Nearly one million federal workers are either furloughed or not getting paid because of gridlock in Washington, DC. But this is not normal gridlock where Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided. It is essentially a crisis created by one man, Donald Trump, who refuses to listen to cooler heads in both major parties. He seems to think that he is personally suffering because he sacrificed his holiday vacation to Mar-a-Lago. At the same time, he expresses no understanding that hundreds of thousands of federal workers and many additional federal contractors have seen their economic conditions deteriorate from stable to uncertain to crisis.
How do we know that he does not care about this suffering? Because not once in his more than thirteen-minute speech on Saturday, January 19 did he mention a word about the federal government being shut down and civil servants being out of work. Some among us might have predicted that he would have overlooked what federal workers were experiencing, but it’s doubtful that many would have predicted that one of our major news outlets would have failed to point this out. That is precisely what NBC News did with its Nightly News several hours after Trump’s speech. What’s more, they dedicated a good portion of their newscast to a frivolous story that would have made some of their storied anchors such as Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Tim Russert turn over in their graves.
The newscast began with several minutes on the weather, and in this case, it was warranted. A major winter storm was crawling its way from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next came the report on Trump’s speech. As I watched, I figured that what he said, and what he did not say, would be put in context because veteran and knowledgeable White House Reporter Kelly O’Donnell was on weekend duty. She has a strong record of not falling for Trump’s distortions.
But between his words and the work of her editor, it seemed as if Trump had made a reasonable proposal and the next step was for he and other Republicans to work out a suitable deal with Democrats. What was not mentioned was that (a) the extension of legal status for an estimated seven hundred thousand young undocumented immigrants and another three hundred thousand refugees would only be temporary, and (b) that Trump not only did not express empathy for federal workers, he did not even acknowledge their existence.
Those gaping holes made an unreasonable man seem almost logical and caring. The bottom line is that there was little or no context to the report. O’Donnell also made mention of what Trump calls the “radical left” without any effort to describe what this largely non-existent and imaginary entity is. To make matters worse, she immediately segued from “radical left” to Nancy Pelosi.
The ultimate transgression was that nearly two minutes of the broadcast was spent on a silly story about how a man in Arizona had been accidentally invited to a bachelor party in Vermont, and the so-called hilarity of the fact that he attended. Was this what the viewing audience needed to hear when there were major omissions in the explanation of the main story?
It seemed as if the network nightly news was imitating a local news program. We’re going in the wrong direction, and we all pay the price.