accountabilitybloke (old blog)

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Groveling Gross, Shooing Shuster….

I am a regular listener to the Slate Magazine podcasts (also here) in all its various forms. Most weekdays they have a professional reading of a recent post in the online publication, and over time they have developed political and cultural “gabfests” which (more often than not) are worth listening to for both the opinions expressed (frequently off the cuff) and the strange dynamic interaction among the Slate staffers involved.

Of all the forms and formats on the podcast, the most difficult to listen to has been a roundtable (a variation of the gabfest, I assume) linked to The Big Money — an economic policy Slate spinoff. The central staffer for these podcasts seems to be Daniel Gross, a usually informative and interesting commentator on economic affairs who also works for Newsweek.com. The first few postings of the Big Money podcasts were of such poor production quality that I could not make it through the first few minutes, and today’s post from Gross — an interview with Matt Miller about his new book — marked a great improvement. I could finally hear both participants without any problem.

That said, Gross spoiled an otherwise interesting exchange with Miller by multiple references to the podcast’s sponsor, audible.com. In fact, one would think this podcast was less about Miller’s book than it was about the sponsorship. Now, I am a big fan of audible.com and would recommend it to anyone who is comfortable with listening to books, etc. But Gross goes overboard with his incessant references to audible.com — to the point of embarrassment. I am sure he is grateful to his sponsor, but let’s not turn this podcast into an infomercial….

And while I am picking on media folks, let me give a two-thumbs down on David Shuster, the MSNBC “fill-in” host who is now settling into the vacancy left by David Gregory when he moved up from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” to “Meet the Press“. MSNBC is a mixed bag — Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are political personalities often good for a laugh or two, and thank goodness they were wise enough to give Rachel Maddow her own show which is actually pretty interesting for both its tone and approach. But among these folks, Shuster seems more like a mediocre local news anchor than someone deserving of the stature represented by Gregory’s old seat. It is amazing to think that this guy actually won awards for his news reporting (it was a local story, from what I gather); and I was not surprised to learn that he did a stint as a Fox News reporter during the Clinton impeachment episode and the 2000 election. Why Matthews (whom he worked for until recently) or Russert (who I think was in charge of hiring folks like him) brought him on board is baffling — he just doesn’t fit. Among his biggest and most vocal critics is “Morning Joe” Scarborough — someone whose politics I disagree with, but in this case I think he has it right: Shuster just doesn’t belong.

Hopefully, MSNBC will drop 1600 as soon as they can after the inauguration (its focus, after all, is on the transition), and better yet that they send Shuster packing…..

January 8th, 2009 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments

Post-election thoughts 3: Dealing with Joe Lieberman….

I have been having some exchanges with folks about what the Dems should do with Joe Lieberman, and the hostility folks have for the man is palpable even online. If people get passed the venting, however, they will see that old JL poses a strategic political dilemma for Senate Democrats and the Obama Administration who need his vote to make their control into a 60-vote majority (which is required to really have control of the congressional agenda). The GOP knows this and has been reaching out to him, making the idea of taking some vindictive action against him politically unwise.

The solutions include saying nice things about JL after giving him a formal slap on the wrist by taking away his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee. But JL seems to be playing his hand well — and the issue is likely to simmer until the new Congress meets in January.

Unless they think a bit more creatively. Here is an idea or two:

1. Obama should go out of his way to reach out to JL, perhaps even visiting with him when BO is on Capitol Hill. This would be a public outreach and legitimize both OB claims to bi-partisanship (even though JL is not a Republican) and make JL’s close buddies on the GOP side (McCain, Graham, Martinez) really quite happy. It would also give cover to Reid and company when they welcome JL back into the caucus….

2. Or, how about OB offering JL the Secretary of Homeland Security cabinet post? No one else seems to be “top of the list” for that one (well, perhaps James Lee Witt), and JL certainly has a claim to expertise on that one given his role in creating and overseeing it. This move (if JL would accept it) would not only be bi-partisan and Lincolnesque (see Doris Kearns Goodwin book), but it would open the Connecticut seat for a certain Democratic appointee (or election, if that is what CT law calls for).

Either way, the angry Dems have to get over it — a domestically progressive JL is just too important strategically right now….

UPDATE: I guess option 1 was taking place as I wrote this post — both Obama and Bill Clinton made public comments urging Senate Dems to welcome JL back into the fold. This did not go over well in some quarters — see Rachel Maddow’s comments in her “Talk Me Down” segment Monday night….

November 10th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments

MSNBC as the new Fox News….

In our household we’ve developed a taste for MSNBC as the anti-Fox News cable station, but the folks there seem to be engage in a left-leaning emulation of Fox News rather than providing an alternative model. Put bluntly, they seem wiling to do anything to keep those growing numbers up, even if it involves manipulation of the storyline to stir the juices….

Case in point is the obvious push of the MSNBC crew to label Obama as just another politician who is heading to the right and away from some imagined position on the left. Rachel Maddow [who, despite this evening’s performance, deserves a regular spot of her own (hear her interview on On The Media)], sat in for Keith Olbermann tonight and was clearly engaged in spinning the current Arianna Huffington argument that Obama is abandoning his established positions. Much of this can be seen as an effort by the MSNBC folks to offset its growing image as the anti-Bush, pro-Obama station (which it certainly deserves), while at the same time maintaining its credibility among the blogging left headed by Huffington, Kos and company. Not that there is anything wrong with that…. But perhaps they are carrying this a bit too far.

July 2nd, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments