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A Pleasant Surprise

Reported by Nancy - September 30, 2004 -

I tuned in to FNL this morning (9/30) earlier than I usually do, & was pleasantly surprised to find, amidst the typical fluff, some guests who were above par for this show.

Needless to say, the main topic was the debate to be held tonight. Also needless to say, there were stories repeating debate preps & debate details for the umpteenth time. [comment: my personal fave was Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who claimed there is "internet chatter" from groups who want to disrupt tonight's debate -- I suppose he figures if it works for Ridge & Ashcroft, why not use it himself.]

At 10:03am (EDT), John Scott interviewed two Senators, Mary Landrieu (Dem) & George Allen (GOP) about the debate. Scott's questions were a good illustration of how a reporter should NOT add spin, including the now-infamous "some say" phrase which he used to open the segment ("some say" Kerry has an advantage in debating) & the classic "all polls" ploy ("all polls" show the public trusts Bush more on foreign policy). Allen obediently hit the GOP talking points (Bush has "clarity of purpose", Kerry flip-flops, Kerry insulted Allawi), although to give him due credit he did not rant, rave or foam at the mouth [comment: it speaks volumes about the typical GOP guest on FNL that Allen stands out merely for being civil]. Landrieu was also civil, but hit the Dem talking points (Bush has to level with us, Kerry has specific plans & would conduct foreign policy very differently from Bush). When Allen tried to claim that Bush has specific plans & things are going relatively well in Iraq, Landrieu got in a good riposte: "Saying it doesn't make it true". Viewers could tell that these 2 are pretty seasoned Senate debaters -- their exchanges were peppered with phrases like "with all due respect to my colleague".

At 10:08am (EDT), Martha McCallum (filling in for Brigitte Quinn), interviewed Tad Devine (Kerry campaign adviser) about -- yep -- the debate. McCallum's questions were a slight improvement over Scott's. She opened by asking Devine how "your candidate" will handle the debate [comment: McCallum & other FNL staff seem to really hate saying "Senator Kerry"]. After Devine gave some generic answers (tell the truth, offer plans, real leadership), McCallum followed up by pointing out that people want to hear specifics. Devine began to list some specifics that Kerry has mentioned repeatedly -- meeting with allies, a regional conference about Iraq, enhanced funding for training of Iraqi security personnel -- & McCallum interrupted to say that those specifics were all "on Bush's blueprint". This gave Devine an opening, which he grabbed by saying no, they're "on his wishlist". This seemed to take McCallum aback. She shifted to asking about how Kerry would handle the mess in Fallujah, & Devine again grabbed the chance to point out that Kerry would "listen to the military" (as Bush hasn't done), wouldn't fire generals who gave him advice he didn't like (as Bush has done) & wouldn't let incompetent civilians run the Pentagon (as Bush has done). The entire segment lasted only 2 minutes, short even by FNL short-attention-span standards.

Comment: Finally, some REAL Dems. Now if FNL would only hire some REAL reporters.