The Top Story--after Weather and Traffic, I mean--is a local spin on The Budget Crisis: the President was supposed to come to town to do some photo-op at Allison Transmission today, but he cancelled. This is the local FOX affiliate, which in recent years has toned down its old Morning Zoo approach, winnowing the zany crew of drunken revelers down to the present two middle-aged reformed drunks with a slightly monogamous air. It's probably not fair to say this about the male anchor--he probably, but not certainly, was off in some other market being zany during that period--but the female half now sits and soberly reads the same teleprompter which used to direct her tosses to The Booty Cam, which would then swoop in on someone's ass. I am not making this up. These days she humanizes the incessant weather chat with anecdotes from last night's soccer practice. I'm not making that up, either.
In other words, the past decade of news packaging at 59 has recapitulated young adulthood moving into middle age: the viewer has gone from being surrounded by undisciplined, ungovernable know-nothings who never seemed to realize they were shouting, and couldn't be trusted with furniture, to being stuck with the one know-nothing still in town, the one who decided to sober up only after she realized it was affecting her looks, and who now gives Mommy advice as though no one else can remember how much she used to sleep around, either. Sorta like Jenna Bush on Good Morning America, or wherever th' fuck she is.
And they toss the President Cancels Trip story to the Nordic blond reporter, who's standing in front of Allison, in the dark and in the rain and in her cute hooded slicker with just the right percentage of blond sticking out. And she brings us all up to date, that is, she reiterates that the Prez has cancelled his visit, because Budget Crisis. And then she brings us up to date on what that means--to the limits of the popular imagining, of course--that is, Government Shut Down Unless Agreement, which is incongruously papered over with video of Mr. Obama's previous visit to Allison. She finished that section with one of those generalizations about what the Little People are thinking which are sprinkled on local news so our celebrity teleprompter readers can feel good about themselves, something like "This has Hoosiers wondering how a government shutdown might affect their own households". Which led to…
a clip of Mike Pence on the big FOX, blaming "liberals in the Senate"?
Okay, and that's not the head scratcher, believe it or not, or not the biggest one; that came after, when the Choirboy stopped chanting, and Inga, standing in the dark, in the rain, in her mac, because the President's visit to the building behind her had been cancelled due to the Budget Crisis thing took up reading again, and informed us that Republicans were criticizing Mr. Obama's trip to Indianapolis, saying that he should remain in Washington.
I hit the record button to make sure I could relay this accurately, and that it wasn't just another acid flashback. Part of it was cleared up, or "cleared up" twenty minutes later, when we tossed to Heidi again, and she went through the same spiel, with the same old video of Obama's previous trip, and the same Make A Difference line about Hoosier households, which was followed by…
a clip of Ray LaHood talking about gas prices?
Which led to Ilsa reporting that Republicans had been criticizing the President for his plans to come to Indianapolis, but the issue had been mooted in the previous twenty minutes.
Look, I understand this is like criticizing a bunch of clowns for not ducking when the pie was thrown. But consider that the President's visit was cancelled yesterday, then consider that a professional news-gathering operation couldn't adjust to the news by dawn the next day; that raindrops bouncing off her head wasn't enough to remind the reporter that the visit she was supposed to cover had already been cancelled, and that their one nod to the business was to leave a partisan video hole--which presumably was originally pencilled in as Mike Pence Criticizes President's Trip--then couldn't be bothered to find relevant clips or write a coherent intro by the next morning. (The LaHood clip was on hand because the President was supposed to announce some sort of domestic drilling initiative while he was here, evidently to counterbalance any potential criticism of his photo op with a new Green technology. We are well and truly fucked.)
The second report was followed by Yet Another Clip of Mike "Your Next Governor" Pence, fauxbalanced by a static graphic of Andre Carson with a quote of his blaming Republicans for the impasse. So you could add "Potential Budget Crisis Covered Without Ever Mentioning Actual Budget", although I know you had no more expectation of any serious discussion of that than I.
Which brings us to Weigel Watch; Mr. How Dare Anyone Imagine I'm Other Than An Unbiased Journalist Covering The Completely Spontaneous Grassroots Teabagging Industry has decided--after telling us last week that Teabaggers, and their Republican Not Puppets, were not responsible for any potential government shutdown, as proven by Professor Dr. Gingrich, Ph.B--has now decided that the Pugs are gonna get blamed. In an effort to either explain or deflect this--the two operations are frequently indistinguishable--he has provided us with a handy scorecard of how Republicans and Democrats are spinning the potential shutdown, based on how people who would like to cover it like any other horse race hope they are.
Now, let's be fair: Weigel's gig doesn't require him to do any in-depth analysis. (Neither does mine.) And as such, maybe he ought to avoid saying things like this:
Democrats are increasingly convinced—depending on how much something can "increase" in a day—that the launch of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget is adding more helpful noise to the shutdown debate. Voters who are not closely following the difference between 2011 fiscal year outlays and 2012 budget projections are hearing about a document that does all sorts of unpopular things, like means-testing and privatizing Medicare and broadening the tax code while cutting the top tax rates. They won't say this. But when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talks like he did this morning and says that "the Tea Party is screaming so loudly" at the Republican Party "that it can't hear what the country demands," he's taking advantage of an electorate that doesn't completely understand what's happening.
Especially when 1) it's 2003 dollars to doughnuts that Weigel doesn't know what's in the budget, either, since no one does; 2) there are plenty of individual items, such as "privatized health insurance scam", "preventing the EPA from enforcing environmental laws", "the continued insistence that lowered tax rates increase revenues, thoroughly discredited in 1983, now extended as our only lifeline", or "long-range economic assumptions which are beyond the realm of fantasy even for politicians" which are, in and of themselves, reasons for opposition to the House budget (as if "it's proposed by Republicans" isn't enough); and 3) Harry Reid could fabricate evidence from now to the return of Zombie Ronald Reagan and he's not gonna come close to the sort of distortions, half-truths, and pure baby diarrhea which the Republican party has been feeding its uncomprehending electorate for thirty years.
I understand, I do, the difficulties faced by the accommodating child who grew up in an era when adults were telling him he could make any stupid-ass argument he wished, so long as it was right wing, and never be questioned. I would simply point out that, in the event that someone told him there would never be any consequences for behaving this way, they may have overstated. And that once you believe everyone else is an idiot, it can be awfully difficult to reverse course.