eTed gets red
If memory serves, stretching back over the past three days, it was the closest we've come to a throw-down at the Alito hearings so far, when Senator Ted Kennedy, in mid-drubbing of Judge Alito, got into it with the Chairman, Senator Arlen Specter... over a letter Kennedy sent Specter... and Specter's contention that, in effect, his mail is his own business and domain. And while this was taking place this afternoon, cut to a classic New York moment: I was running a quick errand in Midtown Manhattan, and had to leave the building for 30 minutes. Just as the hearing heated up, the cab I was in arrived at its destination. But there was no way I was going to stop listening at that point. I asked the driver to go around the block. Then I asked him to park. All the while, Senator Kennedy's temper was rising... and so was my interest. There was just no way I was bailing out until it was over. While it might have looked odd... the two of us sitting there at Madison and 45th... it had to be done. I think the driver learned a lot about the confirmation process today.
As I see it, the problem with covering today's Alito's proceedings is that the headlines... the moments of drama... had more to do with process and partisanship than any breakthrough in the testimony. There was incrementally more on privacy, cameras in the courtroom (who knew he's in favor?) and the law, which Pete Williams will cover. The human drama had to do with humans trying to get the upper hand.
erWe also got a first-hand lesson (during our afternoon editorial meeting) in the art form of live coverage of a hearing: the moment the anchor on the cable network we happened to be watching felt the need to helpfully "explain" what we were watching, we changed the channel to another that was just airing the hearing. Moments ago, while watching the hearing in my office, another cable network broke away (to cover "some of the other news of the day") and so I broke away from them. I've always thought it should be a Cardinal rule: if you chose to invest in live coverage of an ongoing event, stay with it. If your audience has invested in watching it, it's a good bet they don't want to watch, or listen to, anything else. They know they have other channels at their disposal.
Then again, there are good reasons why I'm not a programming executive.
On the substance of the past three days of questions and testimony, nothing I could write here could come close in quality to some of the journalism we've seen over the past 36 hours: from Dan Balz's superb reality check in the Washington Post (on the lack of viewer engagement in these hearings) to Dana Milbank's consistently great writing, especially his last two columns (and regular viewers of Keith Olbermann know Dana is as good on television as he is in print) to Elisabeth Bumiller's great Senate Skewering (and a great headline, by the way) in this morning's Times... to the op-ed piece by Tim Carvell of the Daily Show in the Times today. That last item has nothing to do with Samuel Alito, but this is the 'print kudos' section of the blog, after all. We'll have some great work of our own on the air tonight when Pete Williams weighs in from the Hill.
As I write this, the commentary bug has bitten again. At 4:40 p.m, while MSNBC has been airing a segment of commentary among its on-air guests, they have just cut back to the hearing in time to hear some remarks angrily delivered by Senator Lindsey Graham. Whatever he said has driven the Judge's wife to tears. Mrs. Alito has now left the proceedings. I shall now find out what just happened. They appear not to be the only network to have missed the moment.
Also this evening: the rollout of the plan to bring New Orleans back. Martin Savidge, who has done such solid work from our New Orleans bureau, will file that for us tonight. Mike Taibbi has a great sidebar on the tough choices Katrina has forced some families to make.
Also tonight, Jim Miklaszewski on the "new" Navy Seals. For my money, given the exposure I've had to active duty and retired service members, the Seals are about the toughest lot I've ever encountered. We were with a Navy Seal unit on our way to Baghdad just after the initial invasion, and every encounter I've ever had with a Seal has been an impressive event. Tonight we hear that the "new" component has to do with recruitment... the likes of which the Seals have never done.
Also tonight, Anne Thompson on the cars Detroit doesn't want to see. They are from China, and they cost just 10 grand. Brand new. And our popular MAKING A DIFFERENCE segment tonight: Rehema Ellis on a physician who is doing just that.
We hope you can join us for this evening's broadcast.
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