Friday, December 19, 2008

The TR: MSNBC's Moment, Moscow Mickey, and Madoff's Mischief

Last TR of 2008! The next time we see you, Obamauguration Mania (and we mean MANIA) will be at code red and about 4,000 Port-a-Potties will be installed on the mall (let's see, that's one toilet per thousand people... stock up now on your astronaut diapers). Come to the Inauguration Day party at TR Central if you get tired of the cold and the carpetbaggers and would prefer to watch the proceedings on giant flat screen TVs with beverages in hand, or just prefer clean bathrooms. (Really -- call us!) Let's make this a good 'un, folks.

Forecast

Ah, just what the TR Department of Assessment needs over the holidays -- another Clinton audit! Was Whitewater really that long ago? Bubba has made public nearly 3,000 pages of donors to his Foundation, and the big sticking point in the weeks to come will likely be the amount of Middle Eastern money raised. We're keeping our eyes and ears open to see what happens to Hillary -- and here's hoping people refrain from further groping of her photographic likeness.

The GOP has to challenge at least one Cabinet nominee, no? AG pick Eric Holder will likely be the fall guy due to his involvement in the pardon of Mark Rich (the Clintons really never stop giving). So, yes, folks, turn to C-SPAN to see Arlen Specter lead the Potomac Rite of Passage grilling. (And thanks to a politics-obsessed friend for reminding us that Obama's historically-quickly-organized cabinet was NOT likely to go through without a murmur.)

Guess who's saying grace at dinner? Yes, you've all heard by now of anti-gay Rick Warren being tapped to give the inaugural invocation, and you won't have heard the last of it until after the Big Day. Gay rights groups are particularly wounded by Obama's willingness to welcome their opponents to a prominent stage. What, we wonder, is Obama's political calculation here? He's won the White House, so why pander to anti-gay evangelicals now? (Give us a shout if you have a theory.) Coverage of this decision will not relent online, in magazines, or on cable -- hell, Warren's on NBC tonight talking to Ann Curry, and something tells us she doesn't like him either. The QoS is still fuming with outrage -- what, is a NOOSE the only taboo these days? We don't buy O's quick little soft shoe "inclusion" routine. Unfired O-speechwriters fondling Hillary's cut-out, Mr. Say-No-to-LGBT-Equality giving an invocation, sexist Larry Summers heading the Nat'l Economic Council... this ain't Change. Should we resurrect George Wallace for a little pre-inaugural prayer breakfast, just for fun?

It hardly seems like Christmas is six days away, but here we are. The vibe is wrong, probably 'cause buzz words like "modesty" and "restraint" are prevalent now that the burden of a limp economy is on our collective shoulders. This explains why the still-unfolding and still-horrifying Bernard Madoff arrest hit especially hard this year. While one of Wall Street's titans goes down in flames, look for a hunt for co-conspirators this winter.

Russians shall soon be seeing Mickey Mouse ears on the corners of their TV screens. Disney plans to launch a free-to-air channel in the world's largest country, making it the only US media company with a full-time branded channel there. Better learn Russian, Miley; the Hannah Montana empire is about to expand across all of Northern Asia and 40% of Europe....

Chrysler has decided to shut down all 30 of its plants for one month starting at the end of this week, due to the historic nature of the industry slowdown, and other automotive companies are jumping on the desultory bandwagon. Thousands of workers who are not on the assembly line will most likely be talking to the press in some capacity -- look for them speaking about the stalled bailout and the future of the UAW well into next year.

But, yes, even in these troubled times, news anchors will not part from tradition. Stories of "Christmas miracles," good will towards humankind and New Year's resolutions will still bore us (does anyone make resolutions anymore?). But we'll gladly park in front of the Yule log with the other flacks and discuss our prospects for 2009. Spiked egg-nog, my dears?

The Week That Was

Well, you saw the shoes. We saw the shoes. You can even throw some yourself. The President saw them in time (say what you will, but the guy's got good reflexes) while Dana Perino didn't. But what did the press see? Something emblematic of our five year-plus occupation of Iraq. Dreams of congratulations and roses turned to angry screams and flying footwear. And, to cap off the week, we got news that the U.K. will be out by July and that a high-level coup was thwarted. The holiday season comes to Iraq early, eh?

The latest beneficiary of this year's MSNBC boom has been Chuck Todd, the new White House correspondent for NBC News. Todd's the biggest rising star in the NBC galaxy and his handling of NBC's First Read has been an enormous help to the TR and our faithful. Congrats, Chucky T!

It looked like Eliot Spitzer might have a comeback as he signed on as a Slate columnist. But the internet certainly taketh away a whole lot more than it giveth. Mere days after his first articles launched he was caught at a holiday party saying his new gig sucks. At a former massage parlor, no less! Has he learned nothing this year?!

The wags at MSNBC certainly learned some lessons, and posted their most successful year since their launch. But with election season over and the new government more, umm, "sympathetic" to the network, how will they fare in the coming year? Please submit your ideas as comments on our blog, you bunch of smarties.

Oh god. Jay Leno is never leaving. Were we really bad this year, or is Santa replacing the coal in our stockings with that chin in our faces? It appears Leno will be back at the 10 pm slot for NBC. Luckily, we're already bracing our Netflix queues at TR Central to counter this onslaught.

On the heels of the revival in interest for the Nixon Administration (e.g. "Nixonland" and "Frost/Nixon") comes news of Mark "Deep Throat" Felt's passing. As one of Hoover's prized G-Men and legendary Watergate informant, he journeyed through two fascinating American eras. We'll break out our paperback copy of the White House tapes in tribute. (It's surprisingly travel-friendly.)

So Obama is Person of the Year. Quel surprise... but heck, why not. Indeed after finishing up all of his cabinet appointments this week, his approval rating has reached a near-record high of 70%. O has changed the fault lines of not only the nation (duh), but also the Turner Report. If not for his historic year, we're not sure what this newsletter we're so proud of would have looked like week after week. Never mind -- we don't want to imagine it.

And now for our first-ever Q1 Flack Planning Guide!

If it's not about Obama, change, the new administration or a new gadjillion dollars being pumped into an undeserving industry, wait until late February/early March to tell your story. The only exceptions may be curtain-raisers for the return of Congress. And oh yes, if you've rented your house for $50k/night during Obama-rama, you can get some ink. Also let us know (sotte voce, natch) how you did it.

Scorecard

Shopping-on-a-budget stories were available far and wide. Plus a healthy amount of chatter on Obama's new energy team by progressive bloggers, as well as more revelations from the Blago tapes.

You've learned a year's worth of snark from the very best, so that mass family email on your cat's latest adventures should be more entertaining than ever. Hit us up if you still need some training. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The TR: Blago's Balls of Steel, More Blood in the News Industry, and Begging Oprah

After a really great November, Chicago returns to tragi-comic opera. It's an early O honeymoon test -- the right-wing blood sport has been good fun. Expect O to continue staying gracefully out of the muck as we ...

The Forecast

... comb through the audiotapes. Wow, we're seeing people we actually KNOW. And can Jesse Jackson Jr. really talk his way out of being "Candidate Number 5"? Maybe he'll do some soft shoe with Client Number 9 Spitzer. Expect more players to emerge. And soooooo ironic that the Trib (aka "Thorn in Blago's Side") declares bankruptcy even as Chi-town politics go vaudevillian.

Speaking of which, other depressing newspaper news include the slashing of Gannett's team, the closing of Cox's DC office and NPR's across-the-board budget cuts (including elimination of programs "News & Notes" and "Day to Day"). This must be why over the last few months we've had nearly a dozen name-brand journalists in our tiny little agency asking for jobs ... (Oh, and one more giant X-mas-sales-can't-save-us sad face: KB Toys is going out of business, too.)

O's Afghani policy is going to shake up wonks for a while. Will the escalation bog O down as it did Gorbechev? This may become the big story of 2009 as our newly minted security team gears up for a truly defining challenge. (Which may remain an untold story, of course, as the news industry implodes. Go, go, citizen journalists!)

And, of course, our new energy team has its big rollout next week, accompanied by media tutorials of what it all means. Every time the President-Elect's appointments are announced, his approval ratings shoot up, and we expect that winning formula to continue.

Three cheers for the internetz!!! The Pulitzer Prize will now accept submissions from online-only publications. Thanks for finally taking progress seriously, guys! Now, don't the words "The Pulitzer-Prize-winning Turner Report" sound golden to you?

Expect the continued onslaught of holiday-shopping-on-budget stories. Lean times mean lean coverage.


The Week That Was

We've already said enough about Blago. EXCEPT, in our two favorite blogosphere stories, buddy Colin Delaney awards him a brand spankin' new "balls of steel" statuette, and Matt Cooper offers advice (from personal experience) on how to cut a deal with Fitzy.

Wednesday's valiant "Call in Gay" effort didn't keep many people home. Guess when you're financially shaky you just don't feel up to playing that protest card. After this and the Prop 8 musical, we've just got to ask: When will there be a hardcore grassroots fight, instead of well-meaning but empty gestures?

All hail Tina Fey, new queen of YouTube (and Vanity Fair). Her Palin impression set the online world on fire. Now if only that could translate to solid ratings to keep 30 Rock on the air! Yes, we know about Hulu, and you're missing the point. Stupid 21st century... even the slackers are too lazy to watch TV.

Now for some entertaining (and disheartening) garbage with which to end your week: The Most Outrageous Comments of 2008. From Obama as a "crap sandwich" to "autistic kids are frauds" to ... well, let's just say it gets worse. Kind of like nasty road kill -- you kinda hafta look.

Just 'cuz the Tribune is deep in the red doesn't mean they can't bring Kris Kringle down with them. The newspaper's call-out for photos of children terrified by department store Santas got an avalanche of responses. Horrifying and utterly fascinating. Odds are one of our readers will identify one of these pictures and respond with an angry e-mail. We'll risk it! Enjoy.

Finally, a special message from the culture minister who just can't help herself: Dear Oprah, I know we mentioned you a lot last week, and usually I have nothing but good things to say. But for the love of carbs: STOP APOLOGIZING ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT. You and your celeb-royalty status set an example for millions of women worldwide. ACT LIKE IT. Please?


Scorecard

They reached a bailout agreement, but not for Detroit. And nothing on North Korea. So we'll call it a wash. We LOVED ya at the holiday party! (Especially all those divine people who told us how great the TR is, natch!) Good luck with the rest of the party-hopping season, and we'll see you in the trenches.

Friday, December 5, 2008

From the TR's Department of Corrections

Hey all.

A correction on one of the pieces appearing in this week's TR. Turns out that Michelle Obama will not be recieving a pricey ring according to the Associated Press.

Apologies to our readers and the future first couple.

The TR: Matthews' Moment, Stretch's Success and Caroline's Coup

We're beginning to take on the sickly, pasty pallor of winter. The brush of weak morning light already hurts our skin as we scurry to our desk; it's dark as a tomb by the time we drag our body away. But, like a creature of the night, our mind is sharpening. (If you're not a teenage girl, you may not get the reference. Oh, wait...) Read on and let our rapier snark at least bring a little light into your day.

Forecast

With a more specific set of demands in place, Congress may finally hold that mythical auto-bailout vote next week. During this week's second round of testimony, automakers gave Democrats better and more apologetic language to sell to the public... and made a bigger ask. But never mind that last point. We were too busy digesting the message (paraphrasing here): "If we fail, get in line, taxpayers, behind our other creditors, if you want any money back." The nerve! Look for continued outrage from the Lou Dobbs/cable TV cadre of semi-right-wing populist rabble-rousers. Our culture minister walked by the newspaper stand yesterday and broke into a cold sweat at the sight of Jeb Bush gracing the front of several newspapers.

Are the Bushes getting into position to tag-team on the national political stage? Seems so, as the Republican base consolidates around Jeb for Florida's newly opening 2010 senate seat. That's right, the cascade of Bushes and Clintons continues. Notice the ink on those "Change" posters starting to fade already?

Ok, so we’ve got Bushes and Clintons back in the public light -- that only leaves… Kennedys! Late-breaking word has it that Caroline has been offered Hillary’s seat by Governor Patterson. But she’s apparently still mulling it over. Stay tuned on this; we’re as excited as all of you!

While we're talking about Senate elections, it's said privately (albeit not too) that if Hardball's Chris Matthews wanted to throw his hat in for the Pennsylvania Senate race, he'd have to quit MSNBC almost immediately. That means a huge punditry hole opening up for up-and-coming experts and writers to get some pre-prime-time play. Publicists, stay on your A-game!

With Saxby Chambliss' victory in this week's Georgia runoff comes a kind word or two from the victor about Sarah Palin's terrific efforts in firing up the base. We knew she wasn't going away... no one is that lucky. (However, our culture minister thinks Sarah's still on the edge after snubbing Oprah. No, seriously... OPRAH! The Big O is still trying to nab that interview, but unlike the Queen of Snark, the Queen of Media has too much pride to pursue her quarry for long.) That Sarah single-handedly broke Obama's political momentum during the elections is a fantasy that Republicans will likely buy into (half-heartedly, but still) in the coming weeks. She's really here to stay, folks. Get the popcorn.

The Bush administration gets one final crack at North Korea next week during the non-proliferation talks, marking the end of eight years of misery in the State Department. By all indications, this is a last-ditch attempt to establish some sort of legacy before the Obama people take over. Expect a foreign policy statement from O's people and Hillary to establish what will be done to follow up with these talks. Sneaky devils, ain't they?

In other foreign policy news, expect the temperature of the India-Pakistan relationship to continue to bounce between high simmer and boiling point after the attacks in Mumbai last week that killed an estimated 172 people. The mainstream media only offered a little commentary on this, probably because it happened around Turkey Day (sigh... priorities?), but the Queen found her best news source to be that diva of the blogosphere from culturekitchen (hi, Liza!) by way of -- surprise -- Twitter. Props to the social media maven for keeping us focused on the news, and for underscoring how bizarrely useful Twitter continues to be.

Do you feel that surge of energy taking the nip out of the December air? You guessed it: D.C. is preparing for a January siege of spectators, media mavens, possibly Shakira, and, oh yeah, those of us who already live around here. Oprah (two placements in one TR!) is on her way for either an Inauguration-themed show or to catch Sarah in a surprise maneuver, and ground rules are being mapped out for the intense security. So what will TR Central be doing? Looks like you'll have to drop by and see us just outside the parade route to find out. We'll bring the Irish coffee (for warmth, natch) if you bring the s'mores!

The Week That Was

Stretch is in! Looks like David Gregory is the new moderator for Meet the Press. While NBC tries to find out exactly who leaked that tidbit to the HuffPo, we're very pleased with the decision. As an American University alum and longtime White House correspondent, he's a kindred spirit: someone who understands where to turn off the Beltway to grab a great cocktail. The man just knows Washington.

In an effort to highlight New York City's blasé bureaucracy, The Daily News stole the Empire State Building using a handful of bogus documents that were approved by City Hall with nobody batting an eye. Bravo! TR Central can't remember the last time such a brazen act of muckraking proved to be so fun and educational at the same time.

This week, press outlets from across the country descended on Atlanta to sniff around CNN's new proposed wire service, creatively named "CNN Wire." (How much were you paid for that divinely inspired moniker, marketing guys?) Already the AP is fighting back, calling the cheaper service, "Remarkably, Abysmally Written." Ouch. But these fossils better cast about for fresh audiences instead of trying to drag-race their opponents with bitter sniping over the shrinking number of existing print-news consumers. Maybe the TR should start our own? We could call it... TR Wire! Gosh, we're brilliant.

YouTube gave the anti-choice crowd more to yell about this week when it removed Live Action Films' low-road "exposé" on Planned Parenthood. The outrage fomenting over this and the new gift certificates available from PP represent the vanguard of wingnut activity. With the Democratic Party taking control of the national dialogue on choice, it won't be over soon.

The economy is tanking and Obama does not quite feel our pain. The President Elect loses points on the sensitivity meter as he bedecks wife's finger with $30,000 diamond ring as "thank you" for putting up with his marathon presidential run.

And surely you've heard Ed Rendell's offhand remarks about how Janet Napolitano is suited for Homeland Security because she has no family, and, therefore, "no life"? TR Central will have to check our top secret government sources, but we're pretty sure there are a fair amount of fathers guarding this nation. And c'mon: we've still got Sarah up in Alaska, keeping us safe from Russia, don't we?
Scorecard

Hey, we were scarfing turkey and pumpkin pie at Grandma's last week, too! When we see you on the holiday party circuit around town, you'd better have your snark on!

Friday, November 21, 2008

EDIT: Late Breaking News for the TR

Hillary at State!

Richardson at Commerce !

Geithner at Treasury !

It's an Obama Administration fire sale! All jobs must go !

Ok so we dropped the ball by about an hour on late breaking news. But these appointments looks promising and O, ever the understated showman, has given us the weekend to stew it over and bask in his brilliance.

The TR: Pining for Presidential Picks, Panicked Private Plane Passengers and Palin's Persecution of Poultry

Hey, we had snow flurries this week! Less than ten minutes, but here in DC, it almost set off a round of school closings. Stay bundled up and read on for temperature-raising snark. Better than a fireplace and hot cocoa, we promise.

Forecast

In the main event, Hillary's never-ending vetting process should reach its big dramatic finish with either the big gig or new power in the Senate. The secretary of state chair is an equal-opportunity gabfest for talking heads on both the left and right, especially with Bill's "he'll do whatever it takes" pledge to smooth Hil's way. Including revealing every dollar received and every sexual indiscretion, maybe? Will next week herald a "Monday surprise" of particularly damning Uncle Bubba behavior? If so, don't look for Rahmbo's fingerprints. Whoever gives up the big guy will sleep with the fishes.

The auto industry has leapfrogged the The Man and rolled out a strategy to rally public support for federal loans. Detroit's finest flacks have gone online with a GM sponsored YouTube video and the website jobspercar.com. However, after a thoroughly degrading dressing down on Capitol Hill, the big three may have made only a little progress. What's worse for the unions? Bail-out conditions or Chapter 11 reorganization? This story will continue to unravel into next week, as will the still-plunging Dow and the lack of detail (and/or planning) regarding that famous 700B of our children's future tax dollars.

In coming weeks, the entire GOP will descend upon the runoff Senate race in Georgia to field-test messaging for 2010 and 2012. They got messages already? With the drubbing they received a couple of weeks ago, one would think they'd put a little more thought into it. This will mean a lot of old faces from the 2008 race and some new ones as well. TR Central (sigh) will keep you posted on the latest election news. Yeah, we know, we thought this was behind us too.

The tech guys over at MSNBC have designed a helpful Presidential appointment Keno ticket to help you keep track in the middle of spine-tingling suspense. Smell that bureaucracy in the air? But the new appointments so far have received mixed reviews from all sides. The Blogometer broke it down for us; check out the online reactions and then hit up our comments section to add your voice to the mix. We're not the only ones with strong opinions, are we?

And, of course .... Thanksgiving! Pick up the new Sarah Vowell Book and grab a flight/bus/train/hot air balloon to your embarrassing dinner table of choice. Gelatinous cranberry sauce anyone? No? Then how about pre-canned media: the Macy's T-giving Day parade, sports analysis, weekend news anchors, cooking segments, "Alice's Restaurant" on the radio and a hiatus from hard-hitting news. Try to enjoy the Spam feast and maybe even take a cue from Mrs. Palin, who talked to the media while a turkey was... what's the adverb we're looking for here... horrifically slaughtered in the background. There's that giving spirit!

The Week That Was

Motrin has a headache from online mommy attacks. Does Mom really use baby as a fashion accessory, and does it really give her a Motrin-craving back ache? Online protestors think not. Under the Twitter tag "MotrinMoms," they spread their hellfire into the blogosphere and mainstream media. It was an exercise in textbook crisis management using Internet activism and social media savvy. Call it "Cautionary Tale 2.0."

If anyone ever doubted the influence of women online, now they've got proof of their cluelessness. They could learn a thing or two at the newly announced Feminism 2.0 conference, online now and in the flesh on Feb 2, like how much louder women can roar online. Be there or be square!

Henry Waxman this week narrowly defeated old man Dingell for the Energy and Commerce chairmanship. The implications for this are twofold: First, Detroit's Rep is no longer in charge of the nation's energy agenda, which may be a huge opening for climate change. Second, the committee's jurisdiction over broadcast media means that new advertising regulation could be around the corner. Adjust your strategies accordingly.

This week also, Ted Stevens' reign in Congress came to an end, and thank goodness this wasn't Palin's "open door." No one knew how to play the appropriations game as well as Stevens. Could the last prize he reaps from Washington be a pardon from the outgoing president?

Seems like everyone is in the mood for change lately, including PepsiCo. The Giant Liquid Sugar Pusher will no longer be working with longtime advertising agency BBDO Worldwide. BBDO may have made Pepsi "The Choice of a New Generation," but the switch to TBWA should inject new blood into the soda's image. The TR's marketing intern would like to suggest, "Have a Yes-We-Can of Pepsi today!" for starters.

We've known this forever, but now that it's on the front page of the NYT, everyone else should too. Newspapers nationwide may be wasting away, but don't worry, folks, journalism itself is still kicking. We've seen the future, and it doesn't suck! Small web-based news operations -- often staffed by laid-off newspaper reporters -- have sprung up to uncover stories overlooked by the varsity teams. These little websites won't be taking over the media just yet, but they are and will be a good source for getting the stories you won't find anywhere else.

Finally, if your teenage daughter has been especially agitated this week, allow Dr. TR to make the diagnosis: Twilight fever. The white-hot but chaste love story of girl and vampire hits the big screen this weekend, and we suspect there'll be older elbows shoving the young'uns to the side to get a fix of escapist romance in these decidely unromantic times.

Scorecard

Did we tell you the auto industry's bailout request would get major attitude? Even we were surprised by the impressive pile on by media and government. Remind us to never hit up Barney Frank for money. No TR next week! Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The TR: Election Euphoria, Atheist Advertising and Messin' With Journalists

The media (and, admit it, the rest of us) breathlessly hang on every O workout and evasive syllable that falls from John Podesta's lips -- but the world economy still hangs in the balance. Read on for gallows snark to get you through next week.

Forecast

Don't expect the Detroit bailout to go anywhere, what with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson morphing from indulgent parent of banks ("Anything to make you feel better, snookums!") to tough-love dad of automakers ("No handouts, young man -- it's character-building loans for you!"). Dad, must your discipline extend even to the defenseless baby in the family, the struggling homeowner?

Meanwhile, what to do about the tanking retail sector, aka "safety net for the newly unemployed?" As American Express converts itself to receive the holy communion of golden crumbs from the infamous $700 B, and as AIG, Fannie and Freddie line up for seconds, uh, could we please have a little transparency? PLEASE?!

A desperate world will be poring over the outcome of tomorrow's G20 Summit, which will discuss ways of addressing the international financial crisis. Come on, world leaders! No need to get all Debbie Downer by bemoaning how ineffectual it's going to be or by painting the host, Dubya, the fool by alleging he didn't even know what the G20 was (isn't that Jon Stewart's job, anyway? Give him his last few shots while he's got 'em!). Maybe it's the crushing disappointment that O won't be crashing the party. (But, hey, he'll be on 60 Minutes!)

With various Senate races dragging on, campaign junkies need not go cold-turkey into withdrawal after all (and thank heavens for that!). In Minnesota, elephants and donkeys will continue throwing numbers around through the Tuesday hand-recount, one side to cast doubt on the process, the other to forecast an Al Franken victory. Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin are facing off again in Georgia, and Mark Begich is edging ahead of Crypt Keeper Stevens as Alaska continues to slowwwly count absentee ballots. Dem hopes for that golden ticket of legislative dominance, the mythical and filibuster-proof 60 seats, could be achievable after all (if they can resist the urge to toss Lieberman overboard).

Finally, O's most important appointment, over which he is visibly struggling, could hijack the whole news cycle next week: First Puppy. The sheer adorable-ness of this Presidential Family is almost too much, even WITHOUT the puppy. Add in a baby animal and Hannah Montana cameos and we think our Culture Minister may require an insulin shot.

The Week That Was

Who could ignore this week's wildly amusing coverage of Towel Gate, Africa Gate (see our next item for more), and the continuing saga of Fashion Gate? Ye Gods, Sarah Palin, you are a one-woman scandal industry -- the Queen squirms with Schadenfreude. You are less successful in the spin game, however. Oh, and did you pay someone in the Secret Service to give your hubby the code name "Driller," or did you guys lose (or win!) a bet somewhere? We're going to take the high road and avoid all the obvious snark here, guys. If you've got a snappy one-liner, leave it in the comments!

Two aspiring TV producers fooled the blogosphere (and harried TV newsrooms that prowl blogs for fodder to toss into the gaping 24-hour news maw) into believing that Martin Eisenstadt, adviser to John McCain, was the source of various colorful Palin fun facts. All it took was a few amateurish YouTube videos, a quickie website for "Eisenstadt's Think Tank," a deadpan blog, a few emails, and source-checking neglect at MSNBC, The New Republic, and the LA Times. A web search would have turned up plenty of warnings that Eisenstadt was fake, says the Gray Lady. Would-be hoaxers everywhere are waiting to see whether this feat lands masterminds Eitan Gorlin and Dan Mirvish a TV pilot based on the fictional pundit (cuz that's, uh, original?). As for Palin's alleged Africa gaffe, New York Magazine says it has yet to be debunked.

Maybe we did kinda take Johnny Boy's word for it when he asserted to Jay Leno that Arctic Barbie did not hurt his ticket. Without her, would more of the ultra-conservative Republican base have stayed home, making way for tumble weeds to blow across the empty fields of his rallies as the old war hero faded away? (Hey hacks! How's THAT for purple prose?)

Hmm, perhaps Obama can be friends with lobbyists after all. They're not all bad, you know -- some use their powers for good, not evil. Virginia gave a good deal more than an inch, but the Dems are plotting to take a yard: How about Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe for Guv'nah? Howard Dean is stepping down from the chairmanship of the DNC, while... wait, could it be?... OMG, is that Newt Gingrich edging his way to head the RNC?!

The culture wars rage on, with the Obama win provoking conservatives to new heights of aggression. Catholic bishops vowing to fight the administration on abortion, and the passage of Proposition 8 eliciting passions and protests that continue to re-ignite. Liberals, if you need a break from the backlash, we can help.

So, Larry Summers, women's pretty little heads are incapable of advanced math and science? Bam! Off the short list.

In entertainment news, the pregnant man is (spoiler alert!) pregnant again; Michael Moore is really trying to stay relevant; the new season of Top Chef started in NYC on Wednesday (Spike, our favorite from last season and who hangs in DC, was live-Twittering; this really IS the best cooking show on TV); atheism has marketing reps, apparently; and publishing lay-offs continue at gossip rags. Luckily, the Turner Report is still doing a-ok!

The election may be over, but media outlets are still looking for ways to keep the excitement going. How, you ask? By writing a book about it! Step right up for your copy of America Speaks: The Historic 2008 Election by ABC News and USA TODAY. Every last story, detail, and picture will help you re-live it over and over. And if that's not enough, there's a fancy little companion DVD that captures the "voices of the voters" so you can return to the days, er, months... no... YEARS of the campaign.

Finally, our favorite story of the week: supremacist skinheads charged with Obama assassination plot cry foul -- the jury has too many black people. Another DIY-snarkfest, dearies; put your quips in the comments and show us some love.

Scorecard

Media coverage of Treasury Secretary appointment? Nailed it. Hard-right turn for the GOP? Nailed that one too. Automakers? Yup. We are on FIRE, y'all!

Get geared up for those holiday parties, people; you've got a LOT of hobnobbing to do. If you need cool stories to impress your boss with, you know where to find us.

Have a lovely week!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The TR: Holograms, Hooligans, and Hope

Yes, he did. Now... what's next?

Forecast

Barack Obama wins and effectively kills the Red State/Blue State Map for the time being. VA, IN, and, yeah, even NC are now true blue! Does that mean maybe the media will cool it with the cartoon, Joe Six Pack, hard workin' white guys spiel for the time being? We mean, c'mon, that ship has totally sailed.

Cabinet and inner-circle speculation is running rampant right now. Hell, it's more fun than this election stuff anyway, unless you really want to parse over flag pins and plumbers again for another couple of months. (Uh, no thanks.) But since this was an election that was all about the economy, the media thinks that the most immediate vacancy to fill is the treasury secretary slot. We wouldn't be surprised if AG speculation replaces it next week, since the Bush gifts of Gonzales and Ashcroft left open wounds nowhere near healed. The Obama spin will be all about the perception of a new type of administration from the top down. Will that mean new and unexpected faces at every turn?

Rumblings of the coming Civil War in the GOP have also jumpstarted. The real problem for them is that Bush has remade the party in his image of Salesman-in-Chief, and so far no one has seriously questioned whether or not they should improve their product-they seem to want just bigger and prettier billboards. El Rushbo and friends want to hit harder and become tougher. And, the defeats of moderates Chris Shays in the House and Gordon Smith in the Senate point to a hard right turn for the national party, now that their middlemen (haha, get it?) are in the wilderness. This is miles away from Karl Rove's dream message of a center-right permanent majority. Coming weeks will chronicle new stars who might take this opportunity to give the elephant's trunk a good tug, and, dare we say, in the process fire up the grassroots.

With a new day for America comes a new direction for foreign affairs. While the world was overjoyed by the renewal of America's promise, Russia proved itself to be the bad dinner guest at the celebration. Obama's first challenge may be handling Putin's plans to re-ascend in a Russia bolstering its military ambitions. In this narrow window of time in which we have a President-Elect, it will be very interesting to see where this situation goes.

Everyone wants a slice of the new-power-structure pie. Lobbying workshops that were burning the midnight oil before the election are now going into hyperdrive to get an ear and a voice for their causes. But it seems that American automakers will get their first crack at Speaker Pelosi next week in an effort to get the lion's share of bailout money; the environmental community needs to act now so they can make sure their voice is heard just as loudly.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is visiting Iowa on November 22. Oh God... it's started!! Do people have to start donating their Facebook status to him already? Wonder if Sarah Barracuda has sat up and taken notice of Bobby's perambulations.

The Week That Was

Well, if the media didn't love Obama before, they have plenty of reason to fawn over him now. Election viewership was through the roof, and newspapers (remember those? We think Starbucks still sells 'em, or maybe the bookstore) were going like hotcakes the morning after. Will all this new attention and revenue lead our beloved media to continue to finance silly/awesome things like holograms (our Culture Minister's favorite, natch)? At least we can be sure that Olbermann will have enough hair gel to last him through the State of the Union. The TR's MVP award goes to Newsweek for their riveting quadrennial piece on how the Presidency was won. It was like I, Claudius for flacks.

Usually we reserve our gloating for the Scorecard. But we'd like to point out how right we were about Hispanic turnout carrying Obama, AND how criminally this was underreported by the press. Luckily the almighty blogosphere picked up some of the slack. This is now the new demographic to watch, and we'd advise you to keep an eye on how immigration reform will play a new role in the new Democratic majority.

To California's shame, Prop 8 passed handily. TR Central agrees with Kos in projecting that gay rights will take on a new vitality in the culture wars, even in our Brave New World. That many voters in the state split their ticket between Obama and the decision to ban gay marriage means, tragically, that even liberals can be persuaded to vote for discrimination if it's framed attractively enough. While many lawsuits are appealing the decision, the GOP will no doubt seize on this, one of its few bright spots.

A new White House, of course, comes hand-in-hand with a new inner circle to craft the Presidency. Bush's backslapping-salesmen Texans are history; meet Obama's Chicago Mob. He's already tapped Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, Bob Gibbs as press secretary and David Axelrod as senior advisor (the Rove hot spot), all tough and determined guys who know what they want. And don't expect the normal chaos of an incoming administration with John Podesta and Valerie Jarrett helming the transition team.

Part of the transition will also include the first ever government website devoted to updating the public on the activities of the President-elect. From where we stand, this looks like the nascent period of what is sure to be a Presidency that will avail itself of the internet at every opportunity.

With the election now over and McCain happily grilling ribs in Arizona, it's revenge time for beleaguered ex-McCain aides -- fortunately for us (the fun don't stop!) and unfortunately for Arctic Barbie, it seems. Someone remind us, please: Is Africa is a country? Sigh... maybe we WERE being too kind these past two months. But we can stop this train before it heads into the next station: The Stop Sarah '12 movement has begun, starting with the people who worked for her. We do think, though, that "Wasilla Hillbillies" has sitcom potential.

Finally, we want to send an appeal to the untold numbers of people who used the election as a pretext for finding love in all the wrong places: Do tell and satisfy the curiosity of our dirty (but discreet, we assure you) little minds.

Reader Comments

We're shutting down the Election Center at TR Central for 2008 and focusing on palette-cleansing TMZ for while, which has our friend Dean weeping over his coffee:
"Gee, there are only two things I'll miss after next Tuesday: 1) All those sleazy and entertaining nasty & negative ads on NY TV for races in NJ, and 2) The weekly Turner Report snarkfest on the week that was."
Fear not, dear readers. While the campaign theater may be over, the political snark goes on - we can't help it, because, to our mothers' despair, we're just that kind of people.

Scorecard

We promised an election based on strong economic messaging and the voters delivered in droves. We were wrong about Stevens, but almost take comfort in the fact that he and Palin get to stay in Alaska - might be too much punishment for one state to bear. Also, we said we'd see you at the recount but, heehee, we didn't say which! Go Franken!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The TR: Charlie's Courage, Valium-Assisted Voting, and the Cusp of the Campaign

This is it! The five-year campaign is slogging to an end (what, you said it's only been 20 months?). We've faithfully covered every step of the way. Think about it: by the time you see the next TR, we'll have a new President-elect! So, for this momentous TR, we'll tiptoe into the media's haunted house to see who's shaking and quaking.

Forecast

Well, what else is going to rock the media world all next week but the fate of the free world? Could Johnny Boy pull it off? The electoral bean counters say it's nearly impossible. If the stars somehow align, look for man-in-the-street interviews about a stolen election and much commentary on the smears and negative ads that drove the rabble mad - and sent McC and Caribou Barbie to the White House. Hate-baiting is a risky path to victory, my Johnny O. When you pull the election into the quicksand, it's hard to get to 270 and not go under yourself. Or as they say in that real America Bible: "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?"

The big money is on O. If it turns out to be so, the wing-nut media will scream about ACORN-stuffed ballot boxes and socialism and unsubstantiated terrorist ties. More responsible folk will be talking about Obama's incredibly well-run campaign and the real Joe (and Josephine) the Plumber's fears about the economy.

Commentators will also examine the Hispanic and women's vote. When the foreclosure crisis broke, the Latino vote (a community vulnerable to predatory loans) flocked Obama-side. You may remember, Bush's decent numbers among this demographic were needed to (sort of) carry 2000 and (definitely) 2004. O's economy talk also has moved women in a huge way.

If you're still strapped for a costume idea, you could go to your Halloween fetes as someone holding the country's worst job: Congressional Republican. With even Liddy Dole's and Gordon Smith's heads ripe for the chopping block, the Dems will significantly increase their majorities in both houses. Our new favorite lobbyist (you know who you are) says this election will change governing for 30 years.

But lest you get too cozy and complacent about the poll margins, allow us to gently advise you: Get out there and vote, Vote, VOTE! We may as well follow the Dems' lead and conclude Election 2008 with some consistency by playing it safe to the end - this election's too important. And if you suspect that there's voting impropriety or any erstwhile shigidy (as we hear them call it in Pennsylvania) going on at your polling place, do not hesitate to report it at 866-MY-VOTE-1.

Finally, here at TR Central, we've gotten so over-wrought and wild-eyed in the home stretch, that some very human news caught us completely off guard: John and Elizabeth Edwards may be breaking up. His essential decency and her grace made many of us wish they'd move into the house next door when they couldn't move to the White House. May the Edwards' privacy be somewhat sheltered as this news gets lost in the gale-force media winds waiting to embrace the coming of a new President.

The Week That Was

We're loving the new "O is anti-semitic" story line being dished out by McCain (think of Florida much?). This is just the latest unbelievable, wacky, anti-Obama story - they seem to crop up every four hours. You may check out the "homeless aunt" and Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi for starters. But this desperate scramble for any late-breaking surprise story shows just that - desperation.

Things have gotten so bleak that candidates are even conceding the Presidential race and campaigning on the idea of no one-party rule (for the health of our democracy, man). Jeez, is anyone playing to win anymore? Liddy's even re-cutting audio in order to present her opponent Kay Hagen as godless. Uh, wow.

Across the ideological spectrum, both sides are SERIOUSLY FREAKED over this election, requiring more hypertension medicine and mucho Xanax. One of our best Facebook friends laments that if O loses, "they'll just have to start passing out the poisoned Kool-Aid." The TR Pre-Election Psychiatric Wing understands this pain.

And what of Sarah Barracuda, you ask? She's committed the biggest of the big ROGUE campaign no no's: openly talking about her 2012 run. The Momocrats share our concern that she might appoint herself to replace Senator Stevens if he loses his bid or is expelled from the Senate. Either way, it seems that nothing we can do on Tuesday will erase Palin from the national scene. But we meet this prospect with gladness, for, with all the heavy troubles to be faced when the political theater is over, Palin-watching will be the source of much-needed satiric relief.

The Obama 30-minute, $3 million infomercial was money well spent, especially as a lead-in to the final World Series game (kept those folks in Pennsylvania riveted, we're sure). TR Central was most impressed with the stories of struggling families and retirees in Bush-Era America. O made voters take a good, hard look at their own circumstances before heading to the voting booth.

We'd like to take a moment to commend Governor Charlie Christ for doing the right thing down in Florida by extending early voting from eight to 12 hours after reports of technical difficulties. We'd also like to give a big shout out to the folks at Voter Action for successfully suing Da Man in Pennsylvania to get more paper ballots on hand at polling places.

Scorecard

Okay, it was Phillies in four. But we'll still take the credit.

Have a safe and fun Halloween night, DC-ers! See you at the recount!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The TR: Obama Zombies, Reppin' the Rednecks and Al Bundy's Agenda

Brrr! Everyone here in the big city is bundling up, and the interns are showing off their new boots. Really, it's all a part of fall tradition. Did you carve your Barack-O-Lantern yet? They'll soon be everywhere - ditto for the Obama Halloween masks (which may run neck-and-neck with the Palin costumes). Yes, for the next couple of weeks, the unprecedentedly gargantuan and inescapable Prez campaigns will become even gargantuaner. Scary!!!

Forecast

John McCain has essentially abandoned a slew of states to concentrate on the slim hope of turning Pennsylvania around. Because he can't afford much ad time, he's been glutting personal appearances. But the poor guy keeps undermining himself with mind-boggling verbal slips. At least the gaffes keep him in the news. With no serious GOTV operation and no momentum, he'd otherwise slip our minds entirely.

Meanwhile, Obama is turning red states to blue as he surfs around the country on a massive wave of cash. His big ad buys and superior ground game stun the voters, then he swoops in to reprogram them en masse. Go ahead, say it: "Must. Vote. Obama!" Expect this trend to continue, as he picks up the shallow undecideds who like to vote for whomever looks poised to win.

We must all keep an eye on electoral misconduct, mishaps and mischief. The folks at Brad Blog are doing an excellent job keeping track of problems with touch-button voting. Few people have been paying attention, but just wait 'til they occur in major toss-up states and voters start grumbling about mis-recorded votes and long lines, as we're starting to see in early voting.

Hey, Ben and Jerry's is offering free ice cream for voters on election day. Ice cream in November? Hmmm. You guys don't sell coffee, do you? However this race is going to turn out, there is sure to be a new Obama flavor soon. Baracky Road?

With Conservatives needing something (anything, really) to latch onto, the prospect of beating John Murtha has suddenly become the silver chalice for the next two weeks, after the senior congressman's gaffes about the racists and "rednecks" in his district. Hey, you take what you can get, right? His opponent William Russell has been barnstorming the blogosphere and right wing media. Even if Russell doesn't come out on top, he'll have a higher profile in conservative circles for a long while.

On November 14, Lame Duck Bush will host a 20-nation summit to address the financial crisis. Will the President-Elect have to live with the decisions Bush makes at the summit? Watch for a steady news drip regarding this new G-20 event in the coming weeks.

Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples in California, has been winning support in a state largely divided on gay marriage. We suspect it's because the proponents of the bill have been running ads with young people claiming to protect civil liberties through a strange stew of hipster-Nixonian-doublespeak. The scary part? So far, it's working. This might be the finest use of new media by conservatives in quite some time, and it's gonna heat up real fast.

As for the World Series, Phillies in 6!

The Week That Was

PEW's Project for Excellence in Journalism says Obama DIDN'T win the media war -- McCain just lost, badly. According to PEW's newly released study of media coverage of the 2008 campaign from September 8 through October 16, the heavy bleeding began with the economic downturn and didn't stop. No doubt Colin Powell's wounding endorsement of Obama this past Sunday just made it worse. The lesson of the day is clear: Declare war on the "elite" media at your peril.

No matter how much the wingnuts dug Rep. Michelle Bachmann's McCarthyite screed on Hardball, the blowback for her rant on anti-American activities was severe. Almost overnight, her opponent in Minnesota, the delightfully named Elwyn Tinklenberg, was flooded with donations while the RNC picked up stakes and left town. Way to go, Rep. Bachmann!

What's the best way to show your solidarity with struggling moms? Um, spend $150k on your wardrobe? (GONG!) It's all going to charity after the election, but do struggling families really need womanly-yet-assertive jacket and skirt combos to get them through a bitter winter?

Right-wing pundits haven't been much help to the Republican effort. Some say Matt Drudge has been rendered virtually irrelevant to the media narrative (citing Nickelodeon Kids Choice polls as evidence of a McCain comeback). Limbaugh isn't even skirting his racism anymore. And Michelle Malkin thinks that Joe Biden has "imploded," even though the man has to practically beg to get on p.15 of Arts and Leisure. Is this the best they can do?

Talk about turning on the heat. The far right now insists Obama not only consorts with terrorists but with Satan-lovers. Check out Fox News Political Contributor James P. Pinkerton's latest posting in the Fox Forum Report. Just in time for Halloween!

The RNC's been insisting for months that the media is biased for Obama, and now that includes Nick at Night and TV Land. Seems Opie and the Fonz want you to pull the lever (or push the button, or touch the screen, or stand in line, or whatever) for Obama. Even Al Bundy is in the tank!

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die




Scorecard

We anticipated some shake-ups in the newspaper endorsement game, and, boy, were we right. Many publications that backed Bush in '04 are now on the Obama bandwagon, including the Chicago Trib, which has never ever endorsed a democratic presidential dandidate. Glad to see everyone got the memo!

See you next week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Video Game Voters, Pesky Plumbers, and CosmoGirl's Coda

The debates are over and now we can vote! Soon! Please? It will distract us from constantly checking how our meager savings are being decimated by the still-plunging Dow. Besides, we have to take what's left of our home equity line of credit to start shopping, though, given the economy, the Election Eve tree will look more like the True Value discount aisle.

Forecast

Hey, Iraq! Long time no see! So, um, hows about we hang around 'til 2011? Right now that's the tentative agreement the U.S. and the Iraqi government have reached for a withdrawal. Since this is likely the first step in what will no doubt be a long journey to pull out, we're really begging someone to do a proper editorial on this development and the possibilities it holds for global and domestic security. C'mon, guys, we know you've got it in there somewhere.

The latest war between man and the money he hath wrought has turned to emerging markets around the world. Expect to hear more talk of the threats facing globalized economics in newly industrialized countries in the next weeks. Perhaps even mentions of debt forgiveness may find its way into the mix (you hear that, Bono?).

Newspaper endorsements are right around the corner, and it's pretty safe money that Obama will be raking them in heavily this time. No surprises there. However, we'll be looking anxiously at the language used by editors to define McCain and the GOP as the hateful right wing mailings sink lower and lower. Oops -- they're ahead of us! Here's the Post's "go, go Obama!" nearly full-page piece.

The Week That Was

While Obama and McCain shamelessly pandered to fancy millionaire plumbers (no we won't repeat his name -- for once a plumber is going to have to wait for us to call back), George Packer provided one of the most insightful pieces on "economy-first" voters this week in the New Yorker. Get your heads out of the Beltway clouds, flacks and flackettes, to see a more reliable window into the swing states.


We'd like to point out instances of responsible journalism (for a change). If you're curious about what actually caused the crash, check out this past week's Economist editorial (the whole crazy story in a page and a half -- without the complicating factor of Dem/Repub finger pointing), the Washington Post's series, and the New York Times editorial.


If you had any doubt how powerful the Obama's campaign ad money is, they've recently purchased space on, get this, 16 video games. Digital billboards -- jeez, people may vote for this guy just to see what he'll do for re-election. In response, McCain has vowed to follow Donkey Kong to the gates of hell.




As for messages, the desperate new Republican Party triangle is: Fannie/Freddie/Clinton/Obama caused the crash; ACORN plans to steal the vote; and (sotto voce and only in deep red states) Obama is a terrorist.

The economy sucks, so -- BUY STUFF!!! That's what plenty of companies are trying to tell you these days, although they might be using a slightly more subtle approach. The financial crisis of late has been the perfect advertising tool for the likes of Burger King, Denny's and even Brooks Brothers, whose recent ad says, "Just as our ad stated in the 1940's, during these uncertain times Brooks Brothers is still the investment you can trust." Don't buy stocks; buy pants. Priorities, people!

Chris Buckley, the man who has conservatism hardwired into his DNA (no, seriously, it's the latest fad in genetic science), is now backing Obama following his resignation from the National Review. Yes, folks, now even the Buckleys aren't conservative enough anymore. The TR Historical Society is ghostwriting a posthumous endorsement from Herbert Hoover to go along with this one.

It isn't a new idea, but it's getting more and more popular. In the same vein as that creepy Wendy's ad we mentioned a while ago, another corporate giant jumped into viral video marketing with both feet -- and hit bottom fairly quickly. This time it was Ruby Tuesdays, with their video of a mistaken demolition of a neighborhood "Chici's" instead of one of their older chain restaurants. Um, is this supposed to be post-modern messaging? It's going over our heads.

Oh no, CosmoGirl is going under! Now 16 year-old girls will have to switch to Cosmo in order to find out about life's kinky knickknacks and domestic disappointments. Sigh, they grow up so fast, don't they? See you at the nail salon, ladies.

Scorecard
We really cleaned up last week. Palin was pummeled in Philly and, more importantly, the European banks found solidarity behind an innovative plan to preserve the liquidity of their own banks. Gotta keep that momentum going... See you next week!