American
  















Pundit Pap
for November 3, 2002
Stewart Dares Tell Off Kurtz! Hughes Desperately Spins!
by the Pundit Pap Team

Nov. 3, 2002 -- NEW YORK/CHICAGO (APJP) -- Now, you'd think that with a pivotal election being two days away, we'd be filling you in on all the spin leading up to "Game Day".

Well, surprise!

This is Marathon Weekend in New York City -- which meant that the local NBC affiliate ran McLaugh-In at an intolerably early hour, and pre-empted Chris Matthews' perfectly awful new syndicated political chat-fest (we will probably review it next week).

And the big pundit fireworks happened not on any of the big network wonkfests but over on CNN, where a "mere comedian" lit into both FOX News Channel and CNN.

Here's what we caught...


Reprehensible Sources
When Howie met Jon, it was a rare and beautiful sight! Truth was spoken! The magic bubble of smug press denial was shattered! John Stewart boils down Howie to reflexive schoolyard defensiveness.

'Tis a rare and good day when us folks out in the vast TV wasteland get to see some good-old American truth spoken to the sham sachem of D.C. press propriety, Mr. Howie Kurtz. And those of you that have caught Howie's show in the past can predict how he would react if someone FINALLY held his feet to the fire.

That someone turned out to be Jon Stewart, "anchorman" of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show", and it was great!

Howie, who evidently considers himself quite the wag, thought it would be fun to invite John Stewart on the show for some nice, tame, irreverent fun "skewering" cable news. No doubt, Mr. Kurtz assumed it would be his chance to display his great wit and toss it around with Stewart.

But then something went horribly, terribly wrong. Stewart didn't play by the rules. Stewart went off Howie's sacred unwritten script.

It was a thing of beauty.

Howard was obviously stunned and befuddled, spending the majority of the interview stricken with brain lock, unable to even respond other than mustering up the next question. His beloved dysfunctional press was being torn apart limb from limb -- on HIS show!

Howie was in a panic. Realizing as he does that the only reason he is granted air time is to reflexively defend the press and/or dismiss all criticism, he struggled to say something, anything, to protect the press from this big mean bully in the form of John Stewart. To not do so might mean his job or worse: being razzed by the other popular press kids. But the beautiful part was, Stewart was having none of it. He wouldn't let Howie slide with his predictably bland, arrogant, dismissal of blame or responsibility.

In a rising tide of panic, Kurtz was forced to resort to the most infantile and ridiculous responses. As the segment worn on, Kurtz's chair seemed to visibly shrink. Howie was reduced to looking and sounding like an 6 foot idiot folded into a miniature chair holding a clipboard.

The blow-by-blow of the interview is below, but first came Howie's trademark opening questions. This is where he gives you his slant right up front. He always asks opening questions that make it obvious what his answer is going to be. Today's question: "Is the press being too soft on Walter Mondale?"

First, this is obviously THE media storyline that must be adhered to. I've already seen several negative pieces on Mondale, and they will continue. The RNC controls the press, and the press has obviously gotten their storyline, which is as follows: Mondale, though he didn't seek to be placed in this position in any way, shape, or form, doesn't deserve to just waltz into office. So the press will slam, smear, question, and broadcast Republican spin incessantly in an attempt to make it a close race in Minnesota. They couldn't stand to just sit back and let the people in Minnesota pick their own Senator. I guess they think Coleman, Bush's hand-picked candidate, needs a little help to overcome this Wellstone thing.

And back to the obvious. Howie asks the question for the sole reason of then being able to argue that, yes, the press is indeed too easy on Mondale.

But consider for a moment. Would ANYONE -- ANYONE at all other than Republican operatives -- even pose this question?! How many people out there in this country were sitting around thinking to themselves, "Gee, I wonder if the press is going too easy on Walter Mondale, being as he's been a candidate now for, oh, about 3 days?" (Hint: it's a number less than 1). And that is what shows clearly Kurtz's willingness to function as a cog in the right wing disinformation campaign.

The Republicans simply have no playbook other than negative attacks. So with that tactic momentarily taken off the table due to Wellstone's tragic death, they need to turn that around, and fast. (witness Newt Gingrich's attacks on Mondale last week before the plane had stopped smoking.)

In order to accomplish this, they made way, way, WAY too much out of (gasp!) politics at the memorial service of a passionate politician. And step two is to pressure the feeble-minded press into thinking that they're not doing their job unless they do hit pieces on Mondale to show that they're not affected by this sappy respect for the dead thing. "If you were doing your job, you'd be attacking Mondale! Don't let him have a free pass!" is the loud message.

While the press helps out in focusing inordinate attention on the Minnesota race, and raising questions about Mondale, they concurrently, and slimily, put out the suggestion that the press is being too "easy" on him. This is the level of sophistication we're dealing with, and is the reason that this is a Republican controlled country.

The phony and reprehensible attacks by the right on the Wellstone memorial service is scum personified. If a football coach that had spent 20 plus years dedicating his life to making a winning team suddenly died in a crash on a way to a game, and someone at his memorial said, "Let's go out and win for Coach Smith!", do you think people would get up and walk out and then say that those attending should "hang their heads in shame" because a speaker urged those that loved the coach and worked tirelessly for him to go out and win a game in his memory? Of course not! It's all ridiculous and beneath contempt.

But before they could get to the Mondale bashing, John Stewart made being Howard Kurtz a painful experience.

Howie started off by asking Stewart if how excited he was about the upcoming elections. Stewart said he was chomping at the bit to get out and vote, but it was hard to get people interested because, "apparently there's a -- what do you call it ---WAR going on."

Howie noted that there wasn't much coverage of politics on TV and asked Stewart if it was because politics was just too boring. Stewart said he thought print media was covering it just as much, but TV needs visuals, so that a bunch of Haitians jumping off a boat gets more coverage than an election.

Kurtz said it was "breaking news." Stewart then got in one of the first of many great lines. "Yeah, breaking news, although, quite frankly, you guys broke it, let's face facts." Beautiful!

He then said that he didn't think the term "breaking news" could even be used anymore. He said that during the sniper over-coverage, they just left it up on screen. HA!

He then asked Howie the question on everyone's lips: what's the difference was between "breaking news" and "news alert"?

Kurtz's reply was that "news alert" makes you think that there might be breaking news, but "breaking news" means that there's actually some "oozing thing" that might be news.

Um... OK. Notice that Kurtz took the question somewhat seriously and attempted to answer, rather than admitting that it was all bullshit. This was his first mistake.

Kurtz then asked Stewart if he thought people were tired of negative ads and did his best to imitate a stern voiced announcer saying "Joe Smith killed two of his business partners, can we really trust him with our futures?"

Stewart, tongue in cheek, said no, he thought people really looked forward to that, and to ads like, "My opponent gave Hitler a piggyback ride."

His theory for this is that political operatives have figured out that very few people vote, and those that do are the kind that answer telemarketer's calls at dinner time and actually talk.

Then Howie tried to give Stewart a plug for his election night coverage. He said, "Indecision 2000, live on election night? Why?"

Stewart, sharp as a tack, came back with, "Indecision 2000? I think we're going to go with Indecision 2002. We're gonna stick with the year that it is now", correcting Howie's gaffe. Stewart then asked if CNN was going to go live that night.

Kurtz got in his only humorous comments when he replied that he didn't know, but he'd check with the producers, and said that it depended on if anything else was going on that night.

Howie then asked why John Edwards, a potential presidential candidate, would ever come on Stewart's show, perhaps not the brightest question to ask. Stewart replied that he was "a kingmaker, an idol-maker. People come on. I'm kind of the David Frost of the Comedy Central set."

Kurtz noted that Edwards had promised to announce on Stewart's show if he was going to run, and Stewart replied that people have lied to him on his show before.

When the topic of the sniper coverage was brought up, Stewart told what he'd learned about the sniper from the press. He said, "By watching the 24-hour news networks, I learned that the sniper was an olive-skinned, white-black male -- men -- with ties to Son of Sam, al Qaeda, and was a military kid, playing video games, white, 17, maybe 40." HA!

Then came the first heat of the interview. Kurtz sarcastically said that they'd really nailed it, and Stewart said just as sarcastically that he thought they'd done a great job of profiling the sniper and that it was really responsible to put such people on the air.

He said that they should have called the coverage, "You know what I heard?" and just have people randomly showing up. Ha, ha!

Then Kurtz reacted with his typically misguided manner and Stewart was having none of it. Kurtz NEVER thinks anything is the fault of the networks, so he asked what Stewart thinks should happen to the "experts" that got it so wrong.

Stewart shot back, "Well, it's not their fault!"
Kurtz, apparently stunned that someone was suggesting that the media couldn't just sit there blaming their guests, said incredulously, "It's not their fault?"

Jon: No

Howie: Shouldn't they have to resign from the talking head society? [No, YOU that should do that, Howard!]

Then Stewart stunned Howie.

Jon: Shouldn't CNN have to pay a penalty for putting them on the air? You're Paulie Walnuts. You're VOUCHING! You brought a guy in, and you put him on the air and you VOUCHED. You said, 'No, Tony, this guy, he's good people, he's credible.' So whatever they say, I mean, they're called profilers. If you watched the coverage, you would have thought that that's what the police do, is they literally have two guys sort of almost like psychics sitting around going, 'Whaddyou think he is?' 'I don't know, maybe he's white, maybe he's black. Maybe he's with al Qaeda, maybe he's Son of Sam.' They're actually following real leads. I don't understand the idea of -- you know I heard a guy talking -- actually on your show -- saying, 'Well, the public really wanted information. They had a real thirst for information. So because we didn't really have that much information, we had to just speculate.'

If Howard Cosell were doing the play-by-play, he'd shout, 'THERE! Right THERE, is where Stewart landed the telling blow."

Kurtz [in defense mode]: We made it up.

Jon: Right. Which seems insane. That's like saying, "You know, the kids were real thirsty, and we didn't have any water, so we just gave them beer, because we figured that would work."

Howie: Well, you're right. The cable folks who put these folks in front of the camera have to bear some of the responsibility.

Jon: Not some. All!

YES!! Finally, someone that won't let Howie do his disgusting job of smugly operating from the belief that, no matter how bad it gets, it's never the media's fault. That it's the fault of the guests, the viewers, it's not really a problem anyway, the criticism is unjustified, and the ever popular, "We don't really like it, but we have to do it that way" defense.

Kurtz [dismissively]: All right.

But Stewart wouldn't let him off the hook!

Jon: Not some. They bear all of the responsibility. You cannot -- I'm not even sure what the reasoning was behind just putting people on who didn't know anything. I mean, you know what was my favorite part was the hand wringing. People would do this, "Now, I know that we're not supposed to speculate, you know, obviously, people are nervous and it would be irresponsible to inflame passions by speculating, seriously, though, do you think it's terrorism?"

Stewart spoke for all of us when he summed it up by saying, "Unless you know the guy's name, don't say anything. Unless you have information, rather than speculating -- unless you could say, like, 'Oh, the sniper? Yes, it's John Muhammad, I think.' Unless you know that, shut up, say nothing."

Kurtz then asked Stewart what he watched at home. Stewart said he mostly watched CNN all the time, though he had realized that the networks weren't meant to be watched all the time. Kurtz asked him, "When did that come to you?" and Stewart shot back, "When I was pulling my hair out -- watching the same footage over and over and over again of nothing."

I can relate.

Then Stewart took on FAUX "News" Channel.

Jon: I mean, Fox, let's face facts, is a relatively cynical undertaking, to begin with.

Howie: Because?

Jon: Well, it's basically, it's taken the AM radio mentality and labeled it fair and balanced just to upset you guys.

Howie [reflexively resorting to the irresponsible justification for the swill that is destroying "news"]: A lot of people watch.

Jon: Of COURSE a lot of people watch. A lot of people watch wrestling. A lot of people watch -- you know, you could put on porn, and I think a lot of people would watch it. [Touché!] But I think they call it fair and balanced just as kind of a dig. I mean, it's NOT. It's clearly meant to be more ideological and more opinion-based. They took the paradigm of AM radio. By the way, I enjoy what those guys do. I find it fun to watch. It's just not a news network. [Oooooooo! He's not supposed to SAY that!]

Howie: Speaking of CNN. CNN is now broadcasting...

Jon: You shouldn't have let me get away with saying that they're not a news network! [HA!]

Howie: They do cover SOME news. They have reporters. You seem to be...

Jon: Thank you.

Howie: ...dismissing -- all right.

Jon: But the thing about CNN is, you guys actually say, "You can depend on CNN." That's why I'm more upset with you than I am with them.

KURTZ [seemingly amazed]: You hold CNN to a higher standard?

Here Stewart finally asks what so many have wondered since CNN surrendered to the right wing juggernaut.

Jon: Exactly. I expect that from them. From you guys. I'm upset -- what I don't understand is why you guys, with the talent and the credibility, would want to take a page out of their playbook. Why wouldn't you want to take a page out of the more credible? Why wouldn't you go towards the other -- why would you go louder when you could go smarter?

That question, if answered, could probably render Howie's little dog and pony show obsolete, since if it were honestly answered, you'd you're your answer as to why the news and the media are doing such truly depressing and irresponsible work while abandoning completely their vital role in a democracy, informing the citizens and getting the truth out.

But, of course, Howie, good soldier that he is, despite pretending to be a media "critic", runs like a rabbit from the entire question. In fact, he pretended as if he didn't even hear it!

Howie: Now, you are now part of the CNN family.

Jon: No, I'm not. [HA!]

Howie: And it's -- CNN has, is broadcasting your show internationally.

Jon: I am not!! [HAHA!!]

Howie: Does that make you legitimate?

Howie, are you suggesting that YOU'RE legitimate?

Jon: No! I am illegitimate. I am the bastard son of anything. We're not -- we're fake.

Howie [warming to Stewart baking down]: Is that right?

Jon [still messing with him]: Yes.

Howie: I have a theory about this. [Don't GO there, Howie...]

Jon: That's why I don't have a tie. If I had a tie, I would be a newsman. But I am not. [HA!]

Howie: Well, I'm going to be -- I'm going to have to take this off. [What? Your show? Good! Oh, you meant your tie. Bummer.]

Jon: All right.

Howie: I have a theory about this, which is, you've been doing this for so long, to sit in front of the big anchor desk. [Like in Howie's most cherished dreams.]

Jon: Yes.

Howie: But you've come to think that, "Well, gee, maybe I am kind of a journalist. I can do this." [Again, fitting the mold, Kurtz follows the latest journalistic craze: psychoanalyze your subject. It's easier than reporting facts.]

Jon: No.

Howie: I could host CROSSFIRE.

Jon: Well, yes, you could host CROSSFIRE. What's that got to do with journalism? I mean, that's just a couple of knuckleheads. I mean, the promo for that is Bob Novak in a boxing outfit. I mean, for God's sakes, somehow I don't imagine Edward R. Murrow ever putting on the satin robe and going, "I'll destroy you!"

Howie [moving along]: I went to one of your tapings this week.

Jon: Yes, you did.

Howie: And I can reveal -- can I say this?

Jon: By the way, I didn't care for the heckling.

So here's where things stood at this point: Howie was going to continue with his planned line of attack against one who would dare expose the vacuousness and inanity of cable news networks.

First, like a Republican, he scraped the bottom of the barrel, inventing some psychological motivation and attributing it to the subject, no matter how loony it may be. In this case, Howie suggested that because Stewart sits behind a "big news desk" on his show, he's somehow been overcome with delusions that he could actually do the job of serious journalists such as himself.

Are you insane, Howie? How preposterous! You don't need to sit behind a big news desk to do as good or better a job than most cable reporters. Most people that spend time sitting behind a little desk with a hinged lid in grade school probably could.

Howie also implied that Stewart is getting a bit too big for his britches and might be thinking that he's qualified to be a "real" journalist. (Fact is, he's at least as qualified, if not more so, than nine-tenths of the charlatans on air.)

At this point, Howie moved on to what (Howie thought) must be a devastating blow to Stewart's credibility: he revealed that The Daily Show's correspondents aren't actually on location, but in reality right on the set.

Of course, any ten-year-old will tell you this is part of the gag, as they make it obvious that their "remote" reporters are nowhere near where they are "supposed" to be, and that the backdrop pictures or green-screened video footage is as phony as Chimpy Boy's "compassion". But Howard asks Stewart if this isn't being "dishonest."

Savor this next exchange. It's like a fine meal.

Jon: Our budget is to the point where we can only afford the picture of North Carolina. We can't actually afford the trip. So we put them in front of a just a green screen of that.

Howie: So you don't, you're not confusing yourself with a quote, "real journalist"?

Jon: No. You guys are!

Howie [dismissing the truth]: You're just making fun...

Jon [hammering home the point]: "You guys are confusing yourselves with real journalists.

Howie: Oh boy, you're loaded for bear today.

Jon: Instead of putting on shows like CROSSFIRE and GOTCHA and I'M GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS With Tucker Carlson and LET'S BEAT UP THE SHORT GUY. That was just one that I...

Howie: I'm glad you're at least watching too much CNN, Jon.

Jon: I am watching it constantly. It's driving me insane. Make the ticker stop! You're in the middle of a damn sniper story, and all of a sudden underneath it, you know, "Liza Minnelli's first VH1 show to air."

Howie: There's a new thing out called...

Jon: What?

Howie [in a maddening display of idiotic defensiveness]: There's a new thing out called remote control. We'll have to get you one.

Jon: But you're the NEWS! That works for entertainment. People need YOU! Help us! Help us!

Howie: Thank you for making us feel needed, Jon Stewart. Thanks for sharing.

Jon [with a dismissive wave of the hand]: Nyah!

Ah, the sweet, sweet truth. How invigorating.

I predict that never again will Kurtz risk booking someone who is outside the sacred big media brotherhood, who doesn't have to operate according to their oath of Omerta, wherein you speak ill of your press brethren under penalty of death. It's just too risky to have someone on that doesn't give a rat's ass about whether Sally Quinn is going to invite them to her next party, or about the disapproval of big shot media figures, or that coming right out and telling the truth might jeopardize his or her 6- and 7-figure TV gigs -- and perhaps most importantly, couldn't care less if Karl Rove gets pissed.

Such is the state of our current media that a comedian is the only one saying what desperately needs to be said about the steep decline in our nonfunctioning media.

-- Dash Riprock

 

This Weak
Good news for Dems? Steph's "Monsters of Election Forecasting" have bad news for GOP

You've heard it from us before, and we'll say it again: This Weak is the worst, most padded-out, and phoniest of the pundit shows.

But this week, it had its moments.

George Stephanopoulos started the festivities gushing about the Smirkster's high approval ratings -- which are in fact nearly 10 points below Bill Clinton's on the day he was impeached. There then followed a mostly monotonous introductory report by Jim Wooten on the multitude of campaigns and the (alleged) lack of interest on the part of voters.

But there was an interesting concession in this "setup" piece: Wooten admitted the GOP has been having turnout problems of late.

And why is that? Could it be that the party is so out of touch with Joe Six-pack and has lost its ability to fool its so-called "core constituency"? Could it be that both longtime GOP loyalists and fence-sitters are sick and tired of being lied to? Could it be that people are finally seeing through the Gingrich-Rove strategy of casting everything in black-and-white terms, short sound bites and simplistic mantras?

The answer to those questions, sadly, is probably a big "no". More likely, the problem is that GOP-leaners are uneasy about war with Saddam when we can't even find Osama.

Steph then welcomed White House has-been Karen Hughes. She's not aging well, and there was more than a hint of weariness in her on-message, "upbeat" responses to Steph's mostly softball questions.
Steph gave Hughes a chance to "demolish" the "notion" that the election is a referendum on Smirk. Naturally, Hughes talked homeland security and defense, a favorite old tactic to remind (read: scare) gullible GOPers to get out and vote for Republicans -- then claimed that the reason the Shrub is out campaigning is that he can achieve results for the American people" and has a "vision for our country."

That's right -- turning over control of America to Wall Street and stripping Americans of their access to the courts and free speech rights. Naturally, the notion doesn't occur to "win at all cost" reactionary conservatives -- and the need for Hughes to so emphatically push these "security" and "defense" smacked a little bit of desperation and only served to remind us that the Bogus POTUS has no domestic policy beyond fearmongering.

Steph quoted someone who said that the Dems are "exploiting" the sour economy -- which is a joke in that corporate media have been doing their best to quash the economy as a news story, exploiting the "serial sniper: and that evilest of evil evildoers (no, not Osama - Saddam!). Hughes said that in previous off-year elections, Dems did not want Clinton out campaigning with them.

Why, Karen? Because the whore press was trying to turn the Big Dog into a pariah and cowed Dems into shunning Clinton. They failed -- he's out campaigning and getting out the vote, and all you are left to do is fall back on the same tired Clinton-bashing.

And by the way, we haven't seen Smirk campaigning for Pataki or other Republicans in the metro New York area.

Why?

Because Republicans don't want to Doofus-in-Chief who has been nickel-and-diming New York and New Jersey in the wake of the 9-11-2001 attacks campaigning for their candidates. New Yorkers - including Republicans - do NOT have a positive view of Doltish Dubya.

Hughes returned to the issue of "homeland security" -- a sure sign that the GOP has only one card to play: fear.

And Steph changed gears at this point, bringing up new revelations surrounding embattled SEC chair-moron Harvey Pitt. Hughes tried to claim that Pitt's SEC has issued more fines than under any other SEC chairman.

Oh, please -- we've seen a litany of fraud-related corporate meltdowns in the last year, Karen. The SEC was FORCED to enforce under tremendous political pressure. Do you think we're stupid?

George then confronted Hughes about a rumored million dollar advance for her memoirs -- softballing her on where the title comes from.

Here's an idea, George -- why not ask her if she's going to come clean about the real reason she was ejected from Karl Rove's White House. Was she on the verge of becoming Smirk's biggest scandal? Inquiring minds want to know.

Steph then turned to his second guest, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, asking him about his prediction some months back of a Democrat pickup of 30 to 40 seats -- "what went wrong?"

Here Steph was showing his overall dopiness: it's the job of Congressional leaders to cheerlead on the Sunday shows.

Gephardt said he had said the party could have made those gains -- the real issue is STILL the economy and he predicted that Dems will win back the House. Steph asked about Dem calls for ending Chimpy's tax cuts -- and Gephardt went with the Democrat economic agenda, insisting the only way that real change will happen is if Dems are elected.

George turned to Pitt-gate, and Gephardt blasted GOP and White House silence on revelations that Pitt covered up information concerning William Webster, who was named to oversee audit fraud. Gephardt demanded that there be answers and the situation be "cleaned up" (read: Pitt must go NOW and Dems will NOT shut up about it). George said the White House says it has confidence in Pitt -- but are they going to let him go after the elections? Gephardt talked about massive stock market losses that hurt small investors -- and there has been a failure in regulating markets that has to be fixed.

George then asked Gephardt about the Democrats' unwillingness to challenge Smirky on his lust for war with Iraq. Gephardt called it "a matter of life and death, war and peace" and said that members should vote their conscience, keeping in mind what is right for Americans and keeping them safe. Gephardt said that he is glad the Chimp went to the UN, and working with them will have tremendous value. He hopes a resolution succeeds.

Then -- a puffed-up interview with Rudy Giuliani, who forecast that the GOP would hold the House and gain control of the Senate. Rudy tried to burnish his GOP credentials (he was in fact liberal on many issues as mayor).

Steph played footage from the South Carolina Senatorial debate - a deliciously nasty comment by Democrat candidate Alex Sanders blasting Lindsey Graham for moved in with two gay guys and a shih-tsu!

Rudy's answer was hardly important -- what astounded us was Sanders daring to play the "gay" card against Graham. There have been rumors in the Beltway for some years that Lindsey may have a "log cabin" sexual orientation -- and there's nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but one has to wonder about his constant whining about "family values" in concert with Henry Hyde, Bob Livingston and Newt Gingrich -- adulterers all - without coming clean about his own "perennial bachelor" status.

Tell us, Lindsey, have you EVER engaged in sexual activity with anyone you are NOT married to? If so, how is it that you have ANY right to be Bill Clinton's moral arbiter.

But we digress...

Does Rudy want to get back into politics? Maybe in the future, but for now he's enjoying "helping people" (read: enriching his many business and political allies). What about Pitt? Rudy said the issue should not be resolved during the run-up to an election (my Gawd, man, how true -- that could hurt the GOP!) -- and lauded Bill Webster as an honest guy.

George couldn't resist asking the ex-prosecutor about Injustice Minister Ass-KKKroft's desire to hand over the serial sniper case to Virginia. Rudy said that it's normal for prosecutors to shop for the toughest venue. Is it appropriate to seek the death penalty for a minor? In this case, said Rudy, yes.

George had set up all of the questions to make Rudy look and sound like a red-meat conservative. His real record in New York City is conservative on many issues, a hard-core supporter of tough law enforcement in some areas (quality of life, adult book stores), and practically dismissive of education as an issue -- but he's also leaned liberal and allied with Dems on more than a few occasions. Could he be lining up for a political bid in the future? We think so.

Then: predictions! Steph welcomed Democrat strategist Bill Carrick, GOP strategist Bill McInturff and ABC election analyst Mark Halperin. Carrick sees a pickup of 2 for Dems in the House -- but 3 in the Senate! Halperin sees Dems up 1 in the Senate, 1 up in the House. There was a lot of talk about crosscurrents. McInturff said that the "president's popularity" is the big issue driving voters (well, when you have a press that refuses to talk about the economy and cable news outlets that carry every word and malapropism the Texas Dauphin utters, is this any surprise?). George replied that if the president does not pick up seats, it's a loss. Carrick said Smirk's one message is "Gimme a R'publican Senate!" If he doesn't get it, that's a loss. He added that there is a mixed verdict on the Smirk Regime -- he's got a plus on international issues, a minus on the economy. Halperin said Shrub has tamped down criticism with success and that Dems are going to town on gubernatorial races, and Pitt's bungling is a "late-breaking issue" that will make people think. McInturff called it a "Sunday morning issue" -- then blamed Democrats for no prescription drug and homeland security" bills.

Better nothing than bad bills, Billy-Bob.

Best and worst campaigns?

Carrick -- Best: Jeanne Shaheen, in a tough state for Democrats. Worst: Bill Simon.
McInturff -- Best: Gordon Smith in Oregon, "compassionate". Worst: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Halperin -- Best: George Pataki, maybe a model for what Smirk should do in 2004. Worst: Janet Reno -- raised little money, never got traction on the issues.

When the "round table" intruded on real punditry, we tuned out.

-- JJ Balzer


JJ Balzer is a former television news producer. He lives in New York City. He sure as hell is voting on Tuesday.

Dash Riprock is a free lance smart-aleck based in Moline, IL. Every person reading these words is urged to vote! And make a point to get a few others to vote as well. The stakes couldn't be higher. You can contact Dash at dashriprockapj@hotmail.com.



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