Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Teresa Heinz Kerry faces Shields and Brooks

Last night's speeches at the Dem Convention were, of course, poked, prodded, dissected and analyzed by the talking heads of radio and television. I suppose I should have been watching on C-Span, where you get to bypass all that nonsense, but I happened to have the TV tuned to PBS, so I stayed with it. And in fairness, if I were involved as a campaign planner, I'm sure I would listen to the "heads"—not for advice, but to learn what kind of shit the public was being spoon-fed that day.

Obama's speech was good, though it didn't make me drop my spatula and rush to the TV room so I could hang on every word. About 40% of the delegates are from minority groups, which made his speech especially meaningful to the Convention crowd, and they rewarded him accordingly. But aside from Obama's poster-boy role at the Convention, I can't imagine him affecting this election one way or the other.

It was Teresa Heinz Kerry who interested me, because she's going to be sound-bit to death between now and the election. And I was impressed—by her learning, her manner and the specific topics she chose to emphasize.

My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called opinionated is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish, and my only hope is that one day soon women who have all earned their right to their opinions, instead of being called opinionated, will be called smart and well informed, just like men! 1

This conveyed simultaneously two very important points—that she is not going to be shut up and that she is going to be a very strong voice for women's rights—to which she added, after speaking of her mother,

I want to acknowledge and honor the women of this world, whose wise voices for much too long have been excluded and discounted. It is time for the world to hear women's voices, in full and at last.

Of energy and oil, she said,

[John] believes we can, and we will, invent the technologies, new materials, and conservation methods of the future. He believes that alternative fuels will guarantee that not only will no American boy or girl go to war because of our dependence on foreign oil, but also that our economy will forever become independent of this need.

Then this, which speaks to the destruction of the American image abroad,

To me, one of the best faces America has ever projected is the face of a Peace Corps volunteer. That face symbolizes this country: young, curious, brimming with idealism and hope — and a real, honest compassion. Those young people convey an idea of America that is all about — heart and creativity, generosity and confidence, a practical, can-do sense and a big, big smile.

Can't fail to evoke John Kennedy.

So what were the PBS assholes up to?

Well, after Obama's speech they practically elected him President. They didn't say which year.

But after Teresa's speech, Jim Lehrer first asked David Brooks of the NY Times what he thought. Brooks, the "moderate" right-winger was not pleased. Her speech was too "wonkish," he said. He was disappointed. He wanted more intimate details about Kerry—details that only a wife would know—why Kerry was the Man, and all that. I was positively blushing before my TV.

Then Lehrer turned for the "liberal" opinion of Mark Shields. You have to watch a lot of "Shields and Brooks" on the NewsHour to catch Mark Shields2 having an opinion different from David Brooks', and tonight was not one of them. He agreed—too "wonkish."

When the media couldn't find a sex scandal to raise their ratings, this was always their fall-back position on Bill Clinton—he was too wonkish.

They were wrong then—and they're wrong now.


1 Interestingly, this remark was not in the pre-speech text that was released to the media. [back]

2 Last October I got so annoyed that I had to fire off this letter to the NewsHour.

I was reading Michelangelo Signorile's description of being bumped from an NPR affiliate in Boston ("Like mother, like son") when I came on these lines:
Last week, I experienced first hand how some of them keep liberal voices off the airwaves by manipulating weak-kneed producers. I also got further insight into what complete cowards and wimps a lot of conservative pundits are, and why the liberal pundits who are up against them on the talk shows are usually so bland. The bland types are the only ones the conservatives will appear with, a la Fox’s Hannity & Colmes. [emphasis mine]

I have felt this frustration from my first viewing of Mark Shields on the NewsHour. He appears to be a nice guy (I've never read one of his columns), but he is a nebbish and a frump. And what is worse, he is inarticulate!

First it was "Shields and Gigot," then "Shields and Brooks," now "Shields and Safire." (Does this guy have tenure?) The Right Wingers show up looking their nattiest, and poor ol' Mark shows up looking desperate for a session on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

As for the content of his commentary, it was wonderfully illustrated a few weeks ago. Jim Lehrer asked him for an opinion, and he replied "I don't know." Lehrer was visibly taken aback. Safire liked it so much that he used it the following week, quoting Mark.

If the public thinks the Left has nothing to say, Mark Shields is one of the reasons.


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