Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lifting The Veil

The promo for WNPR’s “Lifting The Veil” conference at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) promised:

• “A prominent political figure grills political reporters (how’s it feel now?)
• New media organizations team up on high-quality, investigative journalism
• An influential national reporter covers one of the toughest beats: The media.”

As it turned out, the prominent political figure grilling reporters was Ned Lamont, Connecticut’s inoffensive left of center heartthrob described in the promo as:

“…an upstart challenger to Senator Joe Lieberman, he rallied an online base of support that allowed him to beat Lieberman in the Democratic primary, and barely lose that seat to the Senator in November. In 2010, he ran a tight race for the Democratic nomination for governor. All along the way, he had to face tough questions from the capitol press corps, local and national talk show hosts, bloggers and thousands of others.”
The reporters Mr. Lamont turned the tables on were, for the most part, members in good standing of the state’s left of center media. Between Mr. Lamont and the sometimes adoring left of center media, not enough fissionable material was produced to brighten the butt of a lighting bug.

No one feared that Mr. Lamont would hurl a rhetorical lightning bolt in the direction of John Dankosky, the impresario of the afternoon’s fake slugfest at CCSU who had turned over his “Where We Live” microphone to Mr. Lamont expecting… what?... a tongue lashing?

Mr. Lamont had one hour to turn the tables on his left of center opponents. Nothing untoward happened.

Surrendering a microphone to, say, Linda McMahon rather than Mr. Lamont might have produced some alarming sparks of genuine controversy. Some thought Connecticut’s media focused in the U.S. Senate campaign just a tad too exuberantly on Mrs. McMahon’s association with World Wide Wrestling, rather as if any connection with wrestling would make a candidate ineligible for office. And the viral UTube videos showing wrestlers being wrestlers saved her opponent, present Senator Dick Blumenthal, from responding seriously and at length to many of the points Mrs. McMahon made on the campaign trail. Even Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, who lost the race to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy by a whisker – only around 6,500 votes squeezed out by “Big Union” in the state’s larger cities -- might have lifted Connecticut’s left of center media veil more effectively than Mr. Lamont. Mr. Foley and Mr. Lamont are due to engage in a “mini-debate” at Yale on Monday evening, April 4, centering on the question: Is Connecticut Wisconsin?

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York lifted a veil of his own when he thought he was having a semi-private conversation with a few Democrats, little realizing that journalists were hanging on his every word.

A subscriber to V.I. Lenin’s maxim that adroitly labeling an argument saves politicians the trouble of grappling with it, Mr. Schumer offered the following advice to his listeners, Mr. Blumenthal among them:

The Democratic caucus had instructed Mr. Schumer to label as “extreme” all Republican spending cuts, and he religiously recommended the slur to his Democratic confreres in what used to be called the greatest deliberative body in the nation.

"I always use ‘extreme’”, Mr. Schumer said. "That is what the caucus instructed me to use… The main thrust is basically that we want to negotiate [on a budget the veto proof Democratic congress thought it unnecessary to pass during the last session] and we want to come up with a compromise, but the Tea Party is pulling [Republican House Speaker John] Boehner too far over to the right and so far over that there is no more fruitful negotiations. The only way we can avoid a shutdown is for Boehner to come up with a reasonable compromise and not just listen to what the Tea Party wants.”

The possible shutdown looms for two reasons: The veto proof congressional Democratic caucus, for reasons best known to Mr. Schumer, did not want to pass a budget; and, during the last election, Democrats were flushed out of the U.S. House by voting majorities that evidently listened to what the Tea Party wanted. It may be too much to expect the state’s left of center media to keep count of the number of times that Mr. Blumenthal, while genuflecting obediently to marching orders from Mr. Schumer’s caucus, will in the future use the expression “extreme” in his frequent dispatches to describe Republican resistance to a national budget that would beggar much of the nation. But perhaps someone from the Tea Party in Connecticut could be assigned to keep count of the demagoguery.

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