On Sunday, New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer explored how the Sunday network interview show producers and politicians “collaborate in a seductive ritual” to book the most powerful guests. But there’s a great sameness on the guest list: Sen. John McCain’s done 60 Sunday shows just since 2010.
Steinhauer says he’s a “dream guest” in part because he “compares members of his own party to deranged fowl” (wacko birds), at least at liberal networks:
When it comes to a dream guest, program hosts say, Mr. McCain checks almost every box: a senior Republican senator who can speak authoritatively and contemporaneously on many issues, flies secretly to Syria, compares members of his own party to deranged fowl and yet is a reliable opponent of most Obama administration policies.
“What makes a good guest is someone who makes news,” said Mr. Wallace, the Fox host. “To make news, you have to be at the center of the news and willing to talk about it in a noncanned way, someone who always come to the shows ready to play.”
He went on: “I sometimes think to myself, ‘Gee we’ve had McCain on a lot,’ ” not to mention Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. “But the fact of the matter is they are good guests.”
Steinhauer let Washingtonians exaggerate how powerful the Sundays shows are, how their words are closely followed:
“You can go on Charlie Rose midweek [on PBS] and have a long conversation that ends in a game of strip poker and no one will pay attention,” said Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “You go on a Sunday show, and everyone is looking for the slightest change, a new syllable, some new nuance.”
Then came the odd charge that the Sunday bookings – which they’ve just stopped telling us is stuffed with squishy Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham – dangerously tilt toward the ideological extremes:
“There is a tendency on the Sunday shows to look more toward partisan polarization,” said David Gergen, a senior analyst for CNN who has advised four presidents. “They seek out people who are further out on the spectrum,” Mr. Gergen said, adding that “more than one senator” has told him the story of being bumped for a more partisan guest when they expressed moderate positions on issues in pre-interviews, something producers and hosts say is untrue.
“We aren’t looking for someone because of their ideological view,” said Bob Schieffer, the chief Washington correspondent for CBS and the moderator of “Face the Nation.” “We are trying to move the story forward.”