Television

Watch Paul Waldman on Washington Journal

C-SPAN
The American Prospect 's contributing editor appeared on the June 29, 2014 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal .

Dear Thom Tillis: How Long Does It Take For a Black Person to Become a Traditional North Carolinian?

An open letter to the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, is prompted by his comments about the Republican Party's demographics.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
AP Photo/Chuck Burton In this May 6, 2014, photo Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014. D ear Thom: I hope I can call you Thom; you may certainly call me Cynthia. Given the circumstances—given how far the policies you've supported since becoming Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives have reached into my home and even my vagina —I feel we are on intimate terms that make surnames superfluous. In your 2012 comments to Carolina Business Review , unearthed by TPM last week, you talked about how Republicans need to reach out to communities of color, the type of GOP hand-wringing we've heard since Mitt Romney went down in flames. I believe your specific comment was this: The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

HBO Movie on Prop 8 Marriage Equality Case Fails As Documentary

By omitting the faces and fears of those opposed to same-sex marriage, The Case Against 8 presents its story as nothing more than a victory lap, assuming every viewer is happy the Supreme Court decision that overturned California's ban.

The Case Against 8/HBO
The Case Against 8/HBO P remiering on Monday, HBO's The Case Against 8 is an intermittently moving bunch of essentially mindless goo. Yet that's unlikely to seem very relevant to marriage-equality supporters who want to enjoy a victory lap. Few modern American political stories are as happy-making—and, let's hope, prefatory—as the Supreme Court's 5-4 thumbs-down on California's homophobic Proposition 8 on June 26 of last year, so why not celebrate? A year after the fact, however, any documentary worth viewers' time ought to aspire to more than providing birthday candles for us to blow out. That "us" is, of course, exclusionary, something you'd hardly guess from co-directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White's simple-minded assumption that everybody tuning in will share their euphoria. Don't misunderstand my own POV, because I did and do. I just don't think it would have killed the filmmakers to grapple a bit with the heretical notion that not every supporter of Prop 8—which passed with seven...

Daily Meme: Fans of War Shoot at Straw Men

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech at West Point outlining his vision for the use of American power in the future. So how did people react? The consensus on the right was that Obama's speech was a litany of arguments against straw men. "In rebutting his many critics, Obama would be more persuasive if [he] seriously engaged their arguments instead of rebutting arguments that no one is making in the real world," wrote Max Boot at Commentary . "Once again, the president caricatures the views of his critics rather than addressing them fairly," wrote Elliot Abrams , whose continued influence within conservative foreign policy circles is an inspiration to convicted criminals everywhere looking for a second chance. The conservative critics weren't completely wrong—Obama may have overstated their lust for American military action in his speech. But if he exaggerated, it wasn't by much, and many Republicans reacted by once again criticizing the President's insufficient enthusiasm for...

Daily Meme: Is Same-Sex Marriage Unstoppable?

Marriage is all over the headlines these days. First, an anniversary: Earlier this week, Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd celebrated ten years of legal marriage . In May 2004, after a years-long legal battle, they were the first and only people in line at City Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ready to to receive a marriage license. At the time, they were worried that a protester would shoot them. Now, gay marriage is legal in 19 states, including the entire Northeast. Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage have been coming fast and furious. The latest state to jump on the gay-marriage bandwagon is Pennsylvania; on Tuesday, a judge once endorsed by Rick Santorum struck down the state's ban on same-sex unions . On Monday, another federal judge ruled Oregon's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional . The landscape has changed so quickly that some commentators are wondering whether the movement is "unstoppable." Americans are more and more likely to favor legalizing gay marriage: A...

Why Grayson Would Make Perfect Opponent to Gowdy on Benghazi Committee

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
Florida Rep. Alan Grayson at a 2009 congressional hearing. ( AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File ) T he work of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Talk Points—as the new committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, would be more accurately named—began in earnest Friday, as the seven Republican members met for the first time with Speaker John Boehner, and then among themselves. In protest of Republican rules granting Chairman Trey Gowdy unilateral subpoena power, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has yet to appoint minority members. Democrats received no guarantee they will be allowed access to interview witnesses before public testimony is given. Regardless of Democratic participation, there is no doubt this committee is, in Nancy Pelosi’s words , a “political stunt”—simply the latest attempt by Republicans to convert tragedy into scandal. The process will undoubtedly waste millions of dollars and thousands of hours, ultimately to reach the...

Jack Bauer Lives Another Day. The Question Is: 'Why?'

Daniel Smith/FOX
Daniel Smith/FOX T he most notorious television series of the Bush-Cheney years is coming back to Fox on Monday. In 24: Live Another Day , rogue anti-terrorist agent (and poster boy for the efficacy of torture) Jack Bauer, after running amok and blowing away Russia's foreign minister four years ago, is still a wanted man. Played, as ever, by Kiefer Sutherland — who's gotten so mulish in the role that he might as well be towing a farm cart with his teeth — Jack is modeling a hoodie in London when new President James Heller (William Devane) comes to town to dicker with the British Prime Minister (Stephen Fry) over the lease of an island base that's apparently needed to keep those fun U.S. drones annihilating our Middle Eastern enemies, a priority our transatlantic chums are bewilderingly unthrilled about enabling. As it happens, Heller isn't crazy about drones either — of course not, civilized guy he is. But "the ugly truth," he says, "is that what we do has worked." Since pretty much...

I'm Over "Mad Men"

A TV series can only toy with profundity—and not deliver—for so long before the whole thing starts to feel like a shell game.

Courtesy of AMC Networks
Courtesy of AMC Networks W e're only two weeks into Mad Men 's ultra-long goodbye—the final season's second half won't even air until 2015, meaning we could all be sporting Duck Dynasty beards by the time Part Deux rolls around—and I'm already noticing how sick I am of deciphering the runes in Don Draper's morose face. Can it be that Jon Hamm is getting as bored with playing Matthew Weiner's study in Existential Anguish 101 as I am by watching him? Hard to tell, but you'd hardly blame the actor if a certain fatigue has set in: "Okay, Jon, let's try a take where you squint pensively into the distance first and wince second for a change." A character can only be an enigma for so long before you start to wonder whether "enigma" got its start in life as the Greek word for "dullard." And a TV series can only toy with profundity for so long before the whole thing starts to feel like a shell game. (Just ask anyone sucked in by Lost. ) When all else fails, Mad Men can always fall back on...

Stephen Colbert Isn't the Only One With a Fictional Character

Flickr/Reid Rosenberg
So Stephen Colbert will be replacing David Letterman when Letterman retires next year, and you'll be shocked to learn that at least one conservative is spitting mad about it. "CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America," said Rush Limbaugh . "No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservative values—now it's just wide out in the open." Funny, I thought Hollywood's assault on traditional American values was pretty overt already. But this is actually fitting, because I'll bet Limbaugh couldn't care less who's on CBS at 11:30. But Colbert's a liberal, so Limbaugh has to pretend to be angry about it. In other words, he's reacting exactly the way Stephen Colbert's character would. Now it's true that Colbert based his character not on Limbaugh but (mostly) on Bill O'Reilly. And like Colbert, O'Reilly is himself playing a character named Bill O'Reilly, the only difference being that the Bill O'Reilly character is just a slight...

As Good As It Gets for Oscar

AP Images/Jordan Strauss
AP Images/Jordan Strauss B y now everyone knows that—as my colleague Tom Carson pointed out last week—Oscar history is strewn with verdicts so absurd as to legitimately raise the question of why anyone cares, unless you find the Academy Awards irresistible for the way they’ve become part of Hollywood lore. You don’t have to go back as far as the notorious examples that Tom cited of Oliver or Around the World in Eighty Days upending the not-even-nominated 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Searchers in 1968 and 1956 respectively; there are examples more recent—2012, for instance. That was the year when sense gave way to vigilante justice and the actors’ bloc of the Oscar electorate, a Mercedes McCambridge glint in its eye, led the Academy in stringing up any nominee they could find who wasn’t Ben Affleck, rewarding Argo for Affleck’s omission from the Best Director cut in what turned out to be the snub of his dreams. Unhip as it is to point out, the Oscars were getting sharper and more...

Johnny Who?

AP Images/NBC/Lloyd Bishop
AP Images/NBC/Lloyd Bishop T he story goes that Johnny Carson, who hosted NBC’s The Tonight Show for count-’em 30 years—from 1962 to 1992—loved vacationing abroad because no one outside the United States knew who the hell he was. That certainly wasn’t the case here at home. In his heyday, basically the entire time he had the job, Carson wasn’t famous the way, for instance, Jane Fonda is famous. He was famous like Bayer aspirin or, to the more troubled members of his audience, Jim Beam. Outdoing even that plummily narcissistic Polonius, CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, he was 20th-century American life’s most reassuring constant. Once he was done, he vanished from public view as if he’d been television’s Lawrence of Arabia, just with fewer hang-ups about revolutionizing a vast wasteland. Impervious to the latest fashion because he was so alert to it, Carson could always be counted on to deliver the goods. In his case, those were chiefly a reassurance that nothing could be too wrong...

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole of NYC’s Lena Dunham Obsession

Vogue Magazine
Flickr J ust as twentysomethings aren’t the ones writing about millennials ( that would be Ross Douthat ), Lena Dunham’s contemporaries aren’t the demographic that considers Girls its television muse. No, that would be over-twentysomething men, who make up over 20 percent of the show’s viewership and a perhaps even healthier percentage of the bylines featuring name drops of Dunham in the New York media ( this would also be Ross Douthat). Everyone who’s been having heart palpitations over Hannah Horvath’s desire to be a voice of a generation seems to have missed the New York old guard’s intention of making her the voice of the whole damn city. Since 2001, The New York Times has published over 300 articles mentioning Dunham, about 99 percent of which have been written in the past four years. And, except for the early days, right when Tiny Furniture became a thing and Girls screeners became zeitgeist incarnate, she’s hardly ever the subject matter. Any story with a wisp of beard, a hint...

CNN Losing Interest in News

Flickr/Gregor Smith
CNN has been having problems for some time, with anemic ratings and something of an identity crisis. In a world where people can get news of the moment from a million places, just what is the network that pioneered cable news for ? Not that the network doesn't still make plenty of money (it does), but unlike Fox and MSNBC, CNN hasn't seemed to have been able to figure out what its model is. In an interview with Capital New York, CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who has been on the job less than a year, said what the network needs is "more shows and less newscasts," in order to grab "viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E." It all adds up to "an attitude and a take." As easy as this is to mock, I think they should go for it. Because really, would our democracy suffer if, say, we only got one hour a day of Wolf Blitzer's vaguely befuddled "take" on the news instead of the current two hours? Let's take a look at the current CNN schedule . After the...

Why Lara Logan Won't Lose Her Job

In case you haven't heard, CBS News is in a bit (but only a bit) of hot water over a story 60 Minutes recently aired about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. It centered on a breathless account from a security contractor, who just happened to have written a book about it being published by a conservative imprint of a publishing house owned by CBS (that's synergy, baby). He told of the harrowing events of that night, including his own heroism and the spinelessness of the big shots who sit in their cushy offices while men of action like him do what must be done and get hung out to dry. The only problem was, he appears to be a liar who fabricated much of what 60 Minutes relayed in the story, which was reported by Lara Logan. After insisting for weeks that everything in its story checked out, CBS finally conceded that the contractor, one Dylan Davies, was lying to them and through them to their audience. On Sunday night, Logan delivered an extraordinarily half-assed on-air...

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