The shallow and promotional TV coverage of Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings illustrated once again how shamelessly ABC, CBS and NBC shape the political Play-Doh they offer to the American people as "news."
First, there was the amount of coverage. Let's put it this way: "Coverage" is the wrong word. Entire days of hearings, filled with tough exchanges with Republicans on issues like the military, "gay marriage" and abortion were swept under the rug. Instead, the one talking point every viewer was supposed to remember was this: Kagan is funny! She is really, really funny!
At one point in the hearings, they discussed the Obama administration's very unfunny failure to stop the Christmas Day bomber from almost blowing up a plane as it landed in Detroit. That somehow turned into a joke about Kagan's Jewishness. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has seemed desperate to ingratiate himself with Obama's nominees, set Kagan up to joke that she probably spent Christmas at a Chinese restaurant.
If Kagan were trying out for the TV show "Last Comic Standing," that would seem like a very stale old joke. But the networks were looking for anything in these hearings that (a) wouldn't bore their dumbest viewer and (b) made Kagan look good. So The Joke was the top story.
The fawning was out of control. The networks audaciously boasted that Kagan was so funny that "Saturday Night Live" could not do her justice. On ABC's "Good Morning America" on June 30, news anchor Juju Chang hailed Kagan's "lively sense of humor" and then asked co-hosts George Stephanopoulos and Elizabeth Vargas, "Who is going to play her in the 'SNL' skit?" Vargas replied: "I don't think they could be as funny as Elena Kagan was!"
On July 2, CBS's "The Early Show" was still touting the comedy gold. Co-host Harry Smith noted, "She was downright funny." Ana Marie Cox, a former Air America radio host and writer for GQ magazine, called it "a 'Saturday Night Live' skit made live," whatever that means. She thought it was made more perfect that former "SNL" writer and Sen. Al Franken is on the Judiciary Committee. Liberal radio host Jane Pratt completed the support circle: "Her joke was good, the Chinese food joke was good."