Tuesday, December 16, 2008

David Gregory: "goofily hollow"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's Mickey Kaus's assessment of new Meet the Press moderator David Gregory (quoted favourably by Slate's TV critic, Troy Patterson, in his own assessment of Gregory), and I generally agree:

How bad a choice was Gregory? Let me put it this way: I've heard George Stephanopoulos say interesting things. I've heard Tom Brokaw say interesting things. I've heard Mort Kondracke say interesting things. I've heard David Broder say interesting things, and Norah O'Donnell and David Gergen and Gwen Ifill and even (once) Sam Donaldson. I heard Tim Russert say interesting things. I've never heard David Gregory say an interesting thing.

Well, I don't agree about Kondracke, who seems to lack a soul, and I don't much care for Broder and his CW centrism, and I'm not a big Ifill fan, and O'Donnell's a bit vapid, but I get the point. I don't think I've ever heard Gregory say an interesting thing either, and his reporting on the presidential race was mind-bogglingly banal and shallow.

What's worse, though, is that Gregory is an all-too-eager, all-too-pleased-with-himself Beltway insider who, as Patterson puts it, "[embodies] the coziness of the political class" and who is "delighted to be in the club." Forget hard-hitting, independent journalism. Forget even the tiresome "gotcha" journalism of Russert. At the grand and ironic theater that is American politics, Gregory, like so many other Beltway insiders, doesn't so much sit in the audience with us, the people, monitoring, reporting on, and ultimately holding to account the actors on stage, as prance around on stage with the actors themselves, as with Rove in '07, one of them, not one of us, the Fourth Estate fully co-opted by the powers-that-be, itself a power that is. Adds Patterson:

Last week, when Tom Brokaw formally announced that the 38-year-old was taking over a show that we're obliged to acknowledge as an institution, Gregory panted with humility while never managing to extinguish the self-regard that animates his on-air presence. This aspect stands in contrast with the projected warmth of his predecessor, the late Tim Russert. It probably makes no difference to the show's content, but the new face of Meet the Press wears a contented smirk.

That "new face" with the "contented smirk" might be around for years and years and years, on Sunday mornings and on election nights and whenever else NBC wants to be thoroughly uninteresting and, whether it knows it or not (and it likely doesn't), part of the problem.

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