Very early Sunday morning, Nicole Belle publishes "Sunday Morning Bobblehead Thread" at Crooks & Liars, listing all the distinguished luminaries who will be appearing that day on the political talk shows.
For years I watched as many of those shows as I could, especially NBC's highly rated Meet The Press. (I used to like the late Tim Russert, whom I thought was one of the more courageous interviewers; today's David Gregory, not so much.) I thought I was staying well-informed by watching the latest political controversies being debated by prominent, influential people who could offer some valuable insight.
Eventually, though, I came to realize I kept seeing the same fat cats telling the same lies, bobbing and weaving in completely predictable fashion, without any pushback from the same compliant hosts. I reached a point where I couldn't stand it any more; I haven't watched a Sunday talk show for a long time.
Speaking of fat cats, several years ago I was watching an episode of Fox & Friends (I know, I know) when guest Geraldo Rivera was discussing a proposed tax bill that would only affect those with an income of more than $400,000 a year, an amount that seemed pretty damned high to me. Said Rivera to Doocy, Kilmeade and whoever that blonde is: "Let's face it, all of us make a lot more than $400,000 a year."
I nearly fell out of my chair. Like it or not, whether he deserves it or not, Geraldo Rivera has been a controversial and notorious media star for decades (H/T to Homer Simpson of the B-Sharps: "There was nothing in Al Capone's vault, But it wasn't Geraldo's fault -- d'oh!'). Learning that he made "a lot more than $400,000 a year" did not come as a surprise -- but those third-rate hacks on the Fox couch? Outrageous!
But I digress: back to Nicole Belle and the Bobblehead Thread. The latest stellar lineup from ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet The Press" and "The Chris Matthews Show," CBS's "Face The Nation," CNN's "State of the Union," "Fareed Zakaria's GPS," and "Reliable Sources," and "Fox News Sunday" show the following well-fed, complacent guests:
Senators: John McCain, R-Ariz. (or as I call him, "McCain Again," appearing on a Sunday talk show for the 10th time this year and urging -- as he always does -- dropping bombs somewhere new); Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. (What, the unctuous, self-righteous Lindsey Graham was sick today?)
House Representatives: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.; Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash; Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Mike Rogers, R-Mich.; Adam Smith, D-Wash.; Rep.-elect Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; former Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
TV Talking Heads: ABC News’ George Will (twice); ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl (twice); the BBC’s Katty Kay; S. E. Cupp, MSNBC Host of "The Cycle"; Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent; Bloomberg View columnist Margaret Carlson; Juan Williams, Fox News Political Analyst.
Spooks and agency guys: Gen. James Cartwright (USMC, Ret.), former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former Defense Secretary Robert Gates; former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden; former CIA Counter-terrorism chief Robert Grenier.
The Dead Tree Bunch: Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus; New York Times columnist David Brooks; Joe Klein, TIME Magazine; The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, Paul Farhi of the Washington Post; Jim Warren of The New York Daily News; Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz; The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member Kimberley Strassel; the National Review’s Jim Geraghty; Bloody Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard.
Former diplomat Thomas Pickering, who helped lead the State Department's review of the attack against the U.S. in Benghazi, Libya. (Three times, because -- Benghazi!)
Web denizens: Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post; The Hill’s Bob Cusack; popular culture commentator (!) Lola Ogunnaike.
Democratic consultants: Donna Brazile and Mo Elleithee.
Republican consultants: Alex Castellanos and (sometimes apostate) Matthew Dowd.
Authors: Wes Moore and Maya Angelou.
Any guesses as to the average net worth of the above list? Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate don't make "a lot more than $400,000 a year"; their base salary is a meagre $174,000 a year. But there are additional perks and bonuses -- additional pay for leadership positions; gold-plated health care and retirement plans (they can retire at 50 if they have 20 years' service at federal or state level, and their retirement annuity is limited to a scant maximum at 80% of their final salary); travel and living expense deductions.
In fact, about.com tells us that "The median personal wealth for members of Congress grew to $911,510 in 2009, up from $785,515 in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly half of the members of Congress [261 in 2010] are millionaires." In 2010, 55 Congresscritters had a net worth in excess of $10 million, and 8 topped $100 million.
The richest is Darrell Issa, worth between $156.1 million and $451.1 million (reporting requirements allow only the broadest of estimates) in 2010.
I haven't included in my list MSNBC shows "UP with Steve Kornacki" and "Melissa Harris-Perry"; MSNBC, good lefties that they are, have a number of guests that don't fit the pattern: homeless advocates, et cetera.
In fact, Melissa Harris-Perry had on her program -- Drum Roll! Shock! Gasp! Confusion! -- A Poor Person! Click here for a link to a clip from the program.
Imagine that! What a concept! Listen to the views and opinions of a person who is actually feeling the effects of the sequestration and austerity policies the millionaire pundits and politicians discuss so airily and with so little concern.
The Poor Person's name is Tianna Gaines-Turner. She and her husband, who have three children, were driven into poverty and homelessness by the chronic illness of one of their very young children. Like 46 million other people in the U.S., they couldn't afford adequate medical care.
Melissa Harris-Perry frequently speaks out as an advocate for the poor. In a post from September 2012, Nicole Belle (Crooks & Liars) tells of Harris-Perry's angry outburst on hearing a wealthy conservative guest whining that the top income brackets -- those renowned "job creators," who actually do most of their job creation in China -- must be rewarded for the risks they take:
“What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously! What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No. There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people. And when we won’t, because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness."