this is unprecedented, by the way; no administration has done this before -- is I've said to each agency, 'Don't just look at current regulations or don't just look at future regulations, regulations that we're proposing. Let's go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books and if they don't make sense, let's get rid of them.'" The St. Petersburg Times' rated the statement "PANTS ON FIRE" (as in, "Liar, liar, pants on fire"). Proving their beloved wrong once was apparently all PolitiFact could stomach. Calvin Woodward, Nancy Benac, Erica Werner and Matthew Lee (AP) caught Barack being less than truthful in those remarks and two other times in the press conference as well.

It was left to NPR's Mara Liasson (All Things Considered) to make the most obvious point. In a nutshell, what's going on? The US is about to reach its debt limit (and, August 2nd, default on its debt; Barack: "By August 2nd, we run out of tools to make sure that all our bills are paid"). Republicans and Democrats are debating over budgetary items and, as Liasson pointed out, "many of the new Republicans" in the House were elected last year on a pledge not to raise the debt ceiling -- something that shouldn't be too hard for Barack to understand, after all, "President Obama, when he was in the Senate, voted against raising the debt ceiling because, he said, it was a symbol of a failure of leadership on the Republican president."

While forgetting (or pretending to) that reality, Barack was full of catty insults.

He impugned the motives of members of Congress, "Look, I think that what we've seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news . . . " So much for his earlier claims that "reasonable people can disagree" and that "You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it."

He blamed Congress for the financial crisis, "These are bills that Congress ran up." If it's just Congress, why is he involved now? Oh, that's right, Congress may vote on the budget but the executive branch makes the budgetary requests each year. So "these are bills that Congress AND the White House ran up."

He then insisted that he'd identified "what spending cuts are possible" including in "defense cuts" but the reality is that the trillion dollar debt is largely the result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Barack's not planning to cut the funding for either this coming fiscal year or the one after.

He then trashed Congress by comparing it to "Malia is 13, Sasha is 10" -- this from the man who once declared his children were 'off limits' and the press respected that (while giving no other politician the same courtesy). Not only did he violate his own policy by bringing up the children, he was insulting to Congress in comparing them to the children.

Then came his longest whine of all:

And I've got to say, I'm very amused when I start hearing comments about, well, the President needs to show more leadership on this. Let me tell you something. Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together. I said we've got to get done -- get this done. I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process -- that, by the way, has made real progress -- but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues. I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each -- Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House. I've met with the leaders multiple times. At a certain point, they need to do their job. And so, this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions, and we're working through process, and when they decide they're not happy with the fact that at some point you've got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, well, you know, the President needs to get this done -- they need to do their job. Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices. That's why they're called leaders. And I've already shown that I'm willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time. But it's got to be done. And so there's no point in procrastinating. There's no point in putting it off. We've got to get this done. And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done. They're in one week, they're out one week. And then they're saying, Obama has got to step in. You need to be here. I've been here. I've been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done. All right. I think you know my feelings about that.

In all that rant, did you catch it?

"I've been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis."

Did you notice the economy in there?


He's done beer summits. He's played golf. He felt the need to show his 'support' for the US military by declaring Bradley Manning guilty before Bradley's been in court to enter a plea. He's been vacationing and on date nights. He just hasn't provided leadership on the economy, the issue he claimed to be ready for on day one and the issue that won him the general election.

The debt ceiling that's so worrying him now? That's an economic issue.

In other words, Princess Tiny Meat spent over two and a half years in the White House avoiding economic realities and now finds that they can't be avoided. Possibly US Senator Pat Roberts was right and Barack does need to "take a valium and calm down" (link goes to Brian Montopoli and John Nolen's CBS News report which has text and video).

In the above, Barack is being kind of a dick. He's also being a real bitch. The White House grasped that as well which is why, the day after the press conference, they quickly announced his next one would be on Twitter.

Dicks and bitches pretty much describes MSNBC as well. Mark Halperin's suspended from MSNBC for saying he thought Barack was "kind of a dick yesterday."

That makes no sense at all.

Now we could argue the definition of dick and we could note a hundred other things as well. We could be bag-eyed Greg Sargent and offer alleged similar instances.

We're not interested in that crap.

We argue for consistency.

Did Mark Halperin do something to warrant suspension?

We say "no."

MSNBC says "yes."

If that's the case, and if MSNBC is fair and consistent, then Mark's not the only one who needs to be on suspension. Excerpt of the moment.

Joe Scarborough: Mark Halperin, What was the president's strategy? We're coming up on a deadline and the president decided to please his base, push back against the Republicans, I guess the question is because we all know the deal has to be done is this sort of showmanship -- you know, a lot of times, you go out there -- both sides -- and they act tough so their base will be appeased and then they quietly work the deal behind the scene.

Mark Halperin: Are we --

Joe Scarborough: Is that --

Mark Halperin: We're on the seven-secon delay today?

Mika Brzezinski: Oh, Lordy.

Mark Halperin: I wanted to characterize how I thought the president behaved.

Joe Scarborough: How do you think he behaved?

Mika Brzezinski: Well we have it, we can use it. Right, Alex?

Joe Scarborough: Yeah, sure, come on.

Mika Brzezinski: Go for it. Yeah, let's see what happens.

Joe Scarborough: I'm behind you. You fall down, I'm going to catch you.

Mika Brzezinski: Alex, you've got the button. And the president has --

[Joe and Mika overlapping]

Mika Brzezinski: -- so we're good.

Mark Halperin: I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday.

Joe Scarborough: Oh my God.

Mika Brzezinski: Oh my.

Joe Scarborough: Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing?

Mark Halperin: I think the president

Joe Scarborough: I can't believe that. I was joking. Don't do that.

[Mika and Joe can't stop laughing.]

Mark Halperin: I said it. I hope it worked.

Do you get how it unfolded?

Mark Halperin didn't just delcare "kind of a dick" -- and despite Mediate's headlines (and bad transcript -- we did our own above) and the headlines of others, Halperin said, "kind of a dick."

Before he said "dick" -- which is not censored on TV anymore when someone's called that -- he gave them plenty of warning and even wondered if he should say what he thought?

They encouraged him. Knowing that it was something that would have to be bleeped, they encouraged him. Mika told him to "go for it" and Joe swore he had Mark's back. After it was said, Mike and Joe didn't launch into an apology. In fact, Mika laughs and snorts for over thirty seconds over what just happened.

And Mark's supsended?

Mika and Joe are the hosts. They were warned before Mark spoke. They could have said, "No, don't do that." Instead, they encouraged their guest to speak in such a way that he would need to be bleeped. The guest did. And now the guest is suspended but the hosts aren't?

Something's wrong with this picture.

This wasn't Carly Simon saying the s-word on Fox & Friends or Jane Fonda saying the c-word on Today. In both of those cases, the guests were talking and forgot they were on TV and the words came out in casual conversation. In this case, Mark Halperin gave the hosts a warning. Where was the producer during this?

Clearly everyone thought they had a moment in the making. And, in fact, they did. But if it's a moment MSNBC finds worthy of suspension, the whole cast and crew of Morning Joe needs to be on suspension.

In other words, Suits could use a real dick because it would add to the show's complications while Barack is actually more of a bitch than a dick and MSNBC's punishment of Mark Halperin -- and only Mark -- demonstrates that right now, they are the ultimate dick.
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