Maddow For Meet The Press

As NBC searches for a permanent replacement host (or hosts) to anchor its top-rated Sunday morning show, most of the floated suggestions seem not just conventional, but nearly regressive. Tim Russert's Meet The Press was known as the gold standard for Sunday shows - the toughest interviews and the hour most likely to break news. When politicians didn't want to face Russert, they defaulted to Blitzer or Stephanopoulos for a softer ride.

But there's one name mentioned today that would rise to Meet's reputation:

I say give Meet the Press to Rachel Maddow. She's smart. She's quick. She's witty. She does her homework. And she listens to what the person she's talking to is saying. She doesn't just go to the next question on her list.

If Obama is post-racial, Maddow is post-gender--divested of hair-frosted femininity in the anchor genre and more appealing because of it. Like him, she's a calm, unflappable new era phenomenon. Sure, she's a lefty, and in the past week she's been swinging away at Obama's cabinet choices, but I suspect she's ambitious enough to dial it back if she had to.

Maddow wouldn't be a Russert replacement - she'd be better, in part because I'm sure she wouldn't "dial it back." Russert conducted "tough" interviews, but they were often "tough" in a process-focused way that was almost as likely to ferret-out an inconsequential truth as a substantive one.

But as we saw with Maddow's interview with Barack Obama, she's unwilling to use conventional wisdom (i.e. "left vs. Obama") as prep material, relying instead on the substance of specific concerns and issues.

I'm sure that any of names already mentioned to replace Russert (Gregory, Ifill, Couric, Todd, Mitchell) would be fine. But Meet the Press shouldn't settle.

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Change Vs. Experience Redux

You remember our old friend change vs. experience from the primaries. Barack was all about change, Hillary was all about experience and, apparently, never the twain shall meet, as though the two terms were somehow opposites or mutually exclusive. Despite the fact that Hillary failed to make the case that she represented both -- her experience enabled her to make change -- I think most people concluded that it was a false choice, but here the media and some very concerned folks on both right and left are questioning how Barack can truly bring about change if he's bringing in so many folks from the Clinton years and even the Bush years into his cabinet.

Today at a press conference, President-elect Obama batted this meme down ably.

Obama said that the American people would be "deeply troubled" if he didn't hire people with governing experience at a moment of such crisis, said they were merely tasked with implementing his vision, and placed the responsibility for creating that vision squarely on his own shoulders.

"That's my job," Obama said, adding that it "is to provide a vision where we are going and to make sure that my team is implementing it."

Obama added that his administration would "combine experience with fresh thinking."

Rachel Maddow explored this issue on her show a few weeks ago with Malcolm Gladwell and I thought his thoughts on the subject were worth repeating.

When I see what Obama is doing, I don't see someone who is just simply giving in to the old ways in Washington, I'm seeing someone with a healthy respect for the amount of time it takes to master the complex thing called running this country and frankly can we afford to have an entire administration learning on the job? I think we need men and women in there with 10,000 hours under their belt.

[...]

We're constantly balancing this question of expertise with this question of fresh faces and direction. I like the balance. I like his understanding that, as someone who is himself not heavily experienced in this area, he has to surround himself with those kinds of people. I wouldn't want an entire government of neophytes and I wouldn't want an entire government of old hands.

[...]

If this man is anything, he's not insecure is he? I mean he doesn't have a shred of that, so I don't see him getting pushed around by these people but I see a kind of enlightened respect for the value of experience.

You can watch the entire segment below:

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Why Joe Must Go

What Rachel said.

Yes, it really is that simple.

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On Delegitimizing Conservatism

I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say that Rachel Maddow rocks but it bears repeating in light of her interview with Barack Obama yesterday.

If you missed it, at the beginning of the interview, Rachel challenged Barack on why he doesn't speak in more harsh terms about the failure of conservatism and the Republican Party rather than just sticking to criticizing George Bush and John McCain's failures. Here's how the exchange went:

MADDOW: Senator, you criticize the Bush administration frequently. But, you almost never criticize the Republican Party itself...

OBAMA: Well, I do think there's a difference between the parties, but here's my belief. That I'm talking to voters. And I think they're a lot of Republican voters out there, self-identified, who actually think that what the Bush administration has done, has been damaging to the country.

And, what I'm interested in, is how do we build a working majority for change? And if I start off with the premise that it's only self-identified Democrats who I'm speaking to, then I'm not going to get to where we need to go. If I can describe it as not a blanket indictment of the Republican Party, but instead describe it as the Republican Party having been kidnapped by a incompetent, highly ideological subset of the Republican Party, then that means I can still reach out to a whole bunch of Republican moderates who I think are hungry for change, as well. [...]

MADDOW:And so, you have the opportunity to say John McCain, George Bush, you're wrong. You also have the opportunity to say, conservatism has been bad for America. But, you haven't gone there either.

OBAMA: I just think people are tired of that kind of back and forth, tit for tat, ideological approach to the problems.

Now, there is no doubt that there is a set of premises in the reigning Republican ideology that I just think are wrong. [...]

The Republican Party has gone so right when it comes to how we think about our obligations to each other, how we pay for things. And as a consequence, because most people think it's pretty important to pay for roads and bridges, schools. What we've ended up doing is tax cuts, no spending cuts, huge national debt. There's a core hypocrisy to how they have governed over the last several years, that I think has to be reversed.

And so we're going to challenge those things. The important thing though is, I just want to make sure that I'm leaving the door open to people who say to themselves, well, you know, I'm a member of the Republican Party and I remember people like Chuck Percy in Illinois, or Abraham Lincoln, a pretty good Republican. That there's some core values that historically have been important to the Republican Party, but just have not been observed over the last several years.

Rachel here echoes a sentiment I've been expressing for more than a year. Back in June 2007, in my first post on the front page of MyDD in fact, in the wake of poll numbers that showed the Republican candidates competitive, I lamented the failure of the Democratic candidates to use the presidential primary to attack the Republicans as acolytes of a failed party and a failed philosophy:

...every single one of them needs to be pinned with the scarlet letter 'R.' It needs to be ingrained in the minds of every voter that this mess that the Democrats are currently trying to clean up, failure after failure of six years of the reign of Bush and his Republican Congress -- whether it be Iraq, Katrina or the increase in economic inequality -- are systemic to the Republican Party. Republicans need to cease to be an acceptable option.

And then at a meet and greet at YearlyKos in Chicago last year, I had the privelege to meet Barack Obama and ask him directly why he didn't speak in more partisan terms about the failure of the Republican Party. I said I believed he had an opportunity to talk about his values as Democratic values and completely rebrand the Democratic Party. His response to me was fairly similar to what he told Rachel.

But a lot has happened since last summer (duh!) and I've been heartened to see the rhetoric of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in fact tack toward precisely the sort of language I (and Rachel) have been hoping they'd use. To some degree, this general election has in fact become a referendum on more than just Bush or even McCain but on the Republican Party and their governing philosophy as a whole. Certainly that became an overt part of the Democrats' stump speeches post-financial meltdown, but even prior to that, Obama took a swipe in his acceptance speech in Denver:

For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the "Ownership Society," but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you're on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You are on your own.

(APPLAUSE)

Well, it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States.

As I wrote at the time, this was the indictment of Republican governance I'd been waiting for.

Now, it's true, after the height of the fiscal crisis, once Obama gained a fairly comfortable lead, he has reverted back to his post-partisan messaging, which makes perfect sense for all of the reasons he describes in his interview with Rachel. But it's not entirely true that he has completely shunned any rhetoric that brands the Republican party and philosophy as failures during this campaign and for that I am grateful and indeed I expect we'll see the fruits of that branding reflected in elections all over the country on Tuesday.

Video of the first part of Rachel's interview with Barack is over the flip.

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Obama to Visit Progressive Media Outlets this Week

Via release from NBC:

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow will interview Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama Thursday, Oct. 30 on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," 9-10 p.m. ET.

And per the AP:

In the midst of a mad dash toward the election, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama will make time Wednesday to appear on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with its host, Jon Stewart.

These interviews represent one half of what appears to be a broader strategy by both Barack Obama and his campaign to shape the establishment media environment, in this case by rewarding and bolstering the nascent progressive big media. Josh has detailed the other half of this effort -- marginalizing the conservative media, in general, and Fox News specifically -- most recently here and here.

But the move by Obama to reach out to both Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart is equally important as the shunning of Fox. For one, it indicates that he is not of the mentality that the campaign is just about reaching the middle (or even futilely to the right), to the detriment of speaking to the base. The implications of this down the road are quite obvious (in the event of an Obama victory in one week), as if Obama campaigns in this manner it's much more likely that he will govern in this manner. Indeed, if this media strategy is an omen for what would be to come in an Obama administration, we might see a flourishing of the progressive media -- for which, by the bye, there is a real market judging from the ratings (yesterday Maddow and Keith Olbermann both won their time slot among the key advertising demographic, topping "Hannity and Colmes" and Bill O'Reilly, respectively, among viewers between the ages of 25 and 54).

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