Column: Network ‘News’ Narrative Punishes the GOP In Any ‘Shutdown Showdown’

News & Politics

The nightly “news” cannot be expected to offer you an “explainer” on anything happening in Washington. Their ratings gurus would tell them that trying to educate the audience on how Congress works, for example, would result in eye-rolls and channel flips to “Wheel of Fortune.”

What they call “news” is more accurately described as a negative political advertisement. Take the latest impending government shutdown. No network – even the “public” one – is going to explain the appropriations process, and how in “regular order,” a series of spending bills funds the government over the fiscal year (which begins in October), and how a “continuing resolution” just lards the whole budget into a huge bill no Member of Congress reads.

Instead, we are provided with speculative sob stories about victimized bureaucrats. Let’s look at the NBC Nightly News of September 25. Here’s how anchorman Lester Holt described the narrative off the top: “The deadline, now just days away to avoid a government shutdown. What Kevin McCarthy said today as GOP hard-liners hold up a deal – and what it means for the government services millions depend on.”

So the problem here is “GOP hard-liners” are threatening to hurt “millions” dependent on government spending. Isn’t that a helpful storyline for Democrats? Are there ever Democrat “hard-liners”? Don’t be silly.

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Minutes later, Holt warned, “With little progress to report, Garrett Haake looks at the tough consequences some Americans will face if a shutdown happens.”

It quickly turned a little preposterous, as Haake traveled straight to the Capitol Area Food Bank, five miles north of Capitol Hill. Their CEO Radha Muthiah intoned, “We know that when budgets are stretched, food is the first thing to go.”

NBC told people living in mobile homes in Kentucky or Idaho that six-figure bureaucrats in million-dollar houses are in danger of running out of food within days.

Then Haake really laid it on thick: “The Capitol Area Food Bank is now planning for a possible surge of 100,000 people in the D.C. region needing food assistance soon if the government shuts down this weekend.” Within days, a massive “surge” of hungry federal employees?

If that sounds overwrought, Muthiah helpfully underlined the cleaning and restaurant businesses: “Think about the cleaning crews, the food service. You know, those who have food trucks outside of government buildings and offices.”

Then Haake turned to “Wisconsin Social Security claims specialist and single mom” Jessica Lapointe, who lamented “I have an 11-year-old son who has been asking to go to Disney World for most of his life. We’re looking at having to postpone that trip in order to just stay afloat during this unknown period.”

Then, as usual, Haake listed what would be delayed – food safety inspections, applications for passports. “The White House claims 10,000 kids would immediately lose access to Head Start and funding for WIC, a nutrition program that helps low-income women and young children, would dry up within days.”

So is this a “news” story, or does it sound like a White House pressure campaign, meant to paint Kevin McCarthy’s Republicans as an uncaring pack of lowlifes? Haake made sure to plunge in this knife: “Members of Congress – who will continue to be paid – have until midnight Saturday to strike a deal.”

Holt then asked what McCarthy’s going to do. Haake said he’s “warning his hard-liners that a shutdown would only weaken their negotiating position.”

It should be obvious to politically savvy citizens that the “news” people seem organized to weaken the GOP negotiating position, if not obliterate it. NBC’s message to McCarthy’s “hard-liners”? Resistance is futile. 

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