Monday, March 14, 2022

More Than Chuck Todd


Responding to that tweet, many tweeters unjustifiably condemned Chuck Todd, NBC, and/or Meet The Press merely for inviting the former Attorney General. But many justifiably dumped on Todd for allowing Barr to get away with complaining without evidence that he restrained President Trump. Barr stated

Before the election, you know, he cast his net broadly, and talked to a lot of people, and cabinet secretaries, all of us frequently had to wrestle with him to accomplish things that we thought would keep him on track. And we were successful, generally....

Todd needed to ask Barr what those "things" were. He may have cited specific instances, thus adding to our store of knowledge about the 45th President. Alternatively, Barr would have claimed those things are confidential or otherwise avoided answering the question, in which case he would have been revealed to be full of s_ _ _, uh, er, malarkey.

Perhaps the key to the willingness of prominent guests to return, though, is not to put them more fully on the spot. However, the Chuckster was willing to press Barr on whether the latter would support Trump were he to be nominated in 2024 for President. It "is a mark of totalitarian leaders," the host noted, to "want to be surrounded by people who tell them what they want to hear. We're dealing with this with Putin right now. Does that not give you pause about his ability to ever be commander in chief again?" Then:

WILLIAM BARR:

Well, I don't support his renomination, you know, to be nominated as the standard bearer in '24, and I'm going to support somebody else.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that.

WILLIAM BARR:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

But you sort of shocked a lot of people because you spend a lot of time in your books painting this person as unfit for office.

WILLIAM BARR:

Well, I also --

CHUCK TODD:

And making it clear that he, himself, that he's got temperamental issues, he's got character issues, and yet you would risk that again over any – over Joe Biden?

WILLIAM BARR:

Well, I think there are a lot of American people right now that might prefer having him back in office than what we see --

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

WILLIAM BARR:

– under Biden.

CHUCK TODD:

But I'm talking about you.

WILLIAM BARR:

And --

CHUCK TODD:

But I'm talking about you, you've had firsthand account. You saw it up close.

WILLIAM BARR:

Right, well, I think elections are a binary choice, and unfortunately sometimes it's choosing the lesser of two evils. I believe that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is dangerous for the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

You've said this quite a bit. It's an uncomfortable thing to hear from somebody who was needing to provide equal justice under the law as Attorney General, because you said it while you were Attorney General. You really think the left in this country is somehow more dangerous than some issues around the world? I mean, you feel like --

WILLIAM BARR:

No, I just said in terms of the leadership of the country, I think they would be a dangerous choice for the United States. Our system, the person who's in charge of the administration of the criminal law, is a politically accountable official, and an official has to be politically accountable. But at the same time dedicated to providing equal justice based on law and facts with no favoritism or partisanship, which I did.


 


When an interviewer twice says "but I'm talking about you," it's a tell.  And when Barr remarked "I believe that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is dangerous for the United States," Todd refused to let his guest switch focus from Donald Trump to Democratic Party progressives, instead asking "You really think the left in this country is somehow more dangerous than some issues around the world."

Ideally, more time would have been allotted for this interview, in which case Todd probably would have continued to press Barr as to why he'd vote for Trump in November of 2024, as he previously had said he would. But that's not how it works on cable news or, for that matter, broadcast news. Short interviews allow the particular network to do two things: a) promote the appearance of numerous guests in the hope that as many viewers as possible will tune in to see the man or woman they're interested in; and b) prevent the interviewee from getting too uncomfortable by being asked the same question, in different ways, until a straight answer must be given.

Considering that, Chuck Todd conducted a reasonably good interview, unfortunately not a habit of his.  A larger problem than bad news hosts is the format of the shows, in which the interviewer- by design- is given insufficient time with the interviewee.  And that is a problem which we the viewers rarely confront, and rarely even acknowledge.

 

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