Monday, March 27, 2006

# Posted 7:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY TALK SHOW ROUND-UP: Condi laid down the law on NBC. Ted Kennedy and Stephen Hadley faced the nation. Tom Tancredo and Arlen Specter were on ABC. Here are the grades:
Condi: A-. Perfect composure. Eminently reasonable. Russert couldn't touch her. Yet as diplomat-in-chief, she has no choice but to be vague.

Ted Kennedy: B+. Who was that reasonable man? Not the Ted Kennedy I know.

Stephen Hadley: A-. Eloquent and moderate. He's no Dick Cheney.

Tom Tancredo: A-. Intelligent, firm, rational. Not the small-minded xenophobe I was led to expect.

Arlen Specter: B. Reasonable as always, but paled next to Tancredo.
And the hosts:
Tim Russert: B-. He didn't put Rice on the defensive for even a single moment.

Bob Schieffer: On vacation. Gloria Barger filled in for him.

George Stephanopoulos: B+. Made sure the right got a fair hearing on the immigration issue.
It's been three months now since I started doing the round-up. The grades I give out come more from the gut than from any precise metric for assessing performance. So what would happen if I went back over my grade book to see who my favorites are? Here are some results:
Senate Dems: 11 senators made 18 appearances and received 3 x A-, 1 x B+/A-, 7 x B+, 2 x B, 2 x B-, 2 x C+ and 1 x C. The low grade went to Pat Leahy, the highs to Joe Biden (twice) and Ted Kennedy. Interestingly, the very junior Barack Obama led with three appearances, followed by Schumer, Kennedy, Leahy and Lieberman with two.

GOP Senators: 13 senators made 20 appearances and received 4 x A-, 1 x B+, 10 x B, 4 x B-, 1 x C+. The low grade went to Bill Frist, the highs to McCain, Specter, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner. Specter led with four appearances, followed by Frist with three.

House Dems: Only two representatives made it onto television -- Jane Harman, the ranking member of the intelligence committee, and (drum roll please) John Murtha. I was impressed by Harman. You know what I think of Murtha.

House GOP: Six House Republicans got airtime, but three of them were playing the role of dissident. Peter King and Duncan Hunter led the fight against the Dubai port deal and Tom Tancredo is attacking Bush on immigration.

Administration officials: There were five of them, plus three four-star generals. Bush got a B, Cheney got a C. Condi, Hadley and Chertoff did much better.

Other: A mix of party officials, fomer legislators, sitting governors and handful of pundits. The low grade, a C-, (in fact the lowest of the year to date) went to GOP Chair Ken Mehlman. In contrast, Howard Dean got an A-.

The hosts: All three average just better than a B, with Schieffer slightly lower than Russert, who is slightly lower than Stephanopoulos.
So, have I revealed anything about my preferences or principles through this grading exercise? The best analysis that I can come up with is that I was surprisingly nice to Democrats in order to my compensate for my dislike of what they were saying. But the few Dems who pissed me off got punished for it with 5 grades in the C-range, compared to 3 for the GOP.

Moving away from this vainglorious focus on myself, I think that the Sunday morning talk shows' choice of guests says something important about Capitol Hill: that most Senators are invisible on the national stage and that individual members of the House barely exist.

This result is almost exactly the same as the one arrived at 15 years ago by Brookings scholar Stephen Hess in his wonderful little book Live From Capitol Hill. Hess estimated that the 30 or so of the most important Senators get an overwhelming amount of attention from the media. (Yet even combined, these 30 get much less than the president.)

In my three-month sample, 24 senators were interviewed. Almost all of them were big names in Washington, except perhaps Jeff Sessions and Susan Collins. By my count, there were four additional senators who one would have expected to be on the talk shows but weren't: Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and Rick Santorum. Some might add Dole, Rockefeller and Lott to that list.

If the talk shows simply invited senators at random, then perhaps we would've heard more from folks like Bob Bennett (R-UT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Craig Thomas (R-WY). Frankly, if you put those names on a list, didn't say they were senators and asked me who they were, I would have no idea. That being the case, maybe Messrs. Bennett, Burr, Smith and Thomas should only get half a vote. Or would that be giving the media more influence than it deserved?
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

I listened to Condi on MTP, didn't watch so maybe I missed something but I'd grade her a little lower. She didn't seem to answer a lot of the questions, she seemed to be reading from a script oblivious to hat Russert was saying. n the other hand he didn't push her when she did this a few times som maybe she gets credit for cowing him or something.
It may surprise people to know that despite his ocassional bombast--and his sometimes too frequent incoherence--Kennedy is actually pretty sharp as far as Senators go.
Post a Comment