Another Dumb Idea

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Ramesh Ponnuru has another dumb idea. No one out there can say so many weak and ineffectual things in three paragraphs like Ponnuru; it's like watching a man dice an onion with the edge of a napkin.

In this article, he argues that, because politics on television is in a funk right now, we should bring back CNN's Crossfire program.

Now, I don't know how old Ponnuru is, but I watched Crossfire in the waning days of the Reagan Administration and it was as dumb then as it was when it was, mercifully, cancelled in 2005. I remember Tom Braden and I remember when Pat Buchanan would recite his arguments in the original German and it did nothing to enlighten the population about the issues; that was never the intent of the program.

The program did absolutely nothing to advance any real understanding of the Iran-Contra Affair; far from it, the program gave conservatives the ability to rope-a-dope soft-on-Communism types on a regular basis.

In the early years, the intent of the program was to fill a block of time when no one was watching. The program never aired at a time when it was going to have any kind of a serious impact and it was relatively free of substance and controversy for many, many years. The liberals never stood up and fought the way I wanted them to and the conservatives always had the mantle of Reagan to wear on their shoulders, protecting them from any deviation from their own idea of what was right.

Do you want to know why our politics on television isn't any good? It is because too many conservatives have been allowed to complain about the coverage, thereby "working the refs" to the point where nothing but lies and distortions are allowed to flow freely. This is why we now have, as our political standard, a "both sides do it" theme that runs through everything.

Both sides do it--therefore, no one has to think anymore. Even when it is clear that both sides ain't doing it, this theme is recited again and again and far too much attention is paid to the feelings of conservatives rather than the truth of what is really going on out there.

Want stories about poverty in America? Well, remember--conservatives think that poor people get too many benefits, that poor people are poor because of a moral failing, and that government is too big and can't do anything right. So, when they try to explain why all of those people in New Orleans are poor, it becomes an exercise in futility because we can't talk about why they're poor--we have to talk about why liberals think we should do something about it. Serious people like Paul Ryan are given plaudits and laurels and the keys to the kingdom; people like Bernie Sanders are handed the booby prize.

Want to know why mortgages are dangerous things, run by criminal enterprises? That's too bad--nobody wants to watch that. Here, go look at Madonna's old lady boobs for a while. That'll keep you entertained.

Ponnuru knows that, if they can swallow a money-losing proposition and bring Crossfire back (it really is entirely about money--if they were making a wider profit on the program, they would have kept it), there will be one more opportunity for conservatives to appear tough on television. There will be one more place to rough up weak liberals like Paul Begala and Susan Estrich; the only good liberal on television is one that looks or sounds funny and wears glasses and looks as if he or she could be stuffed in a locker or a trashcan. This is why poor Ed Schultz is lucky to have a job; at least he has some moves on these clowns. And don't give me James Carville and his nutbag wife as anything other than an example as to why married people shouldn't be allowed to appear on television as anything other than cooking show hosts.

I'll tell you what, CNN. Bring back Crossfire and give it to Keith Olbermann. Let's see how long that lasts.

I'm starting to think that the real reason Keith isn't on television anymore isn't because he's a famous pain in the ass; I'm starting to think it's because he was always a pain in the ass about things that made people realize that there isn't any room for a tough liberal on television.