I suppose I should give “New Day,” CNN’s revamped morning news show hosted by Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan a honeymoon before I start complaining about it, considering how I negligently blamed them for the conduct of their colleagues before their show as even on the air. Nonetheless, if CNN has decided to trade Soledad O’Brien’s biased coverage of real news for this pair’s avoiding it, I’d (I cannot believe I am writing this ) rather have Soledad back.
You may have noticed that there is a lot going on in this country and around the world. The conflict in Syria is at a critical point, and the U.S. may be preparing to play a greater role. Iran has a new president, Iraq is descending into violence, and the Middle East could still blow up at any moment.There are so many scandals to investigate emanating from D.C (and, uh, Cincinnati…) that the news media isn’t even bothering to keep us abreast on half of them. The stock market took a dive yesterday; illegal immigration is being fought over on Capitol Hill, where there was a big Tea Party rally against the I.R.S. yesterday.
Trust in the government is at low tide, which is more important than the usual polling nonsense, and President Obama’s poll numbers are beginning to look like Bush’s, but according to CNN’s Gloria Borger (WHY do I keep watching CNN?), it’s for a surprising reason. I watched with my jaw falling open as I heard Borger tell her CNN panel a couple of days ago that apparently citizens who had been thus far willing to “give the President the benefit of the doubt” were now—imagine this now!—beginning to associate him with the government they don’t like. That’s right—five years into his Presidency, and Obama is finally beginning to be held accountable for the government he heads and is supposed to be leading. Normally—sanely, reasonably—this calling to account would typically happen during an election, but hey, better late than never. (I believe I could hear Mitt Romney banging his head against the wall now, if the sound of my own head wasn’t so loud.)
Borger elaborated on her theory in her CNN column:
“Now, I know this president doesn’t like some parts of his job. He doesn’t much like schmoozing members of Congress, despite his recent share-a-meal plan with assorted Capitol Hill types. He doesn’t like the LBJ-style strong-arming, either. He doesn’t much like the messy lawmaking process in which personal relationships can often mean the difference between getting what you want and getting nothing at all. And he doesn’t ever like to be pushed. Ever. No-drama Obama, remember? But he does like speeches. He likes writing them, redrafting them, pondering them. He likes giving them, too — because he’s good at it.”
Gloria left out plenty of other things the President doesn’t like doing—managing, oversight, appointing non-cronies, firing incompetents, being straight with the public, making decisions, his job-–but she cut though it all to identify what he needs to do to address all the chaos around him: give a speech. And Borger is a big President Obama booster. She wasn’t trying to be cynical or funny.
All of this is prelude to my objection to what the new kids on the CNN block decided was the top news of the day, worthy of more than ten minutes of exclusive coverage, remote oversees updates, two special live reports, a studio interview, and even a phone interview with Larry King himself. And what was this riveting news story that Americans just had to know about while they were having their coffee and chewing their Pop Tarts into pistols?
James Gandolfini died.
James Gandolfini. Not a head of state, not a member of Congress, not great philanthropist or scientist, writer, philosopher, diplomat, entrepreneur, cancer researcher, scholar, jurist, surgeon, civil rights champion, or inventor. The guy who played Tony Soprano, a mobster. Reading the lines someone else wrote for him. On HBO, a premium channel watched by less than half the country. Six years ago.
Make no mistake, now, I yield to no one in my respect for James Gandolfini as a professional character actor, and he was apparently also a nice man. Dying at 51 is a tragedy, and he had young children. But in the end, he is just an actor, and not an especially notable one considering his profession as a whole. “My God,” my wife said, “if they make this big a deal when he dies, what will CNN do when it’s Al Pacino, devote all day to him?” Remind me to take a long trip to Canada during the inevitable “Jack Nicholson Month” at CNN, or when CNN does live coverage of Betty White ‘s funeral.
The public doesn’t understand the world around them, doesn’t know how the government it is supposed to elect operates, doesn’t comprehend what the President of the United States does or is supposed to do, can’t place Syria (or North Dakota) on a map, has no comprehension of what budget policy means to them, and network executives always excuse their news coverage sloth by saying that there just isn’t enough time to do thorough coverage of important and complex issues….yet CNN, the supposed leader in cable news, believes that the death (of natural causes, not even something lurid like a hit) of a character actor who was, at best, the 21st Century equivalent of Edward G. Robinson, is what the American public needs to know about, more than anything else on June 20, 2013.
Irresponsible. Disrespectful. Incompetent.
[ Post script (no pun intended): not all media news outlets are certifiably insane. The Washington Post noted the actor’s death with a small box at the bottom of the front page, directing readers to his obituary, with the rest of the death notices. I am reasonably certain the paper handled the death of Edward G. Robinson similarly. The Vitenam war ended on the day he died—January 27, 1973—but given CNN’s priorities, who know?]