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Daily Howler: What is a zombie like Jeffrey Brown doing on public TV?
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PBS SNOOZEHOUR! What is a zombie like Jeffrey Brown doing on public TV? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2005

DEARLOVE MEETS DARLING CONDI: In today’s Post, Glenn Frankel presents a front-page report about the secret British documents now known as the “Downing Street memos.” At one point, Frankel sheds light on the Washington meetings described in the most famous such document, the July 23 DSM:
FRANKEL (6/28/05): On July 23, officials gathered at Blair's office. Among them were Straw; Manning; Richard Dearlove, chief of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency; Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon; Attorney General Peter Goldsmith; and Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the Defense Staff.

Dearlove, a veteran intelligence operative with a reputation for being hard-nosed and ambitious, had just returned from a visit to Washington, where officials say he met with Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet.

According to the July 23 memo, Dearlove reported "a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington. "Military action was now seen as inevitable," the memo said, adding that the president's National Security Council "had no patience with the U.N. route." Dearlove also included the observation that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

According to Frankel, Dearlove had met with both Rice and Tenet. He was reporting on impressions he gathered at meetings with those high officials. This helps us see how absurd it was when Michael Kinsley argued that Dearlove may just have been reporting what he had heard in the American press, or from “the usual freelance chatterboxes” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/13/05). What did Dearlove tell Blair about the “fixing of intelligence?” Whatever he said, he had gained his impressions from Rice and Tenet, not from reading the Washington Post while he eavesdropped at Starbucks.

For the record, Frankel writes poorly in that last quoted paragraph. Most likely, readers will think that he’s quoting Dearlove. In fact, he is quoting a summary of Dearlove’s report—minutes taken by Matthew Rycroft. (There is no transcript of what Dearlove said.) But Frankel helps us see the sheer absurdity of Kinsley’s attempt to wish this memo away. Dearlove had met with Tenet and Rice, not with a group of the usual chatterboxes. Remember when Kinsley used to be the brightest such chat-box in town?

A READER OF TEXTS: As if to prove it can really be done, E. J. Dionne shows today that he has actually read Karl Rove’s text! Was Rove just speaking of liberals, not Dems? Somehow, Dionne took the time to access the text and see what King Karl really said:

DIONNE (6/28/05): Rove's defenders cleverly sought to pretend that there was nothing partisan about Rove's speech. "Karl didn't say 'the Democratic Party,' " insisted Ken Mehlman, the Republican national chairman. "He said 'liberals.' " It must have been purely accidental that one of the "liberals" mentioned was the Democratic national chairman and another was the Senate Democratic whip. It must also have been accidental that both of them, like most other liberals, supported the war in Afghanistan, not therapy. At the time, Durbin called the war "essential."

On Friday White House spokesman Scott McClellan narrowed the Rove attack even more. McClellan found it "puzzling" that Democrats were "coming to the defense of liberal organizations like and people like Michael Moore," when in fact Democrats were coming to their own defense. McClellan also ignored what Mehlman had conceded the day before—and what the text of Rove's remarks plainly shows: that Rove was attacking liberals generally, not just these two targets.

“What the text of Rove's remarks plainly shows?” Dionne enacts a revolution. During the panel on Fox News Sunday, only Bill Kristol had read King Karl’s text (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/05). Now, E. J. has read the text too.

Dionne took the time to read Rove’s text! At Fox, someone will have to sit down with Chris/Mara/Brit to explain how such miracles happen. In our benighted Washington “press corps,” big scribes with their Millionaire Pundit Values don’t stoop to such tedious chores.

Occasional report—Dying discourse!

PBS SNOOZEHOUR: How inept is our dying American discourse? Last Tuesday, a lengthy discussion on the PBS NewsHour sent our analysts into fits of despair. Sorry—a democracy simply can’t function this way. The follies here should be recorded.

During the session, the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown hosted a debate on the following topic: “Is there a liberal bias in public broadcasting?” Brown had a two-man panel on hand. And uh-oh! The problems with his performance this evening began with his introductions:

BROWN (6/21/05): We now explore some of these issues now with Bill Reed, president of KCPT, a public television station in Kansas City, and George Neumayr, executive editor of the American Spectator magazine.
Brown noted that Reed runs a PBS station. But he never explained that the American Spectator is a conservative magazine (one of our kookiest). But Neumayr’s kookiness soon was apparent—to everyone except Brown and Reed. Here was Neumayr’s opening pitch, alleging PBS’ deep bias:
BROWN: Mr. Neumayr, starting with you, you've been writing on some of these issues. Do you see a liberal bias in public broadcasting?

NEUMAYR: I do. I see a pervasive bias. PBS looks like a liberal monopoly to me, and Bill Moyers is Exhibit A of that very strident left-wing bias. You can see it in also that recently-canceled show Postcards from Buster, which is a cartoon depicting a rabbit that goes to Vermont to stay with a lesbian couple in order to learn about politically correct values. So I think the problem of bias is quite deep, and I applaud Ken Tomlinson for making an attempt to correct it.

The PBS bias was “pervasive”—“quite deep.” And Exhibit A was vile Bill Moyers—who retired from PBS last year! You’d almost think THAT someone would have mentioned this fact—Moyers is no longer on the air. But Brown—who seemed to be doped throughout the thirteen-minute discussion—simply wasn’t up to the challenge. Instead, he asked a redundant question—and Neumayr decided it would be a good time to complain about Moyers again:
BROWN (continuing directly): When you refer to it as a "liberal monopoly," you mean you see it as a kind of pervasive matter?

NEUMAYR: Well, I think it's been that case, the case for decades. You know, liberals have dominated PBS from the time it was started in 1967. I mean, it was created by Bill Moyers and Lyndon B. Johnson, and it's really just a liberal Great Society project, and the slant and the tilt of the programming for decades has reflected that.

For decades, the programming has reflected the bias. Surely, Brown asked Neumayr for examples—for an actual case or three. But no. Instead, he asked a fuzzy question—and Neumayr, using the present tense, hammered Moyers again:
BROWN (continuing directly): And when you speak about a bias, do you mean a particular agenda being pushed, or more of a general attitude?

NEUMAYR: Both. You see, with Bill Moyers, you see—you know, he uses his show as a platform from which to attack conservatives and Republicans. He's been using it to harangue George Bush over the war, but also, yes, a tone, a liberal tone can be seen throughout the programming on PBS.

Speaking in the present tense, Neumayr implied that Moyers is currently using his show to attack Republicans. But again, Brown failed to challenge the presentation. Instead, he threw to PBS station head Reed, who also failed to state the obvious. Believe it or not, this was Reed’s attempt to rebut Neumayr’s broken record on Moyers:
BROWN (continuing directly): Mr. Reed, do you see a liberal bias?

REED: I think this is really nonsense. You know, the CPB commissioned two nationwide surveys about this bias issue and—by separate firms, incidentally—and they both came out with a majority of the American people saying they did not think there was liberal bias in PBS programs. As a matter of fact, the last survey had 79 percent of the respondents said there was not liberal bias in public broadcasting.

I really find it interesting that repeatedly, we raise Bill Moyers’ Now as the reason that people are attacking us for being too liberal. You know, for over 30 years, William F. Buckley was on public television, and I carried him proudly in the stations that I've managed in my career. He's a fine journalist, and so is Bill Moyers. But I don't recall hearing any charges of bias when we had William F. Buckley, who was the conservative spokesman in this nation during that time.

Amazing, isn’t it? We had now gone through four separate Q-and-As. In each of the first three answers, viewers were told that PBS’ pervasive bias was demonstrated best by Bill Moyers’ show. But no one—neither Brown nor Reed—bothered to mention an obvious fact: Moyers is no longer on the air! Result? Five minutes into the formless discussion, Neumayr cited Moyers again:
BROWN: Go ahead, Mr. Neumayr.

NEUMAYR: Mr. Tomlinson has not politicized PBS. Bill Moyers politicized PBS. The liberals have been politicizing PBS from 1967. This is a ridiculous smear against Ken Tomlinson for simply doing his job.

“The liberals” had been showing their bias since 1967, Neumayr said—but he still hadn’t given any current examples, except for one episode of Postcards from Buster, another show which no longer exists. But so what? Brown never asked him for current examples or for a serious critique of the network. Soon, Reed was offering this odd complaint about the mentions of Moyers:
REED: Matter of fact, Pat Buchanan is on my air every week, and so is Tony Blankley from the Washington Times every week, stating their views. Does that make us now suddenly a conservative-oriented public broadcasting? This is absurd to single out one program—

NEUMAYR: That's tokenism! That's tokenism, and you'd be lucky to have caught Bill Buckley at midnight on most stations across this country. Just to have—

REED: That is not true.

NEUMAYR: To have one conservative on a liberally-dominated network is not balanced.

REED: The only thing that you can talk about liberally-dominated is Bill Moyers. I mean—

NEUMAYR: I gave you an example of Postcards from Buster, which shows how deep the bias is at PBS.

Even now, no one noted the obvious fact: Moyers is no longer on the air! He hasn’t been on the air since last year! We were now seven minutes into the debate—and no one had mentioned this fact. Thus empowered in his inanity, Neumayr went after Moyers again, this time at the nine-minute mark. And yes, he spoke in the present tense. Try to believe that he said it:
BROWN: Some people have raised whether there is a role for public broadcasting at all today.

NEUMAYR: Well, I think the question should be raised. Why are the American people financing with their tax dollars programming that offends them? Why are they picking up the tab for Bill Moyers? I've never heard a good answer to that question.

“Why are they picking up the tab for Bill Moyers?” Incredibly, nine minutes into this bizarre conversation, Neumayr was still using the present tense, implying that Moyers is still on the air. Result? The somnambulant Brown still stared into air—but finally, after more than nine minutes, Reed stooped to stating the obvious:
BROWN (continuing directly): Mr. Reed.

REED: You know, Bill Moyers is—Bill Moyers is not even on the air anymore! And you keep saying, you know, “Pick up the tab for this liberal broadcasting network,” when study after study has shown otherwise, and you can't put anything forward except your opinion about—

Reed was cut off by Neumayr there. But omigod! More than nine minutes into the debate, someone had finally let Neumayr know that Bill Moyers is not on the air.

But did you think a simple fact like that could stop the inanity Brown was allowing? If so, you still don’t grasp the crackpot nature of the modern kooky-con right. Readers, Bill Moyers isn’t on PBS. He hasn’t been on the air since last year. And someone had finally mentioned this fact! But so what? In the modern American discourse, facts and logic play no role whatever. Result? Two minutes later—twelve minutes into the discussion—the kooky Neumayr went there again! Try to believe that “discussions” like this now constitute our public debate:

BROWN: Mr. Neumayr, let me ask you a brief question about the funding question. As we said, Congress is now looking at this, at the funding issue. Do you see the debate we're having here about potential bias playing into the funding question?

NEUMAYR: Sure. I think the—all the liberals, PBS, Pat Mitchell and company, who've been digging a hole for Mr. Tomlinson are going to fall into that hole because they have renewed a debate about PBS. They have—the boomerang they threw at Tomlinson is coming back at them because now people are wondering why is it that we're spending millions of dollars so that liberal advocates, like Bill Moyers, can have platforms from which to attack a president who's popular.

At this point, you could hear Reed as he chortled off-camera. But alas! Brown still failed to challenge Neumayr, and Reed was forced to waste his time re-explaining the obvious:
BROWN (continuing directly): Mr. Reed, do you worry that this funding question will get tied up with the bias issue?

REED: Oh, Bill Moyers—you know, Bill Moyers retired! He keeps bringing up Bill Moyers! And I hope Bill Moyers comes back. I'd love to have him back on our air.

Reed would love to have Moyers back—just as he loves hosting Blankley and Buchanan. But does Reed love having Brown on his air? The somnambulant host seemed drugged throughout, in his manner and in his questions. He never challenged the citations of Moyers. He never mentioned the obvious fact—Bill Moyers has been off the air since last year. Nor did he ever ask Neumayr, his kooky-con guest, to list complaints against PBS as the network exists today. This discussion went on for thirteen minutes, and Brown behaved like a zombie throughout. If this is the shape of PBS, the whole network should be off the air.

Could American discourse get more stupid? On this same evening, Hannity and Klein played ultimate slimeball over on the Fox News Channel (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/23/05). But as dumb and slimy as those two fakers were, this NewsHour session was just as disturbing. What is wrong with Jeffrey Brown—and why is a zombie like this on the air? Democracy must have a vibrant debate. American culture will wither and die in the hands of the Neumayrs—and the Browns. And oh yes—in the hands of the Kinsleys—and the Wallaces, Liassons, Humes.