Neal watched the evening shows and reports back: Laci Peterson! Laci Peterson! Laci Peterson! Laci Peterson! Oh, there's some kind of thingee happening in Iraq. Highlights: GOP 08 guesses (Jeb, Condi), Matthews goes substantive, and the opening of the Bill O'Reilly Christmas Store.
During the heaviest 24-hour news cycle since Election Day, with the battle in Fallujah raging, a possible deadlock in the Peterson murder trial and the revelation of Yasser Arafat's Swiss bank accounts, the biggest story was. . . the Peterson murder trial. Lesson of the night: It's OK to kill civillians in urban warfare but killing your wife will earn much more media coverage. Especially if she's white. Underreported story of the night: Scalia preparing to vie for Chief Justice position.
7:01PM: 360 Degrees With Anderson Cooper (7PM, CNN) sets the tone for the night with lots of discussion of the Peterson trial (You know which trial we're talking about, right?) and not so much about Iraq.
7:03PM: Gen. Barry McCaffrey talks with Chris Matthews on Hardball (7PM, MSNBC), estimates 20% of Iraq is not under either CPA or Iraqi government control, that insurgents are reemerging throughout the country to fight and that "our hold on the Shiite part of the country is tenuous and there is a massive insurgency in the Sunni part." He also predicts that the majority of civilians in Fallujah will be seniors, young children and those too poor to leave the city; they're the ones in danger: "You can't fight an urban battle without destroy infrastructure and human lives." Mentions Pottery Barn doctrine at least once.
7:13 PM: One is erudite and the other isn't -- Capital Report (7PM, CNBC) airsexcerpts from David Frost's BBC interview with Bush the Senior.
Bush: "On election night, I thought these exit polls looked bad. It felt like someone hit me in the stomach. When we won Florida and that horrible Michael Moore went away because he did not find corruption, that was excellent."
Frost: "Will Hillary Rodham Clinton run for President in 2008?"
Bush: "I have not discussed this with Jeb yet."
7:25PM: Former Secretary of State and current talk show guest supreme Lawrence Eagleburger shows up on Hardball.Eagleburger: "I suspect that even if Arafat ever got a state, he couldn't have run it. This is a semi-comedy right now. But he has killed a lot of people and I won't mourn his death."Chris Matthews goes on to casually discuss Israeli politics and the difficulties of the Israeli Labor Party following the Oslo accords. Well, at least someone has been reading his newspaper.
Matthews: "Was Arafat behind terrorism?"
7:35PM: Capital Report -- Tim Graham, Media Research Council. Graham regurgitates Newsweek's article about Kerry offering the Vice Presidency to John McCain, Defense Department included. Lots of talk about McCain as an icon of Republican Party's moderate faction and the bitchosity of Teresa Heinz Kerry.
7:45PM: CNN finally gets over Laci Peterson, only to grace our screens with the gruesome twosome of Bob Novak and Paul Begala. Novak gets through three minutes of bloviating without outing any additional CIA agents.
8:01PM: Countdown With Keith Olbermann (8PM, MSNBC) leads off with allegations of vote fraud in Ohio and Florida. Interview guest is Erica Solvig of the Cincinatti Enquirer, who reported on a secret Homeland Security Department memo to Election Boards in Southwest Ohio warning them of a specific terrorist threat and recommending they prevent journalists and independent observers from watching the vote count. Nothing to see here, now move along...
8:07PM: The O'Reilly Factor (8PM, FNC) is now 100% "falafel" free and offers as the token sacrificial liberal former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.Reich: "It's immoral for captains of industry to send jobs overseas."
O'Reilly: "No, it's free enterprise... And next, Tony Snow will explain why the Secretary is insane."
8:15PM: I want a hit off Tony Snow's crackpipe.O'Reilly: "How come we don't hear from moderate Democrats?"
Snow: "Money from trial lawyers, Planned Parenthood and George Soros prevents them from being heard."
8:20PM: Paula Zahn Now (8PM, CNN) with Jerry Falwell,, who loves the President sucky sucky longtime..
Falwell: "The President has done all he can do. What the President is doing is right, though in Fallujah today, my only regret is that he didn't do this last April."
8:30PM: Olbermannism of the night #1: "Ooh look, a turkey! We're looking forward to the national holiday known to turkeys as Turkey Armaegeddon."
8:32PM: Olbermannism of the night #2: "It's too bad Bill O'Reilly isn't half as good with a calculator or a brain as he is with a loofa."
Keith, if you're reading this, we love you.
8:38PM: Dan Senor crawls out from under the Fallujah rock yet again, this time on Paula Zahn. He tries to explain today's new theory of what-the-fuck military strategy: Iraqi soldiers joining the American military in Fallujah will demoralize the insurgents, who will be upset to fire upon fellow Iraqis. Not that it could ever backfire by, y'know, our Iraqis being similarly demoralized and refusing to shoot at the bad Iraqis. Nah. Similarly, when Senor mentions that Iraqi soldiers have complained about not having the same weapons as American soldiers, but that it's OK because they have new AK-47s, he totally forgets to mention there aren't enough guns to go around. Whoops.
8:42PM: Head vs. Head: Tabloid writer Jeanne Wolf and Pete Hammond on Bill O'Reilly discussing whether celebrity endorsements hurt candidates. Hammond is billed as, no kidding, a "Freelance Hollywood Writer". Hey, I'm a "Freelance Hollywood Writer" too!
8:55PM: Bill O'Reilly proudly unveils the Bill O'Reilly Christmas Store. You know that crazy Freeper in your family? The one you sit as far away from as possible at holidays? Well, you now have a place to buy them a French-flag-in-a-no-smoking-sign t-shirt. At least the profits are going to charity.
9:12PM: Oliver North on Hannity & Colmes (9PM, FNC). North has read "House of Bush, House of Saud," apparently. Hannity doesen't like it.North: "The fact is, most of the money, most of the terrorists who joined the insurgents came from Saudi Arabia... Their government is either unable or unwilling to contain radical Islam within their borders."
Hannity: [strong hard stare]
But then North casually mentions how "Alawi has decided that now is the time to make this assault" in Fallujah. Wait, even Bush has pretty much admitted he was the one who decided to wait until November.
9:27PM: Deborah Norville Now (9PM, MSNBC) - What happened to our 9PM Hardball fix?! We miss our second helping of loudmouth Philadelphian Chris Mathews. But Norville has two guests no one in America cares about -- Michael Bocian of GQR Polling and Andrew Kohut of the Pew Center, who proceed to run the Red State-Blue State thing straight into the ground. Politics of morality, city people, exurb people, blah blah blah blah fucking blah tired theory.
9:35PM: After sucking Sean Hannity's toes for a good 10 minutes off-camera, spawn of satan Dick Morris came back onto FNC one more time to rant semi-coherent worship/hate screeds about Hillary.
He's got a new theory too -- That the Republican Party's only choice will be to run Condoleezza Rice in 2008. Because, y'see, if Hillary runs, the Republicans will be forced to either run a woman or a centrist... And Rudy Giuliani would be too much of a liberal to carry the nomination. Y'see, in Morrisworld Jeb Bush would win the nomination but get his ass handed to him in an election, while Rice would draw away the female and minority vote from Clinton.
Oh yeah, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a "committed liberal-quasi-socialist" and John Edwards is a "naif."
9:47PM: Deborah Norville's four-way interview on, you guessed it, faith and the 2004 election. Today's people of faith: Jim Wallis, Sojourner Magazine, Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention, James Robison of Life Today, Sr. Karol Jackowski. Jackowsi and Land must love each other.Jackowski: "They say this is a Christian country, but our real religion is Democracy... We should embrace the middle ground."
Land: "We need to remove secularist bias from public policy... We need to bring religious informed moral values into public policy."
Free chastity belts for everyone!
9:49PM: Larry King Live (9PM, CNN) finally wrapped up with the Peterson trial and went on to interviewing... uhhh.... Jerry Lewis. No, wedon't know why he's newsworthy either.
CNN real life what-the-fuck moment: Lewis' caption at the bottom of the screen reads "How he finally ended 37 years of chronic agony that made him want to kill himself."
Yeah, I wanted to kill myself after I read the script to "The Day the Clown Died" too.
CONCLUSION: For a change, this night was a draw. Events in Iraq force talk show guests to keep their eyes on the prize and (mostly) try not to embarass themselves. Extra points for Chris Matthews, however: Impressive interviews with Lawrence Eagleburger and Gen. McCaffrey that proved Matthews has read a book or two on the Middle East. Props.