Up Front

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The Question

We've lost our wealth and now our health. What else could possibly go wrong?

"Nothing. Nothing else can go wrong. We're at the bottom of the curve and it's all up from here. Either that or a plague of false optimism." -- Ben Greenman, The New Yorker

"Apple could decide it's not releasing a new iPhone. That would be truly devastating." -- Baratunde Thurston, The Onion

"The effects of global warming are still minimal -- when Greenland falls into the sea, bank failures will look like child's play." -- Amanda Marcotte, Pandagon.net

Parody by T.A. Frank

"GOP Launches Listening Tour ... To make a political comeback, the GOP leaders argued, the party needs to modernize its ideas and agenda." -- Politico, May 2, 2009

GOP Memo: Our Modern Ideas -- Draft 1

After nearly three years of corrupt Democrat rule in Congress, the Republican Party proposes a new agenda, one based on modern ideas, new ideas, American ideas, Republican ideas. We therefore commit to enacting the following:

THE FAMILY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE ACT: This isn't the Soviet Union or France. This isn't Nazi Germany. Americans have awesome health care. There's a ton of doctors out there. We gave you the prescription-drug benefit. What do you want from us?

THE EXPANDED, ENHANCED, AND AMPLIFIED INTERROGATION ACT: If any ordinary Americans could get a hold of one of those al-Qaeda crazies, they'd want to choke him with their bare hands and set fire to anything leftover. That's where this bill comes in.

THE CUBA-CAN-SUCK-IT ACT: Barack Obama loves dictators. Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, King Abdullah -- he can't get enough of his new buddies. He should marry them. But Republicans feel a little differently. This bill would require any president who meets an enemy of our nation to respond with a combination of back-turning, "psych" handshaking, and bending over while requesting to be kissed on the rear end.

THE TAX RELIEF ACT: We hate taxes. You hate taxes. Everyone hates taxes. Can somebody please explain why we should have something everyone hates? This bill would get rid of them.

THE SENSIBLE CLIMATE-ENERGY ACT: When it's hot, we turn on the AC. When it's cold, we put on a jacket. We deal. And newsflash, yes, we like cars. Farrah Fawcett drove a Camaro, not a Tesla. Maybe you'd prefer a liberal Charlie's Angels where everyone drives golf carts. Open wide, America, because we're going to drill.

THE FORCE FOR FAMILIES ACT: Time was, when you didn't know the stranger in your house, you shot him. Same went for someone who looked at you funny. Then Democrats started taking away everybody's guns. Now if some pervert is flashing your kids, you have to shut up and hope the United Nations does something about it. This bill would untie our arms. This bill would give us two guns, one per hand, and a mandate to blast through to a better tomorrow.

Dialogue: What liberal media?

Is MSNBC a serious news outlet, or has it become the Fox News of the left?

Tim Fernholz: Let's talk MSNBC -- it's becoming more liberal, with Ed Schultz's new show along with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow making up the bulk of the evening programming. I think the problem with MSNBC is it takes all the things you hate about cable news and makes them liberal.

Adam Serwer: What's to hate? Maybe you just hate Libruls.

Tim: Certainly one possibility.

Adam: Olbermann takes all the things you hate about cable news and makes them liberal. But Maddow is very good; she gets into detail about torture and indefinite detention, pushing the ball forward on those issues. Olbermann generally just invites guests who will parrot talking points back to him.

Tim: MSNBC's programming ends on its strongest note -- after Ed Schultz, who is basically a liberal Rush Limbaugh, and the erratic and irascible Chris Matthews, comes Olbermann and his tendency toward sexist remarks, and finally Maddow, who does make an effort to cover things that are important.

Adam: Let us not forget the three hours of Joe Scarborough in the morning. He's got Olbermann and Maddow beat in terms of actual screen time. There's no comparable liberal personality on Fox.

Tim: I guess I expect higher quality from the liberals on MSNBC. Even Maddow spends too much time on snark -- remember the tea bag thing? Funny, but five minutes too long.

Adam: Sure, the tea bag thing sucked. But I'm having a hard Time comparing that to Scarborough suggesting Washington Post reporter Dana Priest should be blamed for the next terrorist attack because of her reporting on the CIA. MSNBC's liberals are nowhere near right-wing levels of anti-democratic demagoguery.

Tim: That's a pretty low bar. My concern is this: When politics gets so thoroughly mixed up with entertainment and news, you end up with the Republicans' current problem: Fox News, Rush, and other conservative outlets are actively preventing the GOP from becoming a serious force again. Maddow's snarky comments are fun now, but if that's what liberalism is going to be identified with, I think we should worry.

Adam: The crucial distinction is whether these figures are identified with the party. Despite Rush's claims of independence, that plaque from the GOP class of '94 still hangs on his wall. To a certain extent, MSNBC's appeal to liberals comes from the idea that the network isn't really identified with the Democratic Party.

Tim: Basically conservative media was reluctant to call the Bush administration on the last eight years of bullshit, on everything from torture to deficit spending. And that made them partisan creatures. As long as Maddow et al. don't become House organs, they can avoid that situation.

Adam: I think that's true. But that doesn't mean they will. We're only a few months in after all. There's still plenty of time for them to turn into partisan hacks.

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