Not long ago, I stopped watching the network Sunday shows. After all, who needs to spend an hour or two of valuable weekend time listening to elected officials and party hacks regurgitating the same tired talking points you've been hearing all week? But there's no denying that Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, and to a lesser extent Fox News Sunday are enormously influential. They confer status on the people who appear, they define the limits of official debate, and they help set the agenda for the rest of the media. So while they are often tiresome to sit through, they can't be completely ignored. That's why I couldn't stay silent after seeing this celebratory tweet from Betsy Fischer, the longtime executive producer of Meet the Press:
If you watch the Sunday shows, the only thing you'll be surprised about is that McCain hadn't passed Dole (or anyone else) already. In fact, I wrote a column three whole years ago asking why the hell anyone still cares what John McCain thinks, and the question has become even more relevant in the time since. He's a member of the minority party in the Senate who is not part of the leadership and has virtually no influence over his fellow senators. In 29 years in Congress, he has managed to produce exactly one significant piece of legislation (the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law), which got gutted by the Supreme Court. His knowledge of and ideas about policy are notoriously shallow and self-indulgent, running more toward phony moralism about tiny earmarks than the search for actual solutions to thorny problems. In his supposed area of expertise, national security, he can be relied on to offer the most simple-minded and uninformed opinions possible (Of course we should use military force! Which country were we talking about again?). So the public needs to hear his sage words in about the same measure as they need to hear those of other presidential losers. Why isn't Michael Dukakis getting on Meet the Press? I'll bet he'd be a more interesting guest than McCain.
Yet all the Sunday shows call McCain, again, and again, and again. Why? There are a few reasons, but what they all come down to is that people in the DC media just love, love, love them some John McCain (God help me, I wrote a whole book about it). He spent a couple of decades massaging their egos and convincing them that he was their best buddy, an investment that paid off splendidly. They love his alleged mavericky maverickness (don't get me started on what a crock the whole "maverick" thing is). On the Sunday shows, McCain is what passes for "unpredictable." So they'll keep inviting him on. I wouldn't be surprised if one day Betsy Fischer tweets, "Congratulations to John McCain on his 100th appearance on Meet the Press!"