On Sunday, The Washington Post asked various famous people for suggestions of "things we should toss." The results were somewhat interesting, particularly one: Donna Brazile, one of the country's best-known pundits, suggested that we ought to get rid of pundits. Just try to imagine it for a moment: no more Pat Buchanans, no more James Carvilles, no more "Democratic strategists" and "Republican strategists" filling your ears with mindless speculation and ridiculous talking points.
Is it impossible? Not really, but it would be very hard. Media outlets, particularly television ones, rely on pundits mostly for practical reasons. If you need to fill up 24 hours a day with chatter, pundits are a reliable and easily accessed resource. They live in Washington, so the network doesn't have to pay to use a remote studio to talk to them. They make it their business to be available on a moment's notice. Their opinions are predictable and they know how to deliver sound bites, so producers know what they're getting when they put them on the air.
If, on the other hand, you wanted to fill up a day's worth of programming with people who could actually explain things, it would be tremendously difficult. But it wouldn't be completely impossible, and it could prove quite popular. So what if the cable networks did an experiment. Let's say they set aside one day a week as the day of explanation, with no pundits or advocates allowed. Instead of bringing on a pair of congressmen to debate whether the Obama administration is being tough enough on terrorists, they'd bring on a couple of experts on terrorism to explain where we are in battling al-Qaeda. Instead of bringing on a "Democratic strategist" to argue with a "Republican strategist" to fight about which party is awesomer as we approach the November elections, they grab a couple of political scientists to discuss why people vote the way they do in off-years. A Supreme Court nomination? Get some law professors to talk about what differences in judicial philosophy actually mean for the life of the country. Bring on reporters to elucidate breaking stories, instead of columnists to tell viewers what opinion to have. Who knows -- for one day a week, people just might tune in.
-- Paul Waldman