Friday, August 20, 2010

5 Days Of Wedge

The Morning Joe Rebuttal for August 20th, 2010


1) The fever broke around 7:40 AM Friday morning. After 4 consecutive days and half of a fifth, the Morning Joe show got off of the mosque thing as it’s singular mission. What was most difficult was Thursday as the combat troops left Iraq, watching the cast struggle to cover that historic moment, because their head was elsewhere.

They would examine the same 4 facts and circle back every 10 minutes. The Gingrich thing, the majority of Americans thing, the Obama is nebulous thing, the Fox is misrepresenting Rauf thing. Stop. Repeat. The last column here was called 150 minutes talking about the inability to get off the story in an entire workday. Multiply times five.

I could not have pieced together anything to review for the last three days that was discernably different from that last column because of this great short circuit.

But then the fever broke today. There was just too much else accumulated that had been stacking on the sideline waiting for the patient to recover. These things relapse, so the jury is still out regarding whether a rested Morning Joe crew comes back and starts the same discussion all over again Monday.

2) The problem is the wedge. The wedge is supposed to be the shape of a slice of pie and has a sharp chisel nose purposed with driving large things apart one hammer stroke at a time. But all there is currently is a wedge. If relevant news items were dominating the agenda a wedge would look like that piece of pie, but Morning Joe has joined a bucket load of other mainstream media outlets and devoted itself to the wedge issues as a priority. So now the relevant parts of your morning briefing are either non existent or that smaller pie sized sliver while the wedge is 80% of the program.

That is backwards, and a self fulfilling prophecy. Like politicians who blame the media when the media is 90% of their communication structure, reporters and consumers alike who get mad about the wedge issues dominating news agendas appear to be in denial of their own perpetuating behavior. People will tell you all about how there ‘are better things to talk about’ but then confess their consumption of echo chamber media as the dominant pattern of information influx in their life.

Joe Scarborough will tell you he is sick and tired of litmus tests and wedge issues, but then carpet bomb the mosque story with 80% of his program for 5 days. So which is it? Where you for the prioritization of the news into useful order before you ignored your own demand, or did events on the ground collaborate to a new useful order?

There has been nary a day that host and guest alike didn’t redetermine that the priority should be jobs and the economy. But you certainly wouldn’t know about it from facts, interviews, graphs, charts, or other programming on the Morning Joe show. If you let the conspiracy theory part of your personality get the best of you, you might be able to convince yourself that the jobs acknowledgement is not actually an acknowledgement, it’s a trump card to allow an unrespondable complaint to repeatedly hit all media at the expense of the President and Democrats.

We have had this conversation before. We have delineated a long list of solutions to the jobs crisis and then reminded periodically that if you don’t like the jobs quagmire we’re in, be a catalyst for solutions. But solutions have never come from the Morning Joe program. The net result is that a complaint is droned in as an accessory to whatever news item is part of that day’s program as a constant reminder that no matter what else you accomplish this one unsolved crisis against the middle class marches on.

You might, in the aforementioned conspiracy analysis, theorize that if you own the part of the frequency range that is constantly beating the ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ drum, you place yourself in a superior light without having to do any of the heavy lifting of providing solutions. There is a strategy, tested wonderfully by the ‘just say no’ Republican congress, that it’s better to lob grenades than provide solutions or defend a constructive platform.

You would be giving the Morning Joe show too much credit embarking on any theory with strategy at it’s core. No, this is sloppiness and disorganization. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have become the Jimmy Buffet of political analysis. There is no long term construction, just wake up and talk about whatever is in front of your face, and hope that no one notices that after three years you haven’t built anything other than slightly more photogenic, centrist and impassioned Fox and Friends.

Instead of Margaritaville, this one lives in idiosyncrasy-land with a lost shaker of salt.

3) Who knows what next week brings us. Let us pray that we are free of Mosque-gate and the agenda is chock full of new constructs. Is there a deal that if Israel makes nice with some Palestinian peace talks, they can use some Iraqi airspace? Did Thad Allen come on the show the day before 22 new miles of oil spill were discovered on purpose? Is the United States in double dip denial? Is there empirical data about the concept of a jobless recovery, or is this the first time robber barons have tried to get away with it?

In a perfect world with three hours of coverage, the wedge stuff would go in the part of the hour currently assigned to Willie Geist. It would be made fun of as a feeble attempt to use the ball of string trick to get a nation in distress to ignore its problems and consume the distraction like an opiate. Jon Stewart is king of identifying the stuff that is meant to keep you from grabbing your pitchfork and heading down to 85 Broad Street.

The rest of the Morning Joe show would be 2 segments on the economy, one on one of the other 10 major issues facing the nation and a 4th that connects the dots politically. You have 4 chances an hour to dig into stuff. 12 news segments a day. This week you devoted a majority of those segments to canvassing a wedge issue that will be gone in a month. Were you snookered, or did you snooker?

Hey, I should be going the other way, I should be letting all this useless histrionic remain front and center. Talk of our economic troubles, the lack of cost controls in the Health Care law (stop calling it a bill), 22 mile oil slicks, or Goldman Sachs writing a glee memo about the non impact of financial regulatory reform doesn’t bode well for the Democratic party.

But I am just as mad at the Democrats as I am at the wedge pundits. Obama and the two legislative caucuses have been quick to complain about a lack of credit for their accomplishments. The right is trying to blow them up, and pointing out their lack of effectiveness. The left feels like the big legislative advances are essentially capitulations with big doublespeak titles. I am center left, and for me it’s all about teeth. There are no teeth in any of the accomplishments of the Obama era thus far.

But there is a list of stuff that remains today that had been promised to be addressed:

~Removal of health care exemption from anti trust

~Reestablishment of usury laws

~90% flow through on medical insurance premiums

~Reestablishment of credible regulation at the federal level

~A new Washington with lobbyist restrained to proportionate influence

~A real national green plan

~A government that governs without fine print

~The end of Fannie, Freddie and Sallie larceny by private sector

~An end to the unfunded federal mandate

~Lucidity where doublespeak once reigned.

When you listen to Obama, he does not appear to be entrenched in the typical doublespeak that you hear from others, Republican or Democrat. But that might just be a gift for oratory, because as the Morning Joe show stumbled upon today when the fever broke, Obama, the great campaigner and public speaker, has not notched a ton of essential communications since he took office that people can point to as his list of accomplishments. This net result is when the administration lists it accomplishments, both the left and the right can place asterisks next to each listed item, and this makes it easy for lists of non accomplishments like the one above to prevail.

History tells us the great leaders break on through to the other side right about now, so these long odds might still be a darkest before the dawn statement of hope.

Maybe that’s true for the Morning Joe show too, let’s hope that Joe Scarborough gets his team together and says “Hey it’s been 3 years, lets start planning our day based on getting something accomplished”.

That’s all for today, see you Monday.

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