Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY.... ABC's "This Week" held its usual roundtable discussion this morning, with Elizabeth Vargas hosting a panel of Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, George Will, and Paul Krugman.

The last topic of conversation was introduced by Vargas this way:

"[O]f course, this weekend, we have a brand-new White House social secretary appointed to replace Desiree Rogers, a close friend of the Obamas who is exiting after a bumpy tenure, I would say. Cokie, you spoke with her. She -- she was highly criticized after the Obamas' first state dinner in which she arrived, looking absolutely gorgeous, but in what some people later said was far too fancy a dress, but most importantly, that was the state dinner that was crashed by the Salahis, who walked in without an invitation when the social secretary's office didn't have people manning the security sites."

This led to a surprisingly long chat about Desiree Rogers.

Krugman sat silently while the discussion went on (and on), before eventually interjecting:

"Can I say that 20 million Americans unemployed, the fact that we're worrying about the status of the White House social secretary....

Donaldson responded, "Paul, welcome to Washington."

Look, I realize that not every discussion on a show like this is going to be substantive, sophisticated, and policy focused. Not every post I write for this site is going to highlight critically important issues, either. There's nothing wrong with including heavier and lighter subjects in the same public affairs forum.

But this panel discussion covered exactly four subjects this morning: health care reform, Charlie Rangel's ethics problem, David Paterson's latest troubles, and the fate of the former White House social secretary (and where she's from, what her clothes looked like, what her next job is likely to be, etc.), which hardly seems relevant to anyone who doesn't actually attend social events at the White House.

In this same discussion, there was nothing about the jobs bill that passed the Senate this week, nothing about the incredibly important Zazi guilty plea this week (and the fact that it makes Republican talking points look ridiculous), nothing about Jim Bunning single-handedly delaying unemployment insurance for those who need it.

I wonder, who was the target audience for the discussion of Desiree Rogers, who most Americans have never heard of, and whose White House position has nothing to do with public policy? The general public or the D.C. cocktail circuit crowd?

Krugman no doubt annoyed the show's producers by mentioning the inanity of the subject matter, but he's right to remind his colleagues of what matters. For Donaldson to "welcome" him "to Washington" was insulting -- to Krugman and the rest of us.

Steve Benen 2:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

Any program that features kokie roberts will have the depth of a toddler's wading pool.

Posted by: CDW on February 28, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

And here I was afraid I was avoiding my Good Citizen Duties by watching C-SPAN's Booknotes instead. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 28, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

It was killing time period. These shows do not want to inform anyone. The actors that moderate them see to that.

Posted by: cheflovesbeer on February 28, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Everytime I read a blog about the Sunday a.m. talk shows it reinforces the fact that I only watch Zakaria and Amanpour on Sundays. Serious journalism and accuracy are conspicuously absent from the others. Besides I have to take enough blood pressure meds as it is.....

Posted by: DTR on February 28, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Good on Krugman..and may I just say..it isn't mentioned that Desiree was to be in that postition long enough to make it the People's House and she did it.

Creepy Washington gossip aside.

Posted by: Cha on February 28, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Donaldson responded, 'Paul, welcome to Washington.'"

This is a bizarre statement. It seems to imply Donaldson isn't part of Washington or doesn't have the ability to change what Washington does. He's just an innocent bystander. This is what Washington is like.

Sam, maybe Washington wouldn't be like this if you wouldn't keep being like this?

Posted by: mcc on February 28, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

if you read charlie peters' column in the latest monthly, you'd know there is actually a substantive side to this. of course it has nothing to do with what rogers' wore and while i didn't see the segment i'm equally sure it went untouched during the discussion.

oh and for what it's worth, charlie's column is still the first thing i read whenever the monthly hits my mailbox, just as it was a million years ago when i first subscribed. if charlie reads this blog, let me shout out a thank you.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman sat silently while the discussion went on (and on), before eventually interjecting:

"Can I say that 20 million Americans unemployed, the fact that we're worrying about the status of the White House social secretary....

Donaldson responded, "Paul, welcome to Washington."

Longer Sam Donaldson: "Washington is a fundamentally unserious place, completely removed from and uncaring about the problems afflicting ordinary Americans. Deal with it."

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on February 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

is jim bunning in baseball's hall of fame? if he is i might go to cooperstown just to spit on his exhibit.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 28, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

"VARGAS: It's our light way to end, Paul."

Because of course we have to end the segment with some light catty gossip about what transpires within the halls of the White House.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 28, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

The WH social secretary is quite an important figure, from some perspectives, so her reputed fall from grace is a perfectly appropriate topic for Versailles Week in Review.

Posted by: al-Fubar on February 28, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

In this same discussion, there was nothing about the jobs bill that passed the Senate this week, nothing about the incredibly important Zazi guilty plea this week (and the fact that it makes Republican talking points look ridiculous), nothing about Jim Bunning single-handedly delaying unemployment insurance for those who need it.

And that is why the "grown-ups" Obama White House needs to learn to steer the media. This is the blathering shit you get if you don't. Republicans are always beating their drums to death while the silence from the left is deafening.

Posted by: oh my on February 28, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

How about responding to Donaldson: "Fuck you, Sam; you could do better if you just tried."

Posted by: Aaron Baker on February 28, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Welcome to Washington" is especially odd because all the panelists were, in this case, big names in Media. They can talk about something else if they want. Maybe they'd catch some flak, but so what? If relatively important and powerful people can't take a chance on making a positive difference, who can? Of course, Donaldson and Will and Cokie don't want to do that, they just don't want the credit they deserve for our shitty media climate.

Often we meet or hear about folks who are broke, or in physical danger, etc. but still make principled decisions. I applaud them, and further, such cases emphasize what sorry fucks our elites really are.

Posted by: Half Elf on February 28, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

and before that, one could have watched the appalling John McCain yammering to Fluffy.

Posted by: bdbd on February 28, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

And that is why the "grown-ups" Obama White House needs to learn to steer the media.

I think you've got this backwards: This is the reason Obama CAN'T steer the media. Because they're empty-headed ninnies who don't understand or care about what's going on around them. Caring about policy is the surest sign that you don't belong in the media elite, because it proves you're biased for one side. It's a litmus test that any sane person would fail.

Beyond that, the fact that they talked about healthcare reform at all, rather than Obama's birth certificate or possible Muslim affiliations is proof that we've made much progress since the Clinton days. Remember, these were the same people who delighted in impeaching Clinton for a BJ. By comparison, the Obama Admin has done a fine job in keeping these people in line.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 28, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

yes, mudwall, bunning is in the HOF. he's a complete jerk (iirc, he was when he was a player, too) and the only thing that could possibly make me dislike him more is if he had played for the cubs.
go white sox!

Posted by: mellowjohn on February 28, 2010 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Welcome to Washington, Paul."

Isn't Donaldson the one with the rug on his head?

Next week they should talk about that.

Posted by: robert on February 28, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Too Late!

Sam Donaldson To Retire
Youngsters know Sam Donaldson as one of the geezers on This Week who’s always yelling at George Will. But those of you over the age 15 might also recall that Sam Donaldson has been in the news business for several centuries and is prone to marvelous, sweeping and generally wrong predictions, like how Bill Clinton would leave office in like minus two seconds if the Monica Lewinsky rumors were true. He also enjoyed shouting at Ronald Reagan a lot. Here is a loving tribute from Cokie Roberts: on an overnight flight to France, Sam Donaldson once “had the flight attendants literally on their knees at his seat.” This American Hero will retire next week at the age of 74. [Washington Post]


http://wonkette.com/

Posted by: robert on February 28, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

4 discussions on the panel discussion: health care reform, the ethical problems of 2 black public officials and the comeuppance of a black woman who dressed too well. Charming, innocent, light-hearted are not words that come to mind. Really, was the discussion entitled: black people who rise too high and finally get what they deserve?

Posted by: tom in ma on February 28, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

This stuff really reminds me of the pre-revolutionary French court, as depicted in the movie Dangerous Liaisons. "Let them eat applesauce" is of course the 21st-century version of "Let them eat cake." It's almost enough to make me nostalgic for the guillotine.

Posted by: beckya57 on February 28, 2010 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

I saw Kugman was going to be on ABC this morning, the only reason i wached. They waste his brilliance, he out classes the dark cynical crowd that runs the news shows. He is solid, they are translucent.

Posted by: kurt on February 28, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Sunday morning talk show is the Washington Beltway Establishment on parade. In no other place can you expect to see a party now controlled by its radical fringes, where elected Republican lawmakers are no longer in charge of their party must instead take orders from their far right factions, cable news broadcasters and talk radio demagogues. And yet they are still treated as royalty on these shows, fully the equal with Democrats who have won the past two elections.

There is an unspoken code on these shows, and one of them is not to notice that Republicans have completely lost their minds. Watching insiders like David Gregory and George Stephanopolous preside over these farces you really start to believe that Washington has become another Court of Versailles.

Posted by: Ted Frier on February 28, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

In preparation for a program of this type, Sam Donaldson should remove his toupee for at least an hour of airing.

As for Bunning, I was distressed to learn that contrary to what I'd read he hadn't resigned and moved to a nursing home for treatment of dementia but was right there on the Senate floor last week showing his ass, as we say in these parts.

h

Posted by: h on February 28, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think tom in ma is onto something. Shorter round table: "all these presumptuous black folks got what was coming to them -- and so will the man in the Oval Office."

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on February 28, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

I gave up paying any attention to Sunday morning infotainment long, long ago, but had I known Krugman was going to be on I would have tuned in. It's amazing to begin with that the now rattled producers would invite him. Those poor producers.

Much of the dumbing down of America can be attributed to the MSM, thus having someone on occasionally with a real brain is only meant to respond to well deserved criticism with "Well, we had Krugman on too," even though his considerable intellect wasn't tapped.

Roberts and Will make me puke. Donaldson is such a second-rate ham, and well past his sell-by date, he should be stuffed, toupee and all, and displayed in a museum of egotistical assholes.

Posted by: rRRk1 on February 28, 2010 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Sam Donaldson - is there a brain under the hairplugs?

Posted by: SteinL on February 28, 2010 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Here's another quote of the day from that show by Vargas "We know that Americans don't support health care in general."

Posted by: Eric Riback on February 28, 2010 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Surely they know that Paul Krugman has been to Washington before.

And he knows that this is what they talk about, which is presumably one of the reasons he's back in Jersey right now.

Posted by: skiddie on February 28, 2010 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

This sort of ridiculous nonsense is the reason I have given up on the Sunday morning shows. It would be hard to think of a bigger waste of time. Zakaria and Amanpour, on the other hand, are a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: AlisonS on February 28, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey Krugman! Here's a Nobel Prize in Shut Yer Mouth!"

Posted by: Grumpy on February 28, 2010 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Of course they were going to gloat over Desiree Rogers, they earned her scalp fair and square! This is what you get if you don't invite Maureen Dowd to your first state dinner, and if Sally Quinn is feeling under-appreciated because she hasn't been dancing on enough tables lately. Hanging with your old friends from Chicago or Arkansas instead of kissing up to the Beltway crowd is punishable by failed presidency. Quinn said so, and she is Goddess.

Posted by: T-Rex on February 28, 2010 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

from cyclist

Sam Donaldson: "Washington is a fundamentally unserious place, completely removed from and uncaring about the problems afflicting ordinary Americans. Deal with it."


WTF ?? Every time I go to DC / DOD / Arlington, it sure as hell looks like a lot of pretty serious people going to work - mostly in the various agencies at the Ballston, Petagon, etc. stations. What DC does Donaldson see? Oh, I forget. Kookie, Sam, et al long ago stopped mixing with the worker bees ...

I gave up bitching to NPR about Kookie's thin analysis ...

Posted by: bigtuna on February 28, 2010 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

This is just standard high school stuff. The popular kids let one of the brainy nerds (Krugman, Maddow) sit at their table, but the eggheads always wanna talk about boring ol' policy instead of wailing on the unpopular girl's clothes and hair. "Welcome to Washington" = Like, what-ever.

Posted by: Baldrick on February 28, 2010 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Paul, welcome to Washington."

Google Translate:

"Paul, most of us can't even get our kids into Princeton, much less teach there. We rise through sycophancy and ingratiation, and we assume that, being trivial ourselves, that the rest of the world is not. We don't consciously try to create a tableau vivant from the pages of Laclos--or unconsciously either; for people like us, "Dangerous Liaisons" is that movie where Uma Thurman takes her top off. So go back to New Jersey and worry about the little people, while we go off to Sally's brunch."

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 28, 2010 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

More like "Welcome to the Village", not "Welcome to Washington."

Posted by: neil b on February 28, 2010 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sam Donaldson never met a producer's point of view he didn't love...

Posted by: Mr Blifil on February 28, 2010 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

I don't take "Welcome to Washington" as an insult at all. It seems to me to be a sarcastic comment on the worth of the thought processes and the interests of the Washington glitterati.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on February 28, 2010 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Comparing Washington D.c. to 1780s Versailles is very appropriate. Too bad we can't storm the Bastille and set up a little "justice" with the ancien regime. We don't need a guillotine, there are plenty of lampposts and rope. "Journalists" first.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 28, 2010 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Paul Krugman. Good effort trying to rub the puppy's nose in its mess.

Posted by: Dr. Wu on February 28, 2010 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

They couldn't even spare a few minutes to discuss whether Shelby should be jailed as a traitor or merely thrown out of office? Bummer.

Posted by: N.Wells on February 28, 2010 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Credit ABC for bringing such fresh faces to the table. Cookie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, George Will - impressive, deft.

Posted by: Moe on February 28, 2010 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what to make of Donaldson's comment either. Sam Donaldson was the last of the White House reporters to stop trying to connect Ronald Reagan with reality. It was his yelling at Reagan's handlers - and the complete lack of effect it had - that marked when the truth stopped being relevant in Washington.

From that moment to today is the US's current slope of decline.

Posted by: Dollared on March 1, 2010 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Somewhere in the afterlife, Lee Atwater is reading this topic list - "health care reform, Charlie Rangel's ethics problem, David Paterson's latest troubles, and the fate of the former White House social secretary" - and going, "Damn! You *can* run campaigns and say, 'N-----, n-----, n-----!" again! Oh, I wish I were alive for the midterms!"

Now, Paterson's an accidental and inept governor, Rangel may be in legitimate trouble, and HCR has plenty of non-racial elements... but there's also a certain coincidence among the main characters here that isn't *entirely* a coincidence.

Posted by: Chris on March 1, 2010 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

"I wonder, who was the target audience for the discussion of Desiree Rogers..."

The same as the audience for the Rangel and Paterson stories--namely, people who enjoy hearing about black people screwing up.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on March 1, 2010 at 4:57 AM | PERMALINK

The Beltway solipsism at its worst. I used to watch the Sunday shows; now I do the weekly catbox refurbishment instead.

Posted by: bob h on March 1, 2010 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

These shows have made themselves irrelevant. It's a wonder anyone is watching.

Posted by: Betty on March 1, 2010 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

Remember all the discussion about Jeff Guckert and his 200 or so day passes into the WH press pool so that he didn't have to undergo an FBI background check that would uncover his selling gay sex on the internet? Remember how many times Bush used Guckert for easy softmall questions?

Neither do I.

Posted by: worcestergirl on March 1, 2010 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

I was particularly taken aback at Donaldson's comments that Desiree Rogers had gotten above herself and was only meant to be a spear-carrier. Maybe I'm being a tad sensitive, but it appears others here noticed the unpleasant slant to the panel discussion, as well.

Posted by: cowtown on March 1, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Sad, that you get more political gravitas from The Daily Show, The View, and The Colbert Report. Sam and Cokie should be censured by their peers for such jackdaw idiocy

Posted by: johnnymags on March 1, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

One thing for Krugman - stop going on the shows. His presence provides cover, and gives the show a veneer of intellectualism that they don't deserve. By going on the show, Krugman enables them. He just found out - they don't care about real issues, or what he thinks.

Get off before you sell your soul.

Posted by: bigtuna on March 1, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

I think what Donaldson meant to say was
"Forget it, Paul. It's Chinatown."

Posted by: biggerbox on March 1, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome to Washington...

What's most frustrating about this statement is that Will has no desire to change things, because then he might have to actually do something, rather than just sound stentorian and sensible while lying.

Posted by: Jamey on March 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Roberts' defense of Desiree was so obviously personal it was embarrasing. That a social secretary becomes the subject of Roberts' impassionate defense shows so much about the triviality of our political discourse.

Posted by: Randy on March 1, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Donaldson was very misleading. What he meant was welcome to the Washington MSM talks about, ie the trivia.

Thank God there are some internet sites that do talk about the serious issues in DC. More and more Americans are by passing heavily biased fluff filled local news sources, print and TV, and MSM, on TV and the internet.

Haven't watched a show with Donaldson etc. in a decade or more. But I get a lot more fact based information than ever befroe

Posted by: Marnie on March 1, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

That's why I don't watch the shows, but do read Linkins' summary on HuffPo. The latter is snark-fortified, for a more nutritious newsmeal.

Posted by: trrWV on March 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

"I wonder, who was the target audience for the discussion of Desiree Rogers, who most Americans have never heard of, and whose White House position has nothing to do with public policy? The general public or the D.C. cocktail circuit crowd?"

Why the Cokie Roberts crowd didn't you know?

There have been lots of tape measures broken trying to measure Cokie Roberts' stupidity but apparently she brings in the very audience who's left to watch these shows, just like John McCain. Thus you're stuck with Dumb and Dumber until these people and this audience croaks.

As I said, you are better off spending your time in church than with this garbage.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on March 1, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Premiums will go up: TRUTH. If you add on caveats it changes the meaning of the sentence. As George Will said, because you are getting, arguably after all, we'll see whether healthcare is better after this, a Lexus instead of an Accord does not mean it is not a premium increase. In fact, Barack Obama told a falsehood, but no one at all polite would accuse him of lying. Mistaken; confused; whatever ... just how loopy are you policy incompetents?

In fact, if you'd still adhere to them, this is de facto and de jure charge or tax increase on all 31 million uninsured USAers. If you think this is a winner in 2010, you deserve what's next.

Posted by: Real Democrat on March 1, 2010 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Sam Donaldson is still alive? I didn't know that. The last time I saw him on TV was on "60 Minutes" years ago before I stopped watching it. Sam looked to be around 95 years old then. I can't believe he hasn't retired by now so a younger person who needs a job can take it over.

Posted by: Jerald_43 on March 1, 2010 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Much as I enjoyed the comments, I think you are picking on Sam too much. I think there was a lot of cynicism in that remark. Sam is a little full of himself, but he sees the big picture more than the other regulars.... I know he did Internet stuff after he was taken off the regular staff. Donaldson is definitely not blind to policy issues and knows what real Americans are worried about.

But Cokie Roberts and George Will: they're really out there. And to think: up until 2 or 3 years ago I used to think of This Week as a serious news show.... (IBID on the Zacharia show which I listen on podcast).

Posted by: Robert Nagle on March 4, 2010 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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