How important are the pundits?

Sunday, October 23, 2005
Recently a friend of mine said she was not interested in political news because when it got right down to it, there was a not a dime's worth of difference between these people...they all had more in common with each other than with us.

It is hard to argue with that these days.

In the midst of the Miers cat fight I have to wonder who these "critics" are.

George Will was the man who called Bush 1 a lap dog and through sheer disdain helped make Bill Clinton president.

Krauthammer and Kristol were [not so long ago] McCain supporters. That would be the McCain of the McCain Feingold Act and the infamous Gang of 14.

Bob Novak helped create the whole Plame/Flame/Wilson debacle.

I am old enough to remember when the pundits loved Souter and had "grave doubts" about Thomas. So much for consistency.

Has the internet with its political blogs made the pundits more important and how many people really care what they say?

In other words when we hear the words "fury and tempest" from pundits..who are these people and who elected them to anything? Where exactly does their influence come from?

I know right now I think that maybe my friend was a lot more right than I gave her credit for at the time.

I think George Will and Maureen Dowd...Charles Krauthammer and Paul Krugman have a lot more in common with each other than they do the rest of us. In fact I would say their most enduring quality is ego.

And I think the internet, this medium right here has a lot to do with giving them an authority and a power they really do not deserve.


Rick Ballard said...

I was right with you until the last sentence:

"I think the internet, this medium right here has a lot to with giving them an authority and a power they really do not deserve."

I would argue the opposite - that blogs have diminished the influence of columnists greatly. I would offer Keller's decision to draw a veil over the NYT's leading Democratic propagandist's work as evidence. Every column written by his editorial page luminaries is subjected to dissection and ridicule as soon as it is published. There is an internet cottage industry devoted to describing the flabbiness of the emperor's butt and the NYT can't take it. It was an entirely different matter when the only rebuttal to the idiocies printed in the Times were selected by the same people responsible for hiring the clowns in the first place. Columnists had a much higher positional authority and ability to influence then than they have now. Now they are widely seen as caricatures of propagandists - flogging a dying cause with dead ideas.

terrye said...


I would absolutely agree with you if all the people on the internet were there to just show up the big boys.

But in truth many of them have an agenda just the same as the big guys. They are not above destroying people they do not approve of.

The internet is just their medium.

And it can be abused just the same.

I would also add cable news to the list. On one hand Fox offers an alternative to CNN...but the kind of people who do that work are not all that different in temperment.

JB said...

Blessed are those (like your friend) who pay as little attention to political pundits as possible.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently. Realistically, how much influence do these people have? Despite their ability to make an impressive amount of noise, not much it seems. No-one elected them to anything and I think their vociferous fan clubs are hardly a significant chunk of any "base".

It's actually kind of funny to see some attacking the president for being out of touch when he is the one person who has the most accurate polling picture on any given subject. It's a reversal of reality.

The subtext of the whole Miers brouhaha is that conservative pundits, deep down inside, really do believe the Smirking Chimp caricature. It's not about political views but ego. And that's what separates Them from the rest of us.

flenser said...

In other words, you agree with these "pundits" as long as they say things you agree with, and you think its great that they have so much influence, as long as they use it as you think they should.

When they use it in ways you think they should not, you are outraged.

Incidentally, just a few months ago bloggers were considered to be the true voice of the people, the brave scrappy rebels taking on the establishment. When did they suddenly morph into "the establishment" themselves? It seems to have been about the same time that they took positions contrary to the 9/11 Republicans.

Bloggers like Ed Morrisey, M Simon, AllahPundit, or Ace of Spades are not the "elite" or the "establishment". The White House is.

JB said...


"In other words, you agree with these "pundits" as long as they say things you agree with, and you think its great that they have so much influence, as long as they use it as you think they should."

Would it be unreasonable to suggest that the reelection of W. has gone to the heads of just a few big name bloggers out there?

It's not an either/or, black and white, sorry. It's a threshold/boiling point issue. The level of vehemence on the Miers issue is unprecedented.

And realistically, where the influence of the blogs has been in information access (such as Rathergate debunking - Charles Johnson's animated memo - a picture worth thousands of Blogger postings put together.) It hasn't been in one-sided pounding/piling on with questionable, MSM-like tactics. They are becoming what they've attempted to counter.

JB said...

To rephrase, people look for something they don't get from DeMSM. Not for an MSM minor league. It's not about agreement or disagreement. I have no idea how the Miers deal will turn out (although I have a good deal of faith in W.'s judgement.) But I'm pretty sure these people don't either, which is making their tactics grounds for serious resentment.

terrye said...


No that is not what I mean.

I don't like it when certain bloggers say that the media is running ahead of the facts and then they pile on something or someone and do the same thing when it suits them.

It is called hubris.

I don't like it when they get all sanctimonious over some nominee like Bolton and get all self righteous about the constitutional process and then try to put the breaks on said process or even subvert it when it suits them.

My point is that there is an establishment in Washington and that the longer people cover it and the more a part of it they become the more they over value themselves.

terrye said...

And you know what the White House is less of the establishment than a lot of pundits are.

When Bush's term, or the term of any president, is over...he leaves.

The same can not be said for the chattering classes. They just go right on chattering.

JB said...

This is a good point -- calling W. "the establishment" because he's in the WH is a non-starter for me. That's more a conventional political wisdom than an accurate portrait of the guy we know.

Do you expect him to hang around the DC cocktail circuit much after '09? I sure don't.

terrye said...


From what I understand he does not hang around it now.

Everybody is wondering why Bush is off his game.

I don't know if Bush is off his game or if a lot of people have just forgot whatever they knew about public decorum.

As if he [or any president] should make his decisions based on whether the talking heads on cable news or some bloggers will show their butts.

I do resent it. I would rather see a nomination die in a vote than be sabotaged by people no one ever voted for.

David Thomson said...

God has not preordained their popularity one way or another. The pundits are forced to compete just like the rest of us. They are only influential if their audience keeps coming back for more. The free market of ideas will ultimately determine their fate.

mrp said...

A great post, Terrye.

If I find pleasure in anything written about Harriet Miers, it's in counting the huge number of right-wing bloggers claiming to speak in the the name of all 'conservatives'. Squeak squeak squeak.

I strongly support the Miers nomination. After Rod Dreher's amazing hype as he announced the forthcoming George Wills column [wherein he predicted that (in my words) the Miers supporters would be struck dead - deader'n a Belgian Smurf - on Sunday), I eagerly awaited George's big opus.

It was funny.
It was rude.
It was crude.

If that's the best George Will can do, Terrye, you have nothing to worry about.

terrye said...


To a certain extent that is true.

But I think the pundits have gotten out of hand.

The National Enquirer makes money, that does not make them reliable.

I am not saying people have no right to qustion or wonder about a nominee, nothing like that.

But I am saying that there are people who seem to think they can destroy a nominee before the process even takes place.

I think this is a bad precedent, not only for Miers but for every nominee that comes after. And not just nominees, but anyone in public life.

People have forgotten how to be polite and respectful in public.

The tendency to make outlandish claims about the president and to show a complete disrepect for the office has become normal.

100,000 dead in Iraq. Bush lied, people died. smirking chimp. 10,000 dead in Louisiana and it is all Bush's fault.

How does anyone respond to that?

And now we hear that Miers is a moron, a crony, a hypocrite, dishonest, her family is dishonest, she is ugly, she is old, she believes in all kinds of weird things.

If the woman were going on trial she would need a change of venue.

Where does this end?

When is character assasination acceptable? And when do we owe the president some loyalty?

With the Plame business and the hurricanes and the this really the time to be jumping on the bandwagon in some kind of national temer tantrum?

richard mcenroe said...

Even if what Will and Kristol believe is true, that they do speak for the "conservatives," they overlook one minor fact. Their conservatives have never won an election. Bush is in office, like Reagan, because Lapsed Democrats and moderates came over to him, not because millions of Americans suddenly decided Charles Keating was right about porn prosecutions or George Will's ability to link partial-birth abortion to the Yankees' blowing the playoffs was the foundation of their personal politics.

So until the pundits can deliver a candidate, they're still a sideshow, galling as that may be to them.

chuck said...

People have forgotten how to be polite and respectful in public.

Maybe we should bring back dueling? It might reduce the number frivolous insults. Especially when the confrontation takes place at twenty paces with automatic weapons. Umm... I suppose at least *one* of the parties needs to survive. Maybe we should revive it with the understanding that only antique weopons may be used.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

richard mcenroe,

That's an excellent point you make. He who brings in the voters calls the tune I suppose.

terrye said...


I wouldn't trust some of these guys to wait until the count of 10 to turn and shoot.

Peter UK said...

That is why they had Seconds.Incidentally,the back to back,walk ten paces,turn and fire was not the most common form,mainly they stood and took aim.It must have been very sobering in the cold light of morning staring down the barrel of a gun.
It has to be noted that violent societies are polite societies,viz the Japanese during the Samurai period.
Ther was also equal opportunities mixed sex duelling,one lady whose honour had been besmirched challenged a
the gentleman to a duel,he gallently fired his shot into the air,she of course, being a woman ,shot him dead.

mrp said...

Grass before breakfast.

In the US, duels were fought with various weapons, including rifled muskets and Arkansas toothpicks.

When James J. Shields challenged Abraham Lincoln to a duel in 1842, the weapons of choice were cavalry broadswords.

terrye said...



What a think to say.

I am offended.

I demand satisfaction for my entire gender.

Peter UK said...

I have a headache!

terrye said...


You are not only a cad, you are a coward as well.

a sad day for England.

Peter UK said...

Egad woman,you are beautiful when you are angry!