Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I don't watch a lot of news on television. I'm awash in news throughout my work day, reading accounts from Europe, the US, Asia, even South America. The business news channels are always running in the corner of my computer screen during work hours, usually with the sound off though, so I don't count that as "watching TV news." The only time I watch local news is when the weather is bad and I need to know if school is closed or a tornado is in the county. I haven't watched a complete network newscast since sometime in the 1980's. "60 Minutes"? The last time I saw that exercise in pomposity was when the great Roger Staubach was leading a 2 minute drill for the Cowboys, the game ran late and, exhausted from the victory, I was too lazy to get up and turn off the B&W set. Hmm... Staubach, no remote, B&W. Yep, it was the 70's. As I recall, Mike Wallace was chasing some doctor down the street and banging on his office door. I assume he still does this sort of hard-hitting brass-knuckles journalism if he's still alive. Good for him. I do try to watch Brit Hume's 6PM newscast most weeknights. It's usually a pretty good roundup of major stories, although I drifted away some this year as it became dominated by the Obama v. Hillary intrigues. If I ever hear the phrase, "but what will the superdelegates do?" once more I'll shoot my flat panel dead. The nighttime shout shows? Never.

Several months ago The Telegraph compiled their 50 Most Influential US Political Pundits list. Lists are fun. Americans love lists about anything. So, being an American who pays close attention to politics I figured I'd take a look through their Top 50 list. Part of the joy of lists is the argument about the rankings. That certainly applied to this Top 50. But what I hadn't counted on was the number of political commentators that The Telegraph ranked in the Top 50 that I had never heard of. I've probably read some of them, but never paid attention to their names. It dawned on me that, by not watching CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS there were a few deep thinkers I'd never come across. One hour of "Special Report" on FNC per day just wasn't exposing me to their prodigious talents. The list of people I had never even heard of included, Rachel, Eugene, Roland, Mike, Chuck and Harris&Vandehei or something like that. Others on the list were people I knew about but didn't think of as current political pundits-- for all I know these people are on MSNBC and CNN every bleeding night: Jeff Toobin, DeeDee Myers, Joe Trippi, David Gergen, Joe Klein and more.

I just had to face it, I was apparently not plugged in correctly to the current punditry scene. Alas. But then I reconsidered. I'm their target market after all. I care about world events, I have voted in nearly every election no matter how small since I first was eligible to vote in 1972, and I read constantly. If these people are so "influential" then why aren't they influencing me? Well, the beauty of our brave new world is that we have choices now unlike back when I started voting. Through the 'net, radio and satellite TV the world is wide open to us. Heck, I've watched far more Egyptian and Iranian TV interviews in the past year than I've watched major network newscasts. How? Through the tireless work of MEMRI. Why on Earth would I sit still for the crap peddled by some of these people from the Telegraph's Top 50: Krugman, Begala, Carville, Zsa Zsa Huffington, Michael Savage, Donna Brazille, Bill Maher, Olby and Chris Matthews? I have as much interest in their opinions as they have in mine. Zero.

So, as I looked through the list I decided I'd put together my Most Influential Political Pundits Top 10 List of People Who Didn't Make The Telegraph's Top 50 List

10. Real Clear Politics- the one-stop clearing house for links to the best punditry

9. Hugh Hewitt- I don't get to hear his radio show much now but I listen to his interviews via podcast-- Lileks, Steyn, Hitchens get to talk about the issues of the day... good stuff

8. Michael Yon- the best battlefield reporter of the decade-- by far

7. James Taranto- his daily wrap-up, Best of the Web Today on WSJ on-line is funny, pointed and complete

6. Victor Davis Hanson- professor of classics, farmer, thinker

5. Ann Coulter- the idea that she is less influential than 40+ people on the list is just silly even if you have Coulter Derangement Syndrome

4. Jonah Goldberg- his columns are well-thought, his NR stuff is first-rate plus he brings the funny... and he wrote one of the 2 most important non-fiction books of the decade

3. Charles Krauthammer- as long as he stays away from economics he's good

2. George Will- as long as he stays away from Iraq he's good

1. Mark Steyn- the winner and grand champion, the one-man global content provider

Remember, to be on this list you had to be left completely off the Telegraph's list. (Even if I used names on their list Mark Steyn would be #1 or 2.) Others that could make my list: The American Thinker, Jack Kelly, Michael Medved, Lileks, MEMRI, DaybyDay, Maggie's Farm, and many, many, more.

My point? There is no Top 50. We all can create our own front page, op-ed page, sports page, cartoon section, business pages, etc. We are our own news editors. Some of my favorite writers on politics and sports are read by less than 50 people a day. So what? As someone who thinks that the most dangerous (and expensive) words in politics are, "We have a bipartisan agreement" I applaud the fact that we all have our own Top 50 and are no longer waiting for Cronkite to tell us what to think. Some wring their hands and worry that we talk past each other. I think it's our greatest strength.