Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The 50 most important pundits in American politics

The English newspaper The Telegraph is publishing its list of the 50 most influential pundits in American politics. They came out with their picks for numbers 50 - 41 on Monday and will publish ten each day. Here is their first twenty, with a few editorial comments from myself:


One of the most acute minds among the analysts on Democrats’ favourite cable network MSNBC, Maddow seems destined for greater things, having already debuted for Republican-baiter in-chief Keith Olbermann.

With an evening radio show on Air America, the former Rhodes Scholar has a sound platform from which to promote her unashamedly Left-wing, activist agenda.

I would not have known who she was since I, like 99.99999999999999999999999999999% of America do not watch Keith Olbermann or listen to Air America. But I do listen, sometimes, to Andrew Wilkow's show on Sirius radio and he sometimes mentions things he's seen on Olbermann's show. He refers to Maddow as "Olbermann's little boy".

It seems strange to put her on a list of "most influential" people since only slightly more people watch MSNBC than read this blog and slightly fewer people listen to Air America than read this blog. So why am I not on the list as well?


An assistant to George W Bush and Dick Cheney until she resigned shortly before the Iraq invasion, Matalin remains an authoritative and sharp-witted Republican voice on the airwaves.

But she backed the wrong horse in Fred Thompson, and since moving into publishing is not the force she was when hosting her own radio show in the 1990s.

One of the few things I've ever agreed with the late Molly Ivans about was the fact that Matalin and her husband James Carvell are extremely creepy. The Democrat party has transformed the American political scene into a vicious knife-fight and the idea of going home at the end of the day and crawling into bed with one of them should be disgusting enough to make a maggot vomit.


The Princeton University economics and international affairs professor has been a strident critic of Barack Obama in his twice-weekly opinion piece for the New York Times, to the fury of many fellow Democrats.

One of the first to question the media's infatuation with Obama, his antipathy raised suspicions that he was being lined up for an advisory role in a Hillary Clinton administration, which he denied.

Krugman is so consistently wrong that a cottage industry sprang up around correcting him. The "Krugman Truth Squad" once waited eagerly for every column to come out so that they could have a merry old time running the numbers, checking the facts and exposing the fact that Krugman's sources were sometimes nothing more than posts or comments, left without any reference to source material, on left-wing blogs.

The continuous exposure of Krugman as an imbecile was 50% of the reason that the New York Times hid its "premium" op-ed columnists behind a pay-per-view firewall (the other half of the reason was Maureen Dowd whose idiotic verbal diarrhea spawned its own legion of dedicated fiskers).


A regular contributor across various networks, Watts is the last African American to serve as a Republican in Congress.

Having criticised his party’s candidates during primaries for failing to "show up" for black voters, the former American footballer is the sort of voice John McCain appears to be listening to as he attempts to reach out to African Americans.

JC is a good man but since he retired from politics to go into full time ministry I wonder if he still belongs on this list. I hope that he really is as influential as The Telegraph thinks he is.


As a supporter of Mitt Romney, Levin failed in his bid to stop John McCain winning the Republican nomination. He now calls on his large radio audience to keep watch on the Arizona senator’s claims to be a bona fide conservative.

When the Democrats finally have a nominee he will have to weigh up his disdain for McCain and his dread at the prospect of a Democrat administration.

Mark Levin has become one of my favorite radio talkers. He has said that he might wind up voting for McCain ever since he locked up the nomination, but that he hasn't made up his mind. He heaps contempt upon other so-called conservatives who rushed to the cameras to endorse McCain without even holding out in an attempt to force McCain to choose a genuine conservative running mate.


Writer with the conservative "Weekly Standard" and regular presence on Fox News. Proponent of the Iraq war and global warming sceptic, he has been one of the most loyal supporters of President George W. Bush.

A figure that conservative Republicans look to, how enthusiastically he backs John McCain could be a factor in whether party stalwarts turn out in November or stay at home.

The Weekly Standard represents one wing of the conservative movement and Barnes does enjoy a great deal of respect. However it is a foregone conclusion that all of the Republican oriented radio talkers, talking heads, "big" bloggers and Republican office holders will wind up supporting McCain.

These people all want to have a future within the Republican tent so they will not do as I have done and tell the truth about McCain and the danger he represents to the party and the nation. The United States is a very large wealthy and powerful nation. It will take it decades to die and most of the established conservative pundits are old enough that they can reasonably bet that they won't live to see the end.

Given that many of them feel that it is in their interests to continue to enjoy the comfort of the luxury stateroom on the sinking ship since the water won't get to their deck in their lifetimes.


CNN legal analyst and "New Yorker" with an easy, conversational manner and Rolls Royce brain. No one knows more about the inner workings of the US Supreme Court – an institution that is arguably more important to American life than the presidency.

A normally dispassionate commentator, he does not hesitate on occasion to accuse candidates of being dishonest or plain wrong. If Toobin turns against a politician, it can be a sign they’re in trouble.

Being a court-watcher is a highly specialized field so I generally take the word of the experts whom I've come to trust. Or, in some cases distrust, since if they are always wrong you can usually look in whatever direction they are not looking in and see the truth.


A dedicated Democratic partisan and former aide to President Bill Clinton, Begala has one of the most acerbic tongues on television. Currently committed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, he is so contemptuous of Republicans that he will throw his weight behind Barack Obama with equal enthusiasm if the Illinois senator becomes his party’s nominee.

Made waves recently when he said he had "nothing but contempt" for ousted Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn.

Begala was one of the most fanatical of the Clinton kool-aid drinkers. That really tells you all that you need to know. Begala probably would support Obama if he gets the nomination, but he would be far more likely to be found waiting for Obama in a dark alley with a .22 revolver with the serial numbers filed off (metaphorically speaking of course).


Former Education Secretary under Ronald Reagan and National Drug Czar under George Bush Snr, Bennett is an author, speaker, radio host and CNN commentator.

A committed conservative and strong moralist – subtitles of his books include the terms "Moral Clarity", "Moral Collapse" and "Moral Poverty" – he also has a keen understanding of political strategy and does not hesitate to criticise Republicans.

I have considered Bill Bennett a blood enemy since he convinced president George H.W. Bush issue an executive order banning the importation of so-called assault rifles (semi-automatic rifles which happen to resemble military weapons).

I also note that Bennett was one of the first Republican whores to jump on McCain's bandwagon to hell. Nuff said.


A former Senate aide and Democratic operative, Shields, 70, has a career that spans eight presidents.

With his syndicated columns and regular slot as the liberal pundit on the PBS show "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", Shields is one of the ultimate Washington opinion formers. Attributes include a shrewd historical perspective and sharp wit.

I would substitute the word "half" for sharp, but it is a British newspaper.


Former Fox news host and most recently press secretary to President George W Bush, the affable Snow has just signed on as a CNN commentator. Would probably have placed higher were it not for his long and debilitating battle with cancer, which he appears to have won.

A committed conservative, his fair-minded approach and unfailingly reasonable means he is listened to right across the political spectrum.

I like Tony Snow. In fact I originally bought a Sirius radio so that I could listen to Tony's radio show. I am very glad that he is beating the cancer. However I did notice two things when I was listening to him on the radio nearly every day. One is that he would almost always come down on the moderate to RINO side of nearly every issue, supporting Harriet Miers, Amnesty and Israel's abandonment of Gaza are three that come to mind. The other is that whenever he would confidently assure his audience that something was sure to happen, that it was a "done deal" you could bank of the fact that whatever that thing was that is wasn't going to happen.


Became the first female and the second youngest White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton. An MSNBC commentator, she was a consultant to "The West Wing" series and was widely believed to the model for the character C.J. Cregg.

Married to Vanity Fair political writer Todd Purdum, in her recent book "Why Women Should Rule the World" she argues that women are "better communicators, better listeners, better at forming consensus". Well placed to chip away at the traditional male domination of political punditry.

Another Clinton Kool-aid drinker and intellectual lightweight. The only reason she has any kind of career now is that she served a Democrat president.


Fox News pundit, US News and World Report columnist and American Enterprise Institute scholar, Barone also co-authors the definitive "Almanac of American Politics".

Although on the Right, his political analyses usually set aside ideology and are based on rigorous number-crunching and an unparalleled knowledge of the electoral map right down to precinct level. Has recently argued that Hillary Clinton is ahead in the popular vote and could yet defeat Barack Obama.

Barone is hands down one of the smartest guys out there. If I couldn't have my own brain I would want his. He is also right about Hillary being ahead in the popular vote - if you count Florida and Michigan.


A regular on MSNBC, Robinson stars in his bi-weekly Washington Post column that not only pulls apart the Bush administration but on more than one occasion, Hillary Clinton.

Obama is held to account for lapses in consistency, but Robinson has been one of the senator’s most elegant cheerleaders, a role that will be useful as the campaign endures.

With all we now know about Obama anyone who is willing to lead his cheers is not to be taken seriously.


The author of the Contract with America and leader of the Republican Revolution in 1990s has lost some of his lustre after the loss of Congress in 2006, but remains one of the most persuasive critics of the Democrats.

Will be a key man in Fox’s assault on Obama or Clinton in the presidential election.

I used to have a lot more respect for Gingrich than I do now. He did not really lead the Republican Revolution so much as figure out that it was going to happen and run out front so that he could look like he was leading.

Also, Fox will not "assault" Obama or Clinton. They really are "fair and balanced" and will strive to tell the truth about all the candidates. Although in the case of Democrats that could very will look like an attack.


One of the most respected Democratic strategists around, the quick-thinking Trippi has now brought his recent experience with the John Edwards campaign to bear on CBS, offering a competitor’s view of the successes and failures of the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

A pioneer of Internet electioneering with Howard Dean in 2003-04, he however remains a loyal party man and keeps his harshest views to himself.

Trippi worked on the Dean campaign and the Edwards campaign. Two men who crashed and burned so badly that they remain jokes to this very day. And that makes him "One of the most respected Democratic strategists around"?

If Democrats ran NASCAR the trophy would go to the driver who came in last.


Long-time media correspondent for the "Washington Post", author, blogger and presenter of CNN’s "Reliable Sources", Kurtz is the media’s internal watchdog, helping shape coverage by critiquing political journalists – identifying and monitoring trends such the media’s infatuation with Barack Obama and fondness for John McCain.

Still an old-fashioned shoe-leather reporter, he also holds candidate’s to account by detailing their openness or otherwise and the way politicians manipulate the press.

Kurtz is another good man who does respectable work.


A regular face on CNN and a radio host, Martin has repeatedly called for the media to show more balance and understanding on the Rev Jeremiah Wright issue, but hasn’t been afraid to criticise the pastor or Barack Obama when he sees fit.

Like Wright, he is a black pastor from Chicago, and has a strong perspective on an issue that will run until November, if Obama seals the nomination.

Good luck with that "getting people to understand Wright" business. But seriously, that's what makes him one of the 50 most important pundits?


The former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle is a ubiquitous media presence. Editor of the conservative "Weekly Standard" magazine, he is a Fox News contributor and newly-minted "New York Times" columnist – the Right-wing fox in the liberal hen coop.

A staunch defender of Israel and committed neo-conservative, he is a strong advocate of John McCain’s muscular foreign policy and the Iraq war.

I often find myself agreeing with Kristol, but I still find him a bit creepy.


Continues to be a contributing political analyst for the Fox News Channel, and a coherent critic of Obama and Rev Jeremiah Wright.

A vocal opponent of the ‘victim culture’ within the black community, he accused the pastor of ‘wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric’ and said Obama’s decision to still sit in his pews indicated a crisis in black leadership.

I agree that Williams belongs on this list and I agree with what Williams has said about Wright and Obama. However there are many more and better reasons to put Williams on this list other than the Wright affair. I fear that The Telegraph is getting too caught up in the news of the minute and losing the big picture.

Having said that I do think the Wright business is important. Jeremiah Wright may have single handedly kept a black man from becoming president of the United States.

But that's not really fair. Obama did it to himself by staying in that church for 20 years.