February 26th, 2010
"So what if you don't have any teeth, so what?" - Rush Limbaugh
Having watched yesterday's Healthcare Summit in it's entirety as well as live blogging the full event, it's stunning to dissect the reactions of the pundit-class. It's nothing new to expect manipulation by sound-bite rabid producers, editors and commentators. However, the sheer ugliness, stupidity and oversimplification from almost every source available represents an alarming new low. Don't for a minute think this repulsive disservice to our electorate was limited to broadcast sources. The talent of the national and international print media have deteriorated to such a degree that it's hard to believe they bother to publish at all.
Megan McCardle of The Atlantic tells us it was "a waste of time." Paul Krugman was meekly hopeful. Fellow New York Times writer David Brooks gives the edge to Obama but titled his column, 'Not As Dull As Expected.' Michael Barone was particularly weak, using the first four paragraphs of his analysis to type Rightist code words like "elite," take a shot at the aforementioned David Brooks and tell a bizzaro anecdote about how the "Soviet medical system kept down the heart disease caseload by placing cardiac care units on the fifth floor, walk up. Death panels, anyone?"
I continued to absorb reactions and critique throughout the evening and again this morning. The more I read and watch, the more I wonder how much of the process anyone else watched at all.
The reliably straight shooting David Corn described party differences as "a mega-divide." Politico.com quoted an unnamed Democratic official as saying the summit was designed to "give a face to gridlock." The increasingly unpleasant Peggy Noonan described the summit as "boor"ish while the Times of London simply called the whole thing a "bore." The always busy Andrew Sullivan gave us one of the better roundups in his Daily Wrap. David Bauder, an AP "TV Writer" titled his column, "News Channels Quickly Lose Interest In Summit." It would seem most of the pundit class changed the channel as well.
The Rabid Right deserves the harshest criticism, to be sure. Rush Limbaugh almost outdid his usual invective by dismissing the story of one of Rep. Louise Slaughter's (D-NY) constituents by saying,"So what if you don't have any teeth, so what?" Michelle Malkin proved that unpredictable impulses still flit about her brain with catchy phrases like "Oba-Kabuki" and "taxpayer-funded infomercial."
On the broadcast end of the spectrum, something incredibly telling happened. O'Reilly, Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews along with most of the other networks showed very brief clips from the same exchange between President Obama and Sen. McCain. I am not sure any one of them played the whole clip and it's only 17 seconds long. The one source I am sure played the complete footage of that moment as of yesterday evening was Jon Stewart's Daily Show. Mr. Stewart continued to observe "there was grandstanding and some posturing"... "but there were some really substantive points made here." To borrow Mr. Stewart's words, we should disqualify America's news media "for sucking." A comedian gets the award for smartest analysis. Again
My question to all those who did not take the time to watch all six and a half hours of the Summit is this: do you not think you ought to mention up front that you did not watch the entire event? If you, like most of the country, are responding to talking points and sound bites, don't you think your readers, viewers or listeners deserve to know it?