You Are Better off Watching on C-SPAN, if at all


In my throat-clearer for this week, I took gentle exception to the Jeff Jarvis/Jack Shafer notion that news organizations would be better off relying on C-SPAN for the conventions than sending reporters. I still stand by that claim, but after finally catching some post-game network coverage of the convention last night, it's clear that you'd be infinitely better off as a viewer using the largely unfiltered filter of Brian Lamb (one of reason's 35 heroes of freedom!) than watching the self-referential cheerleading performances from the likes of CNN and MSNBC.

Whether it was Wolf Blitzer's hour's worth of giggly shout-outs to the competent but cringe-inducing house band (who are apparently trying for a Guinness World Record for playing Stevie Wonder covers), to Paul Begala's ridiculous description of Joe freakin' Biden as "half-steelworker, half-statesman," to Larry King asking McCain flunky Tucker Bounds to, in fact, confirm that every American agrees that Wednesday was a night of awesome historical import, the network guys and gals were downright enthusiasts, looking relieved and giddy in the Mile High air that things the last two days seem to be going pretty well for the Dems after a rocky opening night.

Which they have. Going into this week, the party had a few urgent goals: Get all reluctant ex-Clinton supporters back into the fold, make Barack Obama reek with reassuring lunchbucketty goodness, tar McCain as a super-rich, out-of-touch 20th century relic who promises nothing but four more years of George Bush; and identify with the "middle class" as much as humanly possible. Well, missions accomplished!

But conventions are more than just exercises in rallying the base and providing empathetic Horatio Alger narratives. They are, especially for us non-Democrats who aren't going to vote for John McCain, job interviews, in which one of the crucial questions is whaddya gonna do, exactly? I mean, aside from "creating five million green jobs," throwing yet still more "resources" at failing public schools, and talking tough about every foreign country we haven't yet invaded?

Obama will likely remind us tonight that Larry King is right: this is a historical moment. And huzzah for that, no matter how telegraphed that particular news. But it was a historical moment when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as vice president, and that didn't mean she needed to be anywhere near the White House. If Obama spends more time tonight assuring us that he's normal, rather than telling us what his administration will do, it will be, I think, a missed opportunity.