Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bitter Aftertaste

A few postscripts to last week's bitterness and guns controversy, before we move on to Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary...

First of all, I was inspired to write a new parody song for the radio about all this silliness, so I corraled the Not Ready for Drive Time Singers and we banged out "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," which aired on KCBS Friday. No complaints so far, and one listener even made a video for it! Coming soon to a YouTube near you.

Second, like many viewers, I was absolutely appalled by that debate on ABC News last week. There's no professional rivalry involved; I will cheer any network that does a good job on a debate and jeer those who don't, regardless of my own affiliation (I actually think the Fox News questioners have done the best job in this year's debates). CBS hasn't hosted one yet, so we'll see how Katie Couric does next week in North Carolina.

But I was stunned by the line of questioning by Charles Gibson, in particular. I had to report on this debate for KCBS, so I recorded it and then relayed what was happening. The first 45 minutes were about Obama's various and sundry controversies, with some token pressure on Hillary Clinton every now and again. It took that long for a substantive issue to come up, which I found ridiculous. Obama's San Francisco comments, his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Hillary's faulty memory on Bosnia are all legitimate matters to be asked about, but come on. They are not the most important issues for most voters. Halfway through the debate, I felt like taking a shower. Gibson and George Stephanopoulos NEVER asked about jobs, or health care, or education, or the environment. What a waste of time.

For Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, that debate was the last straw, and he endorsed Obama Friday. This was a really tough decision for Reich, who's been living and teaching in Berkeley the last few years (I run into him at the Whole Foods every now and then). He talked about it with KCBS anchors Melissa Culross and Jeff Bell.

Finally, it wasn't widely reported except on the Internet, but Barack Obama did make essentially the same point he made at that San Francisco fundraiser...four years ago, on the Charlie Rose show on PBS. I heard some commentators warning last week that Obama says one thing in public, and quite another privately to his "elitist, Chablis-sipping buddies in San Francisco" (Chablis? Viognier, maybe. Pinot noir, definitely. Never Chablis, not in the last 20 years or so anyway).

But the only thing new about Obama's now-infamous remarks was the wording. Listen to what he said on national TV back in 2004, when he was talking about the economically dispirited people of Gaylesburg, Illinois. He said they take comfort in hunting, and going to church, and the traditions that are meaningful to them, and he agreed with Rose that they won't vote for a party that condescends to them and doesn't appreciate the importance of those traditions. So he wasn't secretly revealing his true attitudes to those San Francisco liberals, after all. He was just putting some old Chablis in a new bottle. You might not like the taste, but you can't say it's a new vintage.


J. Beaman said...

The problem with the complaints about Gibson and Stephanopoulos is it's analogous to complaining that The Wire is over and American Idol is the most popular show on television. Cry baby cry. People are stupid, uniformed and not interested in substantive policy debates. Duh. And Katie Couric is not going to do any better.


Come on. Chablis is awesome. It's white burgundy for godssake and some of the greatest wine in the world. Post Sideways Pinot Noir is for the plebs. Cava to start, white and red burgundy in the middle and botrytised sauternes to finish. Even Gibson knows that.

Doug Sovern said...

I beg to differ. Many of the previous debates have been excellent. This one wasn't. It was more like Inside Edition than the News Hour. Polling shows the people ARE interested in substantive policy issues; it's the moderators who weren't. Katie's debate was cancelled, so forget about that one.

I've got nothing against Chablis, I just can't remember the last time any one served it in San Francisco. Yes, Sideways made Pinot too popular but I still love it anyway. And I hate dessert wines, so there.

J. Beaman said...

People always answer poll questions with their best answer. People say that they're interested in substantive policy but don't know anything about it. If they were actually interested they would know a thing or two. And they don't.

I don't really have any data and am mostly talking out of my ass but I bet if you do some random 'person on the street interviews' and asked them these four questions they wouldn't know the answer. To any of them.

Who is the chair of the Fed?
Who is the prime minister of the UK?
Is al-Queda sunni or shi'a?
Is Barack Hussein Obama a mooslem?

Doug Sovern said...

That's okay, I talk out of mine most of the time too, especially when I've gotten down to the sauternes.

Of course, most people would fail that quiz. Most voters couldn't pass the test that immigrants take to become U.S. citizens. But your first two questions aren't fair, because Bernanke and Brown are recent hires, and it takes a while for newbies to filter into the public consciousness.

I've been thinking of doing a pop quiz for politicians on your al Qaeda question, because I guarantee you most of them don't know that one!! Maybe I'll do that sometime sunni...

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