TV remotes

I recently received a message from Amazon urging me to watch its video programming, which is included in my Amazon Prime membership.  That certainly seemed like a good suggestion — until the time came when I actually wanted to watch something.

The video-viewing apparatus in my living room consists of a stack of machines and devices — but to my disappointment, none of them offer Amazon Prime, not even my much-hyped Apple TV.  Sure I could watch Prime on my laptop, and last year I did, in fact, watch Amazon’s “Catastrophe” that way, but the experience convinced me that watching “TV” on a laptop while seated bolt-upright in front of a desk is about as satisfying as eating dinner standing in front of the sink.  From a utilitarian perspective they both accomplish their main task, but the aesthetics leave something to be desired.

Preferring to watch video entertainment on my HDTV monitor, I decided to solve the Amazon Prime problem by ordering a six-foot HDMI cable, which I can hook up to my computer when I want to stream onto the TV.

But what a pain in the neck.  Already sitting on my viewing stand are five remotes that control: 1) the monitor; 2) the DVR; 3) the DVD player; 4) my Apple TV; and 5) a cable-splitter device to switch from cable to cable. Now I have a separate cable to connect my laptop.

And it’s not as if these other devices are that easy to master.  The navigation on the Apple TV is so sensitive that I’m constantly landing on the wrong icon or the wrong show.  Of course to get even this far I needed to go online many times to check Apple TV instructions, since there was no manual with the device itself.  And even now, after all these years, I don’t understand why the DVR will sudden stop recording shows on my watch list, or why I get reruns when I specifically set the directions to record first-time-only broadcasts.

Whenever I complain about the complexity of watching TV, I feel like the old coot yelling at the neighborhood ruffians to stop playing on his grass.  Why can’t I be more like my Millennial son, who watches TV while lying on his bed with his laptop propped on his stomach?  Get out of the way of progress ,you geezer!

Of course we have to be careful not to romanticize the past.  One of the earliest television clichés was the image of the 1950s dad on the roof trying to position the antenna just right, so TV was frequently a pain the neck even in the days of yore.  Cable solved the antenna problem but created its own challenges with the cable box, which required its own remote control.  And the VCR was so complicated that most people only used it to play videos, not to record anything.

It seems like every time we master one form of technology, the device industrial complex invents another must-have machine. We now live in a world when no one can go into another person’s home and confidently change the TV channel without screwing up the system.  That’s a lesson I’ve learned over too many Christmas visits to my parents’ house.

Figuring out how to work the devices is bad enough — but finding something to watch is even worse.  I know there’s a ton of content to watch, but where to find it?  I’d really like to watch “Orphan Black,” but have no idea how to do that.  I see from a Google search that it’s on BBC America.  Is that part of my cable package?  I guess I could look, assuming I can find my channel guide?  Or maybe it’s on Netflix, but the search function is really hard on Netflix.

I’m glad there are so many great shows to watch and so many ways to watch them, but it seems like “television” is about to collapse on itself from the weight of its own complexity.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just stick to Colbert.  He’s on every night and is waiting for me on the DVR whenever I get home.  Sometimes the path of least resistance is the best option.

Ailes

So Roger Ailes has been ejected from his throne at Fox News and even barred from entering the News Corporation building.  You won’t find me shedding a tear because eight years ago he tried to get me fired.  What happened to me wasn’t as bad as what has allegedly happened to Fox’s own employees, but it did provide a brief glimpse of Fox’s modus operandi.

At the time of the events in question I was the chief spokesman for Nielsen and caught in the middle of one of those adolescent spitball fights that periodically erupts between media companies.  In one corner was Fox News, which had recently launched Fox Business News, a financial cable network that was supposed to do for financial reporting what they had done to political news.  In the other corner was CNBC, which Ailes had once led before being ushered out the door in 1996.

In 2007, Ailes launched Fox Business with great fanfare. This included a huge ad campaign that took direct aim at CNBC.  The day the network launched Fox even sent a reporter to stand outside CNBC’s headquarters and announce that it was “hunting season.”

The problem is that the shenanigans that made Fox News a political powerhouse didn’t work with financial viewers, who, since they are making investment decisions involving real money, tend to prefer their financial news to actually be fair and balanced.  The result was that the ratings for Fox Business News were in the toilet.  For the first two months it was on the air, it had an average audience of 6,300 viewers, about as many people as you’d see at a small town’s Thanksgiving Day football game.

The folks at CNBC and NBC were overjoyed by Fox’s flop but here’s the rub: under Nielsen rules, which had been carefully negotiated with all the media companies, no one can release viewing numbers with a rating below 0.1 (or 0.1 percent of the viewing audience), which in this case would have represented about 35,000 viewers.  This rule is designed to protect nascent cable networks so they aren’t humiliated by low numbers as they’re trying to get on their feet.

This rule usually protects networks that no one’s ever heard of, but Fox Business had launched with so much publicity that everyone in the TV world knew who they were.  CNBC wanted them humiliated but Nielsen wouldn’t release the 6,300 number and CNBC itself could have been sanctioned if they made it public.

Despite this rule, I was not surprised when someone actually did leak the number to New York Times media reporter Jacques Steinberg.  For years The Times and Fox had had a contentious relationship, to say the least.  Their values and biases were diametrically opposed and if there was any publication motivated and powerful enough to stand up to Fox it was The Times.

Steinberg’s call to Nielsen asking for confirmation came at the end of several weeks of furious calls among senior Nielsen, Fox and NBC executives, with NBC pressuring us to make the number public and Fox demanding that we squash the story.  Emotions were running high, with both networks acting like this story was on par with the Pentagon Papers.  Nielsen decided to stay neutral and enforce its own rule; eventually I ended up telling Steinberg that I would not confirm the number.  But I also reminded him that I would steer him away from erroneous information, which is what I would do for any reporter.

The resulting story reported the embarrassingly low numbers for Fox Business, with the Times sourcing it to “a person who saw those internal reports [and] vouched for their contents on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.”  CNBC “declined comment” and Fox didn’t answer emailed inquiries.  I was quoted in the piece by name as confirming the rules around the minimum reporting requirements.

I don’t think I’m breaking any confidentiality agreements when I reveal that Fox is (or at least was) full of vindictive bullies.  Fox News almost always got great ratings but whenever there was a dip, Ailes and his lieutenants would call and complain, threatening some kind of unspecified retribution.  Eventually there would be a war or terrorist attack to drive Fox ratings back up and things would be fine again, but for those months when they were slumping Ailes would make life miserable for Nielsen.

Ailes and the rest of Fox News either believed, or pretended to believe, they were the victims of a left-wing conspiracy, which was ridiculous as far as Nielsen was concerned.  Our CEO David Calhoun was, according to public filings, a steady contributor to Republican candidates and the rest of the executive team on balance leaned moderate right, to the extend they leaned any way at all.  As for me, it’s right there on my LinkedIn profile that I worked for a right-wing Congressman, served in the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign and spent time in the Reagan White House.  So I had no ideological problems with Fox News.

In any event, Ailes (or his PR team) was exorcised enough about the story to send Nielsen a letter, which, among other things, demanded my head.  The logic of the letter was that since CNBC and Fox had declined comment and I was quoted in the story explaining how the reporting requirements work, I must have been the one to have leaked the number to The New York Times.  I doubt that even Ailes believed this bit of fallacious logic; instead I think the purpose of the letter was to punish me for refusing to play along with Fox in killing the story, which would have been impossible without outright deception.

Surprise! Nielsen didn’t fire me, viewing this as another Ailes tantrum, and he seemed to get over his fit of pique pretty quickly since the name “Gary Holmes” never appeared in any future Ailes correspondence or conversations.

Jacques Steinberg was not quite as lucky.  Fox launched a nasty on-air campaign against him and at one point even featuring him in an anti-Semitically doctored photo.  Nice.  With Ailes gone will bullying these tactics also disappear?  We can only hope.

 

418814_trump-media-wall

OK, here comes the Trump coronation.

The only satisfaction I can take from this week’s Republican convention is that the media are even unhappier than the Republican establishment.  Although why that should be the case is inexplicable, because he’s exactly the kind of candidate the media has been clamoring for.

For as long as I can remember, reporters and commentators (assuming there’s a difference) have been complaining about the plastic Ken and Barbie dolls who have been running for public office.  Two years ago, if you’d asked them to design the perfect presidential candidate, it would have been something like this:

  • Someone who says whatever’s on his mind, regardless of the consequences.
  • A non-politician who doesn’t use talking points, teleprompters, and canned stump speeches.
  • Someone who doesn’t use a pollster to “nuance” his positions.
  • A candidate who is not indebted to PACs and special interests.
  • A media-savvy communicator who will go on any talk show, talk to any reporter, answer any question, and hold plenty of press conferences.
  • A candidate who increases voter turnout among people who rarely go to the polls.
  • A near-atheist who can expose the religious right as hypocrites.
  • A populist who can make Fox News bend to his will, not the other way around.

Trump is all this and more, and the media is appalled that these ingredients didn’t combine to produce a left-leaning truth-teller like Bulworth. What a surprise.

Now that I’ve gone through all the stages of grief, I no longer blame the media solely for the rise of Trump.  Yes, I think it was unfair that the cable news channels would interrupt regular programming to show his speeches, or that the Sunday talk shows would invite him on week after week (and even let him call in).  But in retrospect, I am sympathetic to the situation news producers were in.  Trump generated big ratings for them because he was constantly making news, or at least making controversy.  The other candidates were either too cautious or too unimaginative to make news on a daily basis.

It’s probable that Trump would have received the nomination even if the media hadn’t put their thumbs on the scale.

There’s a body of thought that the media did a poor job of exposing Trump’s negatives.  That’s ridiculous. The kind of things that would have sunk a normal candidate in a normal year – the verbal screw-ups, the bankruptcies, the apostasies from conservative dogma, the use of illegal labor at his construction sites, the lack of religious conviction, the shenanigans at Trump University – were well-documented by the press and thrown at him in debate after debate.

Part of the problem is that the people who support Trump simply don’t believe the media and haven’t really believed them since the 1960s.  They suspect that the people who run the mainstream newsrooms look down on them and advocate for a kind of diversity that includes everyone else but them.  So these folks are apt to discount negative stories about Trump.

Media watchdogs have also taken the media to task for not doing more “fact-checking” on Trump’s proposals.  Also ridiculous.  There’s been plenty of coverage about his proposals – many of which are considered “gaffes.”  Further, there’s nothing that sticks in the craw of a conservative quite as much as the media appointing itself he arbiter of what’s correct and what’s incorrect in a candidate’s speech or debate performance.  Until left-leaning candidates receive the same level of scrutiny, it’s unlikely than any deep review of any candidate’s positions by the media will be taken seriously by  the right.

More to the point, this is a year when the actual positions taken by the candidates are considered performance art more than actual attainable goals.  I’ve listened, mouth agape, as Trump supporters admit that no, they don’t think a wall is really plausible, and no, they don’t really want to ban all Muslims from the United States.

But the same is true with Sanders supporters too. How many of them truly believe that free college is possible?  And while we’re at it, who seriously believes that Hillary Clinton is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

So while the media (and most of those hapless GOP contenders) thought this election was about policy positions, it’s really been about identity and grievance.  Trump’s consequence-free ability to abandon Republican orthodoxies shows that most people don’t care what legislation you propose — as long as you seem to be on their “side.”

Looked at it this way, Trump’s “gaffes” turned out to be part of his appeal. When the media thought they were driving a stake through his heart by reporting them so breathlessly, they were actually building him up as the anti-establishment candidate.

The media won’t be the ones to stop Trump.  That will be up the voters now.  If the media really want to stop Trump, the best thing they can do is to deliver the news straight, get off the ratings gravy train, and not treat Trump supporters as yahoos.  That shouldn’t be asking too much.

Modern Family House

Television has been widely blamed — rightly, in my opinion — first, for making the Trump nomination possible and then for making it inevitable.  Starting with “The Apprentice,” TV made Donald Trump a household name, and then, through wall-to-wall coverage during the primaries, it gave him so much attention that the other candidates suffocated from a lack of media oxygen.

But I think there’s another way that television has made Trumpism popular: by (inadvertently) stoking the flames of class resentment.

Let’s recall that the initial vessel of this round of voter anger, the Tea Party, was originally propelled by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s rant against a government bailout of homeowners who had bought houses they couldn’t afford, at the expense of sober-minded homeowners who were living within their means.  In other words, the Tea Party began as a protest by middle-class homeowners against upper-middle-class homeowners.

Tea Party resentment blossomed from the wreckage of the financial collapse and Great Recession.  What’s less clear is why there is so much anger today, at a time of relatively low unemployment and steady (albeit sluggish) economic growth.  Despite the good news consistently trumpeted by the Obama administration, a Marketplace-Edison Research poll found that 63% of Americans feel anxious about their finances, while 43% feel stuck in their financial situation.  That’s a recipe for a disrupter like Trump.

The Occupy movement’s explanation for voter discontent is that the economic gains of the past seven years have gone only to the top one-percent of the population.  But all you have to do is look around to see that it’s more than the top one-percent who are doing pretty well in this economy.  Indeed, as the economist Stephen Ross has wondered, why does a luxury brand like Mercedes-Benz advertise on a mass medium like television when there are more targeted ways to reach the wealthy?

Well, it turns out that the social group with the biggest economic gains in the past few years has been the upper-middle class: i.e., families making between $100,000 and $350,000 a year.  And if you’ve got a nice-size 401K, you’re feeling pretty comfortable about the stock market’s performance these fast seven years. The reason Mercedes advertises on TV is because there’s a large and growing group of Americans who can aspire to a luxury lifestyle.

And it’s exactly that group, the upper middle class, that is over-represented on television.  Among the top-rated series, a disproportionate number feature well-dressed characters living in beautiful houses who are definitely not living paycheck to paycheck and who probably have one of those fat 401ks.  For starters, I’m thinking of “Empire,” “Scandal,” “Modern Family,” “The Good Wife,” “black*ish,” and “Madam Secretary.”

Not all shows are about the upper middle class, of course. But many of the most popular shows that don’t highlight this groups (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Walking Dead,” “NCIS,” “Scorpion,” and “The Mentalist”) are essentially class-free.  It’s a rare series like the now-cancelled “Mike and Molly” that is clearly set in a working-class environment.

Now this is the point where we leave data-based analysis and enter the realm of conjecture.  I can’t point to any specific studies linking TV viewing and class resentment, but I have to wonder how people who are struggling financially feel when faced with a steady barrage of television shows about people who are, effortlessly, living much better than they are.

America has never had a strong class consciousness, nor have Americans traditionally resented depictions of the rich.  Even during the Depression, one of the most popular film genres was the screwball comedy, with its focus on the antics of rich socialites and playboys.

Still, there must be some impact when the majority of the population doesn’t see their lives represented in popular culture.  Inevitably families who are treading water are going to think they’re worse off and more insecure than they really are if everyone else seems richer, happier and more secure.

And what is the impact of all those commercials (for luxury cars, wealth management advisers, high-end computer equipment, top-shelf liquors, stock-trading services, etc.) that many middle- or working-class families can’t afford?  Couldn’t this contribute to resentment and anger?

Television used to be the most democratic of art forms, representing a wide array of social classes.  It’s ironic that as the TV screen has become more diverse in terms of gender, race, and sexuality categories, it became significantly less diverse on class issues.  The white working and middle classes, which used to be so well-represented on TV are now largely invisible.

And who are Trump’s strongest supporters? Those very same white working- and middle-class voters.  A coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not.

In January 1980 a respected researcher from Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, having traveled to Nantucket Island to celebrate a breakthrough that she was convinced would garner her a Nobel Prize, left her home in the middle of the night and was never seen again.  The island was frozen-in, no planes left that night, and no body was ever found.  This was a major story for several months while I was working at the local newspaper and I eventually wrote a long piece for Boston Magazine.

A Nantucket reporter recently called me to say he’s working on an update to this mystery.  No one still has any idea what happened to her, but it did cause me to pull out the piece and read it again.  It’s still perplexing.

You can read the story here: Kilcoyne Story

 

[Note: This post was originally published on another platform on April 6, 2011)

Graceland Mansion Living Room

Graceland Living Room, Memphis Tennessee

William Faulkner and Elvis Presley, two sons of the South born 15 miles apart in Mississippi, were mama’s boys, barely high school graduates, champion substance abusers and of course artists at the pinnacle of their fields. They were also property owners, each purchasing large estates as soon as they could scrape the money together.

I recently visited both Graceland, in the Memphis suburbs and Faulkner’s lesser-known home, Rowan Oak, about 90-minutes south in Oxford, Mississippi. It was impossible to approach these places – especially Graceland – with an open mind, but that turned out for the best, because the contrast between what I was expecting and what I saw actually intensified the experience.

First consider the fact that they even have names.  You would expect a nouveau riche rock-and-roll star to give his new home a fancy title, but you wouldn’t really think that the greatest American novelist – a true artistic soul – would be so pretentious.  In fact it’s worse; Graceland is named after Grace Toof, the aunt of the original owner, so Elvis had no part in choosing that metaphorically apt name.  In contrast, Faulkner himself came up with “Rowan Oak,” which is also the name of magical tree in Celtic mythology.   Faulkner gets points for originality and romanticism, but still, it’s the kind of affectation you’d expect from the plantation owners in Gone With The Wind, not a Nobel Prize-winning writer.

What I did not expect was that Graceland and Rowan Oak would be about the same size.  Graceland is really not that big.  A classic Colonial built in 1941, it’s a comfortable home, but it’s smaller than about a dozen houses within a ten-minute walk of where I live.  Probably considered a mansion in its day, by today’s standards it’s only a lower-upper-class home.  The rooms are nicely proportioned, but there aren’t that many of them.  And the kitchen?  Well, let’s just say that this would be the first thing to go in any HGTV makeover.

Rowan Oak Living Room

Rowan Oak living room

Rowan Oak, a Greek Revival home built in the 1840’s, is almost as big as Graceland, with large spacious rooms and a gentile atmosphere. (To be fair, Graceland is definitely larger if you count the subterranean space – it has a huge cellar with numerous game and trophy rooms).  Faulkner bought the property in 1930, when he was only 32 and barely supporting himself with his writing; he struggled for years to pay for the upkeep and repairs, at one point even taking a job as a maintenance man at the local power plant.   In other words, he wanted to be true to his Muse, writing novels that were barely comprehensible to a popular audience; but he also wanted to live the life of a country squire even if that meant diverting time from those novels to churn out semi-trashy short stories for popular magazines like The Saturday Evening Post and spending years writing Hollywood screenplays.

Rowan Oak

Rowan Oak entrance

What’s most striking and unexpected about Graceland and Rowan Oak is their handsome grounds.  Both are 15- to 20- acre estates set in average middle class neighborhoods where the other houses sit on half- and quarter-acre lots.  They have beautiful sweeping lawns with paddocks and riding areas.  They are both fantasies of how landed gentry would live.  One of them even has a “meditation garden” – and it’s not Rowan Oak.

What makes them different is their overall ambiance and how they reflect on their owners.  Each is decorated to appear as they did when Elvis and Faulkner lived there and this has not been a benefit to Elvis’ overall image. As a poor boy who suddenly found himself rich, he spurned antiques and other classic decor as “old,” insisting instead that all his furnishings be new.  Unfortunately, he had the bad luck to die in the 1970s, a decade that now appears to be a bad joke all the way around.  I doubt that many of us would emerge with enhanced reputations if our 70’s interior decorating were exposed to the rest of the world.   To be fair to Elvis, though, much of the house, especially the living room and dining room, is actually quite tasteful (although I bet that, as in many homes of that period, these formal rooms were rarely used).  The famous Jungle Room is certainly over the top, but kind of fun and the TV and game rooms in the cellar are not that different from the game rooms of my youth.

In contrast to Graceland, which is frozen at the moment of Elvis’s death, Rowan Oak hearkens back to a period before Faulkner was famous.  Faulkner died in 1962 but it is clear that no fifties or sixties decorators ever set foot there.  I wonder if this is really the furniture that was left there in 1962 or if an attempt was made to recreate the years (in the 30’s and 40’s) when Faulkner was writing his masterpieces?  The furnishings aren’t the high-end antiques that Elvis scorned; these are just old tables, chairs and couches that were probably in the family for generations.  The house does have a lived-in feeling (lived in by the Waltons maybe) but there’s nothing to suggest anyone lived there after World War II.  The most revered item in the house is Faulkner’s Underwood manual typewriter, which could have come off the set of The Front Page.  The two concessions to modernity are a radio from the last 1940s in his daughter’s room and an air conditioning unit installed in his wife’s room the day after his funeral.

Elvis gets a bad rap for tastelessness and trying to rise above his station – kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies – but I think people should cut him a break.  Graceland is a little garish but not as bizarre as I’d heard;  what critics really object to is the 70’s itself and the refusal of Elvis’ fans to treat it as a joke.  Maybe some of that cynicism should be directed Faulkner’s way.  He too aspired to rise above his station but he worked harder than Elvis did at creating his own myth.  Or maybe we ask too much of our artists.  In the end they are human too, with the usual delusions, dreams and ambitions.  It’s one of the reasons we go to see where they live: to remind ourselves not just that they are people, but to hope that a little bit of the immortality they created will rub off on us.

Mike Wallace

CBS Correspondent Mike Wallace arrested while covering the 1968 Democratic Convention

Well, it looks like those of us who’d so ardently hoped for a “contested convention” this summer will be denied again.  And if this wasn’t the year that a party convention ended up choosing the presidential candidate then maybe we should come to grips with the fact that it’s just not going to happen again in our lifetimes.

But that doesn’t mean these quadrennial events won’t provide good television.  Over the years some of the most exciting television moments have occurred at a presidential nominating convention.  Here are my nominations for the ten most memorable convention events of the television age:

1. Riots in Chicago (Dem 1968) – With the country in shock over the Kennedy and King assassinations and the party convulsed over the Vietnam War, the Democrats met in Chicago to nominate Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The result: the Chicago police beat up anti-war demonstrators as a civil war broke out inside the convention.  The footage is still shocking.

2.  Reagan Speech (GOP 1976) – The 1976 Republican convention was the last real contested convention, with Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford nearly tied heading into the voting. As the sitting president, Ford prevailed, and in a gesture of unity, invited Reagan to the podium. For most party regulars, who had, in this pre-Internet, pre-cable era, never heard Reagan speak, this emotional oration generated significant buyers’ remorse, as they realized they’d backed the wrong horse. Four years later they nominated Reagan and he went on to be elected.

3. First Obama Speech (Dem 2004) – Barack Obama was a little-known Illinois state legislator when he delivered an electrifying keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, the one that nominated John Kerry. This speech, with its message of hope and inclusion, eventually powered Obama’s own drive to become President just four years later.

4. Cuomo and Jackson Excoriate Reagan (Dem 1984) – With Ronald Reagan riding high in 1984, two of the most gifted orators of the 20th Century – Mario Cuomo and Jesse Jackson – rose to assail him as heartless and too beholden to the rich. Throughout history, most of the most memorable convention speeches have been delivered for losing causes, as was the case that year, but Cuomo laid the groundwork for “Occupy” rhetoric 27 years later and Jackson inspired the Rainbow Coalition that ultimately elected Barack Obama.

5. Clint Eastwood Interviews a Chair (GOP 2012) – In 2012 the Romney campaign was so eager for any hint of star power that they didn’t insist that Clint Eastwood clear his convention remarks beforehand. Instead of a standard convention speech, though, what they got was a bizarre piece of performance art in which Eastwood used the rhetorical device of asking questions to someone who wasn’t there (in this case President Obama).   Nice try. Stick to acting.

6. Reagan picks Bush as VP (GOP 1980) – The choice of a Vice President isn’t usually very exciting, unless it mobilizes part of the base, as it did with Geraldine Ferraro (1984) or Sarah Palin (2008). But in 1980, there were serious discussions about Ronald Regan choosing former President Jerry Ford as his VP.  That seemed to be the operating assumption until suddenly it wasn’t, to the shock of Walter Cronkite and Leslie Stahl.

7. Jeanne Kirkpatrick and the “San Francisco Democrats” (GOP 1984) – Reagan’s U.N. Ambassador, was a former Democrat and University professor and her foreign address in 1984 was little more than a lecture on the evils of Communism. Denouncing the “San Francisco Democrats” who were prone to “blame America first,” she managed to rouse the GOP convention through the sheer power of her analysis.

8. Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech (GOP 1964) – Goldwater was the Donald Trump of his day, considered too erratic and extreme to be allowed anyway near the nuclear codes. Like Trump, Goldwater doubled down, and to the howls of the convention, declared that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” and that “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” He then went on to receive 38% of the popular vote.

9. The Al and Tipper Gore Lip Lock (Dem 2000) – What do you do when you are perceived as a nerd and a stiff? If you’re Al Gore, you go on national television and give your wife a long and ostensibly passionate kiss right after being nominated for president.  Ick.

10. Sarah Palin’s “Lipstick” speech (GOP 2008) — Before there was the Tea Party and its disdain of intellectualism and elites, there was Sarah Palin. What is forgotten now is how she revived the moribund McCain campaign and injected energy into his convention.  The speech itself, obviously not written by Palin, blistered Barack Obama with disdain while presenting herself as a just-folks representative of traditional America.   (“You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”)  As she spoke, the camera focused on her family: her pregnant teenage daughter Bristol and Bristol’s “fiancé,” her infant son with Downs Syndrome being cradled by another daughter, and her military son about to be deployed. This was one of the first acknowledgments that political families need not be perfect.

Will something bizarre and exciting happy at the conventions this year?  My money is on the Trump coronation, with riots in the streets and the possibility of Trump extemporizing the biggest speech of his life.  But then again, who knows how the Sanders supporters will react at the Democratic convention.  Either way, it will be worth tuning in to see history made again.

 

 

 

 

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