Skip to comments.No Due Respect: The real problem with Bloomberg's Halperin-Heilemann show
Posted on 05/11/2015 12:35:25 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Bloomberg Television's "With All Due Respect," hosted by Game Change co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is probably the object of more ridicule from Beltway and Manhattan insiders than any other news show on television. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. The vast majority of the Gang of 500, a term coined by Halperin many moons ago, thinks the show is really bad. Which is a problem, because the Gang of 500 is Halperin and Heilemann's target audience.
The rest of America doesn't watch the show. Although Ruben Navarette, a San Diego-based columnist, did happen upon Halperin's interview with Sen. Ted Cruz the other day, and found the experience "uncomfortable":
"I was actually nauseated... As a journalist, I felt embarrassed for Halperin. As a Hispanic, I felt like I was watching a college fraternity have fun with racial stereotypes, like when staging a "border party" where people show up in serapes and fake mustaches. ..."
"[T]here was nothing respectful about the line of questioning. ... He told Cruz that people are curious about his "identity." Then, the host asked a series of questions intended to establish his guest's Hispanic bona fides. What kind of Cuban food did Cruz like to eat growing up? And what sort of Cuban music does Cruz listen to even now?"
"I've known Ted for more than a decade and I could tell he was uncomfortable. But he played along, listing various kinds of Cuban food and saying that his musical taste veers more toward country. ... I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche -- all to prove the Republican is really Cuban."
"Just when I thought I'd seen the worst, it got even more offensive. Earlier that day, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, had entered the presidential race. So, Halperin said: "I want to give you the opportunity to directly welcome your colleague Sen. Sanders to the race, and I'd like you to do it, if you would, en español."
Now comes the piling on. On the left, ThinkProgress has awarded Halperin the prize for it the most racist interview of a 2016 presidential candidate. On the right, Twitchy has dubbed him an "ethnic policeman." The Washington Post's Philip Bump has given him a 'D' on style and an 'F' on substance. (That last award is a poke at Halperin's 2016 "report cards," a series he has done grading the presidential hopefuls on style and substance. As Princeton's Sam Wang and Vox's Matt Yglesias have both noted, there's almost no rhyme or reason to this endeavor. The gradings are illogical and downright bizarre.)
The vitriol toward Halperin (and to "With All Due Respect" more generally) is fueled in large part by the knowledge that both hosts are making over $1 million a year to host a below-par half-hour show that almost no one watches. (They are also paid to write articles for the Bloomberg Politics website, though they don't always do that.) But it is also fueled, I think, by disbelief -- disbelief that the two men who wrote one of the most exciting, best-selling books on American politics could achieve fame and fortune and then squander it, and in such humiliating fashion.
That "With All Due Respect" is bad, nearly everyone can agree on. But why is it so bad? I'd argue that it's a matter of style and substance -- or rather, the balance between style and substance. Both Halperin and Heilemann have substance in spades: they're good reporters, they're well sourced, they're capable of getting great scoops and, sitting around Charlie Rose or Joe Scarborough's table, they're capable of providing well-informed analysis.
But "With All Due Respect" isn't a substance play. From the get-go, it has aggressively marketed style. It tries very hard -- too hard -- to promote itself against the rest of cable news as a non-conventional, just two dudes sittin' around talkin' politics program. The show doesn't try to be smarter than the competition, it just tries to be cooler. Heilemann has a Wu-Tang sticker on his laptop (so cool!). Guests are asked to play games or weigh in on pop culture (so fun!). A Senator from Texas who graduated Princeton and Harvard is asked to speak "en espanol."
Despite its best efforts, the show isn't cool or fun. It's just smug. It's smug in the way it treats politics like a joke, and politicians like clowns (see the inaugural episode, where Nancy Pelosi tastes different kinds of ice-cream and Mitt Romney is asked to comment on Downton Abbey.) It's smug in the way it thumbs its nose at journalism by failing to fulfill the obligations of that profession while being handsomely compensated for it. It's smug for assuming that journalists from other news organizations would want to participate in this circus by taking part in a "parody sports-style game show." And it's smug for treating Sen. Cruz like a trained seal.
When the paycheck is big enough and it's PC enough for them, they gladly whore themselves out, journalism be damned.
You know, sorta like when he called Obama one on MSNBC.
Just the commercials for that show are annoying.
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