One of the more lamented aspects of the American political culture is how divided the media has become with the proliferation of cable news, the Internet and talk radio. But if that current environment is viewed with some historical perspective, according to Washington Post columnist George Will, it doesn’t seem so bad.
In an appearance on WNYC’s “Here’s the Thing” podcast with Alec Baldwin (yes, that Alec Baldwin), Will explained why rough-and-tumble politics has always been with us, and the media is not wholly to blame for today’s coarse political discourse.
“[L]ook, 30 years ago – CNN was founded in ’81, I think,” Will said. “Thirty years ago, at the dinner hour in this country, 80 percent of all television sets in use were turned to [Walter] Cronkite, [John] Chancellor, and Peter Jennings. Today we have this cornucopia of news sources. People define journalism on their own terms, get it on their own time.”
Will noted how many Republican voters rely on Fox News, which he said was reflected in the spending habits of South Carolina Republican primary candidates looking to buy air time. According to Will, 72 percent of all GOP primary voters in that state “get all, not most, all of their news from Fox News.”
“Now, in a way, this too is a reversion,” Will said. “When the party system developed in the 1790s and early 1800s, American newspapers were largely factional papers. Some of them were paid by the parties. So we may look back upon the, some would say the pretense of objective journalism or nonpartisan journalism as an episode, a parenthesis in our national history.”
As for the potential of a George Will being a part of Fox News, he said that although he was friends with Fox News President Roger Ailes and its long-time personality Brit Hume, he plans on staying at ABC, where he has been since 1981.
“I know and like Roger Ailes and Brit Hume,” Will said. “These people are friends of mine. No, I’ve been with this one show on ABC for 31 years.”
And although cable news is generally dismissed by the so-called elites, Will praised Fox News Channel’s “Special Report.”
“Bret Baier’s 6:00 news program on Fox is as good as it gets,” he added.
Later in the podcast, Will told Baldwin he predicted the Obama presidency a year and a half in advance based on his sense of Clinton fatigue in the country. And beyond 2012, Will gives Hillary Clinton “zero” chance of having a political future beyond her stint in the Obama administration, based on the deep bench of potential candidates within both parties.
WILL: I think I told George Stephanopoulos in March 2007 – March 2007 – I said, Barack Obama will be nominated and elected. I just could not see the country saying, “We’re nostalgic for the Clinton years,” which they weren’t.
BALDWIN: Right, they weren’t. What do you think her political future is?
BALDWIN: Zero? She’s not going to run?
WILL: There’s a whole generation of coming candidates.
BALDWIN: Andrew [Cuomo].
WILL: Andrew Cuomo in New York, Gov. Martin O’Malley in Maryland, countless people, Paul Ryan, all kinds of good people out there, governors, the rest.
He added the same goes for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
BALDWIN: What do you think Gingrich’s future is?
WILL: Doug Pixon. No, yeah, it’s a –
BALDWIN: Books and talking on TV and commentating?
WILL: Talking. He does lots of that.