Dennis Hans, writing for The American Prospect, says Phil Donahue is an incompetent liberal because he eases up on his conservative guests. My knee-jerk reaction to this contention was: No, he’s an incompetent entertainer; he doesn’t know when the stuff’s getting juicy.
Then the irony hit. Phil Donahue, the father of talk TV, an incompetent entertainer?
I wouldn’t agree with Hans because I don’t think we can use one’s performance on a TV show as a measure of one’s ideological commitment or ability to use ideology rhetorically for political gain. TV just does not lend itself to reasoned discourse. And this, perhaps, is Hans’ biggest mistake: assuming that TV can/should transmit something like rational discourse.
It seems clear to me that Donahue’s failure is not one of ideology or partisanship. Rather, he’s a dinosaur. His brand of TV, the very thing he pioneered, is dead. In it’s place is the genre of simplistic, dichotomous, partisan ranting and fighting that passes for television commentary on shows such as this.