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.


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.


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?


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.


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?

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!