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Tilting at Windmills

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January 25, 2011

CNN'S WEAK RATIONALE FOR DUELING SOTU RESPONSES.... I didn't intend to return to the subject, but CNN's explanation for why it's airing two Republican responses to President Obama's State of the Union address is pretty odd.

To briefly recap, congressional Republican leaders announced last week that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would deliver the party's official response to the president's national address. Soon after, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she, too, would deliver a response to the SOTU, and her speech would be broadcast and endorsed by the Tea Party Express.

NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox will air Obama's speech, followed by Ryan's speech. CNN, however, will air all three -- the president's address, followed by a speech by a far-right Republican, and then followed by another speech by a different far-right Republican

This afternoon, Greg Sargent got an official explanation from CNN:

"The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party's perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN's viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight's coverage."

As justifications go, I'd hoped CNN would do better than this.

There are a couple of angles to this that are worth keeping in mind. The first is that CNN seems to be treating Tea Party activists as offering something unique -- almost as if it's a distinct political party with a perspective all its own. Major media outlets need to understand how very wrong this is -- the so-called Tea Party is another name for "the Republican base." There is no meaningful, qualitative difference, and as a result, CNN is airing two Republican responses to one presidential speech.

The second is that airing a bizarre speech from an unhinged, radical lawmaker -- who CNN already knows to be unreliable -- because Tea Partiers are "a major force" is a weak rationale. The problem isn't just that this is tantamount to saying the Republican base is "a major force," it's also overlooking the fact that there are plenty of "major forces" in American politics.

Would CNN be inclined to air a SOTU response from the AFL-CIO? Labor unions are a major political force. How about responses from the NRA and the U.S. Chamber or Commerce? They're major forces, too. There are plenty of major forces, with constituencies focused on abortion, the environment, the wars, etc. They can't all have rejoinders to the State of the Union aired on national television, which is why the other major networks are content to show Obama and the official GOP response.

Dave Weigel added that CNN has "a longstanding romance" with the Tea Party Express, the political action committee that organized and is sponsoring the Bachmann speech. That's true, and while it makes the announcement more predictable, it also makes this somehow worse.

In the meantime, Republicans on the Hill aren't exactly pleased with Bachmann or CNN, since all of this distracts from the GOP's message and muddles the party's response.

And the Republican effort to look like grown-ups takes another big step backwards.

Steve Benen 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

CNN's main phone number is 404-827-2600

Call them and either try to get through to a human or leave a message reprimanding them for this travesty. Broadcasting Bachmann in addition to Ryan is a disgrace to any purported "journalstic objectivity" CNN might claim. They're lapdogs of morons with this FOXoid gambit.

Posted by: brucds on January 25, 2011 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Or my concern that it makes Rep. Paul Ryan, look reasonable and moderate.

Posted by: RomanX on January 25, 2011 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, if the Republicans are upset about this and it will indeed muddle their response, I say full speed ahead, and thank you, CNN, for being (inadvertently) on our side for once.

Posted by: bobbo on January 25, 2011 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The people bankrolling the so called tea party express are the same people that own the GOP and most of the national media. This makes total sense when you consider these said plutocrats' main goal is to destroy the democratic agenda and in the larger scope of things the middle class in general.

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 25, 2011 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, come on, Steve -- you know it's traditional to have two Republicans for every Democrat on any news program.

Posted by: karen marie on January 25, 2011 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

They should air the progressive caucus's response then. Exactly how does this nonsense end? Maybe we need to hear a response from Ralph Nader too?

Posted by: Gracious on January 25, 2011 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Hm, it seems that for once the gibbering monkey of eyeballs-at-any-cost is flinging its poo at the Republicans.

This whole Tea Party thing has been a very clever re-branding. I'd suggest the Democrats try the same thing, except it would be only the 1,835th faction of the party and so wouldn't merit much attention,

Posted by: bleh on January 25, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Ratings. CNN will draw the Tea Party in its attempt to lure them from Fox. Then they'll let Eric Erickson comment. CNN is pandering.

Posted by: Mudge on January 25, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the national amnesia includes actual PARTIES: Socialist, Green, Communist, etc. After all, these- and others- have been registered political parties. with candidates on the ballots for generations.
Indeed, as a youngster I cast a protest vote for Norman Thomas, who was on the presidential ballot more times than I can count!

Posted by: DAY on January 25, 2011 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Just a thought:

Say this was 2007, and one of the loose Democratic cannons in the House insisted on giving his or her own response to President Bush's SOTU, possibly undermining the official party rebuttal? What do you think the Beltway scuttlebutt would be about new Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ability to control her caucus? And would that be a story?

Posted by: DZ on January 25, 2011 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

"The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party's perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN's viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight's coverage."

Weak, but I guess it sounds better than, "Are you kidding? We're an entertainment channel. We're not going to let Fox steal the freak show from us."

Posted by: Frank on January 25, 2011 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Neither Ryan nor Bachnuts will get many viewers so this "issue" is way inside baseball. At least we could laugh at Jindal but we laughed too loud, unfortunately.

The job here is to join Ryan and the GOP at the hip. He's their voice and their brains. He wants to voucherize Medicare and privatize SS. He wants to cut taxes on the rich. Keep repeating and watch them squirm.

Posted by: walt on January 25, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Obvious typo on CNN's part. That's FARCE with an A.

"The Tea Party has become a major FARCE in American politics and within the Republican Party."

Bachmann might be the only speech I listen to tonight. I smell a comedy classic in the making. Plus, it will be fun to see what new depths of depravity Mama Grizzly has to sink to to pull that spotlight away from Crazy Eyes and back onto herself where it rightfully belongs.

Posted by: gypsy howell on January 25, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

maybe some folks will even realize thet Ryan, who has never held a job outside of politics that I know of, is just as poorly educated and irrational as Bachmann-just is a more masculine, less emotive way.

Posted by: sue on January 25, 2011 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

DZ makes a good point.

Where is the interview with Boehner asking about his ability to control 'loose cannons'? Apparently any attempt to 'tone down' the rhetoric means that we must double up on the amount of rhetoric.

Posted by: Gridlock on January 25, 2011 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe someone at CNN should checkout the "Keeping Them Honest" segment that Andersen Cooper did on Representative Michelle Bachmann.

He takes her to task for making stuff up and not understanding American history. I almost feel out of my chair viewing this segment. For once, someone in the media goes there... the woman lies with ease and basically just doesn't know what she is talking about.

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/anderson-cooper-wallops-bachmann-for-flunking-history-with-diversity-comments-video.php?ref=fpa

Posted by: Ladyhawke on January 25, 2011 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Chiming in with Gracious et al: hen does the Democratic base get to give an aired SOTU response and critique of their own?

Posted by: neil b on January 25, 2011 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think its great to have people see Bachmann, she won't convince people that the GOP has the best thinkers in the country, and will have to follow up after Obama. Fun! And while people are concerned it might make Ryan look more moderate, who cares, it makes the GOP look sloppy.

Posted by: Paul on January 25, 2011 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I love that CNN is going to televise Bachmann! Let all the world see exactly what an idiot she is.

Posted by: sue on January 25, 2011 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

As a liberal Democrat, I have absolutely no problem with this. In fact, if they had to show only one of the three, let it be Bachmann's.

Posted by: Matt on January 25, 2011 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Chiming in with Gracious et al: when does the Democratic base get to give an aired SOTU response and critique of their own?

- neurotic fix for the record, such as it is

Posted by: neil b' on January 25, 2011 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Also, if I'm not mistaken, CNN discredited Ms. Bachmann on AC360 just last night. Yes, less than 24 hours ago. So, why give her a platform to speak tonight?

Posted by: eric on January 25, 2011 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

- neurotic fix for the record, such as it is

As long as you're being neurotic, it's et al., with a period after al.

Posted by: Frank on January 25, 2011 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

CNN is hopeless anyway. As a member of AA, I not long ago heard a "qualification" (when a person tells their drinking story in some detail) from a former CNN employee who spoke of sleeplessness, serious drug use, and general insanity behind the scenes at CNN HQ in Atlanta. That explained a lot to me, who gave up on that netweork about 5 years ago.

However, I do applaud their decision to give Ms. Bachmann national exposure. Those of us who read blogs like this one have known for a long time that she was the archetype for batsh*t insanity; now the larger audience will get a chance to see it themselves. If there is any hope for us at all (open to question of course) many people will get to see the wingnuttery in full flower perhaps for the first time themselves and respond accordingly.

Posted by: jrosen on January 25, 2011 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

for a minute, let's dream that Bachmann makes a typically Bachmann-type speech - full of disjointed sentences, crazy accusations, outright lies and...well...crazy shit. How will the Talking Heads respond? What will they say to be "fair and balanced'? That the Dems have crazy people too?
But what if she seems pretty normal, somewhat attractive, spouts typically accepted TeaParty "ideas" and mostly acts like a Congressman? What then?......yeah, probably won't happen. But I'm guessing she won't be a total melt-down either. In which case the GOP will get to have two rebuttals. As for Ryan...he is a very stupid guy with quite dangerous ideas and a normal presentation...that's why he is a GOP rising star.

Posted by: T2 on January 25, 2011 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

I agree: Bachmann and Ryan will cancel each other out AND look sad and wan in comparison to The Master, Obama. I don't see the problem or the reason for the angst at all on this one ...

Posted by: EdgewaterJoe on January 25, 2011 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Taking CNN seriously is the real problem here. They've always been a bit threadbare and t this point they have no idea who they are. the best thing that could happen would be for Comedy Central to buy it as a joint venture with the Onion. We'd get wit and progressive broadcasters instead of embarrassing stuff like this.

Posted by: rich on January 25, 2011 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't Bachman and her group have the same right to be heard as anyone else? Why don't liberals stop complaining and get someone like Bernie Sanders to offer his views?

What are you clowns afraid of?

Posted by: Dave Richards on January 25, 2011 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

CNN is a corporate propaganda mill.

The so-called "Tea Party" is a corporate-sponsored, corporate-directed astroturf cult-for-hire.

They both exist to further the ruthless, rapacious, relentless class warfare of the corporate oligarchy against everyone else.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 25, 2011 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

This is good politics for Democratic/Progressives/Liberals. The Teabagger party just splits off votes from Republicans. In aperfect world Bachmann will run as a Teabagger in competition with Democrats and Republicans a la Ralph Nader and hand Obama another 4 years.

Posted by: Winkandanod on January 25, 2011 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Dave Richards wrote: "Doesn't Bachman and her group have the same right to be heard as anyone else?"

Yes, Bachmann has exactly the same right as anyone else to stand on a street corner bellowing her idiotic, malicious nonsense at annoyed pedestrians.

CNN is a private company. No one has a "right" to appear on CNN.

Dave Richards wrote: "Why don't liberals stop complaining and get someone like Bernie Sanders to offer his views?"

Bernie Sanders "offered his views" for about eight continuous hours on the Senate floor recently. No one has to "get" him to do that; he's ready, willing and far more able than the incoherent Rep. Bachmann to "offer his views".

This has nothing to do with who is ready to "offer their views" and even less to do with who "liberals" -- or "conservatives" for that matter -- would like to see "offer their views" on nationwide cable TV.

It's about the decisions made by a wealthy and powerful media corporation about whose "views" that corporation wants to offer to the American people.

But it sounds like you are content to have wealthy and powerful corporations tell you what to think.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 25, 2011 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

But it sounds like you are content to have wealthy and powerful corporations tell you what to think.
Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 25, 2011 at 6:18 PM

I thought they were giving Bachman air time. I didn't realize they were trying to tell me what to think.

Sheesh. Liberal logic at it's best.

Posted by: Dave Richards on January 25, 2011 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's about the decisions made by a wealthy and powerful media corporation about whose "views" that corporation wants to offer to the American people.

They are offering both sides. How is that a problem?

Sounds to me like you have an axe to grind.

Posted by: Dave Richards on January 25, 2011 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

CNN: “The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics

By WHAT possible standard ?


Posted by: Joe Friday on January 25, 2011 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

CNN pays Erick Erickson to appear on its airwaves. Why would it surprise anybody that they would air Michelle Bachman's screed? They've clearly decided to compete with Fox for the least informed viewers. They just have a few cogent people to get rid of along the way.

Posted by: Sasha on January 25, 2011 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

David Richards wrote: "I didn't realize they were trying to tell me what to think."

It's abundantly clear from your comments that you don't realize very much.

For example, you don't seem to realize that you are thinking in terms of one-dimensional cartoon comic-book stereotypes about "liberals" and spouting Madison Avenue-scripted bumper sticker slogans that have been spoon-fed to you by the corporate-owned media.

Oh, yes, you have indeed been told what to think.

And you are obediently thinking exactly what you have been told to think.

And regurgitating it in your comments here.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 25, 2011 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

As somebody already pointed out above: ratings. Come on, CNN is a business. It needs to maximize its revenue. It that concept that hard for you to understand, WM? Furthermore, when was the last time that ANYBODY with an IQ in triple digits went to CNN for anything besides a breaking headline? They are utterly pathetic in news analysis. CNN is for people who find Wolf Blitzer impressive and knowledgeable. Nuff said.

Posted by: Bluecrab on January 25, 2011 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

This is bullshit - while I'm all for revealing Bachman as the bat-shit crazy, stupid bint that she is, I object to CNN giving her a national platform as if she's some sort of national leader.

All it does is elevate her, and elevate the teabagger contingent. They aren't serious people. They are wrong about everything.

The only thing CNN should be doing this evening is pointing and laughing at her.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on January 25, 2011 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think that this post is muchado about nothing, Steve. The president will shine so brightly tonight that it will be great to have representatives from the other two parties, in what is now a de facto 3-party system, in the limelight for him to outshine them and make them look very small.

With the Tea Party getting more and more aggressive, while what used to the GOP increasingly abandoning any semblance of moderation to satisfy the Tea Partyers and the far right, I would not be surprised to wake up one morning to find that the GOP is no more and that the Tea Party has become the other party in our 2-party system. So, let Bachmann give her response and let every network televise it so that the demise of the modern GOP would accelerate when the moderates and indies tie them to the far-right wingnuts and their Tea Party brethren.

Posted by: dcshungu on January 25, 2011 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

I thought they were giving Bachman air time. I didn't realize they were trying to tell me what to think.

Sheesh. Liberal logic at it's best.

They're giving her a platform - I never saw them giving a platform to Moveon.org after a Bush speech, or any other liberal voice for that matter.

They are offering both sides. How is that a problem?

Paul Ryan is already giving "the other side."

Posted by: fourlegsgood on January 25, 2011 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

For its' entertainment value I'm happy that CNN will air Ms. Bachmann's performance. Otherwise, we'd have to go on line to view Ms. Tea Party of 2011 or see snippets on the other networks. It will be interesting to see how she plays on CNN. Will Gergen go for balance? Can't wait to see Anderson Cooper have another go with her. Congressman Ryan will maintain the obscurity he so richly deserves.

Posted by: GreenTaxMaven on January 25, 2011 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

They are showing both sides: Bachman thinks Democrats are traitors and Ryan thinks they're communists.

Posted by: beejeez on January 25, 2011 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

What surprises me is FOX's schedule; I'd have expected them to air Ryan and Bachmann only.

Posted by: exlibra on January 25, 2011 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

I've been trending away from CNN for several months now. This seals the deal; time to make the divorce final. While I'm sympathetic that the end result may be fine (showcasing GOP factions, exposing Bachmann's inanity, I mean insanity), the blatant right-wing bias is too much. Air time is a valuable resource; I don't see moveon.org or the AFL-CIO getting the same type of free exposure.

Posted by: danimal on January 25, 2011 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

@GreenTaxMaven--Can't wait to see Anderson Cooper have another go with her.

Exactly. It's on Steve's Mini-Report above. I wouldn't be surprised if Cooper's been urging CNN to cover her address.

Posted by: Swift Loris on January 25, 2011 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Like there is to be any appreciable difference between the two? It's like choosing do you want 15% grey right-wing bullshit background, or 25% grey right-wing bullshit background - like thin crust or thick crust for the same combo pizza. You want grammar with that? No? Ok. You want parmesan or peppers?

Posted by: jsacto on January 25, 2011 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

CNN - the Cretin's News Network

Posted by: TCinLA on January 26, 2011 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK
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