Saturday, January 24, 2009

Post-Anticipation Post-Bush

Just before the inauguration, everybody on every television news show was giving his analysis of the failings of the Bush administration. Everybody, even hard-core Republicans, was able to come up with something, but most people had a very long list. Of course, it would take a book-length treatise to detail all the failings of the Bush administration, and several have already been published.

Now we've got this new guy, and there's been a shift in tone. Where previous reports tried to list the failings of the Bush administration, the news since the inauguration has been much more effective by characterizing it. The results have been bone-chilling.

For the record, then, if you want to understand the true legacy of the Bush administration without wading through Fiasco and Scott McClellan, take a look at Clinton's liberation of our foreign policy apparatus (beginning at 2:41), this New York Times article about American science's Bush hangover, and This American Life's podcast entitled The Audacity of Government (it's from 2008, but you'll see what I mean.)

Real News Disorientation Syndrome

I watch the NewsHour on Fridays, and it's always a little disorienting to do that after a cable news-heavy week like this one.

Unlike most American news programs, when the NewsHour plays a clip of a politician speaking, they play a full clip. Most American television news programs play less than a single sentence - a sound bite.

The shift always leaves me a little mixed up - I keep anticipating the end of a clip, but the politician always ends up talking longer than I anticipate.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Times Like This I Really Miss Peter Jennings

If there is a heaven and I am lucky enough to be able to go, the first guy I am looking up is Peter Jennings.

Watching this occasion from here in media market #1 has really made me miss his straight-forwardness, his ability to contextualize a story, and his good reporting in the old school where the facts came before the spin, if the spin was even allowed to make an appearance at all.

I don't just want to see Peter Jennings in heaven because I miss seeing him on TV. I feel like Peter Jennings is the kind of guy who would know a lot about heaven and would have no problem filling me in - how it works, what the important institutions are, what kind of controversies God has involved with lately, and where to go for the best stories, food and cigarettes.

I hope that Peter is up there right now with Ed Murrow, just clownin' on Tom Brokaw.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Shimon Peres on Gaza

I just started watching George Stephanopoulos interviewing Israeli President Simon Peres on This Week.

Usually I half-watch this show until the roundtable in a lazy Sunday sort of way, but Peres is an engaging interview, and by engaging, I mean bone-chilling.

The nice thing about American press interviews with foreign leaders versus, say, American press interviews with ranking Senate Republicans is that foreign leaders do not have the same level of constant, institutional preparation for the American media, and so are less likely to be rehearsed, carefully-crafted talking points aimed at an American constituency.

It's always a little jarring at first. You can see the same thing in Roger and Me, when Michael Moore is interviewing GM managers about plant closings. These guys talk about capitalism in some pretty stark terms - their message is basically "yeah, we're costing Michigan tens of thousands of jobs, it's in our own self-interest to do that and so you can't hold it against us."

This is back in 1989, before Moore was a genre, and, from a modern perspective, these stuffed shirts don't seem cruel so much as naive. I'm sure the people making the decision about American plant closings are thinking about them in pretty much the same way now as then - but they sure aren't talking about it like that.

By modern standards, Peres gives us a pretty sharp look in to his soul.

Peres's main point on This Week is "we're not going to stop shooting at them until they stop shooting at us," which may sound reasonable until you realize that if the other guys are thinking the same way, then, logically, the shooting will never stop.

But it's not so much what he says as how he says it. Know how I said Indians and Pakistanis were basically the same people and would probably get along if they just stopped with all the posturing and brinksmanship? Not so much with Israelis and Palestinians.

That's why you can see something in Peres that no media-savvy American leader would allow himself on T.V. (unless he thought he only needed to talk to his base) - you can see hate. And that's why there won't be peace in the Middle East in His lifetime.