June 2009


“I’m a cooperator.” – Sen. Chuck Schumer

schumerThat was the headline I had written for this story from last week. My editor had a slightly different idea, thankfully. But when I went into the briefing on healthcare reform, attended by Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray, I found myself bemused. Now, say what you will about Reid, but he has a discerning stare that can intimidate, so I was a bit frozen in my tracks to start, but managed to get the first question in.

I asked whether, after the murder of George Tiller, Reid saw any role for Congress in encouraging people to enter that field of late term reproductive care. He deflected, but Murray took the opportunity to talk about the title she’d inserted in committee to ensure physicians of all fields would be available in proportion to newfound demand under a public plan.

When she mentioned that the Education, Health, Labor and Pensions committee expected to go to markup by this week, some of the reporters wondered at how quickly they would go from not knowing what the health plan would look like, to marking up a draft bill. But Murray assured everyone they’d spent “literally hours” on the proposal. Heartening and reassuring, to be sure. I spend literally hours watching reality television every week but you don’t see me helming the federal transition to digital tv.

Schumer then suggested he could get together with Kent Conrad to come up with a co-op alternative to the public option to try to get Republicans on board with health reform, saying, “We have lots of co-ops in this country. My apartment in New York, in Brooklyn, is a co-op. I’m a cooperator.” Let’s see how well he really cooperates with Republicans on health care this summer.

By the way, doesn’t he look spectacular in soft light?

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“Obviously you feel like you have something of value to say.”

Liz Claman, who spent years at CNBC in the shadow of Maria Bartiromo, has moved to FOX Business Network and keeps proving that she has perhaps the Clamanbest Rolodex in the media (besides, maybe, Hardball’s Querry Robinson). Several times now, she’s managed to assemble Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Charlie Munger for exclusive interviews all together, which nobody’s ever done. She regularly gets exclusives with Google’s Eric Schmidt, and got her hands on one of only two tell-all manuscripts on Bear Stearns’ collapse, when every outlet was dying to get its hands on it. This thing was hotter than that fourth Twilight book where they rip the girl apart to get the vampire baby out.  And she interviewed Twitter creator Biz Stone before anyone knew what it was, or suspected the US State Department would be propping it up as Iranian citizens updated the world on their botched election.

Her sister’s life was also, according to legend, the basis for Aaron Spelling’s cornerstone brand, Beverly Hills 90210. Yet she was still kind enough to talk to me extensively for a story in my college newspaper, giving Colgate students advice on the troubled job market and differentiating yourself in an interview.

Well, now she’s somehow snagged an exclusive with Elliot Spitzer, and god only knows how she convinced him to go on with her, but as soon as he sits down, she stuffs him with a heaping spoonful of “How Could You Have Thought This Was a Good Idea?” The regret is immediate, as she starts in on him with

There are people looking at you and saying, wow, this guy made a massive mistake. And the schadenfreude in New York, on Wall Street, when you went down. The “gee, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!” There were people cheering this on when you went down. And I think it strikes people, well, it strikes me as almost a very Reverend Jimmy Swaggart moment. I mean, the guy who gets up on the soap box and says “Don’t commit adultery,” and then he commits adultery. The very people you went after, you engaged in that very behavior.

Mind you, this is before Spitzer has uttered a single word, and he’s sat down thinking he’d be talking about the financial crisis. “What we are here to talk about, Liz, is Wall Street.” And boy, does he. Claman doesn’t care if he ever talks to her again, she lets him off the hook for nothing. She accuses him of extorting Merrill Lynch into a billion dollar settlement with the state of New York, contributing to AIG’s downfall by getting Hank Greenberg fired, and not doing Tim Geithner’s job for him.
After he finishes defending his job as Attorney General in detail, this freaking awesome exchange happens. Way to throw him the curveball, Liz:

SPITZER: Back then, confronting Wall Street was considered political heresy. When we went to other elected officials to ask for their support, they said no.

CLAMAN: In retrospect, what would you do differently?

SPITZER: With respect to those cases?

CLAMAN (throwing her hands up): With respect to all that’s happened– with the prostitution!

SPITZER: Wait, let’s put that aside a second and–

CLAMAN: No, don’t put that aside, because I’m telling you, people aren’t ready to put it aside.

This woman was on the subject like The Sandlot dog on a home run ball.

beast

Next was the hilariously frank:

Well, this is a little unbelievable. Elliot Sptizer after this horrendous fall from grace. And here you are back out again, ready to speak to entrepreneurs. Why are you doing this?

Spitzer went on to explain that he was invited because he was knowledgeable on business after having tussled with Wall Street as Attorney General and Governor, and having criticized the Fed and SEC on subprime loans, complaining firms were trading those derivatives illegally. He’d been known as the Sherriff of Wall Street. Claman’s response?

I think you might agree you have a credibility problem, on, forget moral authority, on any authority. There are people that are saying, why should I be listening to this guy?

Spitzer takes one last shot at deflection a few minutes later, saying the entrepreneurial groups thought he had something of value to say because he’d lived through the root of the financial crisis and knew people like Geithner and Summers well. Claman goes in for another fakeout, suggesting they could talk about the financial meltdown, and then, ohh, never mind:

Well, let’s talk about the financial crisis — and then we’ll get to corruption, because there’s people who might be watching and saying “THIS guy’s talking about corruption? He was corrupt!” You know, we’ll talk about all of this, of course.

Despite all that, Spitzer came off as remarkably knowledgeable, for a philandering lawyer, on financial minutiae like credit default swaps beyond just that they’re level 3 crazy frozen solid assets.

The full bloodbath in two parts is here and here.

And here’s me and the hardballer at that New York Stock Exchange.

fox biz block party

“Washington is a Hollywood for ugly people. Hollywood is a Washington for the simpleminded.” -John McCain, 2003

Bravo TV network, home to The Real Housewives of New York, Orange County, Atlanta and New Jersey, has announced it will add another locale to the franchise, tapping Washington, D.C. and attempting to dispense with the uglies in favor of the simpleminded. Or, in the words of Bravo EVP Frances Berwick:

We’re tapping personalities who are among Washington D.C.’s influential players, cultural connoisseurs, fashion sophisticates and philanthropic leaders. The people who rub elbows with the most
prominent people in the country and easily move in the city’s diverse political and social circles.

In other words, vapid gold-diggers and black widows, the kind who party at Lake Havasu while their husbands lie on their deathbeds riddled with cancer (Gretch, Orange County Season 3).

But producers may have trouble finding anyone with higher regard for herself than Kelly Killoren Bensimon, whose ego engulfs whole warehouse clubs, sucking up all the air in the room and suffocating Brooklyn partygoers; or a woman more clueless about her flagrantly gay husband than Alex McCord, who named her children Francois and Johan (no shit):

simon_dancing_3

Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson points out that Bravo has its work cut out. While Obama may have made D.C. “hap’ning” again,

Have they paid Washington a visit? The best-dressed aide on Capitol Hill would horrify the lowest grip at Universal Studios. There are no cultural connoisseurs.

Carlson must be forgetting Michelle Obama, whose multiple-cardigan, mix-n-match cat lady chic is winning rave reviews overseas. Appropriately, this kind of reminds me of the Kennedy crazies at Grey Gardens:

alg_michelle_fashionedie2

But more to the point, I would settle for being on The Real Housewives of DC, that’s what I’m saying here. It’s certainly slumming it compared to Real World: DC, and I’ll still stop at nothing to get into that hot tub. But, the Housewives offer an opportunity. Each season, the young, loose housewife does something the rest of the wives find absolutely detestable. This means she goes well beyond getting into a tiff over Restylane in the middle of serving dinner at a home for cancer patients. No, this housewife hooks up with an underage gentleman. For example, the original season saw Gretchen woo Tamra’s young son, Ryan. Here she is just before the pounce, but just after half a box of pinot grigio:

gretchen

This is my mark. This is my mission, albeit slightly ambitious. I think Gretchen would still look great in a Macy’s pantsuit a la Hillary. Especially if she keeps doing that with the fork.

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Katie Couric’s post-Palin ratings boost leveled off earlier this year, and then, well, what goes up…Couric

Last week, Couric delivered the worst overnight ratings for the CBS Evening News since Nielsen has kept records of it.

But she took a moment away from turning off her viewers to turn off the Princeton Class of ’09, berating them for choosing The West Wing star Bradley Whitford before they gott around to inviting her. Students, however, said they chose Whitford because West Wing had been a formative show for their generation, and many of them were inspired by his character to get into public policy. He gave thoughtful remarks about modern politics and called his own fame trivial:

In presidential politics there is nothing more important than being good on television. In the age of television, viability and style are substance. … I spend my life trying not to be bad on television. I would hope the leaders of the world would be held to a higher standard than a television actor.”

Whitford has put television fame to work for children in America and abroad by founding Clothes Off Our Backs with wife Jane Kaczamarek (Malcolm in the Middle). That charity collects and auctions off celebrity clothing and memorabilia, donating the proceeds to a number of children’s charities. It has raised several million dollars and counting. Whitford also works extensively with Heifer International, a charity that, among other things, provides plants, livestock, and education in sustainable agriculture to poor families across the globe.

Couric instead celebrated the moment that garnered her pats on the back from colleagues and propelled her to ratings mediocrity:

Coming here was a real no brainer. After all, I can see New Jersey from my house!

Let’s not forget that Charles Gibson at ABC was the original offender, editing out nearly all of Governor Palin’s substantive remarks on Russia — at some points even cutting her off mid-sentence to wipe the record of any modulated, thoughtful, knowledgeable, or insightful comments. And Couric gave her a forum to set the record straight, on the CBS Evening News, but chose to ignore what was said on her own program.

But if we’re taking a joke as a joke, we can set all that aside and look at the fact that this comment, among other digs at conservatives (Limbaugh, Carrie Prejean, Dick Cheney), was contained in a speech where she urged Princeton grads not to give in to “the haters,” and to instead “celebrate excellence.”

After the story got distributed to blogs around the web, I got a bunch of feedback through email and comments.  My favorites…

Via E-mail:

And CBS has to wonder why the ratings are tanking? Ms. Couric, a former daytime TV hostess turned self-styled newswoman-journalist-hard-bitten news anchor is an abject failure. I am surprised even 5MM are watching her ….probably left the TV on by mistake after watching the local news. She is biased, rather of the Rather school of journalism, make up what you can’t prove. She is mean-spirited, snide and a thoughtless very self-centered neighbor in Lithgow NY (Dutchess County). No one likes her up here for many reasons dating back a decade. But possibly now that she has her boy-toy she won’t come back as often since she will be busy taking him to Chuckie Cheese and the video game parlor in the city.

From the site:

According to her latest ratings, that was the largest group of people that listened to her all month.

From someone who was there, this article does not do justice to Couric’s speech. It was, in fact, far worse than reported. It was all about her: her on-air colonoscopy, her “rise” in journalism, her hard work, her ability to support herself after her husband died. She spoke to only half the graduates–focusing her remarks on what women can and should do. She had the gall to tell this group of exceptionally bright and already accomplished female graduates that, regardless of having children, they needed to be able to fend for themselves through their own careers. In fairness to Princeton, the University did not invite her–this was the “Class Day” event, which is run entirely by students. In fact, there were 3 student speakers…each of whom put Couric to shame with the brilliance and hilarity of their speeches. The official University speaker at the Baccalaureate service was General David Petraeus. Needless to say, he made up for the horror of sitting through Couric.

You can read the full story here and her full remarks at HuffPo here. You can donate to Clothes Off Our Backs here.

And here I am in the right column, thanks to Matthew Nathan. Click thumbnail for full pic.drudgegrab

“The best revenge is massive success.” – Frank Sinatra

toastEver since Hillary Clinton moved out of Russell 478 and into her new Foggy Bottom digs, she’s faced a steady tide of negative press, catching the most flack for handing a Russian diplomat a “reset” button that actually said “overcharged.” Such gaffes were attributed to an over reliance on her inner political circle as opposed to the vast human capital available to her within the State Dept.

She was seen to be doing too little human rights issues in China and had apologized for the U.S.’s role in the Mexican drug war, suggesting a majority of weapons used to fight it originated in the US, when that number stood at more like 3%.

At the same time, former Clinton lackey and full-time creeper Dick Morris was trying everything to convince us that HRC’s move to State was a spectacular mistake, a ruse on Obama’s part to neutralize her as an external critic while crowding her out of the policy-making process.

On May 26, “The Incredible Shrinking Clintons”:

It may appear odd to describe a secretary of State as marginalized, but Obama has surrounded Hillary with his people and carved up her jurisdiction geographically. Former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) is in charge of Arab-Israeli relations. Dennis Ross has Iran. Former U.N. Ambassador Dick Holbrooke has Pakistan and Afghanistan. And Hillary has to share her foreign policy role on the National Security Council (NSC) with Vice President Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, CIA chief Leon Panetta, and NSC staffer Samantha Powers (who once called Hillary a “monster”).

With peers who are competitors and subordinates who can deal directly with the president, Hillary is reduced to announcing foreign aid packages for Pakistan while Holbrooke does the heavy lifting.

Part of Hillary’s problem is the institutional shrinking of the State Department. During the Bush years, while war raged, the Defense Department became more relevant to the conduct of foreign policy. And, under Obama, the financial crisis has propelled the Treasury into the forefront. State, with its emphasis on traditional diplomacy, has been forced to take a back seat. Even though Obama appointed Hillary, he clearly has not been willing to make her a co-president and confines her to the diminished role of her department.

You have to imagine that, at the very least, HRC has her share of awkward moments and enraged thought bubbles as she sits across a table from shrieking ideologue Samantha Powers, who’s made a career of bravely calling genocide bad and expressing concern over “the sins of our allies in the war on terror” like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and…oh, and Israel. Powers hates Hillary and Israel, incidentally two of Hillary’s all-time favorite things.

Morris said as much in an earlier column from February:

While sympathy for Mrs. Clinton is outside the normal fare of these columns, one cannot help but feel that she is surrounded by people who are, at best, strangers and, at worst, enemies. The competition that has historically occupied secretaries of State and national security advisers seems poised to ratchet up to a new level in the current administration.

But something’s changed in the past few weeks. The author of the best-selling fictional tome, Living History, charmed Indonesian youth by appearing on the cairohillaryvariety show Awesome, re-branded Obama’s weak diplomacy tactics to conservatives’ liking, set new guidelines for relations with Cuba, and before the ink was dry, jetted off to Cairo to support Obama’s speech to the Muslim world sporting a ruffled hijab that just screams cultural inclusion.

New York Magazine took notice and made HRC’s turnaround a feature in this week’s issue:

Just over a year ago, Clinton was bottoming out in her doomed presidential race, telling reporters she was soldiering on against Obama because, after all, “we all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.” Now, she has turned herself into Obama’s greatest asset, on Capitol Hill as much as around the world, in fashioning a national-security policy that has closed off all policy differences between the former Democratic rivals, co-opted many Republicans, and left the rest of the administration’s opponents astoundingly marginalized.

This is all a stark departure from the bleak picture Morris seems to be painting with a purely speculative brush. It seems that Hillary got her groove back by doing what she does best. Anyone who knows her can tell you she has tremendous managerial acumen and she’s far more effective and charismatic in person, with a knack for positioning herself to minimize the impact any single decision has on perceptions of her.

So, was she victimized by Obama or has the President met his match. It seems to me like a bit of both. She’s happy to carry out his policy agenda as long as it’s helpful to her, and he’s happy believing she really doesn’t have any power.

Although she told George Stephanopoulos that Barack has proven he has what it takes to answer the 3 a.m. call, it’s nice to know Barack can always transfer the call to Clinton, provided Joe Biden’s not tying up the line telling inappropriate anecdotes.

Meanwhile, Bill told the New York Times he couldn’t even get Hillary on her cell phone. “I saw her on CNN talking about Afghanistan. Then she flew to Dallas for something. I don’t know why.”  I’m pretty sure Hill warned him back in the 1980’s that he’d get left in the dust, if not earlier.

Check out the full NYMag piece here.

So, it would appear that MTV has found a place to film the next season of The Real World, in Washington D.C. It’s on 20th and S Streets NW, right near the desirable and architecturally significant “Kalorama Triangle” (within Calvert St, Connecticut Ave, and Columbia Road, all NW natch).

Setting of Real World DC

Setting of Real World DC

According to the blog Borderstan, they’ll also shoot extensively at 1435 P St NW, also known at Halo Lounge. The site is kind of laughable because it’s blasting Beyonce’s single. I hope the actual bar isn’t playing power ballads all night, although that won’t deter me from starting my own storyline on the show by camping out there morning noon and night.

Bunim-Murray Productions has dispatched a guard to sit out front as a crew works to renovate the inside (because if there’s no indoor hot tub in the 19th century walk-up, then it’s not really Real World, is it?), but she looks like all it’d take is a few singles to get some info out of her.

According to Prince of Petworth,

It seems of the four level house, levels 1, 2 and about half of 3 are living … with the other half of level 3, then all of level 4 being production space. I don’t think I ever realized from my Real World watching days of yesteryear how much of an internal space would be for production purposes on location. It seems as if there will be four bedrooms … then also a gym, a pool table, etc.  From looking out the windows – it seems to be the right location, which would be definite confirm (if any more confirmation were needed) that this is indeed the house.”

This should be the busiest corner in the city aside from wherever that new Indian food cart parks on the Capitol campus. They should really give the leg-aides a break…they have enough stains on their ties already, they don’t need masaala sauce on there too.

Because Hill staffers are frumpy…see what I did there?

In the construction of Immortal Fame you need first of all a cosmic shamelessness.
– Umberto Eco

Looking at the proliferation of personal web pages on the net, it looks like very soon everyone on earth will have 15 Megabytes of fame.

– MG Siriam

Hey Guys,

So I’m starting a blog for a couple reasons:
1) To update family and friends
2) Post stories I write and others I think you should read
3) To chronicle my dogged, relentless (shameless) attempts to get myself onto Real World: DC or The Real Housewives of DC.

Check back a couple times a week and see if I’ve made it to MTV/ a permanent job.