America — what the F?
Watching election returns Tuesday night was the worst television show of the year. Never have I seen so many deers in the headlights sitting behind news desks.
The madness of trying to process the Divided States falling deeper into hell was so not in the script at CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC or other channels I hopped around last night. CTV and CBC covered the US vote too, but other than watching Lisa Laflamme and Ian Hanomansing go grey, there wasn’t much there that kept me hooked. I kept searching for a voice of steady reason on American channels but all I got was John King — as incredible as he is with magic maps — drilling deeper and deeper into townships in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona and Michigan.
CNN kept their usual prime time commentor’s caged. That left Wolf Blitzer to stride from end to end of CNN’s mall-sized set. Over at CBS, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell seemed to grip their anchor desk harder with every projection. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos got greyer by the minute.
At least one could see those personalities against their bright, red, white and blue projected backgrounds. NBC’s attempt to look different by filling their background with a red and blue-tinged landscape of their 30 Rock flagship building was goofy. It might have worked if it was the Empire State Building, and a giant Trump gorilla was scaling outside the window, clutching a big banana.
On all of these channels it was like watching a party go bad. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie tried to stay chipper but the shock of the deadlocked outcome had her grimace stretched tighter than the results in suburban Ohio. King seemed to be the coolest, fixated on the math and the long game of getting every last outcome.
Completely lost at sea were the comedians. Stephen Colbert tried to do comedy but his virtual wall of celebrity commentors all looked like they’d been punched in the gut or lower. Not helping were the lame lines Neil deGrasse Tyson and others were asked to read. It was like a 12:55 a.m. Saturday Night Live sketch. When Colbert was briefly called in to apparently cheer up the results desk, it was hard to tell who was more embarrassed. Somebody needed to pull the fire alarm.
I was driven to look for effective punditry on-line. There was some wisdom there; old war horse Dan Rather tweeted around 10 p.m. that “Trying to tease out election results at this point in the day is like trying to read tea leaves in a tornado.” Rather should have been writing for Colbert.
Where, though, was somebody to put the night in perspective? Clearly these newsrooms did not want to admit that America was going over the same cliff, that the nightmare scenario — a too close to call result — was really a rejection of Joe Biden and an endorsement by half the nation, after 230,000 COVID deaths, of a racist and misogynist president who lies, cheats, divides, humiliates, denies science and is only out for himself.
There was very little discussion, as well, of the other story, that the Democrats failed to make any headway in the Senate; that there will be four more years of legislative hell no matter who eventually wins the presidency. We got a lot of the “What” and some of the “How” Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, but not much of the “Why.”
Tim Russert, I thought, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. The late NBC newsman was a steady, reassuring presence on many an election desk, but this Tuesday night, even he might have been in the men’s room throwing up.