After Hillary Clinton’s big night, one cable icon finds inspiration in ‘The Honeymooners’
Good morning. Here's our daily summary of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
It was very late this morning in an empty Philadelphia arena, but Ralph Kramden met Hillary Clinton.
At well past 1 a.m. Eastern, the screen was filled with Chris Matthews, the brainy and often irritating MSNBC icon, who turned to a characteristically dated cultural reference to describe the state of the election in the wake of the Democratic National Convention.
As most of America slept, Matthews asked his panel: What television series other than "Star Trek" has "lasted through infinity?" Bzzzzz, time's up! It's "The Honeymooners," he declared. For sure, the show probably doesn't resonate with millennials; at least not in the way it may with octogenarian residents of South Florida nursing homes. After all, it ran from 1955 through 1956.
Said Matthews, "Here's Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason, surely another dark hole for millennials), the big mouth braggart talking about this doing this and doing that." Then there's Alice Kramden, wife of bus driver Ralph, who's always calm "and puts up with all his crazy stuff — 'To the moon, Alice!' — and is always the person with the brains, and with her head screwed on right. And, finally, at the end of every episode, he kisses her because he realizes, dammit, she's right again and he's a fool."
"Is this what the presidential election to going to be?"
The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman, whose own tenure as a Matthews sidekick is so long that his hair was once jet black, seemed nonplussed. Did Matthews' scenario mean America is the short-tempered Kramden? No, he's Donald Trump, interjected Chris Hayes, a panelist and show host himself.
So one was left with the vision of Clinton as sober, centered Alice, who will somehow win out at the end, deflating her blowhard co-star. As for the image of a resulting smooch? Let’s give that one a pass.
The ratings game
"Night 3 of the 2016 Democratic National Convention delivered strong ratings for the cable news networks." (Adweek) "CNN dominated the competition, both in total viewers and in the key A25-54 demo on a night when the Democrats brought out their heavy-hitters in prime time, led by VP Joe Biden, former New York City mayor, billionaire businessman and Independent Michael Bloomberg, Democratic nominee for Vice President Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama, each of whom gave a speech during the daypart."
Charges dropped in a media spectacular
"Prosecutors announced Thursday that they will not retry a man convicted of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy, saying they can no longer prove their case in the 15-year-old slaying that thrust former congressman Gary Condit into the national spotlight." (The Washington Post) As journalists of a certain age will recall, this story kept cable TV bookers busy for at least one or two intense years. It was very big. If they ever had a spot they needed to fill, morning, noon or night, you could do a segment on this case.
Almond joy in the Oval Office
"Politicos marveled at the president’s discipline after a New York Times article published earlier this month asserted that the commander-in-chief consumes only 'seven lightly salted almonds' as a late-night snack, particularly in light of his tour de force speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday night." Alas, it was an apparent joke not quite gotten by The Times. (The Guardian)
How Clinton's speech is playing
Bloomberg View's Al Hunt kept tabs on two political pros from each party during the week. Their conclusion? "Our Democratic and Republican strategists both said that Clinton wrapped up an effective Democratic National Convention Thursday night with an acceptance speech that demonstrated her strength and discredited Donald Trump." (Bloomberg)
On CNN's "New Day," Chris Cuomo, whose governor brother spoke early during the final night's festivities, said that Clinton is "going for the performance," while Donald Trump is "going for the personality."
That was much like The Atlantic's Ron Fournier on "Morning Joe," who responded to Willie Geist's belief that another speaker, Pakistani Muslim immigrant Khizr Khan, whose son died fighting as a U.S. Army captain in Iraq, had "laid waste to Donald Trump's entire theory" of the election.
His cautionary note: "This is still a change versus status quo electorate. People still desperately want change. If this is a conventional year, Donald Trump would be toast. But it's not a conventional year. Does the public still have faith in themselves, does it have faith in its institutions? It's still not over."
Of course, there was an alternate reality on "Fox & Friends," which opened with words of police shooting in San Diego (at least one officer dead). They then alleged "disrespect" for the military and law enforcement at the Democratic convention. Yes, some conventioneers yell, "Black Lives Matter" when a Dallas sheriff asked for a moment of quiet reflection over all of America's fallen officers. Fox made that a big deal, a spurning of patriotism as a chyron of their comments ("BLACK LIVES MATTER") flashed across the middle (not even the bottom, in case you didn't get the supposed outrage).
So that's it from Fox. It's not about temperament. Or qualifications. Or even change. It's about whether you're for police or for anarchy. Roger Ailes may be gone but the the car is on cruise control.
Hillary Clinton's recycled Bernie Sanders line
Did this sentence from her speech sound familiar? "More than 90 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, that’s where the money is." The Washington Post says it's an out-of-date line from Sanders' repertoire. "Clinton is claiming that the top 1 percent of Americans gets 90 percent of the gains in income, but there is increasing evidence that income imbalance has improved in recent years as the economy has recovered from the Great Recession." (The Washington Post)
Something else for chagrined Sanders supporters
There was unavoidable speculation last night as to where those Sanders supporters go in November, and whether some might stay home. Clinton tried to argue that their issues were hers, including on excessive Wall Street power.
Well, perhaps she hopes they don't see this Wall Street Journal story out this morning: "Hedge funds are playing a far bigger role in 2016 than in past elections — and Clinton has been the single biggest beneficiary. Owners and employees of hedge funds have made $122.7 million in campaign contributions this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics — more than twice what they gave in the entire 2012 cycle and nearly 14% of total money donated from all sources so far." (The Wall Street Journal)
The view from Vermont
Jon Margolis was a great national political writer for the Chicago Tribune. He's long-retired but follows the action closely. Before the internet and cable TV took over politics coverage, he was part of a print elite that constituted quasi-gatekeepers of what was deemed news on the campaign trail.
What's his sense of the differences between now and the pre-internet age when it comes to conventions, especially the demands to file on multiple platforms? It does seem rather quaint that all he really had to worry about was a single story for the next day's paper.
"Worse than not having time to eat, does one have time to think? I wonder, and also wonder it today's technology — not without its advantages — creates a disincentive to think. Tweeting, for instance, which reporters apparently feel they must do (or are expected to do?) throughout the day, creates an impediment to thinking. I don't do it because I have nothing to say worth saying that I can say in 140 taps on the keyboard. So far as I can see, neither does anybody else."
Says a terrific pro, "No, I'm certainly not saying conventions were covered better 20 and more years ago. Some of today's coverage is superb. Some of yesterday's was not. You have to wonder, though, whether the lack of opportunity (and inclination?) to ponder, to contemplate, to understand, provides an incentive to do the more dramatic stories, the ones about celebrities squabbling with one another, and a disincentive to connect what is going on at the conventions with (just to take one example) what it reveals about how these folks might govern the country."
Facebook not alone in cranking out cash
"Google parent Alphabet reported its second-quarter earnings and, like Facebook, delivered numbers above the Street’s expectations." (Recode) "More importantly for core Google, the company reported a 33 percent increase in its 'other revenues' — sales from its enterprise unit, Play digital media store and hardware sales. That total ($2.17 billion) is still just around 11 percent of its gargantuan ads business — so, relatively tiny."
How the media falls short with Trump
The windup of the two party conventions might be a moment for atypical reflection among many media. The coverage of the Trump campaign as daily freak show, with a press thrust to do lots of quickie tales on his weird declarations, does have the downside of not especially focusing or lingering on the total absurdity, outrage or perils of some of what he says.
Perhaps it demonstrates the limits of neutrality and not flatly declaring that certain comments are truly noxious. Take those the other day on Crimea, prompted by a question from a German reporter (what a surprise, it wasn't an American) and eliciting Trump's suggestion that we should mull recognizing it as Russian and lift sanctions put in place after Vladimir Putin annexed it in 2014. The story got a whole lot less attention than, say, his rhetorical food fight that day with an NBC reporter, Katy Tur. (The Daily Beast)
"You're right," says Alexander Motyl, a author-artist who is a Ukraine expert at the Rutgers-Newark. "This ain't just loopy, it's unprofessional, unserious, unpresidential and downright dangerous. You can't just casually ignore Russia's violation of 75 years of security agreements. And even if you do think one needs to come to some accommodation in re Crimea or force the Europeans to pay more for NATO, you say that privately, and not during a campaign. Effectively, Trump has disqualified himself from being president."
Well, most of the press might not even know where to find Crimea on a map. But that's really as bad as Trump has ever been. Oh, well, have a good weekend.