I should probably go back and look at some of the PBS Newshour's Political Wrap segments to see if they were once notably better than they are now. That's the way I clearly remember it. But maybe I was being too generous back then.
Mark Shields has been the liberal part of this two-commentator discussion team since I guess about the time radio was invented. These days, he practically sleeps through them. But he does wake up occasionally and applies some actual thought to what he's saying. And at least he remembers from the dim past how to draw a coherent contrast between Democrats and Republicans. His syntax is slipping, but you can normally understand what he's saying.
David "Bobo" Brooks has been his verbal sparring partner for the last decade or so. Bobo's specialty in live commentary is to frame even the goofiest Republican ideas as something that any sensible person can understand is cautious and well-thought-out. He has a "tell". Whenever his voice gets notably softer and takes on a careful, deliberative tone, that means he's delivering some particularly ill-founded Republican talking point.
That's Quality TV political commentary on the Political Wrap these days. When Bobo is out, they usually bring in some forgettable dweeb from National Review to take his place. When Sleepy Mark is out, for the last few years his main replacement has been Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who for reasons that are completely opaque to me is considered a liberal by contemporary Beltway Village standards.
One of their topics was the economic/currency/debt crisis in Europe. Bobo clearly knows next to nothing about the topic. But he's practically a scholar in it compared to Alleged Liberal Ruth. Her syntax also seemed to be having some serious issues. They started off talking about the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Alleged Liberal Ruth's first contribution:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress going to come to its senses?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, I don't think anybody should ever bet on that.
But David said that Republicans seem chastened. You certainly couldn't tell it from the comments of Speaker Boehner, who seems more than willing to do a replay of the disastrous, from my point of view, economically, and also disastrous politically for Republicans, replay of the debt ceiling showdown last time around, a year ago.
And what's going to happen is, all of this Taxmageddon, as we are calling it, is going -- because of the timing of it, we will probably kick the can down the road from the lame-duck, for maybe six months into the next Congress. And guess what? That is going to coincide with, collide with hitting the debt ceiling yet again.
So the CBO -- I just -- quick thing on the CBO report. CBO used the R-word, which is very, very scary, recession. If all of these things come to pass, they said, the economy would be in recession in the beginning of 2013.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what got everybody's attention.
RUTH MARCUS: Which got everybody's attention, but in some ways, that wasn't really the message that CBO wanted to send, because, yes, that would be a very bad outcome.
But the second thing they said is that the alternative, if you filled that entire fiscal cliff and cushioned it, and you just dug the debt deeper, the debt hole that much deeper, that would also be a terrible outcome, just later.
And so they have been begging in their very quiet-sounding CBO language, please, members of Congress, you need to both avert the fiscal cliff now and come up with a plan that markets can understand that you really have to fill the debt hole later on.
Whether Congress can manage that ...
So if we avert and fill the fiscal cliff, then later you can fill the debt hole, and, you know, the Taxmageddon debt ceiling, but the CBO at least uses polite language and that's nice. Or whatever, Boehner disaster.
When they got to the Europe issue, Alleged Liberal Ruth should have said something like: "Honey, I don't have the faintest clue what you're talking about. And I would just embarrass myself if I even attempted to say anything about it."
Instead, she said this:
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile, Ruth, you have got in Europe this week, became clearer that there really are serious disagreements on what they going to do to get out of their own debt crisis.
What -- is there a consensus on what effect that could have here?
RUTH MARCUS: Yes. The consensus is bad.
RUTH MARCUS: And the only question is how bad.
And that really, in a sense, though CBO didn't talk about it in their report, that just adds to the scariness and the height of the cliff, because what happens in Europe doesn't stay in Europe. We know that Europe seems -- the European problem just seems to be like a chronic disease now that we have been living with, and Europe doesn't seem to be getting well.
And as it's not getting well, and you see questions about economic growth in China, all of that has an impact on growth here, or lack of growth.
I have a wild hunch that Alleged Liberal Ruth was very impressed at some point with some presentation she heard on economics that used a lot of cliff metaphors, and that made her happy because she could think about pretty mountains and stuff while she sat there listening. Oh, and China, my, don't they have some nice cliffs in China!
This is Quality TV political commentary in the Age of OxyContin and Boehner debt filled cliff holes.
Maybe PBS should add Talking Tom animation that would repeat what the commentators just said but in a cute, high cartoon voice. That would at least make the segment entertaining.