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Chris Matthews (#110 of 3)

Notes on the DNC: #1 & #2

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Notes on the DNC: #1 & #2
Notes on the DNC: #1 & #2

MONDAY, AUGUST 25, 2008: DISPATCH # 1

As I dig into these notes, I feel it’s important to say I’m an outsider, politically; there are probably many people who, if awakened at 5 AM and splashed with ice cold water, could talk me under the table about politics, roll over, and go back to sleep. However, I’ve been interested in politics this year, in a way that I haven’t been in some time. Part of it has obviously been the clash between the two leading Democratic candidates—one African-American, one female, both complex, both viable. But beyond that, think about the timing. After 8 years of an administration about whom no amount of negative adjectives would be sufficient, whose previous lambasting has been so elaborate and so comprehensive that adding to it would be sheer redundancy, we find that the two leading Democratic candidates for President are a woman and an African-American man. Good work, Americans—where the heck have you been? The dialogue becomes, rather than who’s the lesser of two or three mediocrities, as it was in 2000 and 2004, something else. Who do you trust? Who’s more interesting to you? Who seems like they could win, not just in our imagination but in reality? Which is an interesting switch, to me at least—and will doubtless affect future elections.

The notes I’ve made below are spontaneous and sporadic—I tried to respond to events and comments that pushed buttons for me. If I sound a little dour, it’s because I am a little dour. This is an important year for Democrats, and my standards for performance at this convention are high.

Fear Factor: The Right vs. MSNBC

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Fear Factor: The Right vs. MSNBC
Fear Factor: The Right vs. MSNBC

There were two moments during MSNBC’s coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions when I changed the channel to CNN (or Fox News, out of curiosity): once when protesters with handmade signs calling for the “truth about 9/11” were inexplicably allowed to stand around and scream behind the cable network’s outdoor news-anchor desk, and once after Barack Obama finished his acceptance speech and commentator Keith Olbermann proceeded to have an on-air orgasm. On the season premiere of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher the following night, Maher joked that Olbermann (and presumably co-host Chris Matthews) wanted to have sex with the Democratic presidential nominee. The suspicion that Olbermann and Matthews have man-crushes (or at the very least, biases) led to the announcement on Monday that NBC News is replacing the pair with MSNBC host David Gregory during the forthcoming presidential debates and election night.

Olbermann’s bias toward Obama was made clear during the Democratic primary, and both he and Matthews were criticized for their comments about Sen. Hillary Clinton. Olbermann’s political views (and, unlike his Fox News contemporaries, his acknowledgement of those views) made him an odd pick for primetime news coverage: If you wanted an objective opinion during the Democratic convention in particular, you had to switch to CNN or network TV or wait for—gasp!—Pat Buchanan to toss in his (usually fair and balanced) two cents.