My wife, Melissa, watches “The View.” It’s taking all of my will power not to follow up that admission by citing a host of impressive facts about her intelligence, education, and sophistication in an attempt to convince you that the impression you’ve now formed of her is mistaken. But with the exception of trying to get people to say “sisterS-in-law” rather than “sister-in-lawS,” I’m not one for spending time and effort on lost causes, so I’ll just recognize that you’ve judged my wife and move on. Before dating Melissa I can honestly say I had never seen “The View.” I was aware of it, of course, but I am aware of a lot of things in pop culture that I have never experienced directly – for example, the entire prime time line-up of CBS. Honestly, do you personally know a single person who watches a single show on CBS? I know CBS and its shows exist, because I see ads for them on buses. But I have no direct evidence that CBS isn’t broadcasting vainly into the ether, entirely unviewed.
As I’ve been exposed to “The View” through Melissa, I have been somewhat shocked by what I’ve seen. Did you know that a not insignificant portion of “The View” consists of the hostesses braying and clucking about the “Hot Topics” of the day? Now, to the extent these “Hot Topics” include frothy things like celebrities and entertainment news, I have no problem with the ladies of “The View” discussing them. They are, after all, somewhat qualified to hold forth on those issues, their number comprising a doddering, name-dropping quasi-journalist whose last big scoop was that Lady GaGa didn’t have her first kiss until 11th grade, two actresses, a former reality star, and the current world record-holder for “World’s Least Funny Stand-up Comic.”
To my horrified surprise, I saw that the “Hot Topics” also often include issues relating to politics and sometimes even business and economics. Let me give you an example: The issue of whether to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court rather than a military one has been much in the news, as has the question of where in the country his trial should be held in the event he is tried in civilian court. Because for a time it looked as though Mohammed was going to be tried in New York, the ladies of “The View” decided to apply to the topic their countless collective years of scholarly study and first-hand experience in criminal justice, constitutional law, counterterrorism, and military law (Sherri was in the JAG Corp).
I wish I had a clip of this exchange. They went around the table, some opining that Mohammed should be tried in a civilian court in New York, others disagreeing. A few very basic questions naturally arose – Had other terrorists been tried in civilian courts? Who and when and where? What is the difference, anyway, between a civilian court and military tribunal? – although unfortunately no one seemed to know the answers to these questions. Now it’s my turn to ask a question: If you were about to go on national television to discuss a topic about which you knew next to nothing, would you or would you not spend five or ten minutes Googling said topic beforehand?
You see, the questions that arose on this particular morning were the kind of questions that any reasonable person could foresee arising. But none of the ladies of “The View” could be bothered to Google any of these questions before the show, presumably because Henry Kissinger’s early morning lecture at the Council on Foreign Relations on Roosevelt’s critical error at Yalta ran a little late. The lone host who actually had prepared something was Elizabeth, bless her heart, who had printed off a paragraph of an article from National Review. If memory serves, she treated it as a news story rather than an opinion piece, but I’m going to give her points for trying. I think Joy responded to Elizabeth’s point with a joke about hot flashes.
All of this reminded me of a quote I read in a magazine profile of a politician who I will not name (because we shy away from politics here). The writer, Sam Tanenhaus, wrote of the politician in question, “To an extent unmatched by any recent major political figure, (the politician in question) offers the erasure of any distinction—in skill, experience, intellect—between the governing and the governed.” And I thought, that’s exactly what the ladies of “The View” have done in the arena of punditry: they’ve erased any distinction—in skill, experience, intellect—between the pundit and the listener.
In other words: we have four TV personalities and one senile celebrity piece-puffer sharing their opinions on a complex issue that has profound implications for our national security, our judicial system, and our democracy; and while these women are surely entitled to their opinions on the matter, the question that I simply cannot answer is this: Why would anyone be interested in hearing them? What would compel a person to watch non-experts on TV ignorantly discuss complicated and important issues when we can get that at the bus stop or the water cooler or the dinner table? And yet, there has to be an answer to this question, because “The View” seems to be pretty popular.
And because it’s popular important people with actual expertise go on the show. For example, the other day Melissa and I watched the segment where the ladies interviewed Mitt Romney, who was promoting his new book. Whether you think Mitt Romney would be a good president or not, there’s no debate regarding the fact that he is among a handful of people who could legitimately become President in the near future. I haven’t read his book yet, but I’ve read a few reviews, and it is by all accounts chock full of detailed policy prescriptions ranging from health care to education to foreign policy. And so there the former Governor is, on “The View,” debating foreign policy with Joy Behar. Joy Behar. It was a lot like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, only if Douglas wasn’t very bright, didn’t know anything about anything, and made jokes that only your aunt chuckles at, sighing to herself, “That Douglas! He just says whatever he thinks! He doesn’t care!”
“Here is something I actually said: ‘When Joy said ‘bi-partisan’ for the first time, I was like, ‘What the heck is that? Is that a French word?’ I didn’t know anything about politics, and I wasn’t afraid to say I was just learning. I think people like that I’m real.’ Also, I once exhibited genuine uncertainty as to whether the earth is flat or round.”
And then Elizabeth pipes in with a question asking Romney if he’d consider making Scott Brown his VP nominee in a run for the presidency. Yes, Elizabeth, I can’t think of a better idea than Mitt Romney, a white guy from Massachusetts, picking as his running mate Scott Brown, a white guy from Massachusetts. Governor Romney is barred by the Constitution from picking himself to be his own VP, so picking Scott Brown is the next best thing. I personally think Governor Romney should pledge on day one of his campaign that his entire Cabinet will be Mormons from Massachusetts, and that when he’s President people in Massachusetts won’t have to pay federal income tax.
Honestly, the fact that a serious political figure should find himself in a position to be having a discussion with people possessed of so little intelligence, intellectual curiosity, and relevant experience honestly blows my mind. But to be honest with you, I don’t know why I’m so exercised on the topic, since at the end of the day none of this really matters anyway. Within 5 years the only way you’ll have to listen to Joy Behar is if she’s assigned to the same salt pit where you’re mining under the mocking, cruel eye of a dolphin with a whip.
PS: One of my favorite bloggers, Gabe from Videogum, once went to an event with the ladies of “The View” and kind of asked them where they got off talking about politics on TV without having any expertise. It’s funny and insightful (and full of swearing and patent liberal bias).
What does this picture have to do with “The View?” Nothing. I just love it. Hat tip to Bryan H.