Watching “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” today was dispiriting. Virtually, the entire hour was devoted to a discussion of l’Affaire Christie and it was almost all excuse-making and horse-race handicapping with very little substance. The show opened with fill-in host Martha Raddatz asking some surprisingly pointed questions to the first Christie defender Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani stuck to his main talking point that, like all executives, Christie is really busy and can’t be bothered with the small stuff going on in his office.
It’s quite possible, Giuliani argued reasonably, for Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, to concoct a scheme with Christie crony David Wildstein to snarl traffic at the country’s busiest bridge for four days without Christie’s knowledge. Several times, Raddatz interrupted to ask whether Christie should have suspected something was up between the time when Wildstein first closed the lanes and the New York Port Authority crossed the Hudson to lift the cones but Giuliani appeared not to understand the question. Instead, he helpfully pointed out how President Obama 1) said he didn’t know that the IRS was unfairly targeting conservative PACs and 2) was also ignorant of the Benghazi cover-up. Giuliani neglected to mention that nobody knew that the IRS was targeting conservative PACs until an investigation revealed that the taxing authority actually had the nerve to ask ostensibly “primarily educational-in-nature” “Tea Party” groups to justify their claim for tax-exempt status. Giuliani also didn’t seem to think it necessary to explain the nature of the “Benghazi” cover-up. Probably because nobody else has either.
What to do. The corporate media is so vapid, so ready to be distracted, and to distract. Earlier in the week, Rachel Maddow explained the political landscape at the time when the Christie administration closed down three lanes in Fort Lee onto the George Washington Bridge last summer. We learned that Christie was involved in a bare-knuckles brawl with the New Jersey Senate over appointments to the State Supreme Court and that the Senate Majority leader who was stymieing Christie’s court-packing scheme is from Fort Lee. Maddow also noted that while early reports that the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee had refused to endorse Christie’s re-election bid were accurate, that fact may have been less momentous to Kelly and Wildstein with Christie leading by 20% in the polls. By contrast, without a Republican majority in the Supreme Court, Christie’s deep cuts to public education might be reversed, and his gerrymandering schemes come to naught.
Maddow explained in 20 minutes what was going on in New Jersey and why. In 60 minutes, ABC couldn’t do either. Matthew Dowd and David Plouffe argued over how damaging this scandal would prove to Christie’s future political fortunes. Hack journalist Jonathan Karl delivered a mostly hagiographic segment that told us nothing about Christie’s policies and how they are or are not working in the Garden State. A crisis consultant praised Christie’s damage control in his Thursday morning press conference but chided him for saying that he was not a “bully” since that reinforced in the public’s mind the connection of the term bully with Christie. Nobody thought it worthwhile to investigate whether he is one.
As much censure as ABC deserves for its coverage of the Jersey tale, it’s hardly the only one that matters. Where was the conversation about the Republican refusal to extend unemployment benefits unless it can be sure to exact from one part of the 99% the pound of flesh it will so grudgingly hand to another? Can we ever expect a discussion of the Democratic Obama administration’s efforts with help from the Democratic Senator Max Baucus to jam the Trans Pacific Partnership down our throats. Does it make sense to give multinational corporations even more control over our lives? That’s a question multinational media corporations will never ask.