In the past 2-3 weeks we've seen the introduction of a new Democratic strategist/pundit with the kind of straight talk, clarity, self-assuredness, and spine we'd like to see a lot more of in the MSM: Cliff Schecter. While he's been around for a bit (writing for Huffingtonpost
), I think we can say with confidence that for much of the blogosphere, he made a splash with this appearance
THE INHERENT ADVANTAGE TO RIGHT-WING PUNDITOCRACY
While the advantage in number of conservative pundits to liberal pundits is not in question, the set up of most TV news segments is to conservatives' advantage as well.
In Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? The Truth About Media and the News, he discusses at length the qualities necessary to be a "successful" political pundit:
For pundit chat, these qualities (to be a TV pundit) usually include:
* Not being too fat or too ugly
* The ability to speak in short sentences
* To project an engaging personality
* A willingness to speak knowingly about matters about which one knows little or nothing
Believe it or not, ignorance is actually an advantage. Since it allows you to ignore the inherent complexity of any given problem with a concise quip and a clear conscience.
As Capital Gain panelist Margarat Carlson observes: "The less you know about something, the better off you are. They are looking for people who can sound learned without confusing the matter with too much knowledge. I am one of those people without too much knowledge. I am perfect."
This set up will almost ALWAYS put liberal and democratic pundits at a disadvantage. Short segments that demand quick, concise arguments which paints topics in only black and white terms is inherently to a conservative's advantage. A liberal or progressive pundit will try respond to issues typically with nuance. They take their time on the issue while not getting a chance to respond to a lot of ignorant or deliberately deceptive responses by their conservative counterparts. As Alterman puts it:
Intelligent debate, under these circumstances, is virtually impossible.
SCHECTER: RIGHT-WING PUNDIT SMASHER
Since the name of the game for MSM/Television punditocracy is KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) and intelligent debate can never truly be had in this format, I believe the goal of the liberal pundit is to diffuse or emasculate the conservative pundit's argument. "Winning" the argument should never be the goal, but making the other guy look silly, unbelievable or ridiculous should. That's what makes Schecter so masterful.
He fits the punditocracy requirements that Alterman mentions. He's also humorous, has fight and personality, AND he belittles or laughs at his conservative counterparts. This is key. Schecter, as opposed to so many other liberal/democratic pundits that we typically are exposed to (Donna Brazile, Paul Begala, James Carville, etc.), he doesn't respect his counterpart at all. There's not going to be either an informed or truthful response coming from the right. He throws aside all levels of respectful discourse going straight for the jugular. Schecter's performances not only expose the right and their pundits for what they are, but he also glaringly underlines what we are lacking in our left-wing pundits.
Schecter laughs at or smirks at answers by the right-wing pundits and belittles them:
"I'm not sure what planet you're living on Clia."
"Brad, maybe you're sharing cocktails with Rush Limbaugh, because I don't know where you get your information."
While making his arguments and throwing out facts he throws selacious daggers that we've consistently heard coming from conservative pundits, but never from the mouths of liberal pundits:
"This is the party of pillagers, predators, and pre-9/11 failures."
"Your whole party is a party of criminals and pedophiles."
While I'm obviously rehashing and reveling in these brief moments of victory within literally hundreds of hours of failure, I'm trying to point out that the debates will never truly be winnable with today's TV punditry format. What I do hope is thate we eventually get a bunch of Cliff Schecter's out in TV punditry which will minimize the conservative advantage and spin in this area.
I've only seen one other pundit, of recent, come close to this and that was David Sirota.
His performance against John Stossel on CNBC was very good. While Sirota didn't slap Stossel, he laid the pundit smackdown.
Will Schecter and any like him get more on-air opportunities? I'm not really sure. Can the MSM have liberal pundit this "vicious"? It wouldn't fit with the meme or stereotype of liberals, but if ratings and the pundit formula are any indication, then we should see more of him.