'Faux-Confrontation' and Sunday Talk Shows

Conor reviews Chris Wallace's "flake" question to Michele Bachmann. Wallace apologized, but for the wrong reasons:


[T]he controversial segment was weak. Disrespectful or not, "Are you a flake?" is a question I'd call amateurish if so many broadcast journalists didn't habitually mistake faux-confrontation for toughness. Disrespectful or not, it is a softball question, because the answer is, "I am most certainly not - here is a list of my accomplishments that I've rehearsed hundreds of times in my life." 

How could Wallace have done better? 

For starters, he could've refined his terminology. Making "questionable statements" is unnecessarily vague. The problem with some of Bachmann's statements is that they are factually inaccurate, intemperate, or both. And a flake is someone who commits to something but doesn't follow through. That isn't the knock against Bachmann. Her critics think that she's a right-wing nut job. Or else that she plays one on television to pander to the Tea Party base.

This was one of the reasons I never really quite got into Tim Russert. I thought so many of his questions were "faux-tough," designed to produce a gotcha, but not actually probing the deeper problems in a particular candidates stance. And by "faux tough" I don't mean "What newspapers do you read?" Or "What do you take away from your visit in Boston?"
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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