Former World Chess Champion and current political activist Garry Kasparov appeared on Bill Maher’s program the other night. The entire, seven minute interview is worth watching, but I especially liked this part:

MAHER: But if you look at what’s going on in Russia, Putin has a very high approval rating. I mean there is something…

KASPAROV: How do you know? (Laughter) Are you seriously, are you relying on the polling results from a police state? I think with the same tight control of media and a pervasive security force, Bush and Cheney could enjoy the same approval rating here.

MAHER: Chekmate to me.

I knew there was a reason I always liked Kasparov.

At the end of the interview Chris Matthews, also a guest on the show, had this to say:

MATTHEWS: You ever get the feeling that they’re playing chess and we’re playing checkers? That was sophisticated and this audience was listening to every word. Our guys never get to that level of sophistication, they talk down to us.

Well, I certainly agree with the sentiment. But Matthews has a lot of nerve criticizing American politicians for being unsophisticated. You see, every time John Kerry expressed an opinion requiring more than ten words, Matthews was leading the charge to complain of how complex and nuanced Kerry’s opinions were. When Al Gore had the nerve to bring up an actual piece of legislation, the Dingell-Norwood bill, during one of his debates, it was Matthews and his cadre of yes-men who were falling all over themselves to deride him for being a stiff, humorless policy wonk. And when Bush spent the 2000 campaign making one incoherent, unsophisticated statement after another, Matthews was so apalled that he did long segments praising Bush for his plain-spokenness and for his affinity with the common man.

No, it is not our politicans who are less sophisticated than those in other countries (well, not as a general proposition at any rate). It is our media, especially cable news, that is unsophisticated, and frankly not very bright or knowledgeable either. Instead it is wall-to-wall gossip mongers who will happily denounce any politician that forces them to think about anything important.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul T.
    October 29, 2007

    I would love to watch a Presidential debate with Keith Olbermann as the moderator. He would raise the level of discourse by 50 IQ points.

  2. #2 Troff
    October 30, 2007

    … you don’t think, then, it might be more worth watching a presidential debate with Keith Olbermann as a PARTICIPANT instead?

  3. #3 Koray
    October 30, 2007

    Toss in Stephen Colbert

  4. #4 The Ridger
    October 30, 2007

    Kasparov is partly right. But Putin is genuinely popular. What we tend to forget is how desperate a situation that country was in when he came to power. For most Russians, the 90s were a disaster. We kept telling them to “sacrifice” for democracy, and they watched a handful of people grow fantastically wealthy while most Russians lost everything they had ever had. Small wonder that “democrats” aren’t terribly popular at the moment.

  5. #5 finnegan
    October 30, 2007

    I saw the Maher interview, as well as the Colbert one (seeing Kasparov play Rock em Sock em Robots was priceless).

    This guy’s the celeb of the month in the US, but it seems doubtful that it’s doing him much good in Russia.

  6. #6 Brendan S
    October 30, 2007

    Yes, but will it get them off their tractors?

  7. #7 Explicit Atheist
    October 30, 2007

    Posted by: The Ridger

    “Kasparov is partly right. But Putin is genuinely popular.
    What we tend to forget is how desperate a situation that country was in when he came to power. For most Russians, the 90s were a disaster. We kept telling them to “sacrifice” for democracy, and they watched a handful of people grow fantastically wealthy while most Russians lost everything they had ever had. Small wonder that “democrats” aren’t terribly popular at the moment.”

    Well, Kasparov is 100% correct and also Putin is genuinely popular. The fact is that Putin is not an enemy of those who became fantastically wealthy, he is only an enemy of a few of those who became wealthy who were willing to spend some of that money to try to develop or strengthen democratic institutions or become politically active and publically criticize some of Putin’s policies. Not only Russians, but the rest of world, would benefit from a more democratic Russia (and China and …) and Putin has taken Russia backwards in that respect. There is no economic inequality excuse for that, democracy is no more incompatable with policies to promote economic equity such as estate taxes than is autocracy (after all, most people want some measure of equity and fairness), either way the government economic policy is mostly a matter of the responsiblity and will of whoever governs.

  8. #8 Pieter B
    October 31, 2007

    Paul, Keith Olbermann moderated a Democratic Party debate in August.