Democrats’ new strats

tucker carlson.jpg

CNN has parted company with Tucker Carlson and plans to end “Crossfire.”

Given the opportunity to explain, Jonathan Klein, the new president of CNN, said he wants to do “roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling,” not “head-butting debate.” He agrees with Jon Stewart’: partisan talk shows are “hurting America.”

Klein’s motive? I wonder if it’s that the Liberal Left keeps losing the debates. Time to roll up the forums on which this frequent embarrassment is allowed to happen.

There is a clear division of media by ideology. The Liberal Left has long controlled American storytelling, especially narrative television and the film world, mainstream and alternative. It’s good at story telling and it uses it often to prosecute a “critical” angle on things (think Judging Amy and American Beauty).

The Right is good at debate and better at “holding forth.” This gave it an advantage in the 80s world of radio, and increasing presence in the world of Talk TV.

Is this a new strategy for the Liberal Left and Democratic party, a way to reposition following the election loss of ’04? Go with what you know? Stop picking fights you cannot win? (Of course, it’s possible that the viewership numbers are not strong for Carlson and Crossfire. The Times article is unforthcoming on this key point.)

But here’s what makes me suspicious: Klein’s choice of phrase when he refers to “roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling.” I take the phrase “roll up your sleeves” to be a short form for “let’s get practical, let’s get serious, let’s set aside the posturing and engage with the world.”

So what’s “roll up your sleeves” story telling? Two choices: a) a contradiction in terms, or b) a rhetorical effort to position CNN as the party that does “real,” hard headed journalism as against those posers who merely talk.

If it’s “B,” we are looking, perhaps, at two nascent Democrat strategies: Getting out of debates you cannot win and painting the venues so abandoned as clueless and unworldly.

The world might let you get away with the first strategy. But the second? Please. Let’s hope this is just Klein shooting from the hip. Because strategy “B” is not a strategy. It’s a delusion. And this must be the natural weakness of the story teller: to fail to see the limits of the story telling.


Carter, Bill. 2005. CNN Will Cancel ‘Crossfire’ and Cut Ties to Commentator. New York Times. January 6, 2005. subscription required here

10 thoughts on “Democrats’ new strats

  1. SomeCallMeTim

    “The Right is good at debate….”

    You’re kidding, right? This has to be a joke. See, e.g., every debate between Kerry and Bush. See all the commentary by Bush backers prior to the debates, letting everyone know that while Kerry might be a better debater, that’s not what matters in a President.

    “Holding forth”? Absolutely – it’s a lot easier (that is cheaper in effort) when your base is willing to accept “It’s haard work,” as an Iraq policy, for example. Democrats get hammered because they are willing to admit that the world is complicated, and that some Republican points have merit and need to be addressed. Republicans do well at holding forth because they Keep It Simple, Stupid. (Snark insert – And why not? They know their base). And, to be fair, most Democratic public factotums have show a distinct lack of … spine. That’s not a problem the Republicans have.

  2. ivor3k

    I doubt that the problem is that they felt the left was always losing the debate. If that was the issue, they would simply make the show a liberal version of Hannity and Colmes. Get a reasonably intelligent and good looking liberal and a semi-retarded lizard faced conservative (David Duke must be available) and let the liberal wipe up the floor with the conservative.

  3. Rob

    I think this is just CNN looking for a better format. Win or lose the debate, you make money by attracting eyeballs to the spectacle, and CNN hasn’t been attracting enough eyeballs lately.

    “Debate” (I put that in scare quotes, because precious little real debate goes on at CNN) shows bore me, so I guess this is an OK thing.

    The problem *I* have with this is that CNN is a NEWS NETWORK, they are not SUPPOSED to be STORYTELLERS. Well, if you want to call journalism “telling people’s stories”, then I suppose that’s OK, but I’ve never heard a journalist claim that what they do is tell stories (there are even parts of the country where “telling stories” is slang for lying).

    I guess what we’ll now see on CNN is more like Sixty Minutes, the grandaddy “story teller” of them all…

  4. Tom Guarriello

    CNN’s rating have been in free-fall for the last year or so. Only the venerable Mr. King keeps them from falling through the floor. They had to do something. Plus, the left-right “debate” format is so tired, so late 90s, so poMo (post-Monica).

  5. Nigel Mellish

    “You’re kidding, right? This has to be a joke. See, e.g., every debate between Kerry and Bush.”

    Watch out for sample size. On Crossfire, for example, Press was woefully inadequate, and CNN has had, IMHO, a difficult time giving Tucker adequate opponents.

    However, this is move reeks as if it’s mostly done to save face for the Stewart lambasting.

  6. ennis

    I think it’s the Stewart factor too. Once Stewart went on their show and lambasted them, *and* had the entire audience laughing at how accurate he was, the show had lost all credibility. The clip circulated constantly on the web. Did you notice that Carlson claimed to have a new show, but the next network denied it? He’s pretty weak, with his bowtie and all. George Will he’s not.

  7. Skeptikos

    After reading this post several times, it seems to me that you are positing the following theory…CNN=The Democrats? Looking at word usage- “a rhetorical effort to position CNN as the party that does “real”.

    Hmm….Does that mean FOX is the republican party? I will agree that National Review represents the Neo-con view, New Republic as the dominant Democaratic view, and Fox a conservative one, but to associate CNN as “Is this a new strategy for the Liberal Left and Democratic party”, seems to be stretching it. I have personally always associated them with populism rather than any party, but maybe I’m missing some significant piece of info, perhaps a major member of the Democratic party running things. For instance, one can point to Frum over at NR (I man I often disagree with but respect), the guy who is attributed with writing the “Axis of Evil” comment. But I can find no coresponding facts in relation the the pyramid at CNN. Do you know somehthing we don’t?

  8. Nemesis


    Why do you champion the ennemies of freedom? The ground has shifted since 1994. Those who were liberators are now oppressors. It makes no sense for the left to stay in a well that has been poisoned. Crossfire was a sham and CNN should be praised for discarding the dead and looking for new life.

    Since you wont listen to left of center sources let me show you a libertarian who has seen the light and built an argument in language you can decifer.

  9. Joe American

    God, you are an f—-n’ moron. If ya ever saw critical thinking you would call it public relations. They’re different by the way, and so is reporting. Reporting means getting the facts and let the reader/viewer decide. “Liberal media”, the only liberal media is Air America which is up front about it. CNN and anyone but Fox are corporate media, not liberal. Their agenda is to sell commercial time, not upset advertisers and make money while doing infotainment. Have you a clue? Obviously not. But be happy– your sorry Republican vote is being changed by Diebold as we speak, sucker. It’s a shame a citizen like you isn’t much of a citizen. Good luck in the special hell being created for you in the Gitmos to come from your heroes to your back yard. Would you ever have an original thought– no, too busy being in “the movement”.

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