True enough, but this pat description doesn't quite do justice to the 2007 version of television's Mad Prophet of the Airwaves.
NBC's droll Brian Williams recently hosted "Saturday Night Live" and scored impressive ratings. But imagine how well Dobbs -- the anti-Brian Williams -- could do. He could revive John Belushi's infamous routine as a "Samarai Anchor." He seems eminently qualified to play a wild and crazy guy, too.
I must confess that I don't quite "get" Dobbs. I can't figure out if his rants on the immigration issue are genuine. Call me a hopeless cynic, but I can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, his diatribes are covered in a smattering of cable television shtick.
Sometimes Dobbs can sound calculating, and his outbursts seem scripted. He makes Jack Cafferty sound as placid as Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer as calm as Soledad O'Brien.
I haven't gotten a grasp on his end game, either. Is he content merely with lifting CNN's ratings -- a Herculean task, to be sure, for a mortal man? Or does he have a higher calling? Does he want to run for -- dare I say it out loud? -- the President of the United States?
Don't snicker. I once wrote a tongue-in-cheek column saying that Dobbs should do just that as a way to put his immigration policies into practice (and put us viewers out of our misery). I was proud of that column and basked privately in my brilliance and understated wit. .
The joke was on me, though. Intending to pay me back for my failed stab at satire, some Dobbs-philes took me seriously and promptly placed my email address on a mailing list (which, by the way, is still plaguing me). Their purpose was, indeed, to launch a movement to draft Dobbs to run for the highest office in the land.
Just this week, Dobbs himself wrote on CNN.com: "As I travel around the country, my feeling about the lack of true candidates is validated by those I talk with: They are not excited about the candidates seeking their party's nomination. The Democratic and Republican Parties have become merely opposite wings of the same bird, and it's the American people who are getting the bird as our elected officials serve their corporate masters and the special interest groups that dominate both parties."
David Bernknopf, a former CNN news executive and now a principal in Devonwood Media, emailed me this week to say: "Am I crazy? Or is Lou Dobbs playing games, testing the waters for a Presidential run, from his column today on CNN.com? Is he describing himself?"
(I can't make this stuff up. Jonathan Swift couldn't make this stuff up!)
Crafting an image
Mad as a hatter, Dobbs' detractors might insist. Or crazy like a fox, his supporters would suggest. Because Dobbs is trying hard to craft an image and boost his show's ratings, it's never easy to know for sure where his television persona ends and his heartfelt beliefs actually begin.
Plenty of pundits decried Brian Williams' turn on "SNL" as a publicity stunt. (Well, d'oh, you think?) Displaying no sense of humor, they also fretted noisily that Williams had forfeited his dignity for the lure of a few cheap laughs and the promise of high ratings points.
That's nonsense, of course. Williams had fun and so did, I'm certain, most of the "SNL" audience.
Dobbs, however, is pulling publicity stunts in the name of serious activism. He appeared on "Larry King Live," also on Time Warner's CNN unit, to plug his new book "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit," a follow-up to his tome "War on the Middle Class."
Th latter book was so significant that King noted that it was not only a bestseller, but in fact "a major bestseller." (Shame on you, pitiful garden-variety bestselling authors everywhere.)
As if to reward King for his shilling, Dobbs proceeded to give a performance worthy of a manic Howard Beale.
Let's hope Dobbs will select Larry King to be his running mate.
MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is Lou Dobbs genuinely angry, or is he putting on an act to goose his show's ratings?
FRIDAY STORY OF THE WEEK: "" by Ruth Marcus (Washington Post, Nov. 7): "It's not as if this president has been Mr. Openness. But by some important measures, George W. Bush is more accessible to the reporters who cover him than are some of the leading candidates to succeed him -- most notably Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama."
READERS RESPOND: "Mr. Friedman, Just as there are several types of books a person chooses to read -- based on their mood, need or desire -- so it also goes for magazines. I do not always want to be educated; sometimes I just want to be entertained! While my daily reading list includes MarketWatch, MSN, CNN, Motley Fool, and many other Internet sites, it also includes celebrity sites for humor and 'light news.' It is not always an 'either/or' as it relates to reading. I used to subscribe to many magazines; now I just pick one up at the grocery store if the cover interests me. I DO read Britney Paris, and celebrity news, but it accounts for about 15% of my reading and frankly, I enjoy it! I don't know why I enjoy it, and I guess I don't really have to have a reason. I just do." Susan Barr
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By Jon Friedman