When the TV has not been commandeered for the purposes of Thomas the Tank Engine, I do my best to put myself off my coffee by watching as many slivers of the Sunday talk shows as I can, sandwiched as they are between golf tourney promos and pharmaceutical ads. It's never been clear to me what the true import these shows have for their audience; they're a holdover, I suppose, from a time in which the political cognoscenti weren't brined in the blogosphere at every possible moment, but rather waited, with some civility, until the Sabbath day to settle the week's scores. They now are little more than an ongoing case study in circular obsequiousness; the hosts forever gracious for their granted access, feigning probity and smiling at each deflection; the guests caffeinated and taciturn, folding their hands across the armrests of an imaginary throne. It's here that SecDef Robert Gates, his presence disturbing not even the particles in the air, can blithely describe the difference between Presidents Bush and Obama as one being "slightly more analytical" than the other, even taking as bold a step as to contrast their methods in calling on colleagues in meetings (the limits of televised discourse being what they are, he did not make it to the wild deviation in the two men's middle names, or that they prefer different aftershaves). Host David Gregory, knowing when to say when, winced into a smile, his furrowed brow and dimpled cheeks forming a sad oval.
And then there is Fox News, in a class by themselves as far as wallering in an invented reality goes. After inviting on a Republican and a Republican to discuss the Obama budget, it was on to the panel for a rousing civics salon. Brit Hume, the basset-toned analyst who has been making A-Rod money since the Clinton era, railed against the normalization of the tax code like a NoDoz'd freshman scribbling a paper on Atlas Shrugged. "I often feel that liberals would rather have everybody equally poor rather than unequally rich." Unequally rich. A coinage so pithy, and yet so vast as to contain the whole world. Hume - apparently unaware that there are people out there who eat cat food, families whose dinner consists of cans of spaghettios, people who would take a bite out of Brit Hume's ass if it came to it - went on to demur that the more equally rich affected by the new plan will just duck the reforms by stashing money in tax shelters and buying gold anyway. How he knew this, he didn't say, but good on him to explain to the rest of us the rules of the game. This discussion had all been for show.