It’s Sunday morning, which means John McCain is on TV
As I write these words shortly before 8:30 a.m., the voice I hear from the television across the room is that of Sen. John McCain.
Why am I not surprised?
Four weeks ago today, I wrote THIS:
One of the great unanswered questions of our time is why the major television networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox — so often feel the need to book Republican Sen. John McCain on their Sunday morning talk-fests.
McCain chairs no Senate committees and hasn’t authored any significant legislation since his campaign-finance bill, which was mostly shot down by the Supreme Court.
Still, more often than not, the Arizona septuagenarian and presidential-election loser is on the boob tube on Sunday mornings.
In today’s edition of The New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer SIMILARLY OBSERVES:
Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, is not his party’s most recent presidential nominee. He is no longer the highest-ranking Republican on any major Congressional committee. And as party spokesmen go, these days he is just as often speaking against Congressional Republicans as with them.
Yet on many given Sundays — over 60 of them since 2010 — Mr. McCain repairs to a television studio in Washington to hold forth. On “Face the Nation” alone, Mr. McCain has appeared more than any other politician in the program’s 60-year history.
His Sunday ubiquity has set off some grumbling in Washington that producers give him too much airtime. It also tends to solidify the impression in living rooms across America that he remains the spokesman for, and titular head of, his party.
Critics of the Sunday programs argue that the words spoken on them are at once too calculated and overly interpreted, simply by virtue of where they are delivered. “You can go on Charlie Rose midweek and have a long conversation that ends in a game of strip poker and no one will pay attention,” said Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “You go on a Sunday show, and everyone is looking for the slightest change, a new syllable, some new nuance.”
The prominence of guests with strong points of view can give viewers a false sense of proportion to certain sides of policy debates. This is most clearly the case with Mr. McCain, whose advocacy for military intervention in Syria and criticism of the administration’s policies there might create a sense that there is a robust policy debate over the matter in Washington when there really is not…
Many guests believe that the talk shows also contribute to the partisan disharmony in Washington, though that may be like blaming a speck of pepper for the flavor of a 10-gallon pot of soup. Even the highest-rated programs attract fewer than 2.5 million viewers, a tiny audience by the standards of network television.
“There is a tendency on the Sunday shows to look more toward partisan polarization,” said David Gergen, a senior analyst for CNN who has advised four presidents. “They seek out people who are further out on the spectrum,” Mr. Gergen said, adding that “more than one senator” has told him the story of being bumped for a more partisan guest when they expressed moderate positions on issues in pre-interviews, something producers and hosts say is untrue…
Despite their low ratings, the Sunday talk shows make headlines, and they are closely watched by Washington power brokers. Even the programs’ critics concede that they are a rite of power passage for politicians making their way to the top.