THE DEN – Let’s see what’s on TV this Sunday morning. Yes, the talking heads, waxing wisely on various subjects. but mostly politics, since that’s all they know. Some are knowledgeable and erudite, but nothing like William Buckley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Others are blowhards who make their point by shouting the loudest, and when two or more are talking at the same time I change channels. Don’t you? The job pays well – those guest TV appearances are mostly free, but the spinoffs are fantastic. There are the same speeches to universities and trade conferences which pay quite well, books and columns in like-minded newspapers and magazines. The late Art Buchwald told me he made more on speeches than he did on his columns.
Well, Mr. or Mrs. Occupant, you, too, can be a pundit and make big bucks. First, start working on someone’s political campaign no matter how lowly. That way you can say later, “As I advised a certain candidate…” Don’t mention you advised that Domino’s is faster delivery than Papa John’s. Steal from the best. Watch the working pundits who manage to worm their way on all the shows. What do they wear? Mostly the garb of a funeral director dressed by a nun. Showy clothes are shallow. Write down killer lines: “You have a point, but…” “As anyone can see…” (No fellow pundit wants to object to the obvious, whether it is or not).
Trot out obscure facts that everyone else is afraid to correct. “In the 1878 presidential election in Calico County, Nevada, the No Nothing candidate etc.” One exception: If Karl Rove is on the panel, don’t do it. Rove knows the outcome of every election ever held in America and will point out that Calico County is a restaurant chain. Next, write a book about politics. Don’t worry that it is crammed with errors, plagiarisms and meaningless drivel that no publisher would touch, and you have to self-publish, but now you can drop in: “As I wrote in my book about that ….” No one has read it, so who can object?
In all your efforts, take a hard political stand. It does not matter if you are a left-wing bomb-throwing nut case or a right-wing mouth-breathing birther. These days no one wants some namby-pamby intelligent expert who can see both sides of a question. As former Texas Ag Commissioner Jim Hightower said, “The only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” If this hard line makes you predictable, no problem. Charles Krauthammer is the most predictable anti-Obama pundit in America, but you can’t keep him off the TV. Some may argue: why bother watching him? Because, if you are of his political persuasion, he tells you what you want to hear. Pat Buchanan shouts. (Where’s the remote?) James Carville has a sense of humor, in contrast to most of his fellow panelists who show little wit, humor or irony. These panels ain’t exactly the Algonquin Round Table. One of the few bright spots on TV discussion is on Friday nights on PBS NewsHour when David Brooks, a conservative Republican, and Mark Shields, a liberal Democrat, face off with a very learned and productive debate. (Note they never call it Brooks-Shields.)
Incidentally, some say the title “pundit” comes from the Hindi word pandit meaning a learned person. Others say pundit comes from the Navaho: “A pompous gas bag who sits around the campfire full of both last night’s deer chili and self-importance.” Getting back to advice on punditry, don’t humiliate or point out the show has booked a lying idiot. You want to be asked back. The idea is to make your case while sounding knowledgeable and – most importantly – with inside sources. “I know more than you do.” So toss into the TV talk: “My sources in the intelligence community say…” “I just talked with a top White House official who told me …” Again, no one can really dispute your statements; they can only look on in jealousy. Once you start hitting the Sunday morning talk shows, move to Washington and stay within the Beltway, but still make statements like: “The American people today feel that…” Or: “The national fatigue over…” You can fly to another city, make a speech and get back to DC that night, and you wouldn’t know the American people or the national mood if they bit you on your honorarium.
Don’t make predictions. When asked, hedge. Just look at the 2012 presidential elections. The conservative pundits picked Mitt Romney and the progressives picked Barack Obama. On the right: Dick Morris: “Opinion: Here comes the landslide. There are many reasons that Obama will lose — by a lot — on Tuesday.” Karl Rove: “Mitt Romney will be declared America’s 45th president…with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more.” Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner: “Going out on a limb: Romney beats Obama, handily.” George Will: “Romney by a landslide. Electoral College, 321–217.” Newt Gingrich also predicted an easy Romney victory. Obama trounced Romney by 5 million popular votes and the Electoral College was even more lopsided: 332-206. After the election Sean Hannity, who had assured his followers that Romney would win in a romp, lost half of his disillusioned audience.
Across the aisle, the winners crowed. Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money predicted that Obama would win. Charles Gibson, former ABC World News anchor: “But folks, Barack Obama’s gonna win.” David Gergen got it right, as did Paul Begala. But it’s still iffy to predict. No matter how badly you missed the outcome, do not appear on the next Sunday morning studio set with egg on your face. Pontificate: “Well, it’s obvious that the female vote went….” “As I said, Southern white voters clearly….” Now hit the yellow brick panel. Remember, you don’t need a clue as to what you are talking about, just sound assured, and if all else fails, shout, preferably in Navaho..
Ashby opines at email@example.com