The Washington Post Style section promised an article on CNN's new Eliot Spitzer-Kathleen Parker chat show with this front-page blurb: "Odd couple on CNN: New show pairs a conservative with a Democrat." Inside, in an article surprisingly shy on her typical snark, TV columnist Lisa de Moraes also described the pairing as the "disgraced/rehabbed former governor Eliot Spitzer, the New York Democrat" vs. "Pulitzer-prize winning conservative columnist Kathleen Parker," syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group (this could explain the lack of snark against Parker, if not Spitzer.)
The TV columnist made no attempt to assess whether conservatives felt she was one of them (they don't). She did see this as a turnabout for "Crossfire"-canceling CNN president Jon Klein, but she reproduced his sales chat without much objection:
In an interview with The TV Column, Klein said that Spitzer and Parker "can address an appetite that is not being satisfied now -- the 99 percent of the country not watching" the other 8 o'clock cable news shows.
"We'd like to begin the long, slow, steady process of reaching the underserved....We think America's ready for that....I can't think of two people better suited than these super-intelligent, ultra-opinionated but rational individuals."
Leave it to Klein to make a talk-show sound like a soup kitchen. The cable-news "underserved"? Then, he tops that by making them sound like a super-ultra comic-book pairing, a pundit Wonder Twins? In TV terms, they're green-as-Shrek rookies, but Klein isn't bothered:
Klein said he's not worried that neither Spitzer nor Parker has extensive on-air hosting experience yet are joining forces for a new show in a punishing time slot. "We cast a very wide net, and after looking at scores of potential anchors, Kathleen and Eliot demonstrated they belong at the head of the pack," he said.
I'm sure you could find the same sales talk when CNN acquired Campbell Brown from NBC. That's pretty empty blather -- and at least Brown was a broadcaster, with no vice-squad "buzz."
Actually, Spitzer also had a Washington Post connection to tame the poison tip of the de Moraes pen:
Recently, Spitzer has been doing the old phoenix-rising-from-ashes thing as a TV personality, as have so many fallen men before him. He got high marks when he subbed on MSNBC. (Spitzer is also a contributor to Slate.com, which is owned by The Washington Post Co.)
Parker made the show sound like it would merge "Crossfire" with "Take 5," the hip-friends pundit show they tried with Jake Tapper in 2001.
Parker told The TV Column the show's goal is "to change people's mind." To that end, they are rounding up a stable of regular contributors for the show. "We're looking for the smartest, coolest, hippest, funniest friends."
What she likes about the new show, she said, is that "we are from such different worlds in every way....And, I informed Eliot, there are lot more people like me than him."
This apparently means there are more opportunistic moderates (some who trash popular conservatives to get famous on TV and in the WashPost) than there are partisan liberals with a zipper problem. At least de Moraes rehashed Klein's old trash talk when he killed "Crossfire" that "CNN is a different animal. We report the news. Fox talks about the news."
Klein told the Post writer "We think Eliot and Kathleen are a can't-miss show. It's like your favorite blog -- you think, 'I can't really understand how to think about what's going on today until I've checked out XYZ blogger.' We think that's how their show is going to feel."
Lisa went really, sadly soft here, or an editor slashed some copy: right next to Klein's "different animal" boasting in the New York Observer in 2005 is his blogger-bashing:
He dismissed bloggers as "guys in pajamas" (he coined the phrase while defending Mr. Rather on Fox News) and told NPR that pundit shows on cable news were "crack."
"There is always going to be an important role for the guys who grab the cameras and shoot the pictures of stuff that's actually happening," he said. "What happens after that in the great repurposing engine that is cable news and the blogosphere is out of our hands."
Already, Mr. Klein's flip comments had hit the blogosphere. Mickey Kaus at Slate seemed all shook up that former Crossfire conservative Tucker Carlson had been unceremoniously released from service. "Boy, people at CNN do not like Jonathan Klein!" Mr. Kaus wrote. "Doesn't he realize it's hard to be a highly unpopular boss in the Web era, especially at a big media enterprise the press will pay inordinate attention to? Ask Howell Raines."
"It's a little early for Mickey to be rooting for my downfall," said Mr. Klein, who said he didn't have time to read blogs. But earlier, Mr. Klein had been happy to compliment the blogs with an easy backhand: "I don't think that blogging, which is, you know, glorified Web-site hosting -- that's what it is. I had a blog for a while, but I just didn't have time," he said. "I don't think that blogs topple news organizations because of the difficulty of sifting through reliable information and mere opinion. But they certainly have arrived on the scene as a player."