On Thursday I received an e-mail from Alan Colmes of Hannity & Colmes (I checked the headers and verified that indeed it did come from the real Alan Colmes). Alan took exception to my characterization of him as a “patsy” in this post about Sean Hannity. Being the pugilist that I am (my friend once likened it to a sledgehammer and called it an “O-Bomb”) I responded to him explaining that yes indeed that was how I felt, then he responded that the only way I could have come to that conclusion was because I don’t watch the show.
Now see, that’s funny for him to use that line on me. There are three people responsible for every single bit of audio and video content on the Media Matters website. I am one of them. Ergo, it is part of my job to see the interactions Alan Colmes has with Sean Hannity, not to mention that I occasionally watch the show on my own time. And by any measure the bad outweighs the good.
I’ve seen in interviews where Colmes uses two major defenses to explain why liberals and Democrats almost uniformly find him lacking as a represenative – one was the one he used with me – that I don’t watch the show. The other one is also used by the other Fox News Democrat I’ve personally interacted with, Kirsten Powers, and it boils down to the idea that I and other liberals have some sort of idealogical litmus test they’re not living up to.
The only litmus test I’ve got for Democrats and progressives in the media is: don’t suck. On a one-to-one comparison there are few outright liberals in the media. Panels are almost made up of conservative activists and writers for conservative journals, paired with reporters for idealogically neutral news outlets. Special Report with Brit Hume, for instance regularly has the deck stacked with the conservative host Hume, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, conservative reporter Bill Sammon, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard (who wrote a recent hagiography of Bush) and Mort Kondracke from Roll Call (who recently called the Dems a “hanging” party). The “liberals” are Mara Liasson and Juan Williams, both straight reporters for NPR and regular regurgitators of beltway conventional wisdom against Democrats.
Furthermore, when it comes to ideology I’m probably to the right of Alan Colmes but to the left of Kirsten Powers.
Where I and many others rock the boat is in asking them not to suck. Far too often the Democrats on Fox, especially Colmes and Powers, buy wholeheartedly into conservative distortions and frames of Democrats. Dems, in the world of Fox, are always too much to the left, going too far, etc. and the Fox Dems literally break their own necks racing to agree with their conservative counterparts – Sean Hannity for Colmes, and Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin for Kirsten Powers. A lot of people would like to think this is an edict from up high at Fox, but the evidence seems to say otherwise. The bulk of Fox News Dems are appeasers like Colmes and Powers – Pat Caddell and Bob Beckel for instance. But folks like Gen. Wes Clark generally hold their ground even while being employees of the network. So it’s not the heavy hand of Roger Ailes, apparently, just this group self-selecting themselves as the Washington Generals of punditry.
I can’t read their minds to know why they do it, though Occam’s Razor says its the motivation of regular employment that keeps them in line. But for their own personal bounty they do damage to the Democratic party and the progressive movement.
They don’t see it that way – especially Kirsten Powers who seems to see all criticism as a critique of intelligence – but one can only work on the evidence that’s available, and the “patsy” motive seems to fit best. They want to be “in” with the cool kids, and on a pro-Republican network like Fox the in-crowd is the GOP. For the other progressive pundits on other cable networks, from the famous Begala and Carville (plus Donna Brazille) on CNN to the other lesser-known talking heads who regularly pop up on MSNBC, there is little to no capitulation like that seen on Fox News.
But my correspondence with Alan Colmes and Kirsten Powers suggests that they don’t see a problem. They discard the fact that again and again and again their inactions are noted by telling themselves we desire purity tests and dogmatism. With that attitude they are never subject to criticism because they reject it out of hand. They think it’s a license to continue throwing their supposed allies under the bus.
Frankly all we’re asking in return for you to not suck up the joint so much.