Exuent “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show”

August 17, 2016

(The reference in the title comes from a quote by former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson, by the way.)

I suppose I should say something about the passage of this guy, not because I have anything particularly brilliant to add, but maybe just to vent ultimately (hey, if I can’t vent at my own blog, where can I do it, right?).

I wouldn’t say that I started to become politically aware thanks to his program – that’s a stretch, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, I started to learn more and more about the con that was being played out as part of the ruinous conservative ascendancy in this country in the ‘80s under The Sainted Ronne R, and that is when I tried to consume more from newspapers, TV news casts and “opinion” programs (to go back even further, I suppose that the murder of John Lennon made me pay attention to the issue of gun control in a way that I never had before, though I admit that I should have before then).

I guess, in my naiveté, I sought out objective and responsible media as much as I could in response to what I believed was the wholesale abandonment of the middle class as a result of the flight of capital offshore, the craven and disastrously irresponsible codification of the thoroughly not proven mantra of perpetuating crony capitalism and the “ownership society” via something relatively new to that time called “trickle-down economics,” fanning the flames of hostility against unions, minorities, women, and working families overall (which, among other things, spawned the phrase “Reagan Democrat,” something that STILL requires me to suppress a gag reflex after all this time), and the demonization of anyone with a political opinion other than what passed for movement conservative thought.

And with all of that going on, I found myself watching “The McLaughlin Group” starting in the early ‘90s, and probably until later during that decade.

I know it seems quaint to admit now, but I watched that show with the hope of being informed on the issues that actually mattered. What I eventually came to realize, though, was that the intent of that show (intended as far as I’m concerned), first and foremost, was to elevate the “cult of personality” of the Beltway journos who appeared on the program.

Don’t get me wrong – there were some moments of actual substantive discussion. However, it became more and more clear that what mattered above all else was self-promotion.

Oh sure, there were moments when I actually learned a thing or two; I guess the main reason I kept tuning in was to watch Jack Germond, someone more professionally accomplished than everyone else on that panel put together. I give Eleanor Clift points for tolerance and endurance and frequently carrying the banner of the lefties/Democrats and, truth be told, the reality-based community. Morton Kondracke also had some worthwhile input on occasion, though it was obvious that he wanted to be part of the club, and that came through in almost everything he said. And Chris Matthews was pretty much the same thing you see now. And as far as Clarence Page goes, he became another reason to watch after Germond started drifting away from the show.

On the other side, it’s hard to describe how utterly loathsome Pat Buchanan was, again, then as now. Fred Barnes (again, then as now) was nothing but a lickspittle blathering whatever conservative talking points were handed to him before the cameras rolled. Mortimer Zuckerman occasionally crossed over into the realm of common sense, but that never lasted for too long. And I couldn’t keep track of the other assorted right-wing meat sacks who posed for the cameras, dutifully volleying back and forth with the host.

And as for McLaughlin himself, I got it that he realized he was the ringleader of all of this and occasionally had fun with it (which he was entitled to), but after watching that program, I found myself no more informed or educated in the way I thought I needed to be than I was before I started watching. And I guess this had the happily unintended consequence of making me seek out writers like Joe Conason, David Sirota, and in particular The Eternal Molly Ivins in order to find a proverbial clue.

So yeah, I suppose I should give McLaughlin a bit of credit in that he motivated me to seek out better media than what I was consuming at that time in order to learn more about the issues that impacted my life and the lives of those around me and what I should think, say and ultimately do in response. But I think he ended up blowing a golden opportunity, given his profile and that of his show, to practice actual quality journalism for the sake of perpetuating his own peculiar version of a carnival tent show that dovetailed nicely with the emergence of all-out-attack conservative media during the Bill Clinton years (and oh yeah, his show had enough of a profile to get parodied in the movie “Watchmen” as well as earning a nod in “Dave” and other topical films).

I guess there are worse legacies to be had. But I can think of a lot better ones too.

Update 8/18/16: Uh huh – not sure how I forgot about “dark Lord” Robert Novak, but somehow I did…facepalm.

Update 8/20/16: I also forgot about Bob Maynard who appeared on the “lefty” side; aside from being a true pro, I admired the fact that he never lost his cool despite all of the often-idiotic banter on that show.

No, I Didn’t See The Debate

October 4, 2012

Yes, I heard that, although Obama gave back some, Romney apparently got the upper hand, at least in the pundit/perception game. The problem, as usual, is that our side is busy trying to explain and tell the truth, while their side continues to lie through their teeth. And gee, it’s a lot easier to “win” when you don’t feel constrained by “dumb” stuff like facts, reality, measurable statistics from reputable sources…you know, what thinking adults generally process and absorb mentally in order to know how to live our lives with as little difficulty as possible.

Yes, I know Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz went ballistic. And the “concern trolls” are having a field day, as you might expect (here).

But here’s the way I look at it.

I had a feeling Obama would have a tough time with the perception thing because the Repug presidential primary was such a slug fest full of noise and not much else, and I totally expected that to be carried forward (and it was). And again, harking back to the “truth versus something other” thing I mentioned above, Obama (and most Dems in my experience, with the possible exception of Bill Clinton) do better in an environment where you’re dealing with “good government” types (for lack of a better way to put it) versus the rabble with an agenda, like the crowd during the 1,345,272 GOP presidential debates for this election (a crowd which sometimes wore trifold hats and waved copies of the Constitution about which they claim to be experts…some in the crowd anyway). And the challenger has a built-in advantage at the debates anyway, because that person is on equal footing with the president at last, something they’ve spent months trying to achieve.

(The example I always use is this; I once saw Al Gore talking on C-SPAN in the spring of 2000 at Beaver College in these parts. He spoke about the environment of course, along with progressive legislation in general. He was in command in front of a friendly, mixed-gender audience of different ages and ethnicities. I thought to myself, “He’s going to kill that nitwit from Texas in the general election.” And of course, we know how that turned out.)

That being said, we know the Repugs come from a whole other universe when it comes to trying to win elections. In my experience (with very few exceptions), they try to win people over by appealing to their basest emotions and aligning themselves with institutions of authority (see Church, Roman Catholic). And unfortunately, they’re very good at it.

I don’t know of any Democrat that has been successful at playing that game. And as far as I’m concerned, no Democrat should be.

It’s tough to know when to look statesmanlike and presidential versus when to look combative if you’re this country’s first African American chief executive (lest you be judged as “arrogant,” which, to me, is nothing but updated code language for “uppity”). If Obama had sounded off to Romney a little more, the headlines in our corporate media just might be something like “A Combative Obama Confronts Romney But Provides Few Specifics” instead of what we’re seeing today.

Could he have done more? I guess (again, I didn’t see it – didn’t see the point to it).

The presidential and vice-presidential debates are, as far as I’m concerned, nothing but a sideshow, a byproduct of the “horse race” mentality of our corporate media/political industrial complex. They should not be judged as having any more significance than that (though, obviously, they are…as an example, John Harwood of the New York Times wrote something yesterday along the lines of “well, we don’t know what the debate questions will be, but we think they’ll be this, and here is our ‘fact check,’” which to me is all totally ridiculous). What matters is rigorous examination of the evidence at hand and sound media coverage intended to educate and inform us about the issues – the stuff you can find on al Jazeera and not too many other places.

Besides, I made up my mind on this whole thing months ago. If you’re rich and you want government to do absolutely nothing except shower you with tax breaks, reward bad corporate behavior and repeal every entitlement and piece of legislation benefitting everyone else (the “99 percent,” if you will) that has been enacted since the New Deal, then of course you should vote Republican.

But if you’re part of that “99 percent” yourself, why the hell would you even imagine doing anything but voting for a Democrat?

(Oh, and one more thing, Obama campaign – I want to see you hang this guy around Willard Mitt’s neck right up until November 6th. He is still electoral poison, and yes, you can make the case…and don’t forget this.)

Snarlin’ Arlen and “Sarah Barracuda” – Perfect Together

April 14, 2010

And a few weeks after he defended Palin to Matthews, he did this, by the way.

Paging Elin Nordegren – Someone Else Needs To Be Smacked With A Club

March 12, 2010

(And I don’t mean Tweety here…)

OK, so let me get this straight – Chris Matthews asks Ari Fleischer if the latter is satisfied with the economy Bush handed to Obama, and Fleischer immediately goes all “Terra! terra! terra! Saddam Hussein was a BAD MAN, terra! terra! terra!,” and Matthews reminds him that 9/11 happened on Dubya’s watch, and Fleischer goes all “How dare you! SADDAM HUSSEIN 9/11 9/11 9/11!!!”

Before I actually felt a bit sorry for Tiger Woods – I thought he was monumentally stupid and hurt his family and himself more than anyone else by his actions. However, if he thinks that hiring Fleischer as a spokesman will enhance his image, then he’s a total idiot and I feel no sympathy for him whatsoever.

Update 3/22/10: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Some SOTU Commentary, Including Chris “Ofay” Matthews

January 28, 2010

I’m glad you forgot, Tweety – thanks for reminding us anyway, you nitwit…

…and speaking of screwed-up priorities, watch the “loyal opposition” do nothing here.

Be Prepared…To Kill Trees

February 19, 2009

I was alerted to this item from Working Assets/CREDO Mobile recently (though apparently the news story is a couple of weeks old), but I thought it was particularly worthy of mention.

You see, it turns out that the Boy Scouts, under the radar of our dear corporate media cousins, have been selling off forest land like crazy…

Five newspapers carried out an investigation that found dozens of examples in the past 20 years of Scout councils logging and selling land donated by people who wanted it to be preserved in its natural state and used for camping and similar activities. Some Scout properties that have been clear-cut contained vulnerable watersheds and wildlife.

“In public, they say they want to teach kids about saving the environment,” said Jane Childers, a Scouting volunteer
in Washington State. “But in reality, it’s all about the money.”

Eugene Grant, board president of the Cascade Pacific Council in Portland, Ore., defended the sales, noting that the Boy Scouts’ ban on homosexuals and atheists has cost the organization donations and members.

“The Boy Scouts had to suffer the consequences for sticking by their moral values,” Grant said.

That’s one of the most disgusting copouts I’ve ever heard.

It’s not about honoring “moral values.” It’s about obeying the law. And discrimination happens to be against the law!

And to read about the travails of the local chapter of the Boy Scouts in this regard, to the point where they now have to pay market price for the premium digs they rent near Logan Square and the Philadelphia Art Museum, click here (by the way, when we last left this story, the Scouts had filed a federal suit against the city last December, as noted here – I guess, when all you have left to grasp at are straws…).

Finally, this story tells us that “Tweety” himself is going to attend a Boy Scout fundraiser tonight in Johnstown/Somerset PA. I wonder if he’ll be impolite enough to broach the subject of how many more trees will be sold off to buy time for the Scouts to thumb their collective noses at the law of the land (with Matthews’ career in politics vanishing almost as fast as the timber).

Update: I would call this a signal to the Scouts that it’s time to enter the 21st century, as they say.

Snarlin’ Arlen’s ’90s Retro Rehash

January 7, 2009

senator-arlen-specter-smIt seems that our Senator from Pennsylvania is intent on dragging out the confirmation hearing of Attorney General Designate Eric Holder well into the spring, based on this New York Times story today, which tells us that…

Mr. Specter raised questions about Mr. Holder’s role as deputy attorney general on a range of issues that included an investigation into the 1993 federal siege in Waco, Tex., that left David Koresh and about 80 of his Branch Davidian followers dead, and an espionage investigation involving a nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee.

But he saved his sharpest criticism for Mr. Holder’s role as deputy attorney general in three controversies in Mr. Clinton’s second term: Mr. Clinton’s pardon of (fugitive financier Marc) Rich in 2001, the president’s decision in 1999 to grant clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican militant nationalist group, and the Justice Department’s rejection in 1997 of an independent counsel to examine accusations of campaign finance abuse by Vice President Al Gore and the White House. In each case, Mr. Specter said, Mr. Holder appeared to go against the advice of career professionals at the Justice Department.

Geez, Arlen, you mean you’re NOT going to try and find a way to blame Holder for returning Elian Gonzalez to Cuba also? You’re slipping!

And after this is concluded, I’m sure Specter also will press for hearings into the “real” death of Kurt Cobain, as well as the “murder” of Vince Foster.

To say that all of this is pointless is an understatement; the only one of these “controversies” that I care remotely about is the Rich fiasco, which I posted about here.

And I’ll be curious to see exactly how far Specter goes with his little inquisition on Holder; as Bob Geiger notes here, Our Man Arlen did a lot of yapping about former Bushco AG Abu Gonzales, but didn’t do a whole hell of a lot to try and persuade the Repug Senate “leadership” at the time that Gonzales should go (and Chris Durang of HuffPo notes here that Specter didn’t even put Gonzales under oath when he testified; let’s see if he tries that little trick when Holder visits “the Hill”).

Also in the matter of Specter on a separate issue (FISA), we have a clip from Jack Cafferty here which states in fairly blunt language how our senator buckled on the surveillance issue the same way he did on Gonzales.

Finally, I’d like to remind Specter and the Repugs that, in 2001 when the Dems were the minority party, they chose not to filibuster the confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General even though the Repugs didn’t have the now-traditional “60 votes needed for passage” (here). Though I don’t expect the Repugs to return the favor on Holder if he gets less than 60 now that they’re the minority party, I just thought I’d remind them anyway.

I sincerely hope Chris Matthews is paying attention to all this (still can’t quite get used to him as the party standard bearer against Specter, but there you are).

Update 1: Looks like Grassley wants to play with Arlen too on the Holder nomination based on this (and kudos to Leahy for using Ass-Croft to slap them down).

Update 2: Also looks like Matthews is out (oh noes!!! – I think; hmmm…).

Update 3 1/8/09: What BarbinMD sez here…

Update 4 1/12/09: More of Arlen’s particular brand of hypocrisy here (h/t Atrios)

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