Category Archives: Media

The Mark Meadows Project

The year was 1976.  With the exception of Jimmy Carter’s election that November, the year was relatively devoid of significant events.  Asking anyone what else happened that year is followed by silence.  Even the long-hyped bicentennial celebration is remembered more for its missteps, e.g.  the misconceived renovation of Union Station in Washington, D.C., which consisted mainly of a massive hole in the middle of the great hall, that was touted as the National Bicentennial Visitors Center. 

There was, however, one exception.  Film director Brian De Palma changed the future of horror movies for decades to come with the release of “CARRIE”. Previously, most horror pictures had what could be called “a happy ending.”  The source of terror was eliminated and moviegoers left the theater believing life might return to normal in locations ranging from Transylvania (Dracula) to a radiated desert in New Mexico (Them!).

SPOILER ALERT:  In the penultimate scene of De Palma’s classic, Carrie (Sissy Spacek) and her mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) perish when Carrie, returning from the ill-fated high school prom, confronts her mother.  The resulting encounter ends with both perishing when Carrie unleashes her telekinetic power destroying the house with both mother and daughter inside. The fictional town of Chamberlain, Maine may never be the same, but at least it is free of Carrie’s wrath and Margaret’s irrational religious fervor.  That is, until Sue Snell (Amy Irving), the sole survivor of the prom night massacre, is shown placing a bouquet of flowers next to the “For Sale” sign on the vacant lot where Carrie’s home once stood.  In what would become the first in a stream of unnatural reanimations in moviedom, a bloody arm emerges from the rubble and grabs Sue.  It is only a nightmare, but the effect has served its purpose.  From that day forward, a villain’s death is no longer final as was the case with Freddy Krueger (Robert England) in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to the less supernatural Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) in “Fatal Attraction.”

You are probably asking, “What does this have to do with Mark Meadows?”  As I read the transcript of Meadows’ testimony at last week’s federal court hearing, I realized Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, had she not chosen a legal career, might be equally successful as the queen of courtroom thriller flicks.  In her directorial debut, she puts Meadows on the witness stand during the evidentiary hearing by which he hopes to move his upcoming trial as a RICO co-defendant from state to federal court.  In the opening scenes, Meadows resides in the equivalent of “Everytown, USA,” a familiar and safe environment created when his legal team asks a serious of softball questions.

This false sense of security soon vanishes with the arrival of the “evil” prosecution portrayed by Willis associate Anna Cross.  [NOTE: Was casting someone with the last name Cross to cross-examine Meadows more than a coincidence?] She shows her intended victim no mercy, immediately confronting him, “Did you have any role in coordinating the fake electors plot?”  And right on cue, Meadows does what a potential victim in any horror picture would do in a similar situation.  He tries to convince his assailant she is barking up the wrong tree.  Her thirst for revenge is more appropriately directed at others.  “No, I did not,” he confidently replies.  He then relaxes, believing he, like Sue Snell, has a chance to be the sole survivor of an impending massacre by jurisprudence.

But Cross is not vanquished.  Her arm emerges, not to grab Meadows, but to show him the telltale email which suggests he likely added perjury to his list of alleged criminal behavior.  This climatic moment is followed by Meadows’ return to the safe confines of his own legal teams.  Until Meadows realizes this was not a dream.  And he will forever be plagued by a recurring nightmare which takes place in the Oval Office where Donald Trump yells at him for failing to anticipate the next demand he should fulfill in pursuit of this boss’ illegal and extra-constitutional endeavors.

Based on its success, “The Mark Meadows Project” likely will not be a one-off blockbuster.  It is the beginning of a long-running motion picture franchise in which each new entry features one or more of the Georgia co-defendants falling victim to the long arm of the DA’s office as it presents damning evidence each co-conspirator wrongly assumed, like Carrie White, was dead and buried.  


Georgia co-defendants would be wise to take a cue from Garry Shandling, who signed-off at the end of the last episode of “The Larry Sanders Show,” the fictional “Tonight Show” doppleganger he created to explore the behind-the-scenes world of late night television by granting permission to his viewers, “You can flip now.”  [NOTE: For those unfamiliar with this HBO series  (1992-98), before each commercial break in segments from the fictional late night talk show, “the show within the show” a la King Lear, Sanders/Shandling would urge his viewers not to go channel surfing with the catchphrase, “No flipping!”]

For what it’s worth.

Cancel Culture Suicide

Fox News claims to be the champion of those who oppose “cancel culture.” The cable network even has a page on its website dedicated to the the rise of the practice which it amplifies as follows:

The fear of being “canceled” due to unpopular political and cultural opinions or unsubstantiated allegations, often amplified with viral Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts, has become a serious issue in America.

The sub-site is populated with stories such as:

  • Cancel culture is getting canceled and it’s about time
  • Cancel culture mob attacked Jason Aldean. They came for “God Bless the USA,” but they can’t cancel all of us
  • Etsy accused of banning “De-Trans Awareness” products for violating “prohibited items policy”
  • Country boys will survive the work warriors
  • Five ways Ayn Rand predicted America’s political crises, from parents spurned to the rise of cancel culture

On Thursday morning, Fox News once again demonstrated its tag line “Fair and Balanced” should be replaced with “Watch what we do, not what we say.” Remember, this is the same network which railed against vaccines while mandating its own employees be fully “stabbed.” On the August 3 edition of “Fox and Friends,” co-host Steve Doocy began reporting on Bill Barr’s interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in which the former attorney general eviscerated the Trump legal team’s claim the special counsel’s indictment was a violation of their client’s First Amendment rights.

[T]his is not about the First Amendment. He said that Donald Trump can say whatever he wants. He can lie. He can tell people the election was stolen. But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy. And the former attorney general said free speech does not give you the right for fraudulent conspiracy. And it’s all about the conspiracy.

Instead of paying attention to Doocy, co-host Ainsley Earhardt looks down and appears to be listening to a message coming over her earpiece. She then picks up a piece of paper and interrupts Doocy.

Earhardt: Yeah. It’s really about the double standard here. And that’s what makes conservatives mad. It is when you look at Donald Trump getting slapped with 78 felony charges, 640 years if convicted behind bars. Okay. The sitting president, in his garage, had classified documents, too.

Co-host Brian Kilmeade: We have no idea how that is going.

Earhardt: Exactly. We haven’t heard from that special counsel at all. So, that’s what America’s mad at. That’s why Republicans are supporting Donald Trump. … They are fed up with the way the government is going, with the DOJ, it looks like a two-tiered justice system and people are mad.

I know, Fox News is not the government and therefore has a right to control what is said and not said on its network. But neither is Disney or Etsy or every other private corporation they have vilified on air or on their website. Therefore, with apologies to Walt Kelly, let me suggest another tag line to replace “Fair and Balanced.”

FOX NEWS: We have met the enemy and it is us.

For what it’s worth. Dr. ESP

The First Female President

…and how the news media contribute to that NOT happening.

I have no idea who will be the first female president of the United States or when her election will finally happen.  What I do know is systemic sexism within the ranks of journalists and political pundits, including females, hampers that eventuality.

The most recent example was former Obama communications director Jennifer Palmieri’s appearance on “Morning Joe” during which she discussed her latest article in Vanity Fair, “The Spartan: Why Gretchen Whitmer Has What It Takes for a White House Run.”  Palmieri’s assessment included the Michigan governor’s demonstrated grace under pressure during the pandemic when faced with armed protests at the state capitol and threats to her personal health and safety.  And how local and national pundits underestimated her appeal when she ran for re-election in 2022.

Yet, right on cue, MSNBC regular guest John Heilemann asked Palmieri about voters’ perception of a woman as commander-in-chief.

As you know having been close to Hillary Clinton, the question of ready to be commander-in-chief, a question that she, a former secretary of state grappled with, thought was really important, knew that a woman would have to answer at a higher level of scrutiny than a man would, does any governor, much less a female governor have to answer that question any differently?  Is there any thinking going on in Gretchen Whitmer’s world how to overcome that challenge?

If Governor Whitmer had been at the table, I imagine she would have treated Heilemann to some good old time “womansplaining.”  She would have reminded him that she and every other governor, male or female, is a commander-in-chief with primary responsibility for their respective states’ National Guard.  They have mobilized forces in cases of civil unrest and natural disasters.  And at the president’s request, they send troops overseas to defend the nation’s security and interests.  And they perform the solemn duty of being there when fallen members of the Guard are brought home.

In Whitmer’s absence, no one on the “Morning Joe” set had the hands-on knowledge to make this argument.  Nor was this a one-off occurrence.  Consider the following IMDB tally of guest appearances on the program.

Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson (224 episodes)
John Heilemann (176 episodes)
Foreign relations expert Richard Hass (157 episodes)
Presidential historian John Meacham (151 episodes)
Branding guru Donny Deutsch (139 episodes)
Economist Steve Rattner (133 episodes)
Former Senator Claire McCaskill (80 episodes)
Retired admiral James Stavridis (76 episodes)

The first governor on the list is former Maine chief executive Angus King, although his 21 appearances came after he left the statehouse and was elected to the U.S. Senate.  You eventually reach former Virginia governor Mark Warner (now Senator) and former Vermont governor Howard Dean, each with 10 appearances.  The conversation is never about their years in Augusta, Richmond or Montpelier, respectively.

The first sitting governor is much farther down the listing, Maryland’s Wes Moore with eight bookings during which he can share his less than six months in office. Don’t get me wrong, Moore has a bright political future but his on-the-job training as governor is less than complete.  Eventually you get to New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, in office since 2019, with nine appearances.

Having served in state positions under three governors and as a policy director at the National Governors Association, I recognize my belief that governors make better presidents than legislators is biased and therefore tainted.  But it is not personal.  President of the United States is an executive job.  Success depends on organizational leadership and management skills, not oratory or crafting legislative language.  There is no better training ground than a governor’s office.  Although on a smaller scale, the daily responsibilities of any governor are much the same as a president’s.

Just ask Gretchen Whitmer.  She had to deal with armed protesters invading the Michigan statehouse in May 2020, eight months before the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.  And she activated the state’s National Guard on January 11, 2011 to deter similar confrontations ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.  That is what a commander-in-chief does.  And you can learn how to do it better through experience commanding troops, not playing soldier at a military boarding school.

For what it’s worth.

Bill Buckley, Won’t You Please Come Home

The late William F. Buckley (1925-2008) was the voice of sane conservativism in America for decades and founder of The National Review.  Do not misunderstand what I mean by “sane.”  As late as the 1960s, Buckley opposed national civil rights legislation and continued to support racial segregation. In an April 2021 article about continued efforts to suppress black voting, Mississippi Free Press reporter Ashton Pittman reminded readers how little had changed since Buckley’s heyday.  In a 1957 National Review editorial. “Why the South Must Prevail,’ he justified the region’s right to impose Jim Crow laws.

Millions who have the vote do not care to exercise it; millions who have it do not know how to exercise it and do not care to learn. The great majority of the Negroes of the South who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could.

This and other misguided and un-democratic positions remain a stain on an exceptional journalistic career.  What he never did was describe those who disagreed as Marxists, communists or “wannabe dictators.”  Nor did he encourage storming the Capitol as Congress debated and passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the mid-1960s.  In a 2004 Time Magazine interview, Buckley admitted he had been on the wrong side of history.

I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong. Federal intervention was necessary.

It is one thing to initially harbor wrong views and evolve.  It is another to be dishonest and unlawful.

I thought about Buckley when I saw the headline for an op-ed essay in this month’s issue of Politico Magazine by current National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry. In “A Trump Pardon Could Drain Poison from the System,” Lowry argues “sparing him jail time would ease our divided politics.”  Lowry is entitled to his opinion, but the case he makes is factually inaccurate and intellectually corrupt.  

Lowry admits, “…based on the evidence we have now, he appears to be caught dead to rights.”  He then immediately pivots to a major MAGA-world talking point.

At the same time, nothing good is going to come from the political and legal warfare inevitable with the prosecution by the U.S. government of the leader of the opposition party.

Does he deny two things can be true simultaneously?  Yes, he is the titular leader of the GOP, but he is also an alleged felon.  Excusing him based on his position falls into the same category of Judge Aileen Cannon’s roundly rebuked claim that as president Trump deserved special consideration.

He then compares a potential pardon to that issued by Gerald Ford to Richard Nixon. And even quotes Ford’s national address in which he explains that Watergate and the subsequent cover-up was:

…a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.

Forget the fact Nixon resigned from the presidency.  Did not incite violence. Or what may be the most important factor, several presidential historians believe Ford’s pardon sent a message that contributed, in no small part, to Trump’s belief he had a hall pass to ignore and violate the law.  Remember, Nixon told David Frost, “When a president does it, that means that is is not illegal.”  Would he have uttered these words if he had spent a few years behind bars?

Lowry does not stop there.  His next argument.

The conventional wisdom is that our politics is over-heated…having a former president stand trial in a federal criminal case, and potentially spend the rest of his life in jail, is only going to make things more intense and the country more divided.

Of course, Lowry ignores the individual most responsible for turning up the thermostat.

He goes on with what Kellyanne Conway aptly describes as alternative facts.

The Trump prosecution comes against the backdrop of the years-long Russia investigation by the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller that cast a pall over Trump’s campaign and early presidency and that was based on gossamer thin, politically motivated information.

Is Bill Barr his ghostwriter?  Does he simply want to ignore the 140 documented contacts between Russian officials/agents and members of the Trump campaign?  Did he forget Robert Mueller was named special counsel by Trump’s own attorney general Jeff Sessions AFTER the election was over.  

He then picks up on another favorite MAGA talking point.    “It comes after Hillary Clinton got a prosecutorial pass over her “home brew” email set-up.”  Pass? Has he forgotten FBI director James Comey held a press conference, reopened the investigation and sent letters about it to Congress in violation of two FBI procedural standards: commenting on cases when the target is not charged and doing anything that could influence the outcome within 90 days of an election.  All while playing blind, deaf and dumb about the on-going Trump investigation prior to November 2016, which by he way, resulted in several convictions.

But his final argument is perhaps the most laughable.

We aren’t talking about a pardon clearing the way for another White House bid, but rather as a consolation prize for someone who is vastly diminished and looking at potentially losing his freedom, too.

Does Lowry honestly believe, even after failing to regain the presidency, Trump will go away quietly?  Does he think TFG will be any less an agent of chaos?  Apparently not.  Someone like Lowry who claims a pardoned Donald Trump will lower the temperature is as much a threat to American democracy as the cult leader himself.


If you live within shouting distance of the Saint Bernard Cemetery in Sharon, Connecticut, the tremors you feel this morning are not earthquake related.  It is Bill Buckley banging his fists on the lid of his coffin and screaming, “Who gave this idiot Lowry the keys to my classic car?”

For what it’s worth.



The Economics of Cable News

Guy Kawasaki, a member of the team at Apple that launched Mac computers, is a much sought after expert when it comes to identifying the target market for a new product.  In his book The Art of the Start, he tells aspiring entrepreneurs, “Do not try to be everything to everybody.”  The most successful products are those that half the market loves and half the market hates.  He uses the example of the Scion B (pictured here).  Some people thought it was the coolest thing on the road.  Others thought it looked like a refrigerator on wheels.

There is one other economic truth which applies to almost every industry.  It is dominated by three to five major players until a disruptor challenges the status quo.  Over time, the historically dominant organizations get comfortable with their standing and focus on incremental increases in market share.  They are more interested in capturing an additional percent of the market than titillating their customers’ imagination.  That attitude opens the door for the next disruptor.  Think of Apple and the computer industry, Skype versus traditional telephony or Tesla when it comes to automobiles.

Ironically, CNN was once that disruptor. On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner opened the news network’s first broadcast followed by an in depth Daniel Schorr interview with President Jimmy Carter.  It changed the future of media news.  Sound bites on 30-minute nightly news programs gave way to unedited interviews and speeches.  Twenty-four hours of programming made room for documentaries and feature stories.

Super-Hair Q&A: Lynne RussellIn an homage to the past, CNN launched CNN2, later renamed “CNN Headline News.”  Each half-hour consisted of an updated recap of the top stories, much like each network’s nightly news including a “just the facts” anchor, the most recognizable being Lynne Russell.  Today, Headline News is a second-tier extension of its older sister channel.  There is still a “CNN Headline News,” except now it is called “BBC World News” on BBC America.

Which brings me to CNN’s precipitous ratings catastrophe.  Like many disruptors who become dominant players in their field, CNN has violated both economic success principles laid out above.  First, it is trying to be everything to everybody. Though most American voters are said to be in the middle of the liberal-conservative spectrum, their news preferences are not.  Liberals/Democrats gravitate towards MSNBC;  members of the current incarnation of the GOP to Fox News. CNN’s most recent example of aiming for the middle is its decision to give Donald Trump an hour of free air-time.  However, the network’s efforts to give voice to pro-Trump perspectives dates back to 2016 when CNN hired former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.  Followed by Trump Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores and former chief of staff to the Vice President Pence Marc Short.  What has this gotten CNN?  In August 2022, Trump assessed CNN’s attempt to lure conservative viewers.

It used to be a very important network. It used to be a very important platform, I think they’ve actually gotten worse.  I think it’s a whole big con job that they’re going to try to reach out and they’re going to try to get better. I think they’ve gotten worse.

Second, recent moves suggest CNN is more interested in stealing a ratings point here from MSNBC (luring away Capitol Hill correspondent and Way Too Early host Kasie Hunt) and another point there from Fox News (with the acquisition of Chris Wallace) than reasserting itself as the industry disruptor.  Even though it tried with the streaming service CNN+, which had a shorter shelf-life than unpasteurized milk.  Programming consisted of live news, original series and documentaries drawn from the library of parent company Warner Brothers Discovery.  It begged the question, “Which genius in the programming department thought viewers would pay an additional fee for streaming content when they were already paying for two 24/7 channels through cable subscriptions?”

There is room for innovation in the cable news industry.  One of the most read pages in USA Today is “News from Around Our 50 States.”  A broadcast equivalent might not deserve its own cable channel, but an hour per day of the premier story in each state would be a breathe of fresh air.  “Morning Joe” has toyed with the idea in a minimal way.  It now offers a two-three minute segment of local news from the front pages of papers around the country.

Sadly, as we learned from Dominion Voting Machines’ short-circuited defamation trial against Fox News, it was never about presenting the news.  It was about keeping those people who loved you happy and giving those who did not more reason to hate you. Guy Kawasaki would call that good business sense.  Edward R. Morrow and Walter Cronkite would ask, “Yes, but at what cost?”


Media continue to struggle with coverage of (using Nicolle Wallace’s description) “a twice-impeached, disgraced, indicted ex-president” who will say anything in public (on television and at rallies) but has refused to testify under oath in court.  May I suggest there should be a mandatory follow-up question on every occasion during which Trump spouts his lies and conspiracy theories.  “Mr. Trump, if you honestly believe that, why have you never been willing to say it under oath in a judicial proceeding subject to penalties for perjury?”

For what it’s worth.