Political Animal


May 10, 2011 4:25 PM The question need not be rhetorical

By Steve Benen

We talked the other day about the absurdities of Sunday show guest lists, especially the lineups from this past weekend. It was heartening to see Rachel Maddow agree.

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For those of you who can’t watch video clips from your work computers, Rachel said, “I will admit right off the bat this is petty. I’ll admit it. But it is also true and it has got to drive Democrats in the White House absolutely nuts.”

“Here it is: Republican Senator Dick Lugar; Republican former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani; Republican former Congressman Tom Davis; the Bush administration’s CIA director, General Michael Hayden; the Bush administration’s secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice; the Bush administration’s homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff; the Bush administration’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld; the Bush administration’s vice president, Dick Cheney; the Bush administration’s vice president’s daughter, Liz Cheney — the week the Obama administration announces it has killed Osama bin Laden, that’s the guest list on the Sunday morning political talk shows to talk about it.

“The Sunday shows are supposedly the apex of political debate — the pulsing, throbbing heart of what’s going on in American politics. Is the biggest story in American politics right now retirees from the Bush administration and how they feel about stuff? Plus, Dick Lugar?

“Honestly, this is the roster? This is Sunday morning in all of its thundering seriousness?

“Now, among those nine Bush administration officials and other Republican politicians, there were three outliers: Senator John Kerry, also a former White House communications director named Anita Dunn, and one current White House official Tom Donilon, the national security adviser. So, there were those three.

“But the week the Obama administration announces that bin Laden is dead, the invitees to the adult’s table, the measure of serious and importance in Washington is three-to-one, Bush administration and Republican officials. Why is that?”

It struck me as a good question. It need not be rhetorical.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Les Ismore on May 10, 2011 4:27 PM:

    Pretty simple really, Republicans are more prone to say completely batshit crazy stuff and that drives the ratings.

  • John B. on May 10, 2011 4:27 PM:

    "Why is that?" Because the so-called "liberal media" is owned by right-wingers who hire hacks for program producers and on-screen personalities masquerading as journalists.

  • c u n d gulag on May 10, 2011 4:34 PM:

    Because the moron hosts, and the ancient morons in the audience, don't want to think.

    Why would you ever have on anyone who might actually have a original f*cking thought?

    The host won't be able to handle it.

    They're used to the same tired questions to the same tired old guests providing same tired well rehearsed talking point answers.

    The audience is liable to do a Danny Thomas "Uncle Tunoose" spit take, and drop their 'cream of wheat" into the long dormant private parts if someone new or original was on.

    And to think, I had such hope for Amanpour.

    What did they do to her?
    Make her hand in her brain and ingegrity upon signing the contract?

    CATCHA still sucks - just like the Sunday gabfests.

  • Keith G on May 10, 2011 4:35 PM:

    What I would love to know is if the Obama White House made other spokesfolk available and those were turned down or if the White House was all laissez-faire about the line up.

    I can not believe that any network would turn down a sit-down with any of the people in the Sit-Room photo. Where they not offered?

  • kevo on May 10, 2011 4:40 PM:

    I live in the Great State of California - just one state in a nation of 50 where Middle Class citizens work, for the most part, hard and honestly to put dinner on the table!

    Seemingly, by agenda, by broadcast and by panel discussion our Beltway critters live not in the USA, but rather in Antigogglinville where everything is crooked, and less than the perpendicular!

    New Middle Class rule: Turn the TV to the off position during the Sabbath, unless sports is on! -Kevo

  • Daryl McCullough on May 10, 2011 4:41 PM:

    Why is this a mystery? Isn't it possible to find out who makes the decisions about guests and ASK them how the decisions are made?

  • the_dan on May 10, 2011 4:43 PM:

    Keith G asks an important question. Even starting from the assumption that the game is rigged (which I firmly believe), are Democrats putting enough energy and ingenuity into building their bench and booking them? Were Dem guests actively rejected by the shows, so as to tilt the field so sharply toward the GOP, or is the GOP's media shop just being smarter and more aggressive?

  • meander on May 10, 2011 4:50 PM:

    An awful line-up, but it could have been much worse: McCain and Newt.

  • dave burkett on May 10, 2011 4:53 PM:

    maddow's brady bunch box has cheney in the middle - where alice would be...is that right? the housekeeper?

  • John B. on May 10, 2011 5:02 PM:

    Commercial television has debased everything it touches for almost as long as it's been around -- sports (think "TV time out" or "designated hitter rule")... news ("If it bleeds, it leads")... audience reactions (think "laugh track")... the very concept of "reality" ("reality" shows)... etc. etc. etc. Is there any doubt that the industry will sooner rather than later undermine democracy itself? (Think Fox TV News).

    Everything on TV is driven by greed for money. Money, money, money. The Sunday talk shows -- and so-called news shows in general -- aren't selling information or enlightenment. They aren't even selling ads, for that matter. The corporate overseers of the major networks are renting your eyeballs to their corporate advertisers. They know what their "real" customers want -- and it isn't to please or educate viewers. It's to please their fellow corporate overseers who pay the bills.

    The appropriate response is to turn off the damn TV. The more who do, the less incentive there will be to continue the Sunday charade.

  • a different John B on May 10, 2011 5:02 PM:

    It's sad that Steve and Rachel are choosing to deliberately mislead us on this issue. The Daily Howler (http://www.dailyhowler.com/), today and yesterday, does a great job savaging them for this nonsense. Bottom line, the number of Republican/right guests may have been more than Democrat/left guests, but the Democrat/left guests got WAY more air time on every show (except FOX?). So what are Steve and Rachel complaining about?

  • Danny on May 10, 2011 5:05 PM:

    Exactly. Where it's rigged we need to find ways to blow up the scheme. The "liberal media" meme has worked wonders for conservatives. But they've been pushing it for a long time with great persistence.

    When they're smarter and more agressive, we got to get competetive. It's great if we can raise the issue where it's visible so the networks know they're being watched and we should keep on doing it, but behind the scenes we can't go looking for excuses but instead get to work.

  • fookitall on May 10, 2011 5:07 PM:

    Somerby? He's a petty little whiner who hates Maddow because she's smarter than he is and got on tv while Boob mordantly chuckled himself into oblivion trying to ride Gore's coattails to the bigs. Just another firebagger to ignore.

  • DAY on May 10, 2011 5:09 PM:

    "“The Sunday shows are supposedly the apex of political debate "

    Rachel, dear child, you are nearly old enough to remember when that was true. Back in the day, when rabbit ears sat atop the B&W Magnavox or Philco, and one banged the set upside the head when the screen began to roll!

    Today, one needs only look at the commercials to know who counts and who doesn't as an audience.

  • Holmes on May 10, 2011 5:14 PM:

    While the ratio of republcians to democrats is annoying, that isn't may biggest problem with those shows. hell, i'd be thrilled to see numerous republicans on there [i]if the hosts actually pressed them on their bullshit[/i]. Alas...

  • Danny on May 10, 2011 5:15 PM:

    @a different John B

    If what you say is true, even more kudos for Rachel for pushing this. We know all to well that the village media is wired for republicans. We don't have to be fair when hitting them over the head with it. It only has to be painful and embarassing.

    When was the last time "The Daily Howler" did a fact check on the "liberal bias" meme by the way?

    Of course republicans mouthpieces (and contrarian brand liberal bloviators) are gonna give progressives flack for speaking up, asserting ourselves and invading the ground they consider theirs. But then we can bitch slap them even harder, preferably with a hundred comeback factoids.

  • neil b on May 10, 2011 5:17 PM:

    Steve, your blog is rather influential at least among the wonkish crowd, but doesn't get a lot of public exposure (well, I try, posting lots of links to my FB wall.) So I think it's great Rachel is bringing up lots of your points. We can only hope some of that sinks through, like these digs at media hackery. It's even better for MSNBC, even if imperfect, to be slamming their most odious rival. BTW, I have a saying: most of what FN says is a Faux-Pas (or how about, Faux-piss ....)

    Uh will we ever get a working SPI/RPI here? And PS, my Captcha has or had freaking *Greek letters* in it, WTF am I supposed to do with that?!

  • a different John B on May 10, 2011 5:18 PM:

    Yes, Somerby is a jerk, and he does have it in for Maddow. But don't we on the left mock the right for responding to criticism by attacking the critic? If you think Somerby is wrong, then please refute what he says, don't just opt for character assassination.

  • neil b on May 10, 2011 5:21 PM:

    Hey, diffident John B, even if many Democrats get some more air time, Steve and Rachel document many instances of complete shutouts of them (see previous threads) and so forth. Many of us watch many of these shows, we see enough to know that you and Howler are, if not "full" of it, at least are rather too sullied ...

  • KurtRex1454 on May 10, 2011 5:21 PM:

    This is why I, like most intelligent peolple, have stopped watching the Sunday shows. If I wanted their ideas on running the country, I would have voted for McCain.


    Those who can govern, govern. Those who cannot govern, cut budgets.  

    By this I mean, to run first world huge country is a difficult task. To surrender governing by cutting budgets shows, to me, an inability to cope with the interacting patterns, infrastructures, systems, and hierarchies of people, laws, culture and technologies which make up our country. 

    Many Republicans are unwilling or unable to recognize this truth and prefer to govern by slogan, "we're broke," "Death panels," etc and the media plays along because slogans fit into 15 second sound bites. 

    The media, as the only vehicle with the venue to research and judge candidates, should preform the function of condemning candidates and incapable of performing this complex function called governing.  Remember, as Lao Tsu said, "Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish, do it gently." The radical Republicans seem to have missed this bit of philosophy and the education to apply it.

  • T2 on May 10, 2011 5:36 PM:

    I remember the "old days" when those shows were actually used for "in depth" discussion of news and government. That ended some time back and so did my viewership. They are just GOP Corporate propaganda now.

    I noticed disgraced former congressman Newt Gingrich on tv today, announcing another run for the presidency. He had some kind of robot woman with him, introduced as his wife (his THIRD). Apparently the pundits think that by having a robot wife who is blond, Newt will appeal to voters who previously considered him a morally defunct, lying piece of scum. Somehow, dressing up a robot and glueing a blond wig on it doesn't seem real helpful. Time will tell.

    Oh, and I don't like the new Political Animal format at all.

  • rbe1 on May 10, 2011 5:48 PM:

    Really, what's the surprise ? Try looking in on interviews conducted by reporters from Al Jazeera or der Spiegel, if you're interested in journalism. The questions are those formulated at the adult level, so that those interviewed don't have to talk baby-talk.

  • neil b on May 10, 2011 5:56 PM:

    Also, different John B, you didn't need to say "It's sad that Steve and Rachel are choosing to deliberately mislead us on this issue." - Oh really "deliberately"? Am I supposed to take you seriously as a good-faith commenter, as being a "we on the left" progressive, etc?

    BTW folks, Ctrl-C your comment first because I don't see it saved when I go "back" after a too-frequent failed Decaptcha.

  • exlibra on May 10, 2011 6:57 PM:

    neil b, @5:56

    There's always more than one way to skin the cat. I look at the Capatch "offering" first and, if I'm not up to deciphering it, I click on the Captcha refresh (top button next to the logo). And again. And again, if necessary. Until it shows something I can read and reproduce. Like the current "been' Catesi". I've never yet -- knocking on wood -- had it refuse what I'd typed in. But it certainly slows me down a lot, making me decide - as often as not - not to bother. Most of the time, my comments aren't important enough to keep fighting the damned robot.

  • Robert Abbott on May 10, 2011 6:57 PM:

    This is why I don't watch the Sunday news shows. If that is a widespread tendency, then only Republicans are watching. That would explain why Democrats get an invitation so infrequently. The so-called insights to be found on these shows is nonsense so I don't watch on those grounds as well.

  • Mnemosyne on May 10, 2011 6:58 PM:

    Bottom line, the number of Republican/right guests may have been more than Democrat/left guests, but the Democrat/left guests got WAY more air time on every show (except FOX?).

    That's a very strange defense. Sure, there were more Republicans than Democrats there, but the host talked more to the Democrat, so that makes it a-okay to have five Republicans and one Democrat on to talk about a big story from a Democratic administration?

    How many Democrats appeared on the Sunday shows after Bush's "Mission Accomplished" event? Were any of them not Joe Lieberman? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • neil b on May 10, 2011 7:29 PM:

    Exlibra, that is really sad. Many other blogs have more comments, I've long thought highly of most of the commentariat around here and of course the entertaining trolls - but I think the decaptcha has decapitated many of us too much, even Al doesn't bother any more. BTW if you see this send me a line, haven't heard from you in awhile.

  • SW on May 10, 2011 7:50 PM:

    Because the Sunday News shows are not serious policy programing. They are transparent flacking for the corporate agenda and agenda that was perfectly embodied by the Bush administration. Anyone who still clings to the quaint idea that this is still the pre-media consolidation era of the roundtable discussions of enlightened journalism has to fucking brain dead at this point.

  • In what respect, Charlie? on May 10, 2011 10:31 PM:

    OK. OK. Torture caused the domino effect that led to killing bin Laden, if you insist. Now, since you Bush has-beens have admitted to torturing other human beings, you have indicted yourself as the war criminals that you are. Put the bastards on trial!!!

  • Squeaky McCrinkle on May 10, 2011 11:00 PM:

    The problem with the Sunday shows is not who appears on them, it's how they are handled by the hosts.

    All those Republicans from the Bush administration should have been brought in last Sunday, and excoriated for their stupidity, incompetence and lies since 2001.

    The attacks on Bob Somerby make me think that some of the folks here are in denial. Boy, if MSNBC is your best hope, we're in more trouble than I thought!

  • herostratus on May 11, 2011 1:34 AM:

    May I suggest going to church instead?

  • mfw13 on May 11, 2011 2:42 AM:

    Who cares! Nobody outside the Beltway or under the age of 50 watches the Sunday talk shows anyway.

    The reason only Republicans are scheduled is because Independents and Democrats have much better things to do with their time. Only losers want to spend their Sunday mornings on a talk show!

  • Rosetta Stone on May 11, 2011 3:34 AM:

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  • am on May 11, 2011 3:36 AM:

    Bob Somerby rips Benen and Maddow apart for this.

    Here: http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh050911.shtml
    And here: http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh051011.shtml

  • bob h on May 11, 2011 6:58 AM:

    It has got to be that the Sunday shows are first and foremost business ventures, and that for some reason the viewership is dominated by an ageing country club Republican demographic. Thus the many ads for private asset management, etc. They do not want to disturb these people with inconvenient viewpoints.