The main items on the menu, the New York Times reports, are GOP blowhards like Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Mitch McConnell—-162 appearances since 2010, outnumbering by far all Senate Democrats in the talking-points derby.
Since so few are listening, so what? So this: Just as national newspapers like the Times and Washington Post would set the political news agenda in the last century, the Sunday talk shows have a wide ripple effect by providing “news” leads for other journalists.
In addition, “guests with strong points of view can give viewers a false sense of proportion to certain sides of policy debates,” notes the Times, pointing out that McCain’s “advocacy for military intervention in Syria and criticism of the administration’s policies there might create a sense that there is a robust policy debate over the matter in Washington when there really is not.”
Distortion goes far beyond false equivalency on issues, echoing the kind of meanness generated by the endless 2011 Republican primary debates that still infects the political atmosphere.
The only argument for such weekly political preening can be made for the rare occasions when robotic guests slip off script, as Darrell Issa did last week in labeling the White House Press Secretary a “paid liar,” prompting GOP pressure on Issa to cool it.
Much more significant was Joe Biden’s remark on “Meet the Press” last May that he was “comfortable with” gay marriage that eventually led to the President’s shift on the issue. Did Biden slip or was he sending his boss a message?
Until memoirs are written, we won’t know, but the Sunday talk shows won’t go away, and we can only hope producers widen their choices of guests. Sen. Al Franken, for example, was a professional talker before his election but has never been booked. The republic won’t be endangered if he’s invited on to express his “liberal” opinions.