Monday, January 10, 2011

Fourth Estate Finds Third Way

(you can buy the original here)

Mara Liasson's statement on last Tuesday's ATC caught my attention. She was reflecting on Joe Biden's statements made at the time that the Obama/Democratic gift to the insurance industry was signed into law:
"The final girder in the great liberal project - Biden knew what he was talking about. The health care bill will be the last great middle class entitlement, says Jim Kessler of the policy think-tank Third Way."
Well, that was a doozy. And Jim Kessler of this "Third Way" think tank didn't let up:
"With the passage of health care reform, the 80-year Democratic quest to build the best possible safety net is essentially over. And the Democratic Party has to shift from being a party primarily concerned with economic security and dividing up the pie to one that is primarily concerned with economic growth and expanding the pie."
Did you get that? The party's over folks. You know all that redistribution of wealth that the Democrats have been fighting for all these years (hee...hee...) and that glorious safety net (hee...hee...) - those namby-pamby days are over! Too bad there wasn't a journalist around to remind Mr. Third Way that the pie has been growing and growing - it's just that one segment of the population has been eating the biggest pieces.

I wondered about this creepy "Third Way" tank of thinksters. Who are they and why are they getting so much airtime on NPR? No surprise: Third Way is a basic "Blue Dog" corporate-lovin' Democratic think tank - which explains why it has found such a warm welcome at NPR - and, with Obama's appointment of Third Way William Daley, it's star is on the rise.

This infatuation with Third Way seemed so typical of NPR's love of the corporate center that I wasn't going to bother posting about it until the tragedy of the massacre in Arizona broke, and NPR weighed in with it's personal connections to Representative Giffords.

On Weekend Edition Sunday, Scott Simon - lauded Representative Giffords and revealed,
"Our families are friends. We don't talk a lot about politics when we get together as much as kids and parents, great quesadillas, and all the new movies we never get a chance to see. We swap jokes and dreams."
It struck me as odd that a reporter would be close friends with the government officials they are supposed to be scrutinizing - and show no qualms in revealing that information. But Simon is always eager to show his caring, emotional side...and this was an obviously an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Then, on Sunday's ATC Andrea Seabrook had this interchange with Guy Raz:
[Raz] "Andrea, I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to ask you to step out of your reporter's shoes for a moment and just talk about Gabrielle Giffords. So many people seemed to love this person on both sides of the aisle, and you've come to know her pretty well yourself, haven't you?"

[Seabrook] "Yes...Gabrielle Giffords is a wonderful woman. Aside from her politics, we members of the press up here often work with these members of Congress and their staff so closely that we come to think of these people as colleagues. And often, we care more...about how a person is as a person than we do about their politics."
This is truly astounding. Representative Giffords may be a wonderful person, but you begin to suspect that NPR reporters think the Fourth Estate is a social club where they get to be friends with the powerful, instead of an institution that should keep a check on power (though that institution may be so far gone as to be dead). Hearing these unabashed declarations of friendship and collegiality made me wonder how many other officials (military, corporate, and governmental) NPR reporters count among their friends - and how these friendships affect the news that finds its way onto the air.

And that brings me back to Third Way and the tragedy of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords. I thought her name seemed familiar, and then it dawned on me that when I was researching the Third Way think tank earlier in the week - I had seen her name and picture on the Third Way website: she's one of the honorary co-chairs of Third Way. Seems like the Beltway social club is a small world after all...


gDog said...

Damn, MtW, I missed that "I heart Scott Simon" picture on the first go - you should have warned your readers to brace themselves. Yikes!

I note Simon's language there with some interest:

Every now and then it doesn't seem impertinent to ask 'Why?'

This "Silke Lipp (frauleinschuss)" fellow who I tangled with a bit in the comments yesterday - his/her first criticism of me included this:

You also show little tolerance for others that might look askance at your ideas, which I, for one, find inconsistent with Mr. Simon's view of the world as expressed on air and in print, yet don't hesitate to speculate wildly and impertinently on the depth of relationship between the two families.

Simon seems to use this word "impertinent" with frequency. Ya think? Could be...I'd like to have expert in forensic lexicological analysis of the fraulein's word usage with Simon's.

gDog said...

To be sure, I'm warning other readers to approach your horrible caring, emotional side link with caution.

gDog said...

...I'd like to have expert in forensic lexicological analysis [do a study] of the fraulein's word usage with Simon's...also

note to self: more chocolates for the secretary.

Anonymous said...


How many people use "impertinent"? -- or even know what it means (I don't)

I always figured those NPR comment threads were chock fuller'n a sock draw with sock puppets but now you have simply bolstered my fears (or is it paranoia?)


These days, "journalism" is ALL about rubbing elbows (and maybe other things) with the powerful.

Bob Woodward is the poster boy for the "new journalism". (TM) or is it "nude journalism"? (cuz it's in bed with the powerful)

And those who actually challenge the powerful (like Amy Goodman and Julian Assange)?

Not journalists.

informedveteran said...

There is another aspect of this that bothers the hell out of me. NPR and our whole news media seem to be stuck in time somewhere in the past. Giffords is called “centrist” and “moderate”, but it is all relative. In the words of Bill Maher, “The Democrats have moved to the right and the Right has moved into a mental institution.” A “liberal” Democrat here would be called a right wing nut in Britain.

Countdown had a Republican Congressman from AZ on to talk about Giffords and he said something like “I am at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from her but (insert mindless platitude here)”. So he is at the complete opposite end of the ideological spectrum from a Blue Dog Democrat?!?!?!?!?! Yikes.

I think that by willfully staying “stuck in time” NPR and others can get away with saying Obama needs to move to the right, as well as "The final girder in the great liberal project - Biden knew what he was talking about. The health care bill will be the last great middle class entitlement, says Jim Kessler of the policy think-tank Third Way."

Anonymous said...

"True Grit" Centrist, says Simon. I guess when I watch Jeff Bridges in his most recent movie, I should be prepared to see the cowboy equivalent of a Blue Dog Dem? Somehow, that doesn't seem very exciting.

Don Q. Public

gDog said...

Here is a definition of "impertinent" I'd guess approximates Simon's uses:

not restrained within due or proper bounds especially of propriety or good taste *impertinent curiosity*
synonyms MEDDLESOME, INTRUSIVE, OBTRUSIVE, given to thrusting oneself into the affairs of others.

A good investigative reporter will ask impertinent, probing and nosy questions as a natural part of their trade. Simon sees it as something he might dabble in "every now and then." Silke Lipp sees impertinence in my challenge to Simon's credibility.

Anonymous said...

Is it impertinent to ask (or even wonder) if Scott Simon == Silke Lipp?

Anonymous said...

..especially since Simon does seem to fasion himself as the man with the silky lips.

informedveteran said...


I saw True Grit this past weekend. Violence "abides" in this thrilling (PG13?!?!?!) western. I thought it was a pretty good movie. My problem was with the PG13 rating. It is certainly old news that the MPAA gives violence a pass (DOC - This Film Is Not Yet Rated), but I felt that this movie was a bit over the top in the graphic violence and gore category for PG13. Lots of dead bodies and parts (and buzzards knawing) and close range gunshots to the face and fingers chopped off....... It had absolutely ZERO sex though so I guess it is all OK. Will have to see if NPR reviewed it.


Anonymous said...


Of course, I was just trying to be coy. I am pretty excited to see the film. One of my dogs is named, "The Dude." He abides.


Anonymous said...

May just be coincidence, but Simon has used the term "silky voice" on occasion to describe a guest:
The 24-year-old Lekman's deep, silky voice and instrumentation often lend a retro-pop feel to his music.

And Simon himself has been describes as having a "silky voice":
Each Saturday morning, the silky voice of reporter/storyteller Scott Simon greets listeners on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition." Simon

preface to an interview of Scott Simon in the Chicago tribune

Porter Melmoth said...

When you’re a National Correspondent (whatever that is) at NPR, just think of the power you have, and the power trip you can go on.

Mara Liarsson weighed in on the Tucson tragedy this morn, politicizing it to an offensive degree, and then having the audacity to imply that others are doing the politicizing, but of course, she isn’t.

Well, that’s unkind of me. She was just commenting on how presidents respond to great tragedies.

Predictably, she invoked the Greatly Exaggerated Communicator. I was a bit shocked though, when she said that Reagan’s Warner Bros. -scripted tribute to the Challenger astronauts was ‘beautiful’, while to me it sounded more like a Ding Dong School/Sunday School competition than a eulogy.

And then Mara picks the new illennium’s defining moment: Dubya on the national altar of rubble, the ‘America Hears You’ funeral oration. Mara as publicist doesn’t even have to say much, as we all fervently believe that speech to be our young nation’s finest moment. Yeah well, I think it was the weakest, limpest performance by a national figure ever. Sophocles, had he been there, might’ve asked, ‘Who’s the comedian with the mega-horn? Get me someone who can SPEAK!’ Alas, Olivier was no longer with us. Elia Kazan wasn’t there to direct, either.

Then Mara, supreme Clintonian critic that she is, mentions Bill’s hopelessly inadequate attempts to restore his political capital after Timmy McVeigh’s patriotic gesture in Oklahoma City. She spent quite a bit of time on that analysis. She now awaits Obama’s upcoming (andcertain) failure in that department in Tucson, as well.

The life of a National Correspondent! The awesome and majestic duty of dispensing power and influence, and doing it wisely! As Mara looks down from her Olympic heights, she grows wiser and more powerful every day. She and Gjelten are the visionaries, who reside above the fray, who descend unto the rest of us because we need help and guidance. They also get to choose their own stories and don’t have to do fill-in host duties and other peasant jobs.

And Mara, comfy both at NPR and Fox, would never, ever be stupid enough to ‘do a Juan’, though no doubt she has considered a cleaner angle in order to score that juicy Fox contract money she so covets.

PS: I used to waste considerable irreplaceable time by catching some ‘Fox & Friends’ clips over at Crooks & Liars, just to see how bad things were. I never, EVER heard Mara say ANYTHING of value, even Foxified value. She was so utterly worthless that her contributions made even Bill ‘The Bloody’ Kristol look like a quarter-wit instead of the eighth-wit he is. At least Kristol’s a-hole beliefs are unabashed, while Mara works the ‘dark side’ of power, influence and profit. And when you’re media egomaniac, you’re in it for yourself, and yourself only.

gDog said...

I hain't heard much on that turd way biz so I checked it some. What ho! There's Steny Hoyer citing a Gallup poll which shows Murkins fraida (1) terrorism and (2) debt, but in this poll he's referring to, the two top categories are "extremely serious" and "very serious," which, if you add these together 79% of people include "terrorism," "national debt," and "health care costs," but 83% include "unemployment."

The problem, he intones with senatorial oomph, is "generational," following "decades of easy decisions."

So it was easy for the Dems to bow to the banksters and military industrial shysters? To capitulate to the pettifoggers with only the occasional quibble over the petty messiness of having to raid pension funds and squash their base to do it? Message to Steny from Mr. Fish: Unrequited love does not self-propagate.

JayV said...

Yesterday morning my dentist had Liasson report (what Porter M writes about above) on his radio. Unfortunately I was sitting in the dentist's chair and was not a very cooperative patient. He kept asking me to open wide and after each sentence that Liasson uttered my jaws clenched in anger and frustration. I would have preferred some soothing Debussy!

Anonymous said...

Very compelling evidence, I'd say. Let's get the person who deciphered "Primary Colors" on the case.