Saturday, September 04, 2004

Chris Matthews is a (not that message, this message) ...

If you get enough people on your show to ask stupid questions but you wear a suit and tie, they might call you a hard hitting news analyst with a TV program called "HardBall." But eventually you will be called a gadfly and your name will be mud. That is all that will happen now. As Zell Miller alluded on Wednesday, if it happened long ago, you'd never know your name was mud unless you survived the duel.

Chris Matthews is quickly approaching that eventuality because he plays the 'ask stupid questions game'. Of course he does research before an interview, but as, if I remember correctly, Bob Woodward showed, Chris doesn't do good research. That's why Chris interrupts so much -- his program has to be fast paced to avoid anyone noticing his questions are stupid and to prevent the one being interviewed from considering the question before answering. Chris plays it that way so the interviewee tends to respond emotionally, not calmly and with a gut reaction, not measured thoughtfulness. Chris uses all the props - 'Hardball' name, hurrying to the ad breaks, fast paced show theme, "We're short of time", constant interruptions -- to avoid the slowdown which would divulge his game of 'stupid questions'.

With Zell Miller, I spotted two stupid questions right off. One was "Do you believe that John Kerry ... want(s) to defend America with spitballs?" In his speech, Zell didn't say that that was what he believed (or thought.) He laid it out plainly, just as he might with a grandson named Kerry, who, after begging for ice cream, was taken to Baskin-Robbins:

"Kerry, would you like a vanilla cone"


"How about a chocolate one?"


"Well, what about a strawberry?"


You know the rest of the story. Kerry got spanked. Kerry's penchant is for leaving the suggestions to others while he provides the thumbs up or thumbs down. In government military procurement, that can be very expensive. (Even if it were spitballs.)

The next stupid question (the second question Matthew asked, actually) was "Do you mean to say that you really believe that John Kerry ... do(es) not believe in defending the country?" A stupid question and a nasty one at that. Zell never accused Kerry of being French. (Bad boy, but I'm already opinionating.) What Zell claimed was that Kerry has bad judgment when making defense decisions.

If the GI is seen running to the front with a straw and a bag of paper wads, no one questions his patriotism, but they might question his judgment. If the General is seen leading his men in a charge through the Valley of Death, you would certainly not question the General's patriotism, but you would likely question his judgment. And if you see a Senator voting consistently against building weapons that are subsequently used to great effect, you do what? Yes, you are right, you do what Zell did, you question the Senator's judgment. (See how simple and easy that is, Chris?)

But we know that. That's what Zell said. Now, people can debate whether it is good judment or not and it might have been worth it for Chris to have done some research if he wanted to do that. Chris doesn't care to do research. Chris is looking for the emotional response to a stupid question so he can say "Gotcha." It makes him look good for that instant and if he moves on fast enough, that is all the listener will likely remember.

The first two questions in the first 3 minutes are stupid questions. Hardball is a lousy news analysis show hosted by a gadfly whose name is turning to mud. Watch something else.

(I know, I know, the GI example is a poor choice. I purposely phrased it "might question his judgment" allowing that the reasonable people looking on it will see the obvious and search elsewhere for the person responsible for supplying such a weapon.)

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