Tom Shales Phones It In

If you're going to assert something in the, you should at leastto be right. Just having opinions isn't good enough.

2007-09-14-cap1669.bmpHere's one from the whippersnapper department: I don't much care for Tom Shales. In truth, I really only read him after a big TV moment, so perhaps it's not fair, but he always seems to be breezy and vague, long on opinions but short on details. Today's review of Bush's speech and the subsequent TV coverage struck me as being in a similar vein. Here are a few examples:

Even on Fox, the channel considered to be kindest to the Bush administration, opponents of the war were heard and few, if any, sounded impressed by Bush's speech or what he said in it.

Wow, God is in the details, eh? Which is it, "few" or the "none" implied by "if any?" And do any of these maybe-opponents of the war have names?*

Or how about this cogent point:

In a tiny historical fashion footnote, it appears that Bush's fondness for pale blue ties has caught on. A couple of anchors and pundits, and at least one politician, wore pale blue or powder-blue ties last night. Bush fooled them, however; he'd switched to a dark blue tie.

Damn! I bet those anchors seeking deliberately to twin themselves with the president were disappointed! This is a moronic point. If I were Tom Shales I would just make that statement and breezily move on, but since I'm not, hey, I'll back it up. It's moronic on two levels. First, he cites no support for his contention that (a) Bush favors blue ties or (b) a notable slice of tie-wearing commentators were disproportionally decked in blue. Here's Bush delivering the State of the Union in a red tie. Here he is at another State of the Union address, in royal blue. And, oh, by the way, here he is delivering the "surge" speech last January wearing, well, a blue tie but I don't know who would call that "pale." Indigo maybe? With an overlaid pattern of little squares. "Pale blue" would apply here, at his SOTU speech in January. Well! I'm convinced!

2007-09-14-cap1671.bmpNow to Part B,and the so-called preponderance of baby-blue ties on everybody else. First off we have Senator Jack Reed, delivering the Democrats response in, yes, a pale blue tie. Then we have FNC's Chris Wallace, also in a light blue tie. Fine. NBC's David Gregory cut a dashing figure on the darkened White House lawn in a tie that could have been construed as light blue, if it hadn't been smartly contrasted against an actual pale-blue shirt. But fine, we'll give it to you. So far that's one pol and two networks. Then we have, in no particular order, the following: Brian Williams in purple, Tim Russert in dark blue, Charlie Gibson in blue-on-blue stripes, Keith Olbermann in brown candy stripes (not sure how we feel about that one, Keith), Joe Biden in some sort of checked thingie on MSNBC, Brit Hume in a medium-blue pattern number, Juan Williams in royal blue with wide red stripes and Mort Kondracke in two-tone pink on Fox. Chris Matthews, meanwhile, eschewing his own favored tan-flattering pink 2007-09-14-cap1672.bmpfor something in darker hues, though the bucking button-collar left little room for a tie knot. But still. Not pale blue. That leaves out George Stephanopoulos, Bob Schieffer, John Roberts and Wolf Blitzer,** but even so, it seems unlikely that they all wore pale blue ties. More to the point, it sort of fell to Shales to prove it if he was gonna say it. Like offering a shred of support for the contention that all these mythical pale-blue-tied TV types had been somehow influenced by the president's sartorial choices. Okay. Done with the ties. I think I've made my point.

Next and final glib tidbit from Shales' dashed-off reveiw:

Although Matthews has a reputation as something of a wild man on the air, he is probably the only anchor on any network who could correctly incorporate the word "leitmotif" in a sentence.

Oh Tom Shales, you're so much smarter than everyone else! I have half a mind to go to Lexis, except I don't care that much. Instead, I'll just act on a hunch and type "leitmotif" and "keith olbermann" into Google. There! That was easy!

2007-09-14-KeithOinbadbrowntie.JPGIt really irritates me when people decry blogging as a forum for unreliable, unsupported opinion and then I turn around and see a pillar of the MSM phoning it in to the Washington Post — apparently unedited. Just having opinions isn't good enough, or shouldn't be — backing them up with actual information ought to be part of that, in any medium. That goes double for breezily making claims. Does it really matter what color tie Bush or David Gregory or Keith Olbermann was wearing? Not really, except that seriously Keith, we threw you a bone on that leitmotif thing but, God almighty, burn that. The point is, Tom Shales, if you're going to assert it, you should at least attempt to be right. Otherwise you leave the field open for some whippersnapper blogger to call you out.

Oh, and also, you might want to reread your own stuff: Last night you, wrote this:

CBS, the Cheap Broadcasting System, was, as often before, the network in the biggest hurry to get away from the speech and back to paid commercial programming.

But after Bush's surge speech in January 2007, you wrote this:

The broadcast networks offered the bare minimum in terms of analysis of the speech. For the record, CBS was the last of the Big Three to sign off (at 9:28).

Sheesh. We're done here.

*Shales mentions Obama on Fox later in the piece, but it was a pre-taped interview so it doesn't count.
**Difficult to find online — none of ABC, CBS or CNN had speech analysis video online that I could tell. If I missed it, fine, but this stuff is supposed to be easy to find. It's the web. Sheesh.
***Shales on the 2007 SOTU (praising ABC for staying on longer but nothing specific about CBS); Shales on the 2006 election (general praise for CBS).

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