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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Even in less navel-gazing moments, foreign policy is a marginal topic for most presidential contenders. We talk about their 'views,' but many barely have views. Few candidates, and especially the former governors who have occupied the White House for 28 of the past 50 years, have had to think in very specific terms about America's place in the world. So candidates ask themselves, in effect, 'What kind of foreign policy would a person like me have?' This is not necessarily a useful guide to their later behavior. Bill Clinton thought he was a human rights-driven idealist until he found out how hard it is to do the right thing; Bush thought he was a hardheaded realist until the 9/11 attacks turned him into a true-believing democracy promoter. Who they are probably matters more than what they think, or what they think they think. As Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative ex-aide to Bush and Ronald Reagan, says, 'What really matters in the end is character.' Some of the 2012 candidates mimic McCain's muscular idealism, but their hearts don't seem to be in it. Pawlenty was a McCain acolyte who traveled abroad with him and absorbed much of his worldview; he warned the Council on Foreign Relations about the 'isolationist sentiments' newly ascendant in the GOP. But the rise of the Tea Party in recent years has reshaped Republican politics entirely, not only on domestic policy but also on foreign policy. The Tea Party is the faction of Less -- less spending, less government, and, generally, less engagement abroad. And all the Republicans aspiring to win the 2012 nomination have responded to this powerful new voice in one way or another. None of the candidates save Paul can genuinely be called isolationist -- and perhaps not even he. But Rep. Michele Bachmann shares the Tea Party's suspicion of foreign interventions and foreign countries more generally; former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has called for 'nation-building at home' rather than 'nation-building in Afghanistan' or elsewhere; and Texas Gov. Rick Perry has warned vaguely of 'military adventurism.' Rick Santorum, a fringe candidate like Paul, anchors the opposite end of the foreign-policy spectrum, the pole of bristling aggression and furious denunciation (both of Obama and of Paul). And Mitt Romney falls somewhere in the middle, which seems to be where he falls whenever he is dropped." (James Traub)

"Mercedes and Sid Bass were granted a divorce last Thursday in Fort Worth. The official announcement came on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a report filed by Chris Vaughn in the Friday edition of the newspaper. The couple released a joint statement that they would 'continue to love each other and remain good friends.' This was the probably one of the most civilized divorces any of us will ever hear about anybody. There were rumors of the marriage being in trouble which I reported here last November or December. Many of their friends were very annoyed at me for writing it although many were passing the rumors around amongst themselves at the time. I wrote a measured retraction a few days later, having been assured by close friends of the couple that the rumors were not true. Did I believe it? Not really ... However, the rumors about the Basses persisted through the new year but with nothing new in terms of their behavior to confirm the stories. Only two weeks ago at the opening of the new season at the Met (where Mercedes Bass sits on the board), they were in attendance. Not only were they in attendance but as you can see from the photos Jill Krementz took for the NYSD (9.28.11), that they were together.  Furthermore Jill told me that they were more than happy – he even made an effort – to be photographed together. Looking at it in retrospect, Sid Bass was already sending a message about the kind of divorce they would have ... The night of the divorce, for example, the (ex-)couple hosted a dinner party at the house in Fort Worth for all their friends. Think about it. None of that 'embarrassment' that friends have in terms of how to relate to either party; whom to talk to, whom to avoid. The Basses dissolved the whispers and the rumors and the taking sides. That is a relief for everyone especially if you like both parties and prefer to remain friends with everyone." (NYSocialDiary)


"So, Rosie O'Donnell must've packed 'em in for the rollout of her new, Oprah Winfrey-approved talk show, right? Well, er, no. Monday's 7 p.m. premiere of 'The Rosie Show' on OWN, with first guest Russell Brand, drew a very modest 497,000 total viewers, according to Nielsen. It's O'Donnell's first talk show since she left ABC's 'The View' in 2007. At 8 p.m., 'Oprah's Lifeclass' -- with OWN boss Winfrey discussing insights learned over her years as a talk host -- opened even worse, with just 333,000 viewers. Not surprisingly, OWN is looking for rays of hope amid the ratings, saying that 'The Rosie Show' improved on what Discovery Health was doing a year ago in the time slot by more than 200%. But it's important to remember that Discovery Health was always considered an underachiever -- that's why it's not around anymore. It's also important to remember that you don't hire an expensive talent like O'Donnell in hopes of failing to draw even half a million people for her premiere." (LATimes)


"So I’m listening to William Shatner on Howard Stern. And he says he owes his career to saying yes, if anybody asks, that’s what he says. He’s open to any idea, because you never know the end result. That didn’t sound right to me. Because if it’s not right, I don’t want to play. It’s my name on the line. One false move…And the very next day Howard decried choices Conan O’Brien had made. The nature of radio is I didn’t hear exactly what he was talking about, I got in the car thereafter. But when Howard was done ranting, saying Conan should have said no, Robin asked him about William Shatner…And Howard chortled. Said that’s why people laugh at Shatner. That Bill should have said no more often. Now if you’re an actor, you’re playing a role. It’s not you. But if you’re a musician, and you’re doing it right, it’s solely about you. If you compromise your values, if you do what you don’t want to, you’re gonna pay the price. I know, you want to make it so bad, you don’t want to be difficult. But I’ll let you in on a secret, the most successful artists are impossible. Case in point, Van Morrison. And so many of the other stars with a nice image, they employ someone to say no, so they don’t look like an asshole. But when you’re starting out, it’s hard to hire a spokesman, hard to have someone on your team. It’s just you. But you must still say no." (Bob Lefsetz)


"Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld are Web stars. The twentysomethings draw an audience of 500,000 people, twice a week, for their three-minute 'Jake and Amir' shows on CollegeHumor.com. But those fans watch Hurwitz and Blumenfeld’s buddy/frenemy comedy clips for free. What would happen if they had to pay? We’ll find out this afternoon, when the duo rolls out 'Jake and Amir: Fired,' a 30-minute special. CollegeHumor will sell streams of the show on its site and via Facebook for $2.99 a pop, and DVDs for $13 apiece. It’s the first time IAC’s comedy site — which has carved out a nice niche for itself in the low-budget Web originals business — has tried selling anything beyond T-shirts to its audience. And it’s very much a test. CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen isn’t convinced that it will turn a profit, but he’s okay with that. 'If this is a loss leader for us, but we learn a lot about paid content, how it works, then it’s worthwhile,' he says." (Peter Kafka)

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