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« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 151 -- Peacetime Military Casualties. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 152 -- Supreme Court Nominations, Burger Through Breyer. »

ABC's This Week, With George Stephanopoulos.

I rarely watch the ABC program This Week, With George Stephanopoulos. Increasingly, I avoid the traditional Sunday morning talk shows I've been watching since I was a wee lad.

But at the gym this morning, it was on the television in front of me, and it got me thinking about how on earth this show remains on television. Sure, its ratings are abysmal and shrinking, especially relative to NBC's Meet The Press; sure, newsmakers rarely choose George Stephanopoulos' show to make news; and, sure, the weakness of the George Stephanopulos likely carries over into the cheapening of the overall ABC News brand name.

But it still irritates me that this show remains a driving force in politics today, due to its prominent time and prominent network location.

So here is the formula for This Week:

Host- George Stephanopoulos.

Democratic Party operative, Clinton campaign guy. Liberal, through and through.

Contributor #1- Cokie Roberts.

Feminist. NPR-nik. Establishment 1960s liberal. Washington insider, through and through.

Contributor #2- Fareed Zakaria.

Pessimistic "realist" foreign policy guy. Part of the international relations establishment. Skeptic on the march of liberty concept. In the right-of-center to middle, ideologically; frequent critic of Bush; not a fan of the GOP.

Contributor #3- George Will.

Conservative. Almost libertarian. But very insider establishment Washington. Outnumbered often, and part of the elite media, he often caves to pressure, conceding arguments when and where he shouldn't. One of the more important conservative proponents of the past couple of decades. Not a loyalty-to-GOP kind of guy.

Guest #1- Joe Biden or his equivalent.

Guest number one is typically the Democrat most willing to call for the firing of Rumsfeld or Rove or whomever else in the Bush administration the establishment is targeting that week. Closing Guantanamo is another standard topic.

Guest #2- Kinky Friedman or his equivalent.

Guest number two is usually the irrelevant outsider. It could be an author, a third party candidate running for Texas Governor, or any other number of outsider types. This guest fulfills the "thinking outside the establishment" requirement.

Guest #3- Chuck Hagel or his equivalent.

Guest number three is there to balance the first guest, thus a Republican. But not just any Republican. A Republican typically peeved with Bush or the administration for one reason or another. This week, it was John Thune, who had fought hard-- and won-- to keep South Dakota's Ellsworth Air Base open against the recommendation of the Pentagon. So he was a perfect complement to the "fire Rumsfeld" jive from Biden.

Then, near the end of the program, there are three "funnies" from talk shows.

Funnies #1- Jon Stewart doing some anti-Bush, anti-Iraq bit. Typically, he just plays a clip out of context, then opens his eyes wide, then puts his face in his hands, then sighs profusely, then shakes his head around like he's doing a quadruple-take. Never funny.

Funnies #2- Something from Bill Maher or his equivalent. Who even watches Bill Maher? I didn't even realize his show was still on the air. Typically anti-Bush or anti-GOP. Marginally funny.

Funnies #3- Something from Conan O'Brien or Craig Ferguson or Jimmy Kimmel or Jay Leno or David Letterman... Usually very funny. Typically not partisan sniping. More traditional political humor. Stuff that is funny to anyone watching, no matter the political stripe. This week, it was Donald Rumsfeld edited to seem like he was solving a Rubik's Cube with his famously active hands while he was fielding a question at a press conference.

In Memoriam-

Then there's the list of deaths from the past week. Quasi-famous people (politicians, actors, artists, musicians, athletes, and inventors) first, then soldiers second, because quasi-famous people are more important, obviously.

And based on the Trivia Tidbit yesterday, I can't help but wonder if the Stephanopoulos show would even be showing all of the deaths of soldiers that would still be happening without any Iraq war.

Who knows. Personally, I am not the kind who has gotten upset at the alleged politicization of war casualties on Nightline, for example.

Is Ted Koppel making an anti-war political statement? Likely.

Is Stephanopoulos? Almost certainly.

But it is still a legitimate way to honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. I tend to react the way most Americans during World War II probably reacted to casualty reports. Not "let's cut and run."

More: "Let's finish the job. Let's not let their deaths be in vain."


During the show at some point, there is also always a discussion of polls, but only liberal-leaning establishment media polls, never the more accurate Rasmussen poll or any poll that may show support for Social Security reform or Bush or the GOP.

And that's the formula. And it is awful.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 August 2005 12:23 PM


Agreed, but there's also the time mix of all this gobbledygook. You wind up getting, if you're lucky, maybe 10-15 minutes of interview, less than 10 minutes of "round table" and the rest is all filler: sunday funnies, list, in memoriam, etc.

With MTP you might lose 2 minutes to the "MTP minute." Otherwise it's all meat and potatoes.

Have you also noticed that TW is increasing relying on Donaldson and Roberts again? Back to the future...

Posted by: KipEsquire at August 28, 2005 12:31 PM

Good point... the has-been patrol replacing the never-was partisan journalist.

And great point on MTP. I sometimes get agitated that Russert doesn't ask certain questions or show certain quotes for reaction, but MTP is still far more worthwhile than the Stephanopoulos show.

Posted by: Will Franklin at August 28, 2005 12:43 PM

From George Will making concessions he shouldn't, to the 'maverick' Republicans who criticize the GOP (notice that the only crit the Dems ever get is for not winning back power) is to show that EVERYONE including these erstwhile Republicans are OPPOSED to the Republican party.

Week in week out, that is what you get, a staged attempt to make it seem that there is some groundswell out there building against the GOP. They also try to play up or even fabricate supposed 'splits' among the GOP - notice that the very real splits among the Dems are papered over.

Actually, all it does is reinforce Democratic wishful thinking, especially among the panelists and the producers of the show.

Will, you don't need these shows. We have blogs now.

Posted by: Am I A Pundit Now? at August 28, 2005 04:24 PM

I wish I could say something intersting to contribute to the excellent conversation, but I - like 99.948% of the American viewing public - have never considered Stephanopoulos worthy of 1/48th of my weekend.

Posted by: Cardinals Nation at August 29, 2005 12:19 PM

Did Kinky Friedman get that name from his parents or is that a nickname?...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at August 29, 2005 08:34 PM

Praise to George Will for shunning Political Correctness to address the poverty issue in Louisiana (and elsewhere). His top 3 ways to avoid poverty: 1)Get a HS Education 2) Do not have children out of wedlock 3) Wait until 21 to get married Amen, George. We all know it but few will say it, esp in the media.

Posted by: mary maxwell at September 11, 2005 03:41 PM