Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maureen Dowd and American Pundit Fighting

There was an interesting discussion of Maureen Dowd between APF pundit Sam Seder and Eric Boehlert. It was essentially talking about how she diminishes politics by focusing on trivial matters, like how macho a politician appears rather than focusing on the substance of their policy etc..
It is a particularly striking discussion because that is essentially what this blog is, but hopefully more self aware and critical. I have always been conscious of the fact that I may be trivialising politics. To my defense, whilst Maureen may be touching on Politicians and would-be Presidents who have the potential to shape American and World policy. I mainly touch on pundits, I in effect discuss the discussers.

As I have stated before the main reason I have created this blog is to expose people to other pundits from the left and right. I use analogies and tangential references to separate pundits from any ideological preconceptions. I want the APF audience to view the links and explore the pundits with an open mind. Ideally by being exposed to a pundit's style and depth of knowledge people may be curious to hear more regardless of their ideological leaning.

I have stated that there is a part of punditry I do find troubling and harmful to political discourse. I do feel there is some value in partisan punditry however as it can also inform more incisively as it brings to the fore the key points of difference and base emotions and motivations behind each sides opinion. It is left up to the viewer to exercise due diligence by exposing themselves to these arguments as well as looking for the facts and weigh the evidence behind them.

Here is a question for the readers: Like Maureen Dowd (as Sam and Eric contend) do you think this blog's approach to politics is harmful?

Listen to Sam and Eric talk about Maureen Dowd

Update: October 10, 2007
Sam speaks with Evgenia Peretz who writes in Vanity Fair about how Maureen Dowd and other columnists played a pivotal role in shaping the public's perceptions of then presidential hopeful Al Gore.

Listen to Sam's interview with Evgenia here.
Read how Newsbusters, the Conservative blog feels about Evgenia's contention

When Celebrities get involved in Politics (2 of 2)

>> Continued in Celebrities and Politics Part 1

Though celebrities have always injected themselves into politics, they have been particularly prominent coming into Bush' 2nd term as President. Famously celebrities like Bruce Springsteen, Ben Affleck and Sean Penn campaigned for John Kerry. Infamously the Dixie Chicks became a symbol of how speaking out politically may have a cost professionally. The popular refrain from detractors and pundits was 'Shut Up and Sing'. APF pundit Laura Ingraham wrote a book covering this very topic "Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN Are Subverting America".

Its indisputable that Hollywood is generally more liberal. The majority of the APF Blue Team have come from the entertainment world, most starting their careers as comedians. That is not to say that there haven't been prominent celebrities representing the Right. In fact it is a former Hollywood star, Ronald Reagan who many republicans constantly cite as the standard bearer of their conservative values. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will often use the term 'Reagan Conservative' as the descriptor for what they look for in their representatives. Currently the most prominent entertainer turned politician serving is action mega star Arnold Swarchenegger, Republican Governor of California.

Update: Fred Thompson, former Senator of Tennessee and actor seen in shows like 'Law and Order' has been gaining momentum amongst conservatives as a possible presidential candidate. View his interview on Fox News here.

Below are few links to celebrities as featured by pundits:

>> Sylvester Stallone who President George W Bush considers one of his favourite actors is interviewed by Rush Limbaugh. Sly was promoting his Final Rocky movie discussing topics ranging from Christianity and redemption. Mark Levin is critical of Sylvester's comments on America whilst promoting Rocky overseas. >> Clint Eastwood is being questioned by Neil Cavuto on his films and the theme of war. >> Mark Levin and Sean Hannity do a run-in and tag team Alec Baldwin with a prank call. >> Michelle Malkin marks out to Patriotic Celebrities. >> Sean Hannity labels Sean Penn as "Enemy of the State" >> Bill Maher is arguably the only APF member to engage with celebrities in serious political discussion alongside professional pundits, see episodes here. >> Stephen Colbert is in the belly of the beast, calls out Hollywood. >> Bill O'Reilly weighs in on popular culture. George Clooney challenges Bill O'Reilly.

>> Whilst other pundits may interview, feature or criticize other celebrities to my knowledge only Sean Hannity has requested that a celebrity fill in for him. This leads to my favorite Celebrity/Pundit connection- Chuck Norris (also one of The President's favorite actors) being tagged in by Sean to take over hosting duties on Hannity and Colmes.

VIDEO: Actor Chuck Norris fills in for Sean Hannity

Monday, February 26, 2007

When Celebrities get involved in Politics (1 of 2)

In honour of the recent Oscars and the upcoming star-studded Wrestlemania, I will be highlighting the role of celebrity in punditry.

Celebrities have always had a mixed reception in the world of politics and punditry. Celebrity endorsements can bring exposure to those that may otherwise not get mainstream attention, they bring street credibility and can connect with untapped demographics.

In wrestling, whilst it can often be embarrassing seeing Hollywood and Sporting stars out of there element its all in good fun. Both parties enjoy the benefits of cross promoting, reaching out to new audiences (this year's Wrestlemania will feature Donald Trump). Another benefit of featuring a celebrity is that a storyline or character arc does not have to be fully developed to accommodate them. The audience is already familiar with them and how they are. They do not have to be seasoned in wrestling to be able to understand their motivations, it allows for an easy introduction to welcome new fans to the sport.

In Politics, because of its serious implications (read: its not just in good fun) celebrities don't enjoy the same benefits. Politicians may receive the same benefits that all celebrity endorsements provide but also some negatives unique to the political arena. Politicians associated with celebrities can be painted as being light on substance. These politicians can be seen as elitists as celebrities are superficially viewed as decadent, overpaid and out of touch with the common man (ironic seeing that associating with business lobby groups doesn't connote the same). Celebrities are seen as being of loose morals both in the products they make and the lifestyle they are immersed in.

To make things worse celebrities also risk negative fallout. Celebrities are often stereotyped as being simplistic in their political understanding, nullifying any cache. They risk career hits because they may alienate audiences from their professional work because of their politics external to it.

Celebrities are easy targets for pundits, usually by those in the political Right. Not surprising considering many of the APF Blue team pundits have come from the entertainment industry. But as I will demonstrate both conservative and liberals have used celebrities to their benefit.

>> Continued in Celebrities and Politics Part 2

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pundit Profile 1: Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter

Tucker Carlson cartoon caricature art pundit Tucker Carlson currently hosts Tucker, a fast paced News show on MSNBC. He was a contestant on the recent series of Dancing with the Stars, being the first personality to exit. Tucker has written one book, Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News.

Ann Coulter cartoon caricature art pundit Ann Coulter is a columnist, has written 3 books and frequently offers opinion on TV - usually causing controversy. She has her own website which contains her most recent columns. Her columns can also be found on Townhall and WorldNetDaily just to name a few. Her 4 books are:
1) High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton (1998)
2) Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (2002)
3) Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (2003)
4) How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter (2004)
5) Godless: The Church of Liberalism (2006)
6) If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans (2007)
7) Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America (2009)

The APF pundits profiled

I will be doing a quick feature on each of the pundits for the next few weeks. They will be short revisions on what the current APF pundits are doing or have done and what headlines they are making.
Do not be surprised to see shorter recaps on some pundits as the spotlight primarily features more recent or relevant works. Older work especially if they have broken (internet) links won't be featured. The pundits will be featured in alphabetical order.
This is done as service for those who may not know much about particular pundits. Think of it as Wikipedia lite, or rather an APFpunditopedia full of links minus those that link to other Wiki entries.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shoot Fights: When pundits get personal - Kilmeade VS Garofalo, Stewart VS Crossfire

In wrestling, a 'shoot' is when one of the combatants overrides the agreed script and does something unexpected by injecting real emotion. This may involve actually hitting (physically connecting with) other wrestlers or using very personal verbal attacks. In essence making a fake wrestling scenario or feud into a real one. Shoots aren't necessarily a bad thing as the heightened realism makes for compelling viewing and is sure to garner an audience.

In punditry, shoot fights may come in the form of pundits ambushing their unsuspecting guests by injecting their own personal feelings (usually contempt) in interviews. Essentially turning a professional disagreement into a personal one. A certain level of decorum is expected during interviews even from those with opposing ideological perspectives. Largely because the interviewer may want the interviewee to return for future appearances, a reputation as a hostile interviewer may also dissuade any other potential guests.

Below are a few examples of Pundit shoots:

Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends shoots on Janeane Garofalo, whilst the interview begins cordially its clear that Brian gets personal by the end. To her credit APF pundit Janeane holds her own.

VIDEO: Brian Kilmeade and Janeane Garofalo debate the Iraq War

Hugh Hewitt is known for being a tenacious interviewer to those he disagrees with, even Republicans aren't spared. Helen Thomas was subjected to Hugh Hewitt's lawyerly badgering by pressing her for her ideological leaning. Helen is clearly flustered by the questioning and vainly tries to convince Hugh that journalism by its nature should not have bias. Listen here.

Former Air America talker Al Franken did a shoot on conservative Radio host Neal Boortz who was a guest on his show. Although the two are (were?) amicable with each other, Franken was particularly fixated on undermining Boortz in this exchange. Whilst Neal expected a discussion of current issues, Al started it off by playing a succession of clips that appeared to show Boortz misrepresenting things and pressing him to explain. Neal did not take too fondly to Al's tactics, hitting back saying
NEAL BOORTZ: (10m 5s) Be prepared to talk about some issues, not play a stupid, childish, moronic Al Franken game of 'Gotcha!... I am tired of playing the little nursery school thing with you Al.

Neal hangs up the phone.
Listen to the exchange between Al Franken and Neal Boortz

Finally, Jon Stewart does a shoot with a difference. Usually shoots are conducted by the interviewer largely because they come from a position of strength/control. John Stewart appeared on CNN's Crossfire hosted by (liberal) Paul Begala and (conservative) Tucker Carlson. Whilst Jon wasn't as influential as he is now, he was arguably more reputable than the dual hosts. He was openly hostile to the show (specifically its combative format) and took pot shots at Tucker. Its been said that his damning indictment of the show eventually led to its cancellation.

VIDEO: Jon Stewart challenges hosts 
Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on CNN's Crossfire

Jon Stewart confronts CNN's Crossfire
JON STEWART: (5m 2s) Its interesting to hear you talk about my responsibility, I didn't realise --and maybe this explains quite a bit-- that the News organisations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity. What I would suggest is when you talk holding Politician's feet to the fire. I think that's disingenuous
TUCKER CARLSON: How are you holding up? -- I mean c'mon.
STEWART: No no no no but my role isn't I don't think... If you're idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard enough News questions we're in bad shape fellas
CARLSON: We're here to love you not confront you.
STEWART: But what I'm saying is this, I'm not. I'm here to confront you cause we need help from the Media and they're hurting us
PAUL BEGALA: If the indictment is -- and I have heard you say this -- Crossfire is everything asI said in the intro left/right, black/white. Its because we are a Debate show...
STEWART: That would be great! I would love to see a debate show... to do a debate would be great but that's like saying pro-wrestling is a show about athletic competition
CARLSON: I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring...
Update: I almost forgot, Mark Levin. Anyone with even a cursory awareness of Mark Levin knows that he is curt with people whom he disagrees with. He dominates all conversation with liberal callers, often shouting down and abruptly ending conversations. This is simply Mark Levin's persona, and his audience enjoys it. Paul Hackett, veteran of the Iraq War who famously sought office as a Democrat appeared on Mark's show. Paul was there to clarify some controversial statements he had made on another program. Paul Hackett showed poise against Mark who was a stiff worker, firing insults and pointed questions.

Listen to the exchange here - Audio: "Unterfuhrer," round two — Levin vs. Hackett

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Daily Show with Rush Limbaugh

Not quite. Political/Comedy shows like The Daily Show (Jon Stewart), The Colbert Report (Stephen Colbert)and Real Time (Bill Maher) have enjoyed great success under the Bush Administration. These shows whilst enjoyed by most tend to appeal to younger liberal types. A conservative counterweight was announced late 2006 to appeal to the other side which has raised the curiosity of many: Can conservatives be funny? Will it have an audience? and How long will it last?

The show will be a half hour news parody show not unlike the Daily Show, but with a conservative bent. It was created by Joel Surnow, Executive producer and co-creator of "24" a favorite amongst the conservatives. It will be aired on the Fox News Channel.

Recently on the website of APF's own Rush Limbaugh, a teaser clip was made for the pilot. Its not often that an APF pundit from the Red team will venture into the realm of Straight comedy. There's no better way to secure big numbers to the inaugural show than to feature the biggest conservative draw in the world, Rush Limbaugh.

It also features a nice surprise. Just like a wrestler in the middle of the ring addressing the crowd to wild cheers, then suddenly gesturing to the entrance to announce his tag team partner...POP!!! the crowd erupts in surprise and glee.
Do you think its funny? You be the judge.

PS. By the way if any wrestling fans can recommend a movie link depicting a wrestler introducing another wrestler to a surprise pop. It'd be nice to embed it with this one. Cheers

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Liberal Royal Rumble: Sam Seder VS Ed Schultz

WOW! American Pundit Fighting has been around for just over a month and this confrontation would have to be the biggest news to hit the federation. It is a showdown between Ed Schultz and Sam Seder. More accurately it is a matchup between Air America and other Liberal talkers- collectively Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller and Bill Press. There's been a lot of buzz recently in Liberal talk circles with Al Franken's departure from Air America to run for Senate in his hometown Minnesota. Al's absence created an opening on XM Satellite radio which was reported to be filled by Ed Schultz. Sam Seder softly encouraged his listeners to support Thom Hartmann occupying that XM slot (Thom was already filling Al Franken's old Air America timeslot) enraging Ed Schultz and his supporters seeing it as a personal affront. Sam Seder, as evidenced by the time he called out Bob Woodward is known for not sugarcoating how he feels about people. In this instance I would argue Sam was not being malicious in his campaign.
- Listen and judge for yourself.

It's definitely an eye-opener which will only get more interesting as the battle rages. As of this writing, Ed Schultz delivered a passionate and lively attack of Air America. You can see for yourself in glorious video here then here.

It is an ugly episode, which is fracturing the fledgling and heavily scrutinized Liberal Talk market. If there is anything positive to be gleaned from this, it is that there is passion and vitality in liberal Talk. There are people fighting for its success as a business, as entertainment and as a political force. The blue team APF radio pundits will need to overcome their differences if they are to take care of the real business- to seriously challenge and act as a counterweight to their Red Team APF counterparts. Stay tuned.

Ed Schultz cartoon caricature art pundit
Ed Schultz

Sam Seder cartoon caricature art pundit
Sam Seder

Update: Listen to Sam's rebuttal

Ed Schultz on Air America
ED SCHULTZ: I just think from time to time I need to clear the deck on this, I'm beyond the point of pussy footing around this stuff. Nobody buys their crap. There not making money, they've never made any money. They can't run a business, all they can do is hate people. Even me!... my stuff sells yours doesn't

Who the hell is Air America? They have never sold anything or done anything positive that for anybody except tear people down. No wonder O'Reilly makes fun of them...

And you know what? We're gonna pay our bills this month and we're not in front of any judge. And I'm sick and tired of pussyfooting around Air America. They can eat me. They suck! They don't know how to run radio and I don't like 'em anymore. I don't, because they undercut everybody who does something positive and its about time somebody calls them on it.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Rush emblazoned on a T-Shirt

On the topic of Limbaugh being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Rush has come out with merchandise playing up this fact. Its an interesting shirt because it actually has a large portrait of Rush on it. With the exception of Wrestling and perhaps Rap & Rock, there aren't too many professions conducive for individual personalities to be emblazoned photo-realistically on T-shirts. Even then its usually marketed to kids.

Its odd enough that some pundits even sell T-Shirts, but they're usually just simple logos of their show. Could you imagine a democrat wearing a T-Shirt with Al Franken's face on it, or an independent with a T-Shirt of Bill O'Reilly's mug. It just goes to show how popular Rush is, and how he transcends politics into mainstream culture.
batista wwe merchandise American Pundit Fighting
Batista Wrestler T-Shirt

Rush Limbaugh merchandise pundit
Rush Limbaugh T-Shirt

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Levin Vs Keith Olbermann

Mark Levin cut one of the more vicious and personal promos on Keith Olbermann on a recent show. Mark devoted 30 minutes on a diatribe on 'Keith Overbite: Countdown to No Ratings', it featured a parody song, name calling and questioning of his sexual prowess. He has even devoted a section on his website for viewers who have had sexual encounters with Keith to submit their stories.

The rivalry started when Keith Olbermann placed Mark Levin on his 'Worst Person in the World' list for nominating Rush Limbaugh for a Nobel Peace Prize. Though it was a fairly tame smackdown by Keith's standards, Levin returned fire with guns blazing.

Hear Levin's promo