Friday, April 18, 2008

The TR: Mayors and Guns, Environmental Pets and the New Katie Couric

Wow, we were really asleep at the wheel last week. Our forecast totally spaced on the Pope's visit (are we God-less?), forgot about IMF meetings (heartless?), ignored the Hill-O debate (numb?) and went to press about 60 seconds after the Obama "bitterness" comments broke (too quick out the door to happy hour?). Must be the paint fumes in this new office.

Anyway -- we'll be better this week. Read on.

Our Forecast

At long last, the Pennsylvania primary! If Hill wins by a significant margin, expect Obama-mania to become Obama-depression. Anything less than a double-digit win means the current spin cycle remains on auto-repeat.

Early next week, big city mayors get serious about gun control as they launch "Mayors Against Illegal Guns." Pre-primary ads that show all three candidates stumping for gun control will run throughout Pennsylvania. The organization's goal is to hold the candidates' feet to the fire so they make good on their promises. But, wait ... in Pennsylvania? We're not quite sure we get it. Mike Bloomberg's leading the charge -- does he aspire to be an agitator in the 2008 race? Or is the New York mayor an "elitist" who doesn't get that the Keystone State "clings" to God and guns?

Ben Stein's new anti-Darwin diatribe, "Expelled," opens in select cinemas today. High-decibel blogosphere outrage abounds. Imagine what they'll say when they actually see the film. No advance screenings for scientists or film critics only means more progressive backlash. To us, it looks like Stein's PR team xeroxed a few pages out of Mel Gibson's marketing plan for "The Passion of the Christ." Look for much blog and cable news noise on this one.

The First Lady will guest host The Today Show this coming Tuesday. Is Laura the new Katie?

Jeff Stier's attempt to incite worries about Obama's health will go nowhere -- but wow Jeff, that's some creative thinking....

Finally, just in time for Earth Day, we have a new campaign -- Pets for the Environment -- designed to whip your children into utter outrage. You've probably already received the cute crayon-ready cartoons as part of their very successful, (truly?) viral e-mail campaign. Oh, yes, and don't forget to visit the giant party planned on the Mall (expect metro page coverage).

The Week That Was

Last week's TR press-time just missed the breaking Obama "bitterness." In a meteoric Macaca-like flash, the quote began as a crude tape recording on a little-read Obama supporter's blog, graduated to the Huffington Post and flooded into the collective psyche of the mainstream media, where it became one of the thoroughly-flogged commentator questions in the last Hill-O debate. While the remarks were offensive, it's a bit off-putting to watch Hillary and the GOP share bash-Obama messaging. Watch Hillary's TV ad, then compare it to vituperative GOP mailings for a Pennsylvania House campaign. Yikes!

Well Obama may be facing a tougher time in Pennsylvania, but it's nothing compared to the battle Jack Cafferty will face if he runs for president of China. Hmmm, we wonder which network will be particularly predisposed to air critical reports of the host nation during the Olympics?

The historic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to D.C. snarled traffic and gave us all food for thought. We applaud Der Papst for acknowledging the sex abuse scandal in the church and for meeting with victims. The Church has too long dragged its feet, litigated and obfuscated. But enough request for forgiveness, and a little more proactive rooting out the problem, please. It's not enough to blame it on America's secular environment. We hate to remind his Holiness of the main tenet of reconciliation (newfangled word for confession): You must confess to a priest, and then honestly embrace new behavior. The Queen is a proud Catholic convert who's honestly afraid to take her gorgeous little boys to CCD (that's Sunday School, for you Protestant heretics out there).

Meanwhile, the American Life League placed full-page ads in The Politico and The Washington Times asking why certain Catholic pro-choice lawmakers are still allowed to receive communion. With photos nearly begging for an instant papal excommunication. (Check out the 1995 Papal Encyclical of Life -- Catholics aren't even allowed to express support for abortion.) Man, that's harsh and wrong.

Speaking of retrograde, McCain's sudden embrace of pro-life activists was chilling, though the ads scarcely moved the needle on Capitol Hill. Well, what do you expect from a guy who's older than plutonium?

Bush's much-ballyhooed Rose Garden speech on climate change was meant to turn heads but turned stomachs instead. The media saw the gesture as an attempt to block progress. We at the TR are feeling a wee bit hopeful -- the Prez's statement that solutions were required by legislators elected by the people, not courts or regulatory agencies, might actually be a tiny white flag. Could it be a signal to push Republicans to engage in the current "fix," i.e. the Senate's expected June vote on the Lieberman-Warner Act? Get busy, says corporate America, before the expected November bloodbath brings in more Dems! (And before another Manhattan-sized piece of the Arctic ice shelf crashes into the ocean!)

According to a study issued by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the number of newspaper writers currently employed is near a 25-year low. Yaaawwwwnnn. So what? With citizen journalism both making and reporting the headlines, the news hole is infinite and the information is out there. But there's so much info, we still need professional reporters to help us work through the info-overload. We wish ASNE would stop whining about the declining number of newsroom jobs with bennies and use its influence to disseminate journalism standards more broadly. Or, better yet, help professional journalists wean themselves from the teat of established-but-faltering media companies and join the online masses to help define a NEW kind of journalism and also raise the bar for everyone. And (sigh) SUCH OLD NEWS. TR Internet genius Gloria Pan has been blogging on this for years. Being on the cutting edge is hard -- it takes the rest of the world so long to catch up.

(P.S. At a recent ASNE event attended by the presidential candidates, Hillary shone in her speech and Obama was clearly exhausted and read from index cards. So says a newspaper editor insider and faithful TR reader who was there.)

ABC News was thoroughly trashed for focusing on trivial beltway gossip during the Clinton-Obama debate in Philadelphia. Even Charlie got heckled by the live audience in a viral snippet that's been making rounds among the blogs. For once, Georgie-boy defended the performance of supposedly "liberal" journalists. Shame that the final debate of the primary season was such a dud. However, we were fascinated by the bizarre Roman-Senate-meets-Star-Trek set, with eerie turquoise light bathing the concentric rings of onlookers.

Fortunately the campaign trail still has its fun moments, as evidenced by the appearance of the Democratic candidates on the Colbert Report. And sometimes, apparently, being a presidential candidate means boozing like a college student. As Jay Leno said of Hillary's chugfest, "She took the shot with the beer chaser. Did it like an old pro. To give you an idea how much she drank, when the phone rang at 3 a.m., she slept right through it." But who can blame her for feeling celebratory, now that she's within three percentage points of the big O?

Finally, actress and playwright Tricia Walsh-Smith updated Andy Warhol's famous quip: everyone is famous for 15,000 web hits. In Smith's case, it was 2.2 million views of a YouTube video in which she eviscerates her soon to be ex-husband in a series of bizarre and embarrassing ways. Let's hope they both signed a firm-but-fair Facebook pre-nup and worked out decent MySpace visitation rights.

Reader Comments

We received a slightly outdated (but still interesting) copy of Garry Wills' comparison of Obama's race speech to Abe Lincoln's famous Cooper Union remarks in the New York Review of Books from one of our favorite readers. Since the South Carolina primary we too have been thinking about the similarities between O and L: not hugely "experienced" (the latter was a failed one-term congressman when he ran for the Big Job), came-from-behind, great campaigner, considered a uniter, tall and lanky, from Illinois, etc. (Okay, Hillary folks -- go ahead and flame me and call me at home on Saturday morning if you truly must, blind to my love as you are. That is, if you haven't all unsubscribed already.)


We've already lashed ourselves quite thoroughly for last week's shoddy forecast. We went from awesome to awful in the blink of an eye. Everyone can have an "off" week once in a while, no?

OK, I've enjoyed our weekly visit, but it's time to get back to coupon-clipping so my little princes can go to college. 2008... what a year.


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