Never let it be said that Chuck Todd is incapable of learning anything.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. Chuck is always learning stuff! That's the good news.
The bad news is that Chuck isn't learning new stuff. Instead, every few years Chuck takes advantage of the huge and undeserved media platform that NBC has given him to announce that he has just had the same miraculous revelation that he had already claimed to have had a few years previous.
And again a few years before that.
For example, here is Chuck Todd yesterday in The Verge:
I don’t ever want to be in the access game. And yet the access game is paying a lot of bills in the social media influencer and cable news space.
But here is Chuck Todd back in December of 2014 explaining that without playing the access game, he'd be out of business.
Lewis Black: I watch you and everybody else when somebody comes on [your show] and I don't know how you do it. Because I'd be barking at them. Because they sit there and go, 'blah, blah, blah,' and you sit there [and listen to it].
Todd: We all sit there because we all know the first time we bark, it's the last time they do the show, There's something sometimes where ... it's the last time. Nobody will ever come on your show. There is that balance sometimes.
And here is a link to Chuck Todd's almost-lost-to-history appearance on The Moment with Brian Koppelman making it perfectly clear he knows what business he's in. Going into even greater detail about how it is definitely not his job to irritate his guests by letting his audience know when they're flatly lying or insane even when he knows for a fact that they are. As I said back in 2015 when I was the only person writing about this interview (and h/t again to Alert Reader Walt for pointing me to it):..
[Todd] does go so far as to say (starting at around the 11:00 minute mark) that he understands that every week elected asshats come on his show and lie to his face.
And that our politics has become a game of pandering to the "idiots" and that that is why the public is cynical.
And that all core truths about the catastrophe our politics has become are perfectly well known to everyone in The Club, but are only ever whispered about off the record. Because, as Mr. Todd confesses (at around the 18:15 mark), he is a creature of The Business of Show. A clown, in the employ of corporate executives whose faces we will never see and whose names will never be mentioned, but who make it clear to Mr. Todd that his show is all about gettin' them ratings, and fuck the substance.
It is also kinda hilarious to hear the host of the most influential political show on teevee hoping (starting at around the 25:00 mark) that somehow, someday, maybe the Millennials with their Twitters and their Instagrams and suchlike will start demanding that politicians be on the record all the time, and then something something a big change might happen.
Here is Chuck Todd once again from The Verge this week rolling out his inevitable, nauseating, contractually-obligated Both Siderism by first pointing to an actual, concrete example of Republican perfidy...
Now, let me argue the other side of it. Tax cuts. Republicans have argued for years, “Tax cuts pay for themselves.” There is not a lick of truth to this. There is no data that supports this anywhere. And then when you present them with the data, the tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. “Oh, well, they would have, had they not done this, or they would have had you not …”
...and then handwaving in the general direction of you and me and asserting -- without citing s single actual example -- that of course this is what both sides do That shit is the fault of "American politics". Of "one side or the other". Of trying to appease "the base of party X".
So the problem in American politics is that, even when somebody’s point of view, their rationale for a decision they make, is proven wrong, they usually, because there’s enough of a following on one side or the other, there’s enough people invested in making sure that even when their narrative is wrong, they have to defend why it was wrong. So they say, “well, it would have paid for itself had there not been reckless spending by the Liberal Democrats.” Some unprovable ambiguous shot that sounds good to the base of party X.
But before you can ask, "Who the fuck is 'party X'?", Chuck has toddled on to his main theme: feigning complete flabbergasterhood that his profession has fallen so utterly to its knees in the face of the onslaught of attacks from the Right. Swearing that, boy howdy, he has really learned his lesson!
I think objectivity and fairness are not the same thing in some ways. You can’t define objectivity as sort of being equal, that we know. You can’t balance the truth, that we know.
This is 100% pure, cask-strength bullshit from the mope whose picture you will see in future editions of the OED next to the term "Both Siderism", but sure Chuck. Whatever. Proceed. With my emphasis added.
So you have to be fair and have an open mind. Where we did get lost in this, and this sort of happened to mainstream media in particular, is that we did let Republican critics get in our heads, right?
The Republicans have been running on, “There’s a liberal bias in the media.” And talk about, if you say something long enough, there are liberals who say there’s a liberal bias in the media when you see polling now...
The point is, if you say it enough, a lot of people believe it. This has been a 45-year campaign. I mean, Roger Ailes and Pat Buchanan were Nixon guys and basically blamed the media for Watergate. And it’s been a sustained campaign. And Roger Ailes basically built an entire media empire based on this premise that he created during the Nixon era.
We should have fought back better in the mainstream media. We shouldn’t [have] accepted the premise that there was liberal bias. We should have defended. I hear the attacks on fact checkers where they “fact-check Republicans six times more than they fact-check Democrats.” Yeah. Perhaps the Republicans are being factually incorrect more often than the Democrats.
We ended up in this both-sides trope. We bought into the idea that, oh my God, we’re perceived as having a liberal bias. And I think for particularly the first decade of the century, I’d say mainstream media overcorrected. And we bought into the Fox motto of “balance.” And it’s like, Jesus, there’s no balance, they need the truth. There’s fairness, that’s different than balance. And so in that sense, this is why we’re in this defensive posture today.
But wait a minute. Didn't Chuck claim to have already learned this same lesson three years ago, in 2019? From PressThink:
The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd
That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.
‘Round midnight on Christmas eve, Rolling Stone posted a short interview with Chuck Todd, host of “the longest running show on television,” NBC’s Meet the Press.
Its contents were explosive, embarrassing, enraging, and just plain weird.
Three years after Kellyanne Conway introduced the doctrine of “alternative facts” on his own program, a light went on for Chuck Todd. Republican strategy, he now realized, was to make stuff up, spread it on social media, repeat it in your answers to journalists — even when you know it’s a lie with crumbs of truth mixed in — and then convert whatever controversy arises into go-get-em points with the base, while pocketing for the party a juicy dividend: additional mistrust of the news media to help insulate President Trump among loyalists when his increasingly brazen actions are reported as news. Todd repeatedly called himself naive for not recognizing the pattern, itself an astounding statement that cast doubt on his fitness for office as host of Meet the Press...
And a year before that, in 2018, wasn't Chuck in The Atlantic swearing that he had finally seen the light?
It’s Time for the Press to Stop Complaining—And to Start Fighting Back
A nearly 50-year campaign of vilification, inspired by Fox News's Roger Ailes, has left many Americans distrustful of media outlets. Now, journalists need to speak up for their work.
By Chuck Todd
American democracy requires a functioning press that informs voters and creates a shared set of facts. If journalists are going to defend the integrity of their work, and the role it plays in sustaining democracy, we’re going to need to start fighting back.
The idea that our work will speak for itself is hopelessly naive. Fox, Limbaugh, and the rest of the Trump echo chamber have proved that. Meanwhile, even in Ailes’s absence, Fox seems more comfortable than ever pushing the limits of responsible behavior by a supposed news organization. It recently allowed a sitting state attorney general to co-host a show for three days. The network effectively gave a GOP candidate for Florida governor nearly unfettered access to its airwaves during his primary campaign, providing a more significant boost than any super pac can offer. The fact that so few viewers batted an eye shows how conditioned they have become to the network’s unique ethical standards...
I’m not advocating for a more activist press in the political sense, but for a more aggressive one. That means having a lower tolerance for talking points, and a greater willingness to speak plain truths. It means not allowing ourselves to be spun, and not giving guests or sources a platform to spin our readers and viewers, even if that angers them. Access isn’t journalism’s holy grail—facts are...
And yet, for all of his serial revelations that the Left has been right about the Right and the mainstream media all along, has Chuck lifted a finger to actual do anything but "look with alarm" in the pages of The Atlantic or The Verge or The Rolling Stone?
Of course not No substantive changes of any kind. Not a thing.
And this should not surprise anyone.
After all, Chuck Todd doesn't own Comcast/NBC. He's an employee of that media corporation who serves at the pleasure of its executives. For all of you out there who are (mistakenly) nostalgic for the Good Olde Days of Tim Russert, remember first that Russert was no fucking prize, and second, that Russert was not Chuck Todd's immediate predecessor.
Todd was given the Big Chair by Comcast/NBC after they fired David Gregory. And as longtime readers of this blog will remember, during his six years hosting Meet the Press, Gregory was exactly as awful as Todd in exactly the same way. From me in 2011:
Caution: Extended flashback ahead!
In the last six year, I'm sure I've done over 200 of these Mouse Circus "Sunday Morning..." playlets and watch hundreds more, and I honestly am hard pressed to recall another time when the contrast between the grave, complex realities of world events and the fatuously smug dysfunction of the Villager Sock Puppet brigade was on such blinding display it was on "Meet the Press" today.
First came the Tweets.
Gregory: Hey, lets look at a bunch of tweets Chuck Todd.
Chuck Todd: That's a lot of tweets, David Gregory.
Gregory: Would you call it an assload of tweets, Chuck Todd?
Chuck Todd: Many American would, David Gregory. According to our new Gaffer/Quinnalporpoise poll, 44.5% of Americans either agree or are quite likely to agree if you bought them a couple of Stingers, while the Nabob/Abendigo numbers say 48.2%.
Gregory: Wow, Chuck Todd, that is nearly a majority.
Second came an "interview" with Tom Friedman that consisted of The Mustache of Understanding standing in front of a camera at Davos -- at the single point on the face of the Earth which, at the moment, is almost literally the opposite end of the cultural, political, climactic, ethnic and economic Universe from everything that is happening in Egypt -- to yap out platitudes about globalism:Friedman: You know, the first rule of politics...
Friedman: You know, the big danger in punditry is to confuse your hope and the reality of the politics...
Friedman: You know, the looting and whatnot...
Friedman: There are three things that could happen: Something good, something meh and something bad.
Gregory: Tom Friedman, you are wise beyond all human understanding and other than getting everything fucking thing wrong for as long as anyone can remember, you have never been surprised by anything in the Middle East. Does this surprise you?
Tom Friedman: Not a bit. Now I have to go -- we're doing naked 1995 Krug Clos Ambonnay champagne and Truffle Chutney shots off of Arianna Huffington's tits in the hotel hot tub.
Gregory: Sounds exciting.
Friedman: Winner gets to pick an industry to randomly fuck with, use our captive media courtiers to bubble it up to 100 times its actual value, cash out and strip it bare at the top of the market, toss the carcass on the scrap heap of history and call it "creative destruction".
Gregory: And now, back to our panel.
Harold Ford, Junior: You have lots of people in Egypt who have education and stuff.
Gregory: Great insight, Harold Ford, Junior!
Chuck Todd: The White House is afraid of what effect this may have on Israel.
Gregory: Would you like to randomly interject some words and phrases, Republican analyst Mike Murphy?
Murphy: Turkey. Muslim Brotherhood!
Gregory: And based on that, what are the likely outcomes?
Murphy: Two things that might happen -- One good and one bad.
Harold Ford, Junior: I read on Wikipedia that the median age in Egypt is 24. Also I would like to mention that I am under 40. This is important for reasons I obviously do not understand, but which I will vaguely imply with words like "global citizen".
driftglass: Why, Harold Ford, Junior?
Harold Ford, Junior: In order to get my turn on camera while at the same time not saying anything definitive that will make me look like an idiot a week from now.
driftglass: Not to worry, Harold Ford, Junior. The Friedman Rule applies here -- no one on these shows is ever held responsible for anything they say.
Harold Ford, Junior: I agree with everyone about everything. I will now say "Walk to the middle." "Alienating the extremes on the Left and the right." "Compromise." and "Center." very quickly, back-to-back.
Gregory: Your ham-fisted navigation of this complex topic back to safe vocabulary that we can all enjoy has given me a steely erection.
End of extended flashback.
Comcast/NBC didn't fire Gregory because he's a craven hack who wallows in Both Siderism and rolls over for Republican lies at the slightest touch. Hell, that's Comcast/NBC's fucking job description for whoever they seat on the Meet the Press throne. They fired Gregory for bad ratings. And they hired Todd because they wanted someone who would be just like Gregory but who wasn't Gregory.
So you needn't take Todd's periodic, performative outbursts seriously. They are as obvious and insincere a marketing gimmick as the mustaches, sideburns and below-the-collar haircuts that middle-aged local teevee news anchors began uncomfortably sporting in the 1970s try to try to attract the youth market by looking "hip".
No kiddies, Chuck Todd has not seen the light.
But he may very well be seeing the handwriting on the wall.