How Not to Get Invited Back on TV

crowley-350Sunday Sunday morning brings Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union,” one of CNN’s weekly contributions to the parade of sabbath gasbags. This week’s edition brought a teachable moment from a segment that was all heat and no light.

Crowley confronted two guests with a mixture of public opinion poll findings and developed facts on a few leading issues. And the defecation promptly hit the rotary oscillator.

A quick introduction of the two guests:

  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and U.S. Representative for Florida’s 23rd congressional district. She is the first Jewish woman to be elected to Congress from Florida, a state once very Jewish, and now very Cuban.
  • Michele Bachmann is the first Republican woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota. She was a heavily-covered candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination for president who promptly dropped out after finishing in sixth place in the Iowa caucuses. She is a founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, and leading media outlets in both England and France have dubbed Bachmann the “Queen of the Tea Party.” She holds no official position in the Republican Party hierarchy.

In all that, there is only one compellingly operative characteristic: one of the two is the chair of her party.

Each time Crowley attempted to obtain two responses that viewers could compare, contrast, and evaluate, that didn’t happen. Time after time, the host sat as the two guests fast-talked at matching high volume, producing an inscrutable cacophony of squashed and stomped word fragments. It was akin to studying bugs as they hit the windshield at 70 miles an hour.

Who-started-what, who was playing get-even? Absolutely does not matter. Two things do matter:

  • Viewers were left with nothing but increased anger over dysfunctional Washington, D.C.
  • One of them will never be invited back to represent her party’s views when the other is there.

The first point makes them both idiots for deliberately muddying the pond. The lesson there — one of obfuscation — is obvious and cuts both ways.

The second point is owned by only one of them, and therein is a lesson its owner is too arrogant to learn through her hyper-focused zealotry. It’s rather simple.

If you host a leading political show, or have journalistic aspirations, you want and need to host the official, elected leaders of both parties. Wassermann Schultz is the elected chair of one party. Bachmann is the disseminator of outrageous, acusatory, recriminating, and quotable inflammatory drivel. Bachmann is a self-styled leader — among many competing and contending for airtime — of a fractious, bullying fringe movement that somehow holds her own party hostage.

Now, if you are Candy Crowley, you do want to host all those fractious self-appointed leaders of the fringe, simply because they keep trying to grab the steering wheel and have already caused wrecks by slamming-on the brakes in traffic, jackknifing, and blocking the whole road. But you have your choice among several self-styled leaders of the parallel guerrilla movements within their party.

But you have only one elected chairperson of each party. Almost all political journalists or TV anchors realize and are motivated by that.

On the other hand, if you are Fox News, you’re happy to have each of the guerrillas on air, one after another, spaced through your broadcast day. It doesn’t especially matter whether you have the chair of either party interrupting your daily blonde-bimbo-hosted Benghazi marathon.

But for anyone else in the media, you need the real, official party chairpersons / spokespersons to enable your narrative to be about policy and what it would take to get anything done.

Hence, in Sunday morning’s display of explosive oraldiarrhea dueling diarrhea, Michele Bachmann is the loser.

Of course, there are some who will cheer the Minnesota congresswoman because no one watching Crowley’s show could decipher anything from Wassermann Schultz, and that means no one could be tempted by the demon ideas of the other side. To that faction, the show’s babble was an invocation of speaking in tongues that protected everyone from being tempted-away by the possibility of intelligible facts. Protected by a wall of noise, through which no one could decipher anything.

Whatever happened to the adage about remaining silent and being thought a fool, rather than babbling and removing all doubt?

larry-wines-formalColliding word swarms may work in “The View,” though God only knows why, even as Barbara Walters retires this week. But beyond the context of the goofy? It is a disgrace to the arena of ideas that is supposed to protect the foundation of self-government.

The mere fact this is now a political technique that is studied, practiced, and used with increasing frequency is one more nail in the coffin of democracy’s ideal of reasoned debate and free exchange of ideas.

Granted, both Bachmann and Wassermann Schultz were playing drown-’em-out, and both should be ashamed for it. At least Bachmann is not seeking re-election to her Congressional seat. But you know the next devotee of the shout-down has already answered the casting call.

Larry Wines 



  1. JoeWeinstein says

    What used to be serious mass-media ‘news’ long ago morphed into extended ad-biz-driven time-waste infotainment for which I have neither time nor (fortunately, in this Internet age) need. So for the likes of me this latest caper makes little difference. It makes even less difference to me who theoretically is the ‘official’ national chair – i.e. got the impresario’s nod from the White House incumbent – of what passes for the ‘national’ Democratic party – the party that keeps running away from enacting or zealously defending the agendas that used to justify my long-term support. What keeps me a sort-of Democrat (in relation to the existing USA republican oligarchic political structure) is the combination of alternatives – Repugs and Libs with evil domestic policies and half-crazed foreign policies, and would-be more progressive orgs with utterly crazed (or utterly blind) foreign policies.

  2. Tom says

    You say that Bachmann is the loser. But since quitting the 2012 race she has been drifting further into irrelevancy. By giving her this airtime, ANY airtime on any network other than Faux Noise or the Glenn Beck Conspiracy, tinfoil hat channel, she WINS by being treated as if she mattered.

    The illiterati to whom she panders will see even this episode of “sabbath gasbaggery” as an index of continuing significance for the queen of mean. When this happens, it the nation and the citizens who actually care about issues who are the losers.

    • Larry Wines says

      Thanks for the comments. As I said in the piece, “if you are Candy Crowley, you do want to host all those fractious self-appointed leaders of the fringe, simply because they keep trying to grab the steering wheel and have already caused wrecks by slamming-on the brakes in traffic, jackknifing, and blocking the whole road.”

      Sadly, that always makes bomb-throwers newsworthy. But news producers do have a choice among a multiplicity of obstructionists and would-be government-wreckers.

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