Who’s On the Left’s Television A-Team?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

I haven’t watched the great Krugman vs. Scarborough showdown on the Charlie Rose Show, but a friend has, and he says Scarborough won a crushing victory. He sent me a fuming email about it:

I’m pretty angry that Krugman didn’t seem to anticipate what was coming. And he clearly displayed the wonks’ debilitating inability to simplify and strongly advocate their policy prescriptions, while simply and clearly tearing down the other side’s positions. This is extremely important because historically wonks lose out to the gasbags, and that can lead to horrific governance and policy issues. Krugman’s debating talents, such as they are, are not suited for most broad television audiences. And, in direct contrast, that is all Scarborough’s arguments and debating style are suited for.

The most depressing thing about this, though, is other than Bill Clinton, I can’t think of anyone on the left who can clearly and nimbly take somebody like Scarborough apart. Sure, there are many that can do it in an 800 word column the next day — Krugman being one of the best at this — but that’s nowhere near the same thing.

I’m not here to pile on Krugman. Scarborough has years of experience as both politician and TV host, and he knows all the tricks of the trade. Most of us don’t. This obviously just isn’t Krugman’s sweet spot.

But I’m more interested in my friend’s final question: who do we have on the left who’s got the real-world debating skills to take on someone like Scarborough? Who’s on our television A-team? Not folks who can win technical debating points, but folks who can rabble-rouse with the best of them and hold their own against slick carnival barkers like Scarborough? Jared Bernstein seems to do OK in the lion’s den of Larry Kudlow’s show. Who else?

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate