Friday, October 07, 2005

Sunday Chat & Chews

Sunday Chat & Chews, like a bad meal, are with you long after you think you've finished with them.

For those who can't live without the gasbags, remember Rolaids spells relief. (Turning off your TV set spells sanity.)

Over at NBC's Meet the Press, Tubby Russert's pulling a Bob Schieffer. No, he's not going to wing it! Please, he's coddled and airbrushed by a team larger than the one required to give Barbara Walters the appearance of a "natural look" each time she steps before the camera.

But last week, as Joe, Zach and Brenda noted in their e-mails, Face (as CBS' Face The Nation apparently now wants to be called) had an "indepth" discussion on Tom DeLay made up with a wide range of opinions from . . . three Republicans. Is that a wide range?

It passes for it on the Chat & Chews. That's why people shouldn't waste their times with this crap. Beltway gossip and spin isn't "public affairs" and it certainly isn't news. Programs that provide "guests" week after week but would never have you on as a guest are probably programs you shouldn't watch. You watch Orpah, there's a chance that something wonderful or sad could happen in your life and Oprah would have you on. They may call it Face (The Nation) or This Week or Meet the Press but it's all nonsense, one long -- to use Bill Keller's favorite term -- circle jerk for "insiders" and brown nosers.

Let's focus on Meet the Press. When the program started, the guest would . . . meet the press. The guest would be grilled by the press. We're talking years ago. Now that Tubby Russert hosts, no one questions a guest but Tubbs. Would Robin Wright, for instance, if she were included along with others, have an obvious question for the guest (one that Tubby will always miss)? Probably. And that's probably why they moved away from that format -- better to coast than to explore.

So Tubbs gives butt smooches and air kisses. (And as Arianna Huffington will point out, never discusses Plamegate. Aren't viewers interested in what Tubbs knew and when he knew it?) Sometimes Tubbs will growl. If, for instance, the breadsticks don't accompany the meal.
I kid, I jest. No Tubbs will only growl (away from the dinner table) if he's got a Democrat. Put a Dem opposite him and suddenly it's carb loading time for Tubbs as he chews and snarls.

Tubbs will have to practice the Zone diet this Sunday because, in discussing the Harriet Miers nomination, he can't find a Dem. (He can't find anyone of the left either but then he hasn't seen his own feet in years either so no one really expects him, at this late date, to spot an genuine lefty.) So Tubbs brings on "wild man" Pat Buchanan and Richard Land of the Southern Baptists. This will be the discussion.

In fairness to Tubbs, who does not shop at the Big & Tall stores -- he's not tall, Democrats have allowed this to happen by playing wait-and-see-what-sticks with regards to Miers. The discussion is taking place on Miers' nomination but Democrats have allowed it to take place without any input. (Unless Harry Reid's singing "My Kind of Gal" counts as input.)

Kim Gandy and other strong voices will never be on Meet the Press. Meet the Press is only interested in a gab fast that Tubbs can control and he really can't control much these days -- not the stories on the outing of Valerie Plame, not his own diet.

Large men like Tubbs get exhausted quickly. So they need soft balls. Which explains why David Broder, who's not dead -- just brain dead, pops up. Broder had an original thought . . . when Ike left office. You see Broder's name and end up looking for Doris who's not on -- which we hope doesn't mean she's either facing or about to face another charge of ripping off others in her "historical" writing. It's rare that someone is caught plagerizing and doesn't suffer for it but Doris got a pass. (Maybe everyone's scared of her husband's temper?) Instead we
get E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Kate O'Beirne of Irrational Review (a popular rag this Sunday!) and Ron Brownstein of LA Times who meets with Tubbs' approval because Brownstein's wife works for McCain.

Let's move on to ABC's This Week and note that their programming notes (which sound like they're dictated by Steph) at least try to provide a sense of urgency and immediacy.

To diccuss the "firestorm" "ignited" by Harriet Miers, Steph will have on Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy, defanged tabbies both of them. Stoke the fires hard, Steph, stoke the fires hard.
(Note, though weak, one is a Repube and one a Dem -- though parties of each might beg to differ.)

Bird flu leads to the need to bring on Mike Leavitt, administration "point man" -- secretary of Health and Human Services -- because it's more important to know what the administration says about bird flu then what anyone from WHO or the medical profession would. That's why it's a chat & chew, people. It's not about science, it's not about reality, it's all about the spin.

National Review just turned fifty! Are your eyes moist? Mine neither. But it's reason enough for George Will to gush over William F. Buckley, Jr. -- who left the magazine but hey, don't expect that chat & chews to keep up -- if they're discussing it, you already heard about it from the butcher two weeks prior.

I seem to remember The Progressive (with larger circulation than The National Review) having an anniversary awhile back. Strangely, This Week had no interest in bringing on Ruth Conniff or Matthew Rothschild. The anniversary? 2004 was the 95th anniversary of The Progressive. The Nation? 140 years old. I guess it's "news" that Irrational Review managed to hang around for fifty years. With all the rumors floating about the magazine's backstage dealings, maybe it's good to have it on now since it may, in the words of Janis Joplin, not be here tomorrow. Get it while you can, indeed. (Though circulation is down for Irrational, as for all the right-wingers including The New Republic, the alleged problems are rumored, not to have to do with money but to have to do with ideology, with many parties in conflict.)

Week after week, while hosts are supposed to be objective (yeah, I know), This Week gives conservative idealogue George Will a chair at the kiddie table (in a booster chair, if you will) so of course it's natural that they'll spotlight a right wing magazine, and only a right wing magazine.

To attone, Steph worries and frets, he invites Robert Reich into the sandbox that is the roundtable. Reich joins George Will and Cokie Roberts.

Cokie, Cokie, Cokie. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Apparently with no hurricane on the immediate horizon, there's no need to hide behind Mommy, so Cokie returns. And I honestly blame Elaine who lamented this week that Cokie and Sam Donaldson wouldn't be forced to moralize, as they did so often during the Clinton years, on the scandals of Plamegate.

Anyone remember when the elfish Gwen Ifell told us it was "only a summer scandal"?

Let's once again note the tune she and gal pal Condi Rice no doubt sing after home cooked meals, pushing back the couch, kicking their shoes off and letting their hair down:

Say, it's only a summer scandal
Bully Boy will soon have the handle
He's the king of the make-believe
Do you believe in me?

Yes, it's only a scandal de sum
Reporters move on if we play mum
King George of the make believe
Do you believe in me?
. . .

It's a Bully and Cheney world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

"It's Only a Summer Scandal" is cribbed from the classic song "It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. And to state another obvious, "the summer became the fall" ("Nightbird" by Stevie Nicks, off the album Wildheart) so does Ifell want to revise her "summer scandal" nonsense?

Finally we go to snooze canal, the little place on CBS that started it all, this "balance" on Repube issues discussed by Repubes only. As noted earlier, Zach, Brenda and Joe all e-mailed about last Sunday's Face. To discuss Tom DeLay's scandals, Bob Schieffer put down the martini glass to bring on three Repubes. Which is kind of like "addressing" Enron by bringing on Lay, Fastow and Cheney. Ruth notes Counterspin on that in her latest Ruth's Morning Edition Report so I'll just leave it at that.

To help solve The Riddle of Harriet, Schieffer yucks it up with Sam Brownback and Charles Schumer. Dingalings Jan Greenburg and David Brooks (the "sock puppet master" is what Lynda's calling him) join Dean, er Bob.

Can you think of a greater waste of time than the Sunday Chat & Chews?

Everyone knows to play it "safe" which means you don't challenge Republican spin unless it's something that's been debunked loudly and repeatedly for years. Otherwise, you sit on your hands and bite your tongues. Play the game and you too can be called "a historian" or get a chuckle from Tubbs. Try to have a real conversation and don't expect to be asked back.

These aren't "public affairs" programs. They're hobbies. They let Tubbs pretend he's not Mr. Maureen Orth, that plopping that ever increasing can into a chair each Sunday puts him on par with Orth and that he's actually "working."

And here's to the girls who play wife--
Aren't they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of "Life"

To Tubbs and the other boys of the Sunday Chat & Chews, let's dedicate Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch." (And in Tubbs' case, who lunch and brunch and snack.)

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