The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
We probably should have seen this coming at some point, but it was a surprise last week when, shortly after the presidential election wrapped up, a rumor starting floating that actress Ashley Judd might take on Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator, Mitch McConnell, in 2014.
Of course, there were the knee-jerk reactions from people who don’t like the idea of celebrities running for office, those whose business is mocking everything (we saw you, Gawker), and those who disagree with Judd’s liberal viewpoints, particularly on coal.
But we should have seen this coming. In the past decade, Judd, 44, has devoted as much, if not more, time to politics and activism as she has to acting. She notably went back to school to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard in 2010. Let’s check that chatter about her not being a serious commenter on issues right now.
People who complain about entertainers getting into politics are really complaining about entertainers who disagree with their viewpoints getting into politics. Talk to those opposed to Hollywood’s typically leftist politics and you’ll probably find many who count Bedtime for Bonzo star Ronald Reagan as their favorite president.
Judd is an entertainer with a serious interest in politics, a liberal with deep roots, although not current residence, in what is an increasingly conservative state.
Should she run?
Here are some things to consider.
She would be taking on one of the most powerful men in the country, and arguably the most powerful politician in Kentucky. Stepping into a U.S. Senate race against McConnell could be a akin to stepping into the boxing ring for the first time against another Kentuckian, Muhammad Ali.
But maybe not Ali in his prime.
In 2008, the most recent time McConnell, 70, was up for re-election, Bruce Lunsford gave him something of a race, losing by little more than 100,000 votes. After last week’s election, McConnell looks weaker: Republicans lost Senate seats, and he did not achieve his stated goal of Republicans of making Barack Obama a one-term president. As a big-name opponent with a lot of friends around the country, Judd might give McConnell a stiff challenge.
But so could some other Democrats. Despite the redness in the commonwealth on a federal level, there are a few Kentucky Democrats who probably are considering runs against McConnell. Judd could risk alienating some of those in the party if she is perceived to be stepping ahead in line.
Then there are the voters. Judd is one of the chief cheerleaders for one of the great uniters in the Bluegrass State: the University of Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team. But she is a controversial person, particularly in her homeland, Eastern Kentucky, where she is perceived to be anti-coal, after her participation in a number of rallies against moutaintop-removal coal mining. She might want to call up outgoing U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Versailles) for some tips on what being perceived as anti-coal can do to your prospects in a Kentucky election.
That and her international activism have earned her a reputation as being more concerned with issues overseas and international political compatriots such as Bono than with the struggles of her fellow Eastern Kentuckians.
If Judd is to have a prayer of winning, she would have a lot of work to do to convince Eastern Kentucky, particularly coal miners and her families, that she is concerned about them and will represent their concerns, and that her issues are with the mining executives, not the men and women who go underground every day to support their families. Judd would need to come up with concrete ideas on how Eastern Kentucky can prosper in a post-coal era.
She would also have to re-establish Kentucky residency to run; where she chooses to live could make a big statement.
And yes, Judd will have to convince skeptics that she is a serious candidate, even with that Harvard degree. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, but there are precedents. If she is considering a run, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) ought to be one of the first phone calls she makes. He made the journey from comedian to legislator fairly well.
She might also call her screen buddy Morgan Freeman to voice over some ads for her. It seemed to work for Obama.
If Judd does run, it would be the Senate race of the year in 2014, particularly if the next two years are rocky for Republicans and McConnell. Regardless, the contest could make her wish she was pursuing Oscars instead of public office. Political opponents and the media make movie critics and celebrity tabloid writers look downright congenial.
It’s all up to Judd, if she wants to throw her Derby hat into the ring.
Political junkies like me have seen two broad narratives about what will happen in tomorrow’s presidential election between Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The most popular call is that this is a dead heat, a toss-up, and we might not know the winner until Wednesday or even later if ballots in Ohio, Florida or some other electoral disaster state to be named about 10 o’clock Tuesday night come into question.
Then there are the statisticians who don’t see things being quite so tight. Chief among them is Nate Silver, creator of the Five Thirty Eight blog, now part of the New York Times, who called all but one state correctly in 2008 and all of the Senate races that year. He didn’t do quite as well in 2010, correctly calling 34 of 37 U.S. Senate races. This year, Silver has never had President Obama behind and currently (9 a.m. Nov. 5) gives him an 86.3 percent chance of winning and projects he’ll get 307.2 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win the election, and 50.6 percent of the popular vote. Silver has become a controversial figure in the political media world, in a large way by frequently debunking some of the popular narratives about the election. Just this morning, he has a post disputing the idea that Hurricane Sandy stopped Romney’s momentum after the first debate, Oct. 3, in Denver.
A third theory being posited this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe is that there is this groundswell of enthusiasm for Romney that will rise up and flip a number of states, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that seem to be in Obama’s column. Even partisans including show host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican U.S. representative from Florida, say there is nothing really to back that up, and others point out that a lot of losing candidates have had throngs of enthusiastic supporters show up to their rallies in the days before the election. They include U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) who lost a narrow election to incumbent George W. Bush in 2004, an election that this year’s contest is being heavily compared to.
Certainly the first and last scenarios are most useful for hyping interest in the election and keeping people from watching Full House or Real Housewives reruns Tuesday night instead of election coverage. Journalists are often accused of harboring political biases, but what they tend to root for is the best story. A close election is inherently more interesting than a blowout.
One thing we can be sure of is that by tomorrow, it will all be over but the counting, and the analysis, and the second-guessing. What will be interesting is the final analysis: Will it be an election we should have seen coming, or the kind of surprise that can make and break media careers?
Today is the day for Danville’s major media closeup as all the networks and many other media outlets present live coverage from Centre College, site of the 2012 vice-presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and challenger U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). We’ll be keeping an eye on television coverage and noting any funny, meaningful, cool or otherwise noteworthy moments from the coverage.
Big shocker, on Fox News the feeling is Paul Ryan was the adult in the room rising about Joe Bidens smirky rudeness and on MSNBC the general feeling is Biden put the Obama campaign back on track with a feisty performance that helped put the Obama-Biden ticket back on track.
It looks like Chris Matthews is going to be the one to turn out the lights with a final Hardball from in front of the Centre Library. The crowd is dying down – just a few dozen folks hanging on the rail. By 1 a.m., it might just be him and Lincoln, and I don’t think Matthews would mind.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity told U.S. Sen. Mich McConnell (R-Ky.) he noticed debate organizers were giving away Bourbon. McConnell replied that Kentucky loves Bourbon and Hannity said he wondered if Vice-president Joe Biden had some before the debate.
Martha Raddatz on stage now at the Norton Center on CNN. She offers the cell phone warning and says that having worked in war zones she is not used to having her back to the audience and she is also not used to all the fuss prepping for the debate. “Usually I just roll out,” she says.
Props to CNN. It has not had as much of an on-air Kentucky presence as its cable news brethren, but in the final hour before the debate, CNN has been the network to convey the sense of an impending event from footage inside the hall to spin room interviews to moments others have not shown.
Very cool that CNN is showing in a spilt screen the audience seated and the preliminary program before the debate. Really didn’t know there was a preliminary program.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell is doing a standup in front of a banner that says NCAA 2012 Basketball Champions. Wonder how that slipped in to Centre College. Have to say that when we contacted MSNBC to ask who was coming to Danville, they named three: Chris Mattews, Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell. But they actually have a good compliment of people in Danville including Tamryn Hall, Krystal Ball and O’Donnell, plus a number of their regular contributors like Mark Halperin and Eugene Robinson, who both have day jobs with print publications, on site.
Still, the left-leaning network’s coverage is anchored from New York with Rachel Maddow leading a long table of talking heads.
While Fox has Bill O’Reilly on now, they will be the only network actually anchoring from Kentucky.
CNN’s correspondent says that the Norton Center for the Arts’ Newlin Hall is freezing and notes that most people in the hall are looking through the official program.
Fox News live shot of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) shows an increasingly busy spin alley as debate time draws closer.
Coverage across the board is decidedly turning toward the main event at this point. Enough chat about bourbon and shopping runs to Walmart. The chatter is focused on R’s and D’s and last-minute prognostication about how the debate will go. Well, not all the chatter feels like it’s lasting minutes.
I have to wonder what it’s like watching this fight between Chris Matthews, Michael Steele and Joy Ann Reid on Hardball with one of three fighters (Reid) not at the table.
Lots of blue Obama signs have flooded the background of Chris Matthews’ Hardball, though he has a pretty ardent heckler in the background. It seemed to be tripping up his opening monologue.
Fox and Shepard Smith are once again inside the Norton Center with throws outside.
Kind of a quiet hour Kentucky-wise. The network news shows threw to correspondents in Danville, but with short time, they were very focused on the event at hand. Looking to see how much the rowdiness has ratcheted up when MSNBC goes back to Hardball at sunset.
Bret Baier of Fox News gives a tour of the Norton Center stage calling Newlin Hall an “intimate space.” He then takes a fast-forward walk over to the gym-turned-media center and Spin Room. A photographer in the background of Baier’s interview with Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter can’t seem to get out of the Fox shot.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, in Danville, reports the Ryan camp is upset Time magazine released new photos of the vice-presidential candidate today. The photos, including Ryan in workout mode, have created a bit of a buzz in the political echo chamber. Wolf Blitzer says Time editor Rick Stengel says they thought it was a good time to put the images out.
Sign over Chris Matthews shoulder during the “Let me finish” segment on Hardball: Coach Cal for President.
Rev. Al Sharpton did not make the trip to Kentucky, so MSNBC is originating from New York the next hour.
Bret Baier’s Special Report is originating from inside the Norton Center for the Arts, which Baier fully name tagged in his intro.
Kimberly Guilfoyle is on Fox News out in front of the Norton Center showing a nice display of Kentucky Beverages. “Don’t drink that!” co-host Eric Bolling shouts, but she does anyway. They and the other three hosts — it’s called The Five for a reason — then go into a quick discussion about how Ryan will win tonight and Guilfoyle signs off with, “Kisses from Kentucky.”
Wolf Blitzer! You couldn’t move the Situation Room to Kentucky?
Back from a drive-time errand. Heard NPR’s Don Gonyea talking about the beautiful drive from Lexington to Danville – y’all are here at the perfect time. He also talked about seeing a gas station with a big “Thrill in the ‘Ville sign.”
On MSNBC, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is on Hardball with host Chris Matthews and Stephanie Cutter, spokesperson for President Barack Obama’s campaign. Matthews asked Beshear, a Democrat, how he got elected in such as red state that has sent Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to congress. Beshear said Kentucky is a “schizophrenic state” that voted for Jimmy Carter, then Ronald Reagan, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush in Presidential elections.
CNN has not originated a show from Danville since we have been watching, but they are doing a lot of live shots from in front of the Norton Center. Right now U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is in a spirited interview with anchor Brooke Baldwin.
MSNBC’s Krystal Ball is live from Danville, opening The Cycle noting Kentucky is the home state of Muhammad Ali and invoking fight metaphors for tonight’s fight: Joey “Deleware” Bide vs. Paul “The Kid” Ryan. BTW, yes, that is Krystal’s real name.
Also, Centre’s Dead Fred is getting its moment in the spotlight, periodically being held aloft in the background on MSNBC. The portrait is of Fred Vinson, a Centre alum from Louisa who went on to become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The portrait goes everywhere, including to all Centre home football games. According to the Centre website, Dead Fred was the first to be seated at the 2000 VP debate.
Fun moment: On Fox, Kelly did a throw to Ed Henry, who appeared to be standing about 10 feet from Kelly judging by the backdrops in the shot of her and the shot of him. Turned out, when Kelly outed the shot, it was even less than that. Henry stepped over and complimented Kelly’s Walmart wardrobe. Wonder if Bret Baier’s stuff made it to Kentucky?
Tamryn Hall’s show is now on MSNBC live from Danville with guest Chris Matthews, host of Hardball. Sign being held behind Matthews: “Chris Matthews listens to Nickleback.” Insult? I’d take it that way. The network’s promo for the veep debate is “Wingman Showdown.”
Delta Airlines is getting no love from Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. She says they lost her luggage, including the choice outfit she had for tonight’s broadcast, and she had to go to the Danville Walmart for clothes to wear on the air today.
As we start at 1 p.m., both MSNBC and Fox News have gone live from the Centre campus. Andrea Mitchell is on the air with a sea of observers behind her hoisting “Centre Debate 2012″ signs behind her. Supporters of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan also are flooding the backdrop for the Democratic-leaning network with their signs.
Over on Fox, Megyn Kelly has the Norton Centre for the Arts, site of the debate, behind her but not as much activity as the area in front of the Norton Center has restricted access. Fox has 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on commenting on debating Biden, who she faced four years ago. The former Alaska Governor, interviewed from a location that appeared far west of here and south of Alaska, recalled the man who played Biden was “a real stinker,” who made her wonder if Biden would be that much of a “stinker” and she said she thinks Ryan needs to trip Biden up on his flip-flops.
Earlier in the day, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd hosted his Daily Rundown show from the networks Centre outpost and guests including analyst Michael Steele and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) commented along with Todd that they could use a nip of bourbon to ward off the frosty morning chill.
Danville will be the place to be for political media junkies over the next few days for Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Several network and cable news outlets have announced lineups that will put a who’s who of high-profile journalists on the ground in Kentucky, although a few talking heads will remain at anchor desks in New York and Washington.
Fox News has one of the larger contingents coming to Danville, including Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, who will anchor the network’s debate coverage Thursday night and their own shows, Kelly’s America Live at 1 p.m. and Baier’s Special Report at 6 p.m. Also originating for Danville will be Studio B with Shepard Smith at 3 p.m., Your World with Neil Cavuto at 4 p.m. and The Five at – ha! – 5 p.m. Also reporting from Danville will be Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron and general assignment reporter Steve Brown.
The NBC/MSNBC contingent will be led by Hardball host Chris Matthews, who will originate his Thursday broadcast from Danville, along with Andrea Mitchell and Chief White House correspondent and poll guru Chuck Todd, who has already tweeted, “Danville, KY, an hour from everywhere?”
CNN has not responded to requests for information or posted coverage information.
ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the debate. ABC News will have David Muir covering the Republican campaign of Mitt Romney and Ryan, and senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper covering the Barack Obama and Biden campaign.
CBS News will have two correspondents in Danville: congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes covering the Obama-Biden ticket and chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford covering Romney-Ryan.
Those into the voices of NPR can listen for national desk correspondent Debbie Elliott and Washington desk correspondent Brian Naylor in Danville, and correspondent Don Gonyea, who will participate in a vice-presidential debate round table produced by WEKU-FM and broadcast at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday.
We’ll update as we hear about more news personalities in Danville.
For a while now, many of us who follow politics and entertainment have chuckled at the fact that the name of the villain in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, is Bane, a homophone with Bain, as in Bain Capitol, the private equity firm that has become the bane of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney‘s campaign.
Ha! What a coincidence that this movie showed up just few months before the 2012 election, when Bain Capitol has become such a hot topic in the campaign.
But apparently some people don’t think its such a coincidence. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday he smells a conspiracy from those lefty liberals in Hollywood.
“The release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time,” Limbaugh said. “Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever it is villain in this movie is named Bane?”
OK, well, right there we know Limbaugh did little homework beyond word association before launching this conspiracy theory, and that he has little knowledge of what a slow-moving machine Hollywood is. Bane is neither four-eyed nor fire-breathing. But Limbaugh does know enough to understand some of Bane’s beliefs probably line up more with liberal philosophies, and Bruce Wayne, the man behind Batman’s mask, has expressed some fairly conservative ideas.
But still, by his comments, Limbaugh seems to think this is a conspiracy directed by President Barack Obama‘s campaign to sabotage Romney through word association by, ” … a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd … “.
“I’m just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up,” Limbaugh says. “The kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to.”
Democrats are certainly enjoying it. It’s been hard to miss the picture out there with Bane’s grotesque mask superimposed on Romney’s face. But believing this conspiracy theory requires you to ignore a number of facts like the Bane character was created in 1993 and given the name which means, “killer, slayer, death, destruction, woe,” according to Websters. His first Batman movie appearance was in 1997′s Batman and Robin, the godawful one starring George Clooney – just imagine how Limbaugh would be spinning this theory if Clooney was playing Batman this time.
Limbaugh’s theory also supposes movies like The Dark Knight Rises are made a few months before release. It has been in the works for years, and Bane was announced as the villain back when Romney was one of more than a half-dozen GOP hopefuls.
To believe this is more than a coincidence, you’ve really got to suspend some disbelief.
Previews of the new USA miniseries Political Animals have had loads of fun with the concept of a show riffing on Hillary Clinton. Now that it’s premiered, maybe the focus can shift to where it belongs: on Sigourney Weaver starring in a TV series.
She plays Elaine Barrish, who is indeed the wife of a popular, philandering former president, Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds). And she runs for the office herself, but loses the primary to a popular upstart. Thing is, the night she concedes the primary, she also dumps President Bud.
Elaine does become secretary of state during a tumultuous time in domestic and international affairs and has to balance a demanding job with a celebrity profile, whether she likes it or not.
Part of that problem is the press, namely a Washington newspaper reporter, Susan (Carla Gugino), who has been a thorn in Elaine’s side since her husband’s campaign. Susan broke stories about Bud’s infidelity and wrote columns critical of Elaine for staying with him. As the series starts, she has used some information about one of Elaine’s sons to get a long sought-after interview with Elaine.
The entire time Susan was questioning Elaine I couldn’t help thinking, “Who asks questions like that?” Every one was structured like a sound bite. Unfortunately, the bad writing is not isolated to the obnoxious reporter – a stereotype I’m not wild about – in Political Animals.
A lot of the dialogue is structured as exposition, particularly in a situation room scene after three American journalists are captured by Iranian forces. It’s as if they didn’t presume people who tuned into a show called Political Animals knew much about politics or international affairs.
But it does have its fun and intriguing elements dramatizing the life under the microscope a presidential family has to live with and the relationship between a struggling president and a woman who has been on the front lines of success in the office. As Ellen tells President Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar) she’s waiting for him to be the man who beat her … well … you wonder.
Again, Political Animals makes things even more interesting – this is not a show that believes truth is more interesting than fiction. Elaine’s son T.J. (Sebastian Stan) is the first openly gay child of a president, and his recent attempted suicide plays a pivotal role in the premiere episode. Then, there is the bombshell Elaine drops at the end of the episode.
What makes Weaver great in this role isn’t any wondrous act-off moment. It is a determined strength that makes you forget a lot of the circumstances in this show, implied and contrived, and pay attention to a very human lead character.
It would be nice if Weaver had a bit of a better vehicle to ride onto TV with. The writing and some of the structure of the show leave you wondering what Aaron Sorkin is doing – Oh yeah, he’s producing an acclaimed competing show on HBO. At least we have Sigourney.
The ink had barely dried on Wednesday’s Herald-Leaders with the obituary of former Kentucky Theatre ticket seller Lee Overstreet when word of Gatewood Galbraith’s death bolted through the newsroom.
We’re only four days into the New Year and we already know Lexington will go through it two characters poorer. In their own ways, Galbraith and Overstreet were some of the folks that made Lexington a richer, more enjoyable place to live.
By her mere presence, Overstreet presented you with something you did not expect when visiting the hip downtown movie house: an octogenarian selling you your tickets. Not only that, but a delightful woman who might be wearing a crown if The Queen was playing and always had a friendly smile and kind words for the theater’s customers.
And this is just what you knew from purchasing a movie ticket. When Herald-Leader writer Vicki Broadus profiled Overstreet in 2008, she found a woman who had been a pioneering member of the Women’s Army Corps and the Peace Corps, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and flew airplanes. Not only that, she attended her first midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture show at age 88 wearing underwear – fully-visible underwear.
And then there was Gatewood, the perennial candidate who had no qualms about saying whatever was on his mind. I’m happy to say I got to see Galbraith in rare form last year helping to cover the Fancy Farm Picnic when he tore into Gov. Steve Beshear, one of his rivals in the gubernatorial election, for evading the politics of the event and instead talking about his visit to Kentucky troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
I know I took a step back when Galbraith bellowed, practically to the Governor’s face, “You go over there and try to hide behind the bodies of our young men and women in the military. I was highly offended.”
While Galbraith was never elected in his five tries for governor as well as other offices, a lot of people found things to like in the independent philosophies of Galbraith, who was also known for hanging out with country star Willie Nelson.
The really great thing was that in this little big town – or big little town – where you can easily bump into the mayor in line at a coffee shop, Overstreet and Galbraith were people you’d regularly see walking down the street. That is, you’d see them until this year, a year that sadly will have a little less character in Lexington.
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It’s been hard for political junkies to find much good in the debt ceiling debate, which has to be one of the most depressing, dismaying exhibitions our United States Congress has ever put on.
But as a cultural junkie, I have found a little flicker of projector light in a reaffirmation of arts and entertainment as a cultural touchstone.
First there was there was a showing of a scene from The Town (2010) by House Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to rally support for Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt deal. At least one Congressman seemed inspired, though general reaction was dismay that an official would use a violent scene from a movie about bank robbers to inspire elected officials. Town writer, director and star Ben Affleck himself suggested that The Company Men (2010), a film about middle aged men facing layoffs during the recession, would be a more relevant film for the Representatives to watch.
A bit more fun and less dismaying was 2008 Republican Presidential nominee and U.S. Sen. John McCain comparing Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives to hobbits in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue and the public will turn en masse against Barack Obama…. ” McCain said on the floor of the U.S. Senate. “Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea party hobbits could return to Middle-earth having defeated Mordor.”
We say film, though it could also be seen as a literary reference to J.R.R. Tolkein’s novel.
Either way, while arts funding is perpetually in play in these debates, the film clips have been a cool affirmation that our creative artists provide us with cultural touchstones on which we can base and illustrate our discussions – even if the touchstones used are somewhat misguided.
Would that the debt ceiling debate was as fictional as The Town or The Lord of the Rings.
My Christmas-New Year’s vacation was bookended somewhat by TV critic David Bianculli‘s conversation with Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the best television of 2010.
This primarily occurred because I caught the original airing on Dec. 22 and then it was rerun on Fresh Air Weekend Jan. 1. But both times I heard it, he said a couple things that really struck chords with me, despite the fact he failed to mention FX’s terrific Kentucky-based show, Justified.
The first was about Jon Stewart, whose The Daily Show was on Bianculli’s 10-best list. He talked about, “how valuable his show is and how entertaining it is,” which brought Gross to an ongoing debate about Stewart: is he practicing journalism on the show, or can he claim to just be a comedian. Bianculli said:
” … he is a journalist, by my definition, and asking questions and preparing for interviews and structuring interviews and conducting them not only as a journalist should, but as few journalists on television do. So I don’t give him a free pass by saying he’s a comic. He’s too good for that.”
Few “journalistic” shows on broadcast or cable are as funny as The Daily Show. But while Stewart’s job title is comedian, Bianculli is absolutely right. Over time, he has refined his skills as an interviewer specifically and a commentator in general. As an interviewer, he demonstrates a knowledge and curiosity you usually only see in long-form interviewers like Gross and Charlie Rose spiked with an impoliteness that allows him to to ask pointed questions many other interviewers either shy away from or broach from such a hyper-partisan perspective they are hard to take seriously. It helps that a lot of the show’s humor is centered on exploiting BS politicians and others often spew, so he has no trouble sniffing it out when someone says it to his face, whether it’s CNBC host Jim Cramer or President Barack Obama.
Yet another evening of kvetching about the health care debate was winding to a close Tuesday night on The Rachel Maddow Show when guest Bill Maher made a great point about President Barack Obama’s inability to get his message across.
“Where are all Obama’s people to help him with this, by the way?” Maher asked. “You know, I mean, he is Michael Jordan on a very, very, very bad team. Where are all the people who were so enthused during the campaign? You know, that was the fun part, the election.
“Now comes the hard part. You know, where’s Oprah? Where are all of the people who were out there on the campaign trail? We need them now. This is the actual hard work of government.”
It’s a valid point.
Could it be the Obama administration just hasn’t stayed in touch?
Remember the summer of 2008? That was the campaign summer, when candidate Obama was the king of all media, particularly new media.
One of his flashiest tricks, though, fizzled: the attempt to alert supporters and anyone else who was interested of his choice for running mate via text message, before traditional media broke the news.
It was surprising to get word through — egads! — this newspaper in my driveway. The traditional media broke the story right before it was time to put the papers to bed and about three hours before the text announcing the choice of Joe Biden.
But it soon became clear what that ploy was all about: mobilizing supporters.
The Obama campaign had succeeded in getting scores of text and e-mail addresses, and they were going to use them.
During the Democratic National Convention, there were messages to make sure to tune in for speeches by Obama’s wife Michelle; Biden; and the man himself speaking in a football stadium. As the campaign went into the fall, there were more text and e-mail appeals to watch, to campaign and, of course, for money. In the final weeks, there were even geographically targeted appeals to get to our neighboring swing states, Indiana and Ohio, to help on the ground.
If you had signed up, whenever your text chime went off, you almost expected it to be the Obama campaign, and it was a safe bet there was something in the in-box, too.
When the campaign was over and Obama won, we were told that the e-mail and text addresses would be kept to help relay information and mobilize people to help support the administration’s initiatives.
But Barack and Joe don’t seem to write anymore.
The campaign that was built on a mastery of new media has taken a traditional approach to getting the message out.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich