"Thank You Sir -- May I Have Another?"
The behavior of the 24-hour news services has become fairly predictable, but never has a single news agency been so self-aware of its pathetic limitations.
On Tuesday July 19, several hours before George W. Bush named John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, CNN was reporting on the apparent imminence of an announcement. The conventional wisdom in Washington held that the White House had clearly lost control of the Karl Rove story, and was now trying to shift attention away with the announcement of Bush's choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Hell, it wasn't CW -- it was becoming as obvious as the "Friday night dump" of bad news. The announcement would be made. Here was the problem: CNN correspondents were laughing about how the White House was going to shift its attention -- "What clowns we are, and what a smart, smart man our Popular Wartime Preznit is!" they seemed to say.
On American Morning, co-host Miles "Of Smiles" O'Brien pitched to correspondent Bob Franken, chuckling about how the WH machine was about to roll over their prone asses.
O'BRIEN: Is this a good day to announce a Supreme Court nominee, Mr. Franken?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (laughing) You cynical people in the news media. Well, here's what I can tell you. CNN is engaging in what some stations like to call team coverage (emphasis courtesy of CTTC). And I can tell you the chief national correspondent John King has been told that the president has not locked in on someone, but was getting there. That's a quote.
Of course, that could happen today. CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash told by a variety of sources that it could come today. I've been hearing the same thing. And I'm, of course, aware of the meeting that Senator Arlen Specter had here at the White House last night. Specter the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We're told he actually sat down with the president. But most public, what a coincidence, that he and Karl Rove were available to make sure the cameras got shots of him. Karl Rove, you remember him. He was certainly yesterday's story. Will he be today's story? Well, The focus is certainly switching, as you point out, to the Supreme Court. Now here's what to watch for: After 11:00 this morning, President Bush will be appearing with the Australian prime minister, and that will mean questions that have nothing to do with relations with Australia. What you want to watch is to see if the questions switch from the matter of Karl Rove to the questions of a Supreme Court nominee, and I have a prediction that's exactly what's going to happen.
O'BRIEN: Once again, way out on a limb goes Bob Franken. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Yes, we all appreciate your tirelessness in bending over for Scottie Mac, Bob.
Of course, we at CTTC have all been in the business at one time or another, and we understand that when the President announces his nomination for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, the presses get stopped, producers troll the satellites for live feeds and archive B-roll and all that other Industryspeak. It did become the top story, and it should be the top story.
But here's the rub. As soon as the announcement came down, the Karl Rove story dropped out of sight -- completely down the darkest, blackest fucking pitch-black hole of black darkness.
The next morning, not a single CNN reporter or host mentioned the story until mid-morning, when anchor Fredricka Whitfield mentioned it in passing as part of a viewer's e-mail.
WHITFIELD: Well one e-mail says the way President Bush announced his choice for Supreme Court nominee, using prime time television, and the choice that he made, selecting a right wing conservative which tips the balance of the court, it becomes obvious that the president wanted to create as much controversy as possible in order to take the heat off of the Karl Rove incident.
The question is this: why can't CNN, a network that trumpets the sheer volume of its worldwide resources, cover more than three news stories at once? As of noon Wednesday, July 20, CNN was covering only three stories with any diligence: John Roberts, Hurricane Emily and Natalee Holloway.
And the only time Rove -- the top story of the previous day and still a current, ongoing investigation -- has been mentioned was as part of a viewer e-mail round-up.
24 hours of space. Three stories. And an egregious national security breach by White House staffers that the CIA has reported resulted in at least one avoidable death goes uncovered. The White House got what it wanted, and CNN just laid back and enjoyed it.
What absolute tools they are, and they all seem so comfortable in their toolbox.