“Chuck Todd does not get it. Once he becomes the news in this manner he has failed as a journalist.”
Maybe it is difficult for some to recall the days when journalism as an industry was raised on a pedestal as the Fourth Estate, the Guardians of the People against Tyranny.
Really. Was a time. Technically, it’s why we have a constitutional provision guaranteeing free press.
Journalism has, of course, changed. One would hope the industry has evolved, but the question remains whether the Fourth Estate has evolved with it, or “evolved to extinction”. While it is easy enough to pick on, say, FOX News in this manner, NBC’s Meet the Press has long been viewed as a fixture of the Fourth Estate.
And whatever we might think of David Gregory’s embarrassing watch, Chuck Todd seems determined to use the helm to run Meet the Press into the rocks. Or, as Egberto Willies explains for Daily Kos:
Chuck Todd does not get it. Once he becomes the news in this manner he has failed as a journalist. A few days ago Alison Lundergan Grimes was interviewed by the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board. They asked her whether she voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. She justifiably refused to answer.
The talking heads and pundits claimed she was not prepared for the question. The lack of sophistication of the traditional media is astounding. It was evident that she was prepared for the question and she intended not to answer it. It was evident that her team likely thought the downside was worse if she answered.
Chuck Todd in another case of irrational verbal diarrhea said that her answer “borders on disqualification.” One wonders how not answering an inconsequential and silly question borders on disqualification yet he never said such on the various substantive lies and misstatements by Mitch McConnell (e.g, implying that Kynect is not Obamacare, etc.).
It is a fair point, indeed even a necessary question. Observing that employers cannot ask job applicants who they voted for as a prerequisite of hiring, we can at least consider the principle in the question of politics. Willies notes that Grimes’ refusal to answer “denied Mitch McConnell’s team a sound bite that would have been replayed ad naseum in a state where President Obama is less popular than dog meat”. Tactically speaking, he has a point that, “In a low-information, sound-bite driven society, denying that sound bite was likely the better move”.
Enter Chuck Todd, who apparently really, really wanted to be the story.
It turns out Chuck Todd’s sound bite was better than any sound bite Alison Lundergan Grimes could have provided. He became the news. He gave Mitch McConnell a sound bite from a supposedly neutral person that stated his opponent disqualified herself.
How does Chuck Todd respond to this journalistic mistake? He blames the candidate. “I think that is one of those situations where she invited this on herself,” Chuck Todd said. “It feels like she had a lot of consultants whispering in her ear, ‘Whatever you do don’t give Mitch McConnell a line for a TV ad.'” Alison Lundergan Grimes did her part. Chuck Todd failed as a journalist. He became the news. He gave Mitch McConnell a line for a TV ad.
So, let us review. In, say, Iowa a candidate for U.S. Senate advocates abdication of congressional duty. One wonders if this is remotely disqualifying in Mr. Todd’s opinion, or if, perhaps, it is a sterling marker of state Sen. Joni Ernst’s qualifications. Then again, perhaps she’s merely coattailing Sen. Ted Cruz, who argues Congress should abandon its constitutional duties in the face of an apparent war because Democrats should be disqualified from legislating between Election Day and Inauguration Day. There is some speculation about whether the guy from Canada will try to run for president in 2016; perhaps Mr. Todd can review this argument then, and announce whether Sen. Cruz is qualified to be president.
And bearing in mind that this is all taking place during a period when Congress is closed for business because Speaker Boehner sent the House of Representatives on a bonus vacation in order to avoid any potentially difficult votes before Election Day, perhaps Mr. Todd could check in on whether that disqualifies the Speaker from re-election to the House, or whatever the hell.
Observing, furthermore, that Cruz, the backbench junior Senator who staged a coup in the House of Representatives now appears to be piggybacking on the Speaker’s argument … well, right. That’s the thing isn’t it? What, really, does that have to do with anything?
Let us throw a couple of softballs: If a U.S. Senate candidate doesn’t live in the state, would that be disqualifying? Or would it be inappropriate for a ‘journalist’ like Chuck Todd to say?
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR4)? While politicians tend to stretch and twist bits of truth into gobs of taffy, the Arkansas Republican is hoping to lie his way into the U.S Senate. Any comment on disqualification, Mr. Todd?
Why this? Why Secretary Grimes?
In the end, the question comes back to the heart of journalism itself. The Fourth Estate would appear to be dead, though Chuck Todd seems to be looking for an opportunity to fire a couple more rounds into the corpse in order to be certain.
Regardless of what Meet the Press once was, this is what it has become, and this will be its legacy.
There is, of course, an honorable resolution: Chuck Todd should resign from MtP, retire from journalism, and find a new career more suitable to his political ambitions.
We expect this sort of pandering from FOX News, not NBC News. And, hey, FOX News likes hiring Republican politicians, so all Chuck Todd needs to do now is simply come out, come out.
Willies, Egberto. “Chuck Todd blames Alison Lundergan Grimes for his journalistic screw up”. Daily Kos. 15 October 2014.
Benen, Steve. “Cotton’s latest whopper deals with student loans”. msnbc. 15 October 2014.