Today's edition of Morning Joe on MSNBC was especially ridiculous. And Pat Buchanan wasn't even there, which meant that everyone else had to overcompensate to make up for the conspicuous absence of awful.
Back story: Senator Obama released a two-minute commercial about the economic crisis -- also known as "the worst financial crisis in a century," according Alan Greenspan and Mort Zuckerman. It's a smart, effective ad that serves two purposes: it outlines what Obama plans to do about the crisis, and it continues to hammer home Senator Obama as a tough yet presidential would-be chief executive and steward of the economy.
Yet despite the seriousness of this crisis, Joe Scarborough (along with Wee Willie Geist and Salon's Joan Walsh, oddly enough) mocked the ad for its lack of soundbytes and its abundance of specifics.
Lack. Of soundbytes.
Now there's an argument to be made in favor of short, pithy framing in politics, but this isn't a short, pithy crisis. It's a crisis that's nailing ordinary Americans quite literally in their own back yards. It's entirely symptomatic of 30 years of Republican deregulation and Reaganomics. 30 years of free market wingnut crapola culminating in something close to the Great Depression, with Senator McCain quoting Herbert Hoover dozens of times this year alone -- and, what? A two minute commercial is too long, Joe? Are you so basted in savory McCain barbecue sauce, Joe, that your candidate's cluelessness has, by some form of dry rub osmosis, infected your already shovel-shaped view of this global disaster?
Soundbytes and nonspecifics. Yessir. That's just what (and I repeat) the worst financial crisis in a century deserves. Soundbytes and nonspecifics like, "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." Heckuva job. Your candidate is a total doof when it comes to the economy, Joe. Admit it.
So then, with the addition of Newsweek's very serious Jon Meacham, the very serious conversation evolved into concern-trolling about the polls. Why, Scarborough wondered, is Senator Obama not way ahead of McCain in the polls? Why is the race so tight?
Hmm. I can't imagine why that is. It's not like Senator Obama's patriotism and character is being assassinated for three hours every morning on cable news -- six hours if we include the spasmodic howler monkeys on FOX & Friends. I can't imagine why the polls are so close when Joe Scarborough is helping his Republican allies to once again turn this critical national debate into another blind recitation of Lee Greenwood lyrics.
Why are the polls so close? Not only do around 25 percent of Americans watch FOX News Channel on a regular basis, but, from coast to coast, there are more than a thousand far-right talk radio stations occupied by shows that make Morning Joe sound like an Olbermann Special Comment. And 17 percent of Americans are glued to it at work and in their cars. Talkers like Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity, John Gibson, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved, Bill Bennett and Glenn Beck broadcast on your public air around the clock. Non-stop. Unrelenting. Only interrupted by Accu-weather and traffic. Free to anyone with an AM radio.
I don't know if you've dared to listen to far-right talk radio lately, but I can assure you that they're not ignoring Senator Obama -- or his family. Put it this way: if you only got your news and opinions from talk radio, you'd probably believe that Senator Obama is some kind of foreign-born baby-killing Manchurian Candidate terrorist -- if not a sexist uppity black man who, if he loses in November, will incite race riots in every city.
Last night, Keith Olbermann reported that convicted Watergate burglar and radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy continues to insist that Senator Obama was born in Kenya and that his birth certificate is a forgery. Lies. Debunked months ago by numerous nonpartisan experts.
Sean Hannity continues to beat the Reverend Wright and William Ayers drums every chance he gets while making wild claims that Senator Obama is an anti-white bigot.
Alleged sex-tourist Rush Limbaugh, whose show is carried in almost every American city, is routinely accusing Senator Obama of infanticide and referring to him as a "little black man-child," clearly stopping short of blurting out the name "Sambo," thus indicating that the drugs seem to have left intact a shred of discretion in Limbaugh's otherwise melty cheese brain.
And that's just three of the more popular hosts out of hundreds more. There's Mike Gallagher, Lars Larson, Laura Ingraham, Monica Crowley, Mike Savage, Dennis Prager, Neil Boortz, Bill Hussein Cunningham -- the list goes on and on. Nothing is out of bounds. Devoid of shame and accountability. Inventing its own stories and spreading lies in soundbyte chunks easily passed along via listeners to non-listener friends and family.
We too-often overlook the influence of far-right talk radio given the overproduced, groomed-monkeys on far-right cable news shows. So radio talkers too often operate with impunity and a dangerous lack of watchdogging despite their market saturation -- their menacing ubiquity. Consequently, concern-trolls like Joe Scarborough and Jon Meacham can go on television and thump their chests -- questioning why-God-why have the Democrats only won three of the last ten presidential elections?! What's wrong with these foreign-sounding, smarty-pants Democrats who, as Meacham mentioned today, are incapable of "speaking American."
Could it be -- I don't know, just a hunch -- that the opinions of perhaps a third of all Americans are shaped by FOX News Channel, cable news shows like Morning Joe and, especially, far-right talk radio? Could it be that the lies and blind-patriotism of these far-right propagandists are painting an historic, brilliant, accomplished, patriotic presidential candidate as some kind of Bin Laden meets Farrakhan chimera? 24 hours a day? In every town in the Union? Distracting Americans from this economic crisis and skewing their priorities -- making pocketbook issues seem less important than bullshit lies. And political hacks still wonder why half of Americans vote against their financial interests every two years. Joe Scarborough still wonders out loud why Senator Obama isn't 20 points ahead in the polls.
Riddle me this, Joe. Given the ideological landscape of cable news, talk radio and the nefarious lie-based caricature therein of Obama as a black-power, fetus-crushing Muslim terrorist, why isn't John McCain 20 points ahead in polls?