With All Due Respect has emerged as the best regular political show on TV. Now rounding the corner on their program’s first year, the Bloomberg reporting duo and “Game Change” authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann host the most mature, informed and lively daily conversation on national politics going.
Today, MSNBC announced it will begin running the hour-long show each weeknight at 6:00 pm.
Whatever your ideological orientation, if you love politics, it isn’t easy finding a regular show that hits the sweet spot of snappy and sophisticated, but not preachy or smug or tiresomely biased. Far too many of the daily cable programs resort to showcasing supposedly “expert” guests who are boringly predictable or bring little valuable personal experience, relationships or insight to analyzing the day’s events.
Halperin and Heilemann brook no mediocrity in this regard and they have zero tolerance for spin or conventional wisdom. They are celebrities of a sort in their world of political media, but like Bob Woodward they also still remain hardworking beat reporters cultivating sources and digging into terrain that requires a kind of expertise and approach that is too often missing from their peer group.
It seems like eons ago, but Chris Matthews was once a clear-eyed, passionate chronicler of the people and issues that make politics so fascinating and his show celebrated all the above. He’s always seen things from the left, but since the George W. Bush administration, Matthews has been off his game. There are still flashes of his unrivaled historical and gut knowledge of the game and its players, but he now too often falls into the trap of playing to an MSNBC audience that Hardball producers clearly assume want to be fed a diet of partisan attacks.
Matthews has a good eye and respect for real talent – the Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Republican consultant Steve Schmidt are two obvious examples of no-BS characters he clearly appreciates – but too often his lineup includes second and third-tier left wing mouthpieces with very little accomplishment or vision to back up their bluster.
For my money, Charles Krauthammer and George Will continue to be the most erudite and compelling commentators on TV – their observations are alternatively mordant, creative and stinging. It is amazing to consider their multi-decade dominance of the commentary business, which perhaps shows how hard it can be to consistently offer incisive perspectives for a television audience. Throw in Britt Hume and you will detect my biases when it comes to commentary.
Halperin and Heilemann have real finesse. They are knowing and nonjudgmental – whatever their policy leanings may be, and even though they are the stars of their own show, they do a remarkable job of making the content and the guests the main event. They often appear on Morning Joe (enjoying a bit of a resurgence, and I have found myself coming back to the show after drifting away, although A.M. timing continues to be difficult) and other places, and one wonders how they can remain so plugged in when they spend so much time on TV.
But they report ready for duty each night, projecting a mastery of and fascination for the world of politics and a vigor and seriousness that is refreshing and convincing.
#WADR fans can only hope the MSNBC deal isn’t the kiss of death.