We were watching "Real Time" with Bill Maher last night, and one of the professional political operatives, one of those people I tend to think of as being akin to whores except practicing a less respectable profession, started regurgitating right wing talking points about how absolutely devastating it's going to be to make it harder for power plants to burn coal. You know the type of political operative I mean, the folks with absolutely no discernible principles of their own -- they simply parrot whatever the latest talking points their party is promoting. Sometimes after the fact they'll concede that the nonsense they cheerfully spouted a few years before was absolute garbage, but of course by then the damage has been. You know, like the various Bush administration officials and advisers who are now willing to admit that invading Iraq in 2003 was a super stupid thing to do. Why didn't any of them speak up at the time? Because they preferred collecting a paycheck for repeating propaganda and lies more than they preferred being honest and retaining a soul.
Anyway, the panel on "Real Time" included Gavin Newsom (Democrat), Mary Matalin (Republican, former member of Dick Cheney's staff), and Steve Schmidt (Republican, and chief strategist for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign). Not surprisingly, one of the topics discussed was climate change (California is burning), which naturally led to Schmidt and Matalin going into full-scale parrot mode about the economic costs of trying to do anything. That in turn led to talking about fossil fuels and trying to move away from burning coal in power plants. Except, of course, we can't move away from coal because of the "economic costs." Lots and lots of blathering on about how we can't move away from burning coal because it's going to cost miners in Wyoming their jobs or result in BNSF running fewer coal trains or something. The blathering about saving certain jobs always results in me wanting to reach through a tv screen and strangle someone -- or at least put a 2x4 alongside their head. What about the economic cost of sea levels rising to the point where New York subways become unusable? Or big chunks of Florida uninhabitable? And why is it more important to keep coal miners employed doing what has to be one of the nastiest, dirtiest jobs on the planet than it is to provide adequate funding for schools to keep teachers working? It's fine to slash funding for education or maintaining infrastructure, but god forbid some poor miner in West Virginia or Wyoming end up being laid off for lack of work. It's bizarre.
I have ranted on this topic before, like when discussions of the defense budget come up. It's more important to keep machinists employed building useless crap like the F-35 (the airplane pilots refer to as "the Lawn Dart" because it's so unstable in flight) than it is to make sure schools are adequately staffed, for example. This country's priorities are remarkably screwed up.
As for the talking heads on the panel, Mary Matalin is, of course, not the sharpest tool on the planet. Or the most ethical, despite the way she kept trotting out the fact she's a convert to Catholicism. Her resume does include that stint working for Darth Cheney, and she is married to James Carville, a political operative who prefers to collect his checks from the Democrats. When you have two people sharing a bed but who claim to espouse opposite ends of the political spectrum, common sense says one (and no doubt both) is simply a paid shill who will say anything if she knows the check will clear. As long as the Republicans keep paying her, she'll keep parroting their talking points. I'm not sure how much longer she'll continue to be invited to do that parroting in front of a camera, though, as the woman is not aging well. She's 62 now but looks at least a decade older -- and the main stream media is not fond of women who actually look old. In any case, Matalin's been a paid shill for so many decades now that it's highly unlikely she retains the ability to think for herself.
Steve Schmidt, on the other hand, is a little more intriguing. He retains some shreds of individuality. He has been brutally honest on the subject of the Palin disaster, and he has brief flashes of honesty. Still, watching political operatives in action always reminds me of a line from a Dr. Hook song, "how much soul must a poor man sell just to rub two coins together?" I once worked for a distinctly conservative daily paper. A few times I found myself having to whip together a last minute editorial, a couple hundred words of meaningless right-wing platitudes that would pass muster with our corporate overlords, because the person whose job it normally was to plug that hole on the page was not available. It wasn't hard to do, but it definitely felt weird. I don't think I could have done it on a daily basis. And, in retrospect, I'm rather happy that editorials were anonymous -- it was the voice of the paper, not that of any particular person. I'm not sure I could ever do the type of publicly visible political hackwork people like Schmidt and Matalin do. Would I have written those editorials if I had to slap my name on them? I don't know.
As for why we were watching "Real Time" on Sunday evening instead of when it was broadcast on Friday, we rarely see anything on its original broadcast date. We watch "Real Time" through the wonders of You Tube, which means we always see it at least a day late.