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March 21, 2014 4:58 PM Sunday Shows: From Sow’s Ear To, Well, Something Better

By Ed Kilgore

I hardly ever watch the major TV network Sunday Shows, and am prone to mock them. So I don’t have much to say about how to how to make them better, other than the abolitionist route.

But Paul Waldman, sitting in at Plum Line, does have some concrete suggestions, and they are definitely worth a look:

First, ban all party chairs, White House communication staff, party “strategists,” and anyone else whose primary objective is to spin from ever, ever, ever appearing on the show. Ever. To ask a question I’ve raised elsewhere: Has anyone anywhere in the United States turned off their TV and said, “Wow, that interview with Reince Priebus was really interesting”? Of course not, and the same applies to his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. That’s because their job is to deliver talking points, and they do so with a discipline worthy of the Marine Honor Guard, no matter what questions they’re asked. And they get plenty of time on cable, so why waste valuable minutes on a Sunday show by letting them repeat the same talking points they’ve recited 100 times that that week?
And while we’re at it, why not go farther and cut down the interviews with elected officials and candidates by three-quarters or so? I’m serious. When was the last time you saw a truly edifying interview on a Sunday show with a senator or member of Congress? If you want to talk about what’s going on in Ukraine, I could hardly care less what John McCain (the shows’ most frequent guest) thinks about it, and I doubt I’m alone. He knows next to nothing about the situation, and as a minority party senator with almost no support among his colleagues, he’ll have precisely zero impact on the outcome of events. So how about, as a first rule, the people you bring on should 1) know as much as possible about the things you’re going to discuss, and 2) have little if any interest in spinning?
That’s really not a lot to ask.

True enough, if you assume (as Waldman does) that the constituency for the shows is actual viewers out around the country, not the guests themselves or the horde of Washingtonians who tune in to get their marching orders for the ensuing week.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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