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It's been a long week. Maybe my brain just isn't firing on all cylinders, but I can't make any sense of this.What in the hell is Donny Deutsch actually saying in this exchange on the Today Show?
LAUER: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter is no stranger to controversy, and she's made big money by being outspoken, but some critics claim her comments this week on CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch crossed a line. Are they right? You decide.
[video clip of Coulter's appearance on Deutsch's October 8 show]
VIEIRA: Donny Deutsch, good morning. Watching it again, your reaction?
DEUTSCH: I have to set the context up.
DEUTSCH: It's very interesting. It's ironic she was on my show because our show, as you know, is about motivation and success stories. I pride that it's the only kind of positive night-time talk show.
VIEIRA: But you put her on.
DEUTSCH: It's an American Dream -- I put her on --actually my producer didn't want to -- to celebrate her business model. Like her or hate her, she has a very successfully business model. She goes to the extreme. She makes millions. Let's analyze the business model. So I didn't want to fight at all. I was like, "You know what? Enough of this nonsense."
VIEIRA: But this is part of her business model, isn't it? To be provocative.
DEUTSCH: OK, which, exactly -- she demonstrated. And frankly, in my old days, I would have started screaming. I guess to me -- I think we're at a moment in time. I think it's over. I think it's silly. I think we are creating between -- I want to link her and Britney Spears. It's very interesting. Britney Spears will crash her car again --
VIEIRA: [unintelligible] Yeah.
DEUTSCH: -- because until she does, she doesn't exist. Ann Coulter, without even realizing it -- I don't think she was doing that on purpose. She genuinely was like, "I'm sorry I offended you." But we're creating these critters in the media -- that she -- until she does that, she doesn't exist. And I want to hear somebody in the media to say, "It's kind of over. It's boring. It's silly." I think -- and I think the candidates need to follow this. I didn't -- we didn't service this. I didn't even want -- we didn't even want to run this. I think people are just tired of this nonsense.
VIEIRA: But what is it about this that crossed the line? Can we go down memory lane with Ann Coulter?
DEUTSCH: Sure. Yeah.
VIEIRA: Last year on your show, about Bill Clinton she said, "I think that sort of rampant promiscuity does show some level of latent homosexuality."
VIEIRA: Muslims: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, convert them to Christianity." On the 9-11 widows, she said among other things, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."
VIEIRA: This is her stock-in-trade. Talk about marketing.
DEUTSCH: There's -- exactly. Which -- and this -- she's a lounge act. The scary thing for me here was she wasn't doing it on purpose. She wasn't. And I think that's what -- we're playing dangerous with words in our society that there's no accountability. There's a glibness that we in the media kind of elevate, and I'm here to kind of say I'm personally tired of it, and I think America is tired of it also.
VIEIRA: So you're saying she should not be allowed on the air?
DEUTSCH: Oh, of course she should be allowed on the air. It's free speech. But I think the consumer's going to start to vote, and I think you're going to see less of this stuff on television. If you're really following the things that are successful today, hate is going out. People are seeing the stu-- when the producer is booking the show goes, "Oh, here we go again." People are just tired -- you're tired of it. I'm tired of it. And forget -- this is not an indictment on her. This is not a religious discussion. This, to me, is a moment in time where we kind of say, "Enough." Everybody in the studio is there watching, going, "Oh," yet we're talking about it. So you go, "Wait a second. Aren't we part of the problem?"
VIEIRA: Of course we are. We're perpetuating it.
DEUTSCH: But I'm going to raise my hand as one and say, "You know what? Over. Done. I don't care. It's not that interesting. It really isn't."
VIEIRA: All right, Donny Deutsch. Thanks very much.
That's just incoherent. If he thinks that the country is getting tired of Coulter's nonsense then why in the world does he have her on? And if he thinks that she's a lounge act, (a rather unusual way of describing an S&M show, but whatever) why does he excuse her by saying she didn't know what she was saying? Viera understands that the media is part of the problem, but Deutch's commentary is blithering nonsense.
Something very disconcerting has been happening in our discourse for some time, even worse than the up-is-downism that has characterized the most unctuously presumptuous members of the Cheney administration. It's no longer just Bush who is blatantly dumb on TV. A lot of public figures these days adopt all the poses and cadence of ordinary conversation, but actually speak in some sort of gibberish language that makes no sense.
Romney, for example, issued a 23-point economic plan yesterday that, if you didn't know better, you might think was a parody written by Jon Stewart for "The Daily Show."
In addition to proposing additional cuts in every major revenue source (income, inheritance and corporate taxes), he would effectively eliminate all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains; make all health-care spending tax-deductible; give additional tax breaks to make America "energy independent"; and provide a rebate to businesses for tax payments that might be "embedded" in the cost of anything they export. He opposes raising the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax.
Clearly, Romney's view is that the tax code is supposed to be used in the service of every economic objective other than raising revenue for government services. He figures his other initiatives -- like repairing transportation infrastructure, improving education and worker retraining, and strictly enforcing immigration laws -- can be accomplished without spending an extra dime.
While he's at it, Romney intends to tear up the Constitution by giving himself a line-item veto and the right to cut back any congressional appropriation by 25 percent, while requiring a 60 percent congressional "supermajority" to raise any tax.
And in a stunning display of intellectual inconsistency, Romney is determined to let each state figure out its best solution to the health-care crisis but not let every state figure out how to structure its legal system, instead imposing a federal one-size-fits-all version of tort reform.
Here's Romney looking and sounding very authoritative on foreign policy and yet what he is saying is complete nonsense.
The idea that we should be laying awake at night afraid that a group of at most several thousand people who control almost no territory or valuable military equipment might establish a universal caliphate or "collapse freedom loving nations like us" is ridiculous. Al-Qaeda's goals are absurd, and obviously so, and one ought to say so confidently. The fact that a relatively small group of people with lunatic goals can nevertheless knock down giant office buildings and murder a huge number of people is, indeed, something to be afraid of but not nearly on the grand geopolitical level Romney is postulating here.
On top of that what does this have to do with Iran?
Rudy Giuliani on whether or not it's a problem that China owns so much of our federal debt: "the way to balance to books is to sell more overseas -- sell energy independence, sell health care."
John McCain on monetary policy: "I'm glad whenever they cut interest rates, I wish interest rates were zero."
They gesture and talk and sound for all the world as if they are speaking with intelligence and authority. But they make no sense at all.
It makes you feel a little bit crazy. Last night I saw Tucker Carlson on Bill Maher respond to a discussion about bombing Iran with a non-sequitor asking why people think it's wrong to have a shotgun under the bed if you live in New York City. It seemed to have something to do with self-defense, but the analogy was so weird that it froze the panel a little bit trying to wrap their minds around what he was actually saying. Tucker's not stupid. He was indulging in the puerile "I know you are but what am I" style of rhetorical combat and knew exactly what he was doing. (His schtick is being a snotty little jerk.)But it was jarring in its incoherence, nonetheless, and even with a sharp panel of Maher, Paul Krugman and Joy Behar, it was impossible to truly nail him down when he was simply asserting gibberish and aggressively pretending it made sense.
This Bushian elementary school level argumentation has been around for some time on the right, but now it's becoming common in the media as well. And the Republican candidates have adopted it as their preferred mode of communication. I don't know if it's going to be successful this time, but unless the media do more than act as theater critics (he looked and sounded presidential!) and actually address the substance of what these people are saying, we could have another president whose communication style is so deliberately simple minded and opaque that we will spend the next four years trying to read between the lines to figure out what is really going on. (Come to think of it, that's undoubtedly one reason they do it...)
Luckily for the country and the world, the favored winners at this point, the Democrats, are not allowed to get away with such things because their voters live on planet earth and have a bottom line requirement that they communicate clearly. Indeed, they are frequently held accountable by the press for things they never even said. But when I hear the media itself adopting these right wing obfuscatory tactics I continue to worry. They remain the ones who are "interpreting" the election for the people and some of them sound as incoherent as Bush, Romney and Giuliani a good part of the time.
Why in the world does someone who speaks and thinks like Donny Deutch have his own current events show on television? It makes no more sense than he does.