Monday, July 21, 2008

When did Tom Brokaw become such a dick?

Ever since Russert left us I haven’t had the heart to watch my favorite Sunday political show, Meet the Press. I tuned in briefly when Brokaw did his first official show “on location” in Wyoming I think it was – kind of like rubber necking a car wreck – you just have to look. Anyway, after the first two minutes it was painfully clear that you cannot Meet the Press in big sky country. A brief but frantic search for the remote brought me to Face the Nation before the image of the mountain backdrop behind Chuck Todd was forever burned into the part of my brain reserved exclusively for political thought and mixology.

Yesterday I decided to give it another chance. Al Gore was the slated guest. Although I’m not necessarily a big fan of Gore I've always found him to be an engaging personality. He has important things to say and we should all listen up.

Brokaw came across as if he’d rather be having a colonoscopy than doing this interview. For someone who has been hailed as one of America’s big guns journalists, Peabody holding, Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award winning coiner of the label, “the greatest generation” his line of questioning was about as insightful as something one would see on Entertainment Tonight.

“How often do you fly a private jet?”

“Why was it necessary for you to have a 10,000 square foot home?”

Invoking a year old viral email comparing the Bush’s eco-friendly ranch in Crawford with the Gore’s mansion in Tennessee seemed pretty lame considering that Gore has consistently clarified that he buys green energy, has a carbon-free home and has reduced his natural gas bill by 90%. Really investigative there, Tom. Your intern must have pulled an all-nighter.

However the two most dickish instances in Brokaw’s interview were the matter of fact ways in which he made statements that just aren’t true. Journalists these days seem to have an annoying habit of doing this. It’s as if they are of the belief, as is Oprah Winfrey, that if you proclaim something in an assertive voice – ideally more than once – it becomes fact.

Instance one: "I think that probably our audience understands that there is a growing consensus that climate change is real, but the debate is really, internally, how real is it…?"

There is no “debate” on how real global warming is in the scientific community. The debate stems from know nothing journalists, pundits and political figures who want to make it one. It’s doubly offensive that Brokaw felt it necessary to expound on the audience’s understanding of the issue. As if we were third graders coming to grips with the fact that there is no Santa Claus.

Instance two: "For the last two years democrats have dominated the Congress of the US – the Senate and the House of Representatives. There have been no major sweeping initiatives coming out of this democratic controlled congress. How would you characterize that?"

This bullshit statement and obviously leading follow-up question is wrong on so many levels. First of all, let’s get our time lines correct, shall we? The “democratically controlled” congress has only been in office since January of 2007. That’s a little over a year and a half – not the last two years. Secondly, congress really isn’t democratically controlled. 51 – 49 in the Senate is pretty much a power share and without a 60 vote majority nothing can get done. Naturally, Gore pointed this out. Republicans and Democrats know this all too well. Apparently the only one in the dark about the workings of the Senate is good old Tom. The House has passed many sweeping reforms that inevitably stall in the Senate or get vetoed by the jackass in chief. However, a couple of reforms have passed despite the power of the veto pen. The federal minimum wage just went up by seventy cents an hour. A pittance, yes, but since it hasn’t been raised in ten years, quite a victory for the working poor. Senator Webb’s new GI Bill passed recently, giving Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans some real money for college, etc. These are issues that wouldn’t have even been brought to the table were it not for the slim Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

My aggravation levels were just about at full peak when I decided to switch the channel to Face the Nation and low and behold I stumbled onto something I haven’t seen in way too many moons. An oddity in the business of political coverage - an actual level headed insightful talk with no posturing or obvious slant. It was Lara Logan interviewing Barack Obama in Afghanistan. She asked the right questions, probed when answers needed probing, was respectful and most of all objective. How refreshing - an adult conversation without pandering cheap shots! I believe I have a new favorite Sunday news show.


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