THE BLOG
05/13/2008 07:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Putting Cable News Under a Microscope

What's an avowed political junkie to do when he's knocked on his ass for almost two weeks with a debilitating ear infection and flu before a major election? While the doc had me on more dope than Keith Richards at Altamont, my drug of choice quickly became 24/7 cable news.

As I lay I bed this past week with more fluid oozing out of my head than a sump-pumped Wayne, NJ basement after a rainstorm, I realized that my life would never be the same. I had officially hit bottom. Ive watched enough "Interventions" on TV to know that when the addict throws down the needle in disgust -- as I have now done with the TV remote -- that he's had enough and is ready to quit. It took one straight week of non-stop political commentary for me to finally realize how cable news had not only driven me crazy, but just how much it was negatively impacting politics as well.

When you watch MSNBC or CNN in very small doses, like anything, it's a healthy diversion and you may actually learn something. But watching as much as I just have, you realize what an endless, vicious cycle it is, regurgitating the same drivel to the point where the pundits' "analysis" becomes as recognizable as the dialogue in a midnight Rocky Horror screening. You begin to realize just how much time these people have on their hands to fill, because you're right along with them in real time. Do you have any idea what it takes to fill an entire day and night with inane chatter about two primaries? They give you the news once, and then discuss, analyze and regurgitate it ad nauseum. I don't know what hurt more: the ice pick-like stabbing pain in my ear or the sound of Joe Scarborough blathering on incessantly about how Clinton's "gonna make history" Tuesday with two big wins.

It's no wonder how "scandals" like the Rev Wright controversy become the elephant in the room. It's because the "room" is a circus, and it's ringleaders are people like Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Keith Olbermann, Wolf Blitzer and George Stephanopoulos. They sanctimoniously decry the insignificance of these stories as they shamelessly ram them down our collective throats 24/7 to fill that gargantuan air time. The cable news media feeds on this crap like a hungry shark. Even those smallest of stories now becomes a "SomethingGate" that gets over-analyzed and beaten to death round-the-clock. And the networks have a never-ending supply of "experts" at the ready to dissect these stories to the point of exhaustion.

And the net effect of all this is that politicians get trapped in this bubble of sensationalism, as evidenced by the recent Pennsylvania debate where the first 50 minutes were spent on BitterGate, BosniaGate and WrightGate. Or on last week's Meet the Press interview of Sen. Barack Obama where host Tim Russert dedicated a similar percentage of his show's opening to these same hot-button issues. Is it any wonder then why only about 16% of voters rank the Irag war as their #1 priority? Were it not for these 24 hour cable news networks bottom-feeding in an effort to fill time we might just have an electorate that could be focused on the issues that really matter, such as the war, national security, the economy, gas prices, anemic employment and health care. Instead, the networks parade in front of the camera every Tom, Dick and Harry who's ever worked in politics to micro-chatter about the most meaningless, National Enquirer-like drivel which in turn prevents these stories from ever dying. And it's a colossal distraction from what truly matters. But sadly, what truly matters is, well, dull. Not as exciting as Rev Wright and a lying Hillary on a Bosnian tarmac.

There came a point where I literally felt dirty watching so much of this garbage. I felt like an addict, knowing I was doing something bad, wrong, destructive...yet unable for a time to stop. And then the moment of truth came. Following Tuesday's Indiana and North Carolina primaries, I listened as analyst after analyst, expert after expert, rambled on about the results as if they actually knew something. As if anything they had said or predicted the previous day had any credibility or accuracy one day later. They were all wrong, yet no one owned up. They just kept spinning. The bottom line is, nobody knows anything. It's just opinion. And the polls clearly prove little either. They're all over the place. You can find a poll to substantiate any position. To support any claim. And that's precisely what takes place all day on MSNBC and CNN. Obama and Clinton surrogates squaring off and making their biased cases why their candidate is the rightful nominee. The cliquishness of it all is sooooooo high school. This is the point where I decided I could no longer participate. News flash: this junkie's in rehab. From this point on, it's the NY Times and my nightly hour of Hardball and I'm done. Anything beyond that and I just might put a bullet in my head.

The one thing to come out of this past week that amazed me though is that Pat Buchanan never sleeps. Here's a guy who I swear was writing speeches for Woodrow Wilson, and he's on the tube at 1am and right back on "Morning Joe" at 7am. Maybe Buchanan's the only one with enough stamina to take that 3am White House call??