MTP Needs a Lesson in Differing Academic Disciplines

Politico provides the following:

WHAT DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN told David Gregory on last week’s roundtable: “I think there’s a space now for President Obama. I think the post-partisanship has to go. That was what he came in hoping for. It proved not able to work. But if you look back at … FDR, he first tried to be a bipartisan leader, and then he got so hurt by the rancor of the Republican right, who called him a traitor to the class, that he went right after them. And he wins in a landslide. … I don’t think that’ll work for Obama ’cause he’s not a warrior, a happy warrior in that way.

“But there is a model for him in Teddy Roosevelt. Similar time to ours: Squeezed middle class, up and down gap between the rich and the poor. … Obama first talked about the failure of the supercommittee when he put out his grand proposal. It was the idea that people want fairness, they want balance. That’s what Teddy Roosevelt was all about. Every sentence was balanced.”

May I say, yet again,* that this is just another example of why DKG drives me nuts:  she makes everything into a historical analogy.  However, this is not good analysis:  even if one can identify similarities with past candidates and presidents, the political realities are so radically different (one example:  the nature of ubiquity of modern media) that direct analogies are worthless.

Of course, this critique is more about the Meet the Press producers than it is about DKG per se:  they are the ones who elevate her to the level of expert on contemporary politics when, in fact, she is not.

As I often ask myself in these situations:  are there no political scientists who study, oh I don’t know, the modern presidency, let alone campaigns and elections, for the MTP folks to call?

*This is a long term pet peeve of mine:  the usage of historians as political scientists by the mass media.  I have a special pet peeve about Doris Kearns Goodwin who only speaks in historical analogies.  (And, I must confess, her plagiarism figures into my ire as well).

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. I missed last weeks Meet The Depressed but I bet DKG also mentioned developing a Team Of Rivals. She still seems to be beating that horse to death, even though its been years since the book came out and at least part of her premise is disputed by other Lincoln historians

  2. @Doug Mataconis: One could easily construct a drinking game/version of Bingo based on DKG tropes.

  3. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Indeed one could.

    Like you said, even accepting the premise that she’s a good historian (and I’m with you about the plagiarism thing which she’s never really answered for) that doesn’t mean she knows crap about contemporary politics.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    The average age of MTP’s audience is “embalmed.” DKG is there to comfort the old folks with the notion that nothing new is happening.

    Harder to justify in my mind is the booking of people like the party chairmen. They had Priebus on and he might as well have been a recording. Guys like that make it their business to say nothing new or interesting — or even, God forbid, answer an actual question. Priebus could not pass a Turing test. You’d be better of interviewing Siri — at least the app has a few witty responses programmed in.

  5. @michael reynolds:

    Party Chairmen should be rarely seen and seldom heard from. Their primary job is supposed to be Administration and fundraising, not punditry. It’s funny, because one of the chief complaints that many GOPers had against Michael Steele was the fact that he talked too much. Priebus is doing the same thing.

    I’d apply this to the Democrats too, as I’m not sure of the wisdom of appointing a sitting office holder to that type of position

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    The thing that I find frustrating about Dr. Goodwin is that everything is product placement. Not only is every comment an historical analogy, it’s an historical analogy about her latest or soon to be published book. That’s not analysis. That’s a Rorschach test.

  7. Hey Norm says:

    DKG is not the problem….hell, if they called me I’d go not MTP and spin som bullshit Architectural analogies. MTP just plain sucks, as do all the Sunday shows. Halperin says Romney will win, unless someone else does…and that passes for insight? Katty Kay says, rightly so, pay attention to Europe…and D. Gregory looks like he has no idea what she’s talking about.
    The Sunday political shows are as f’ed up as a political system that takes Newt Gingrich seriously.

  8. Dr. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Of course, this critique is more about the Meet the Press producers than it is about DKG per se: they are the ones who elevate her to the level of expert on contemporary politics when, in fact, she is not.

    Steven, this is the Doctor again. Turn off the TV.. Take 2 Vicodin, and call me in the morning. No, the world will be just as F’d up in the morning as it was the night before, but you won’t care anymore. This is not about the country, this is about you.

    You can’t fix stupid. Get used to it.

  9. reid says:

    @michael reynolds: I just happened to catch that Priebus interview, and it was vomit-worthy. He was a talking points blabbering machine, and not even a very good one. I had to change the channel after a few minutes.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    It’s absolutely the Dems, too. Although there was a brief moment when we had Steele for the GOP and Howard Dean for the Dems when there was at least the possibility of someone accidentally answering a question. But that was an anomaly.

  11. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Dr. OzarkHillbilly: Amen, brother!

  12. ponce says:

    When I come across a show like MTP on the TV, I ask myself a simple question: Do I really care what any of the people on it have to say?