Political PRatfalls

Bachus denies trading options on non-public info | AP Photo 

Can a muckraking piece on “60 Minutes” influence the national conversation and produce real change? Or has the splintered and ephemeral media, coupled with audiences so easily sidetracked by the next Paterno or Kardashian, lost their mojo to move mountains?

In this new news environment where few hard-hitting stories stand a chance of supplanting child molestation or celebrity divorce headlines, one still has to appreciate the work done by CBS News in the opening segment last night.  Correspondent Steve Kroft and his producers outed (mostly GOP) Congressional leaders for sleezily profiting by (legal) insider trading.

Nancy Pelosi

The segment stunned, and was the talk of the Twittersphere today. There was something in it for everyone’s political proclivity.  We expect this kind of sleezeball behavior from the likes of Boehner, Hastert, and Gregg, but when Kroft pressed Princess Pelosi at her presser, it was priceless.

Will these revelations produce new rules prohibiting politicians from profiting from material info gleaned in closed-door sessions? Five years ago, perhaps. Today? Doubtful.

Talking about politics, we’re just beginning to get a real taste of the politicization of the Roberts Court. I’m not talking about today’s news wherein SOTUS has agreed to hear a case on Pres. Obama’s landmark Health Care Reform Act after it was upheld in the lower courts. No. I’m talking about the emergence and soon-pervasive political ads funded by Super PACs of questionable provenance.

I even heard a few TV spots for local New Jersey races last week paid for by “Americans for Prosperity,” or rather, the top 1% of Americans who wish to remain prosperous. We all know who’s pulling the strings, here, right?

So it was refreshing to see the first TV spot for Massachusetts Senatorial candidate and political newbie Elizabeth Warren. And it wasn’t even paid for by some opaque, inspirational-sounding organization with deep, yet nefarious pockets. What impressed me most was Ms. Warren’s opening line:

“I’m Elizabeth Warren and I’m running for the Unites States Senate. And before you hear a bunch of ridiculous attack ads, I want to tell you who I am.”

It’s a small thing, but her calling out those attacks ads in advance is a thoughtful and pre-emptive tack that won’t eliminate the nasty ads, but will make people think twice when they hear them. Brilliant.

Hardball’s Chris Matthews with Alan Cummings  (“Eli Gold”)

After “60 Minutes,” my wife and I watched “The Good Wife” wherein one subplot showed the Eli Gold character (the law firm’s “crisis guy”) offering CNN’s Chris Matthews, in a prime-time cameo, a compromising photograph of his politician client.

The goal of course was to use Matthews to put the photo in the public domain to pre-empt a potential voter backlash.  Sounds good on television, but such a blatant quid pro quo is easier said than done with a reputable journalist.

Still, Matthews took the bait, and all was going well during the live TV interview until Matthews surfaced a few other  unanticipated photos. The next day, the candidate announced he was heading into re-hab.  Now that’s more like it.