I used to think that sports announcers had just about the most worthless job in the world — essentially, all they really do is state the obvious while occasionally tossing out some vaguely interesting bit of trivia that is tenuously connected to the events that just occurred on the field. But while the incessant coverage of the Olympics hasn’t really raised my opinion of that particular profession much (with a few exceptions), I have come to the conclusion that there’s one career choice out there that’s even more pointless and pathetic: television political analyst/commentator/pundit.
Here’s the sad truth: these folks are paid to be little more than whiny little bitches. They’re less interested in actually bringing to bear any insightful commentary on the issues and topics at hand, and are far more interested in twisting and obscuring what is actually said and discussed so as to have better comebacks, putdowns, and zingers to use against the other analysts in the room. In other words, they’re less concerned about the issues and more concerned with how they can one-up each other.
Case in point, Barack Obama and John McCain’s recent appearance on the Saddleback Civil Forum. Pastor Rick Warren interviewed both of the presidential candidates — Obama first, and then McCain — and asked them questions on issues ranging from abortion and war to education and energy. The event itself was admirable and even enjoyable, giving us voters an opportunity to hear the candidates speak for themselves plainly and honestly. In short, it was a very refreshing change from what passes for much of the “conversation” that occurs during presidential campaigns.
And then the analysts and pundits had to go and take a nice, long piss all over it.
For starters, it was obvious, from the get-go, which analysts would go where on the event: one merely needed to discover their “liberal” or “conservative” persuasion. And then there was the blatant twisting of what the candidates said, such as when one Fox News pundit — I didn’t catch the name, they all look and sound alike to me — implied that Obama listed only his wife, grandmother, and Ted Kennedy in response to Warren’s request to name three people he’d go to for advice. Which was a gross simplification of what Obama actually communicated.
And finally, let’s not forget the shrill, annoying tones in which all of this “analysis” took place. It was almost as if the analysts were determined to go against the entire raison d’être of the Forum, which is “to promote civil discourse and the common good of all,” with the emphasis on the word “civil.”
Now, I didn’t sit through all of the analysis. I’m sure that, somewhere, on some channel, someone threw out a thought-provoking and cogent observation. However, when one of MSNBC’s commentators kicked off that channel’s post-Forum discussion by tallying up how many times Obama and McCain each said “God,” “Jesus,” and “Christianity” — almost as if he truly believed keeping score like that told you something valuable about the candidates — I knew I’d only be able to stomach so much commentary of that caliber before throwing up a little in my throat.