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Fire BAD! Partisanship GOOD!

Remember our general disgust with Evan Bayh back in January when he decided to (surprise!) become a lobbyist after leaving Congress?

Well sir, it gets worse:

Today, the former senator who decried “strident partisanship” and “unyielding ideology” will be paid by a ridiculous cable news outlet that exists to spew “strident partisanship” and “unyielding ideology.”

Fox News officially announced on Monday afternoon that former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is becoming a contributor to the network.

Michael Clemente, the network’s senior vice president for news, announced the move in a statement. He said that “Senator Bayh’s decades of experience in the political arena and his participation in key decisions in Washington will lend a valuable point of view to the entire Fox News lineup.”

“I’m pleased to offer analysis of public policy and politics to the millions of Americans who get their news from Fox,” Bayh said in the statement.

Howard Kurtz said it’s “good” for Fox News to hire “a prominent Democrat.” But that’s fundamentally at odds with what’s transpiring here — Fox News hires Democrats who can be reliably counted on to say unpleasant things about Democrats. Why do you think Doug Schoen is on Fox News all the time? Because of his charming smile or because he’s the “Democrat” who hates Democrats?

I realize that politics has always been a heaping portion of manure slathered onto a warm shit sandwich but did politicians ever try to do a better job of hiding their true nature as corrupt, duplicitous assholes?  I mean, at least give it some effort!

This article has some interesting information on television news. Here are the basic facts:

  1. Pretty much everyone is declining, but broadcast news is declining the least badly, losing only 3.4% of viewers last year.
  2. MSNBC only suffered a 5% drop. Could be higher once the aftereffects of Olbermann leaving are factored in.
  3. FOX News suffered a worse 11% drop, though admittedly they started quite a bit higher.
  4. CNN is basically screwed, and dropped 37% of its viewers. How they’ll even be able to stay in business much longer is unclear to me, though their strategy of “like FOX, but with less yelling and Eliot Spitzer” doesn’t seem like a winner to me.

NPR, of course, has been doing quite well. And the article notes that online news is exploding:

“In fact, online was the only medium that experienced audience growth in 2010, up 17 percent year-to-year. In a December survey, 41 percent of Americans cited the Internet as the place where they got ‘most of their news about national and international issues,’ up 17 percent from a year earlier, according to the report.”

This is something to keep in mind when assessing our current situation. At the moment, FOX News is riding high, and conservative talk radio is quite powerful and capable of guiding the dialogue. But it’s obviously not going to stay that way forever. In fact, things are changing as we speak.

(h/t: FrumForum)

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“Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s (R) press office sends emails of news clippings that have recently included jokes about former Attorney General Janet Reno’s gender and the tsunami that hit Japan, Ben Smith reports.

‘The off-color jokes, circulated inside and outside of Barbour’s government office, underscore questions about whether the governor is ready for the intensity of scrutiny that will come with leaving the relatively forgiving world of Mississippi politics.'” — Political Wire

Look, let’s just dispense with this stuff. Barbour is exactly who we think he is. If the press is going to get outraged every time he tells an off-color joke or waxes nostalgic for the Mississippi during the days of his pappy, this is going to be a long year. With Barbour, we know exactly what we’re getting. The best thing for the media to do would be to either treat Barbour as a Mike Gravel-style joke candidate and mock him endlessly, or to just ignore him. He will go away if they do. (Personally, for myself, I choose Option A.)

Haley Barbour

I always thought the Wall Street Journal's artistic renderings of newsmakers were silly. This, more than most, is.

With that in mind, I’m not sure what the media’s doing with respect to Barbour. It seems clear to me that Barbour has little chance of getting the Republican nomination, let alone winning the White House. Barbour’s first-tier status seems entirely attributable to his having a hefty list of D.C. contacts. His national candidacy is a media-driven farce. The media does not ignore the negative tidbits about segregation and the like, but they don’t seem to persuade people like Smith to just ignore Barbour completely. The battle over Barbour’s candidacy seems to be taking place entirely within the media at this point–Democrats see him as about as much of a threat as Palin, and the polls suggest Republicans lack any interest in him. So, one might ask, where is this demand for Barbour-related news coming from? The only people who seem sincerely interested in Barbour info (I don’t count myself as sincerely interested) are people in the media, but the only stories that seem to get out there are ones that paint him in a terrible light. That’s right, even the only sector that’s remotely interested in the guy as a candidate is deeply ambivalent about him. I’m quite sure the rest of the country will follow their lead.

My heuristic for whether a candidate is serious is this: can you picture thousands of people spending days doing phone banks, knocking down doors and making big financial sacrifices to see that this person gets their party’s nomination to be president? So far as I can tell, in the South, those people are Palin and Huckabee, not Barbour. Barbour seems to me to be this year’s John Connally-style candidate, this year’s super-funded guy who just goes nowhere. Unless it’s The Donald instead.

I have to admit that I don’t understand this:
I do, however, want to state again, that I find the almost celebratory reactions by Americans on twitter to be odd. Not to be an old fart, but the fear of the unknown is just too much right now. While I’m all in favor of people being able to democratically choose their own future, I’m also cognizant that a lot of these people might choose to go with leadership that will make life very difficult for the United States. Like I said before, free societies mean societies that are free to hate us. We really don’t know what is going to happen, and that should be unsettling for everyone. For all we know, these repressive regimes might be replaced with even more repressive regimes with the veneer of Democracy. I just don’t know what is going to happen.
That’s John Cole, echoing Larison’s commentary on the matter. This is all true, and yet…does it really hurt to hope for an improvement in the Middle East? Understand, I want the government to assume the absolute worst is going to happen and plan for that. Always best to plan for the worst. But the other side of that coin is to hope for the best. Is that really objectionable? I prefer cautious optimism myself. Sure, worse people could take over. But things could also get better. Why not acknowledge the first while hoping for the second.
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Via FrumForum, this Jon Avlon piece argues that right-wing talk radio is dying a very fast death:

Here’s another sign that the tide might be turning against the Wingnuts—Glenn Beck’s TV ratings are down 50 percent and major market radio stations are dropping him.

Glenn Beck

For the cost of $10,000,000 and thousands of hours of work by top people, science might just be able to engineer a proper Glenn Beck smirk

That’s not all—a look at radio ratings shows that hyper-partisan talk has been declining or flat-lining between ‘09 and ‘10, despite the intensity of the election year. There’s a demand for something different—smart, un-predictable, non-partisan news is gaining market share because it stands out from the pack. And leading industry analysts say there is a market for more independent voices. […]

A look at radio’s PPM ratings for the largest talk radio market in the nation bears this out. An apples-to-apples comparison of ratings between November ’09 and November ’10 in the New York area shows that Rush Limbaugh’s ratings on WABC declined from 5.4 to 5.0—despite the crescendo of a GOP election year landslide. Likewise, year-end to year-end comparisons of the crucial 24 to 55 demographic show that Rush declined from 3.7 to 2.6—while his packaged follow-up acts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin narrowly declined and flat-lined, respectively. And Hannity was dropped from his Philadelphia radio station along with Beck last month after being dropped from his syndicator in Salt Lake City (!) last year before finding a new home in the area. […]

“I will tell you that a very senior talk radio executive, somebody with responsibility for a large number of talk radio stations, expressed to me just this week his concern that talk radio as we know it could be largely gone in five years and the reason for that is, just plain and simple, the aging demographics of the format.”

And about a month ago, we learned that the public trusts Fox News far less than they used to. The long-term prognosis for Fox/Rush/Drudge is simply not all that good, as anyone with a calculator who can subtract the typical age of these viewers/listeners from actuarial estimates can tell.

This is why I’ve never bought into the notion that the left needs a Fox News equivalent. I see Fox News as sort of the national extension of local news: mostly old people watch it, and it largely stokes their fears about the world and how it’s changing, and standards are not all that good. Fox News is quite a bit less boring than your typical local newscast, but today’s Hannity broadcast is really just a more sophisticated version of your local news broadcast doing a breathless segment about “What is emo? And what does it mean for your children?!” It’s exploitation and fear-stoking disguised as information and analysis in both cases. In the short term, the right’s media colossus has invariably helped them regain power. But in the long-term? Building a movement around a group that simply isn’t going to hang around much longer doesn’t make any sense, except to a network trying to sell ad time for the next quarter. Better to try to draw in younger supporters who will vote for you for decades, I say, but evidently Republicans have conceded that group entirely to the Democrats. I think they’ll regret it.

To be fair, some conservatives recognize this. But most won’t hear of it.

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Jeb Bush

Dubya stared, Jeb glares. I SMELL VICTORY!

So, everybody’s buzzing about Rich Lowry’s article on why 2012 is Jeb Bush’s year. Since I’m done with the whole Chris Christie business, I guess I’ll comment upon this as part of a series on whether or not people I don’t care for should run for president! (Lowry also believes that Christie will be “ready” in 2016, which strikes me as dubious, but I’m done with all that.) As I see it, Lowry is right on the following points:
  • It’s a wide-open field that Jeb could win
  • Jeb will still be a Bush in 2016, so if it matters now it’ll matter then. (Actually, if Obama is successful, it could doom the Bush name as much as FDR torpedoed Hoover’s, a stronger point that Lowry doesn’t make.)
  • He’d probably be taken seriously on his own merits (by the Beltway media, at least)
  • He could unite the party
  • Waiting is almost always a mistake
And he’s wrong on the following points:
  • By 2016, Jeb will have been out of office for too long (nobody will care)
  • In 2016, Jeb will be overshadowed–the Republican Party has been wired for Bushes for ages, and Jeb Bush would likely rise to the top of a field with the likes Christie and Rubio, the former of whom would be a second-tier contender in most years and the latter of whom seems way overhyped to me.
  • The George W. Bush rehabilitation has begun (people still hate Bush, but he’s gone and people don’t think about him as much–this is not the same as people feeling more warmly about him or thinking he did a better job).
So, overall, he’s more right than wrong. But one look at this list reveals that Lowry doesn’t really have a theory on how the Bush name will actually affect the process–the points he makes here are contradictory (Bush is rehabilitated, but Jeb would still be tarnished by Dubya in 2016?). Here’s how I see it working: Obama’s argument in 2012 will be that he’s tried to fix the problems George W. Bush created, and that things are finally starting to getting better, so you don’t want to put in office someone who will be a throwback to those policies. Against, say, John Thune, that argument might be effective or it might not be effective. A lot of it will depend on how the economy is doing–if economic growth is 4-5% and unemployment is at around 8%, my guess is that people will find it pretty compelling and won’t care too much about Thune’s rebuttal. If that is not the case, and growth is 2-3% with unemployment largely unchanged, it would be harder to sell that argument. But what would make it a lot easier in the second case would be if he were running against another man named Bush! That connection is automatically made for voters, and if you don’t think I’m right, just look up Rod Blagojevich, whose 2002 election as governor was won to a large degree because his opponent had the same last name as the indicted incumbent governor (to whom he wasn’t related, of course). This stuff matters, but what isn’t true is that the Bush name would be any sort of deficiency in a Republican primary. Republicans never stopped loving the guy! Ultimately, I think the Republican Party is better off not running any more Bushes for anything for the same reason they were wise not to nominate other members of the Hoover family, or other individuals named Nixon–in the public mind, these names are connected with specific kinds of Republicanism that don’t really have much popular appeal. Conversely, the Democrats ran so many members of the Roosevelt family for office after FDR died for the opposite reason (ditto the Kennedys after JFK). The Bush name is a handicap, to be sure. But does Jeb offset that handicap in other ways? You can make the case. After all, he managed to run a big, complicated state and stay surprisingly popular doing it. He’d have more of a record of accomplishment than, say, Thune, who has none. More importantly, the media would absolutely adore him. The MSM’s lust to find “good” Republicans that they can say they like to show their “centrism” is a very real problem, and Jeb Bush strikes me as someone who clearly is “one of them” in terms of being cosmopolitan and so forth that he’d likely get some good coverage. But Jeb strikes me as being like John McCain in that public regard for him is shallow among the public and based largely on media accolades. I think he’d be a credible candidate, but I doubt he’d achieve anything close to an Obama 2008-like rockstar politician status that the media would have us believe he would (and that they thought McCain would, oddly). He could outperform a generic Republican candidate or he could not–depends on if good press coverage outweighs the Bush baggage. What interests me is the idea of Jeb as the Republicans’ 2016 version of Tony Blair, appealing to Hispanics and young people with more moderate economic, environmental and education policies than the current, Koch-flavored Republicans in electoral politics. I have no idea if he’d have an interest in playing that role–presumably there would be an opening if 2012 sees Obama handily re-elected, and a strong economy continues to the extent that the Dems would have a chance at a three-peat in 2016–but it strikes me that he’d be one of the few with the standing to pull it off without being devoured by Fox/Rush/Drudge.
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