So there I was Sunday night, pleasantly reliving the Yankees third win of four from the Orioles, seven of ten on the homestand, when the announcement came.
"We have a deal," the President said. And so began the breathless coverage of every word, every nuance of every word, from every possible point of view.
Here are some of the original headlines: "The President Surrenders," "Obama Wins with Independents and Moderates," "Extortion Politics," "Capitulation or Cagey?"
And the anchors, analysts and various experts of every stripe were relentless in expressing their instant views, the implications of those views and the future of the world as we know it. Wow.
I did find one story that actually tried to explain what the deal was, you know, the facts.
I confess that I may have been in error last week when I suggested that we're in a lot of trouble, and that we all had a new responsibility to find our inner entrepreneur. That doesn't begin to describe the situation which at its core is a lack of moral clarity, the essence of leadership.
I have my opinion, you have yours, of the merits of what went on here. My observations today pertain to the role of media, of 24/7 coverage, particularly on television, of the events of our days, and this made-for-TV event in particular. First of all when a crisis can be solved with a signature, it's a sure bet that the ink will flow, before the show ends badly. Our debt ceiling "situation" was man-made, conducted against a self-imposed deadline and played to the hilt for the ever-present cameras. Is there an election on the horizon?
When there is too much of a good thing, it often ceases to be a good thing and just becomes too much.
What I have observed over these past weeks has been that we simply have too much media coverage of the days and events of our lives. And in the fight for a share of our attention, this has the effect of diluting the quality, not only of the coverage, but of any meaningful discourse regarding important events, BECAUSE of the suffocating coverage. Like the Butterfly Effect, the impact of following our lead actors with a camera and a microphone, everywhere, insures that no position taken is done without the effect of "positioning" considered. We report sound bites, so we conduct our affairs through talking points. Politics may have always had elements of a marketing campaign, but never more than today when politics IS a marketing campaign.
So what, we may say. There are worse things. I agree with that sentiment -- and for the last several weeks, we couldn't find much evidence of them in the media. There was an obscure story or two fighting for (any of) our attention that another 80 civilians were killed on the streets of Hama, Syria, in addition to the 3,000 currently listed as "disappeared."
Relatively unnoticed was the report of our 4Q 2010 GDP growth revised downward from 3.1% to 2.35%, our 1Q GDP revised downward from 1.9% to .36%, and our last quarter initially reported at 1.3%. A story with double-dip implications but less personality.
As I write this, the show goes on. The House has passed the Great Compromise legislation, the Senate will do so today. The President will sign, for the cameras, and we'll move on with our "American Idol" approach to governance. Watch the performances, vote for the winner through phone, text and tweet, and wait for next week's show. If we can only get Ford, Coke and AT&T to sponsor everything, we might straighten out the money thing as well.