In the comments below, there are plenty of people giving Donny Deutsch’s show and me bad reviews and that’s fine: A critic is fair game for criticism. And we can all disagree.
That’s what makes America great (and not screwed up).
I’ll answer a few of the points:
On reading books for TV: I didn’t read the book. I said so here before the show. I did go looking for it but on short notice didn’t have time to read it if I had. I read articles and posts about it and the summary sent over by the show’s producers. And I will also say that I wasn’t sure I wanted to add one more notch in the book’s bestseller count (see below).
As some commenters point out, don’t think that every time you see Matt Lauer interviewing an author, he has read the book. Authors who get publicity on TV know that their books are rarely read by their interviewers but they take the publicity. If they wanted more than three minutes of stone-skipping, then they should go to C-SPAN, where people read the books but nobody watches the shows.
And I don’t think there is some moral imperative to read the book. There’s nothing sacred about a book. When I’m called on to do the point-counterpoint TV dance with, say, someone from the PTC, I don’t read their every screed and I don’t expect them to read my every screed and we can still discuss and disagree about issues.
As Linda Stasi said, we were there to discuss the list, which had gotten plenty of publicity: I was prepared to discuss the notion of it, she was there to discuss the names on the list. Which leads to the next point:
Was it an ambush? I don’t know that it was. I was told that Donny liked what Goldberg did, even though he, of course, disagreed with some of the names on the list. Donny started off with a polite discussion of substance about the list but Bernie got hostile quickly. That set the tone: If you disagree with him, you’re ambushing him. He attacks other people — and spends a whole book attacking people — but yet he can’t take the pushback himself. It was a bizarre start to the show.
When they came back for the next segment, Donny called on Linda Stasi. Keep in mind, she is a columnist for the New York Friggin’ Post, one of the top conservative papers in the nation. It’s not as if they brought in Jim Wolcott or Eric Alterman and threw it to them. They called on a Postie.
Linda and I were in the same studio, on the same couch (though we weren’t supposed to acknowledge that; we were on separate cameras). I talked to her before the show and saw her notes preparing for the talk. She was going to engage Goldberg on his terms, on his list, and throw out her own nominees. That’s how she started: She wanted Rush Limbaugh on the list, which was also her way of pointing out that Bernie had nothing but liberals on his list. That’s a perfectly legitimate way to discuss the book. But this quickly devolved into shouting, with Bernie yelling at Linda to “shut up.”
I’d say it was Linda Stasi who was ambushed by Bernie Goldberg: He was hostile and rude and though he kept saying he would answer her question he never in fact tried to (an old TV trick from an old TV hand). He yelled and insulted. He made it personal, as he did with me later. She was disgusted with it and was ready to take off her microphone and walk out and she had every right to.
I shrugged: It’s just a silly discussion about a silly book on a silly TV show.
But then, I hadn’t yet had Bernie talking about my humping.
And so now to the substance: As I said in my post before the show and as I said on the show, I don’t buy his premise:
America is not screwed up.
Oh, we have plenty to disagree about and we damed well should be debating about how to solve our problems and face our mutual enemies and issues. But I do not think it is productive to make that personal and act as if some people are out to screw up America. We have met the enemy, Bernie, and it isn’t us.
Oh, there are plenty of people on Goldberg’s list he and I would agree to disagree with. But I think that most of them are sincere and are not bad people out to “screw up America”. Michael Moore behaves badly but he’s sincere. Noam Chomsky has inane opinions but he’s every bit as sincere as Bernie Goldberg.. oh, is he.
They disagree. We can debate their disagreements. That is the very essence, again, of what makes America great. That is why America is not screwed up.
But turning that debate into an ambush on the 100 people on this list and making it personal and mean is not a productive discussion. And we see too much of that in debates today. We saw it on cable until Jon Stewart killed Crossfire and that tide shifted (until last night, I guess). We see blogs often accused of that (though I do believe that’s the exception and that most discussion in this medium — unlike TV — has the opportunity to be substantive and to link to all sides).
To me, the mere exercise of trying to name 100 people on the other side as the bad guys who are screwing up our country is like freeze-drying the worst and most shallow of cable TV shout shows and online flames. It is the worst of making politics personal instead of productive.
If anything is screwing up America, that attitude is.
MORE: People in the comments are asking me to say I am wrong. No, we just disagree and I stand by my opinions and my view from being in the thick of it. They ask me to say I made a mistake. No, I didn’t set up the event. I will say that I regret being part of it. I don’t think anyone who was involved does not regret being part of it. It was not pleasant. It certainly was not informative. It was not good TV (though in its time, people tried to define such moments as good TV; those days are over).
: LATER: Crooks & Liars has the video up.
: AND NOW I’M WONDERING…. Who is nastier to me when I piss them off, conservatives or liberals? Hmmmmmm……..
: THIS IS GETTING COMICAL: Bill O’Reilly teases Bernie coming on to whine and waaaaaaaaaaaa about this “harrowing experience” on CNBC; the screen calls it a “TV Nightmare!,” complete with exclamation mark. This from O’Reilly, the shut-up king and Goldberg of CBS News, the ambush kings.
OK. I’m fed up now. I return to my original position: Bernie’s bonkers… or a damned good book salesman.
: Atrios has the appropriate one-word review:”Hilarious.
: And here’s Bernie waaaa-waaaa-waaaaaing his way to Rush Limbaugh:
The big point is that this is what the cultural elite liberals do these days. They can stab you in the back. No problem, because they know what’s best. That’s the problem. This time, they did it to me. Big deal. Big deal. Insignificant show. Big deal. They did the exact same thing, Rush, to Judge Bork. They did the exact same thing to Judge Pickering, the judge from Mississippi who they made out to be soft on cross burners — and they’re going to do it again, Rush, with Judge Roberts, and that’s why Ralph Neas, the head of People for American Way is #10 on the list in this book.
He called the people on the show not just liberal but leftist. Can somebody tell Oliver Willis and Kos and Eric Alterman for me? Maybe I’ll get my official party membership card back.
: Now O’Reilly is calling it “TV terrorism.”
: Now I’m getting fag-bashing email from the Bernieacs. Nice bunch, them. It gets better. It’s homophobic and racist. Sweethearts.
: On O’Reilly, Goldberg says “the culture in this country has gotten way too angry and way too nasty.” What the hell are you, Bernie?
Bill is sympathetic on “the shut-up thing.” Uh-huh.
Poor widdle Bernie. Waaaa-waaa-waaaah.