Arthur Solomon, Public Relations Consultant
When Gilbert and Sullivan wrote, “The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra la,” for Nanki-Poo to sing in their comic opera, “The Mikado,” they had no idea that the lyrics might apply to the American political scene.
Substitute the word “candidates” for “flowers” and the lyrics depict what passes for the coverage of presidential hopefuls on cable TV with one exception: The role of The Mikado, (the English name for The Emperor of Japan), is played by an ensemble cast of cable TV performers who pretend they know everything and fancy themselves “political experts,” even though based on the accuracy of their comments, they’re better cast for playing the role of court jesters in Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”
The last time the cable TV pseudo political experts built up a candidate by reporting on his every spoken word, his every tweet and covered every rally as if was what was being said was the words of the Lord, the result was the election of President Trump.
After that election, and seeing how the Man on the White Horse (to his followers) behaved, the cable hacks began beating their chests saying, “Next time we have to do it different.” That sentiment lasted as long as it takes a snow flake to last in Miami. In other word, never happened. But the situation reinforced what I’ve been saying and writing about for years – don’t take seriously what you hear on cable political shows. And if you do watch them, consider them just another entertainment vehicle, a little more sophisticated (maybe) than watching the TV test patterns, but not as educational; as watching Sesame Street.
In 2019, the cable political TV scripts are the same, but to give the appearance of change, new leading actors are being highlighted – Beto O’Rourke, a little known Texas congressman who moved from the wings of the stage to The Apron. The reason for his advance from being one of 435 bit players in the House of Representatives to stardom was his losing the U.S. Senate election to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, often called the most disliked person in Congress. But that’s show biz. But wait. Another politician who the cable talkers have predicted stardom for is Stacey Abrams. Her claim to fame? Losing her run for the governor of Georgia.
Other cable TV designated political heavyweights are Kamala Devi Harris, the U.S. Senator from California, who is also being touted as a 2020 candidate for president, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, crowned by the cableists as AOC, whose approval rating in New York City declined, even among Democrats, because of her opposition to the deal that would have brought Amazon to the city, according to a Siena College poll of registered New York state voters. It’s only a matter of time before the cable pundits start touting her as a “presidential candidates of the future.” (Full disclosure: Ms. AOC lost me because of her opposition to bringing Amazon to New York. Being a flexible person, I’m willing to politically support her when she personally financially supports the thousands of individuals who were denied jobs that Amazon would have created.)
I have nothing against Mr. O’Rourke or Ms. Abrams, cable’s darlings of the day. If either becomes the Democrats nominee for president and gets elected, they might become the greatest president since George Washington; conversely they might become the worst president since err…Donald Trump, (who makes the former worst president, Herbert Hoover, look like a sure fire Presidents’ Hall of Fame inductee).
It’s not Mr. O’Rourke or Ms. Davis’ fault that the cable people have elevated them to stardom. And it certainly can’t disturb them from being center stage stars. The problem is by devoting so much time to their every word, every hand gesture, let’s face it, everything they say or do, it’s similar to the coverage given to Trump during his campaign.
When President Trump was running for the office, other GOP candidates were given minimal coverage by the cableists. It was Trump, Trump, Trump all the time. No need for Trump to buy air time; cable was giving it to him free. Thus it is with some of the Democratic hopefuls because the bottomless stomach pit of TV political coverage must be fed 24/7.
Political coverage on cable TV is similar to the way baseball writers cover spring training – rookies are heralded as the next coming of Babe Ruth. But as the season progresses, the early phenoms give way to players who have a track record. And so it will be with the Democratic hopefuls, most of who are in the presidential race for experience and to gain national name recognition that they hope will help them in future campaigns.
As an avid viewer of cable TV political commentary, I’ve learned one sure thing about cable’s coverage of presidential candidates: In order to be considered a winner in the presidential candidate’s sweepstakes, you have to be a loser – like Mr. O’Rourke and Ms. Abrams – in actual elections.
(Full disclosure: My first public relations job was with a political agency. If cable TV was around in those days I would know how to get any candidate extensive and free TV time – just announce that the candidate was running for president.)
About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com