WATCH HOWIE REASON! CNNs Howard Kurtz isnt dumb. But yesterday's question was: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2006
WATCH HOWIE REASON: We humans reason very poorly. Howard Kurtz—and he aint dumb—gave the world a good example on yesterdays Reliable Sources. Kurtz chatted with bloggers Johnson and Huffington about coverage of the Connecticut primary. As he started, Kurtz made this claim about the way journalists treated Liebermans plan to fight on:
KURTZ (8/13/06): Even before Joe Lieberman lost his Democratic primaries in Connecticut, journalists were busy analyzing what it would mean if he lost, for the senator, for the party, for the antiwar movement and for the liberal bloggers who backed Lieberman's opponent, Ned Lamont.Wow! Had journalists really seemed hostile about Liebermans plan to keep running? As he continued, Kurtz gave us the evidence. He ran tape of four troubling TV hosts who had interviewed Joe Wednesday morning:
KURTZ: The morning after Lieberman went down to defeat this week, journalists seemed skeptical, even hostile about his plan to run this fall as an independent.Kurtz then threw to Arianna: Do you think in light of what we just heard that the establishment press is going to turn on Joe Lieberman?
Good grief, thats a dumb presentation! Given the weakness of Connecticuts GOP hopeful, Smiths question was a bit poorly framed. But essentially, all four anchors had asked an obvious question. (Indeed, it would be hard to imagine interviewing Lieberman on Wednesday without asking it.) Take Lauers question, for example. What he said was perfectly accurate—there actually were a lot of Democrats saying that Lieberman was putting his own ambitions above the good of the party. It would have been strange not to seek Joes reaction. Yet according to Kurtz, Lauer was showing skepticism, even hostility, about Joes upcoming run.
Kurtz is smart—but his question was stupid. For the record, Arianna didnt cover herself in glory either. (In fairness, she had to reply, on the fly, to a rather silly question). Here is her answer to Kurtz, along with the full text of his question:
KURTZ: Arianna Huffington, you've been attacking Joe Lieberman as selfish for staying in this race. You've put up all these liberal bloggers who have been ripping Lieberman. Do you think in light of what we just heard that the establishment press is going to turn on Joe Lieberman, as well?Arianna was fielding a silly question—but her answer wasnt great. She seemed to imply that the four anchors had expressed outrage in their questions. In fact, theyd done nothing of the kind. They had simply done their jobs. They had asked Joe an obvious question.
Kurtzs question was very dumb. When journalists repeat what others are saying, that doesnt mean theyre adopting the quoted position. But uh-oh! Out here in the liberal web, we often commit this same fallacy ourselves. If we want to have long-term success, we ought to train ourselves to be smarter than Kurtz. And no, he really isnt stupid, despite Sunday mornings rube-run.
WATCHING THEM GROW: For the sake of clarity, we think the following statement by TRex is worth a bit of a challenge. TR is speaking in this post about Ann Coulter, who really does come from a wealthy background. But as a general matter, wed have to say this is wrong:
TREX (8/13/06): I think its pretty clear by now to anyone whos paying attention that most of our Punditocracy are from uniformly wealthy backgrounds. Born in little socioeconomic veal pens and fed through a tube until theyre old enough to wear a school tie or a set of pearls, theyre then sent forth squalling and bleating on to the talk shows to chum the waters and distract people from the real issues.As a general matter, that just isnt accurate. In fact, Tim Russert doesnt come from a wealthy background; neither does Chris Matthews, or Margaret Carlson, or Maureen Dowd, or Bill OReilly, or Sean Hannity, or a wide range of our better-known pundits. Weve often described the Millionaire Pundit Values which seem to drive much of our pundit corps work. But most of these folk didnt grow up wealthy; wealth has been thrust upon them as theyve climbed the [corporate] ladder.
And that seems to be a part of the problem; theyre paid much too well for what they do. On the one hand, such wealth can dull the sensibilities of those who cover American politics. And uh-oh! In a world where (for example) Jack Welch can sit atop a big news org, such wealth can also produce the desire to go along with what Boss Man says. No one—no one—risks these jobs. These jobs are too good to give up.