Reader KP writes in to add some much needed perspective on the increasingly obsessive Rod Blagojevich coverage.
Here is some food for thought. I lost my job last Tuesday. I don't give a whit about what's happening in Illinois. I have a chronically ill husband, I care for my elderly ailing mother, and I have an 11-year-old son. In less than two months my severance pay will run out and so will my health insurance, which my husband depends on for his care. So, you can probably understand why as important as this issue is to the media, it is not at the top of my list.
I don't regularly watch television, but [Thursday] when I tuned in to President-elect Barack Obama's press conference, I wanted to hear what he had to say about health care, how it would impact me. As noted above, in two months, my severance pay runs out, and so will my health care. I can't afford Cobra. So, you can see why I hoped reporters would ask questions that mattered to me and I am sure thousands of others.
No doubt, it was inevitable there were going to be questions about the Blago guy in Illinois. But after three questions, thank God for the Reuters reporter, we got to health care. I happened to be watching ABC, and guess what, Charlie Gibson cut away. That question was not juicy enough for him-- not enough to give us the viewers a chance to hear how Obama plans to pay for the health care he is promising.
Instead, a glib Gibson gets on to explain about how the [president-elect] dodged questions. I know in Gibson's world this doesn't matter one iota... But why disrespect us. Why does he think that this Blago issue matters to me today, when I am worried where the next meal is going to come from for my family?
Very few reporters, among them Joe Klein, are resisting the urge to become a part of this feeding frenzy of piranhas, at a time when real issues are being put on the backburner. And that's a crying shame.
The media, undoubtedly, is consumed by the Blagojevich story, primarily because it ties into a topic of intense public interest: Barack Obama. But the evidence -- at least in its current form -- strongly suggests that the President-elect's role in this mess is that of a Blagojevich antagonist, not enabler. Moreover, it would be nearly impossible for Obama's team not to have had, at some level, contacts with the governor's office. They were, after all, choosing Obama's successor.
The problem, it seems, is that the lack of information from Team Obama is being interpreted as something nefarious -- in the process, giving the story life it probably doesn't deserve. Rahm Emanuel, for example, is tracked down by reporters while going to see his children's concert, simply to be asked if he were the emissary to the Blagojevich's office. (Even if he was, the complaint says he refused to play ball). Meanwhile, Gov. Ed Rendell is brought on MSNBC, not to discuss whether the President-elect did something wrong, but to debate how Obama has handled his first public relations crisis.
And so, stories like the ones KP wishes to read never get the oxygen they deserve. On Friday, for what its worth, cable news seem less focused on Blagojevich than in the two days prior, offering airtime to hashing out how and why Senate Republicans derailed a bailout package for the automotive industry.