Goldilocks came across three bears and three bowls of porridge. Baseball players get three strikes. Genies give three wishes. And today we have three things that have been on our mind lately.
1. Why is Terry McAuliffe now a CNN commentator? The former Virginia governor thought about running for president but decided otherwise. Now there’s talk that he might run for governor again; he senses an opportunity with the troubles that have befallen Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring. In the meantime, you can find him on CNN, opining about politics and the economy. We’re glad to see that McAuliffe finally has some gainful employment. But we feel compelled to make this observation: Having McAuliffe as a CNN commentator is exactly what’s wrong with cable “news” these days. The 24-hour cable news channels are light on news — and long on “commentary.” It’s inexpensive to produce, and having people yell back and forth at each other drives the ratings. It also leads to the polarization that paralyzes our nation today.
McAuliffe isn’t being hired for his nuanced insights on the politics of the day; he’s being hired because he’s a colorful speaker and an engaging personality. Is he ever going to say anything unpredictable? Of course not. That’s not the kind of thing that gets rewarded on cable news, unless it’s controversial, in which case the more controversial it is, the better.
With all due respect to McAuliffe, we don’t need another politician as a cable news “commentator.” The best thing Americans could do would be to turn off cable news networks entirely, unless something is burning down and we need to see that horror live. Yes, turn them off. Doesn’t matter if it’s CNN or Fox or MSNBC. Turn them all off.
There are plenty of places where people can find news and commentary— news that’s in more depth, and commentary more nuanced than anything you’ll ever hear on any of those cable networks. Naturally, we’re partial to newspapers, but the reality is that here are many places online to find national news (state and local news, not so much, which is our raison d’être). One of our go-to sites is realclearpolitics.com, a site that aggregates news and commentary from all different flavors, often with the liberal and conservative versions side-by-side — along with some versions that don’t neatly fit into any ideological pigeonhole. We typically find those the most interesting of all. Here’s a challenge: Go a week without watching cable news but instead consume all your news either online or by print. We’re willing to bet at the end of that week you’ll be more informed than you would have been otherwise —whether you were listening to McAuliffe’s commentary or not.
2. Will Ken Cuccinelli ever get confirmed? The former Virginia attorney general — who lost to McAuliffe in the 2013 governor’s race — also has a new job. He’s now acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. On the one hand, this makes sense. Cuccinelli is an immigration hard-liner, so he fits with Trump’s policies. On the other hand, the people unhappiest about Cuccinelli’s appointment are fellow Republicans. Democrats would have been unhappy with whomever Trump picked, but some Senate Republicans are livid because Cuccinelli has said some not-so-nice things about some of them. He also hasn’t exactly been a fan of Trump, but Trump is apparently more forgiving than some Senate Republicans. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said of Cuccinelli: “He’s made a career attacking other Republicans and frankly attacking President Trump. I doubt he will have the support to be confirmed.”
Trump, though, may respond simply by not nominating Cuccinelli for the job full-time; the president has figured out he can get around the constitutional requirement that high-ranking administration official be confirmed by the Senate simply by making them “acting” officials. You’d think a strict constructionist such as Cuccinelli might have something to say about that and ordinarily he might — but probably not right now. Perhaps we should tune in to see what McAuliffe says on CNN?
3. Are there aliens? In 2009 a group of senators persuaded the Pentagon to set up a secret program to study what the military prefers to call “unexplained aerial phenomena” but the rest of us call “unidentified flying objects.” The program expired in 2012 when funding ran out, which suggests that either there’s really not an alien threat — or the lizard people are already here and secretly in charge. And yet . . . in May, the New York Times published interviews with pilots who described multiple encounters with objects that they couldn’t identify and which didn’t appear to have conventional means of propulsion.
President Trump says he’s been briefed on UFOs but doesn’t really believe in them. A few weeks ago, some members of Congress requested and got secret briefings — including U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Warner’s spokesman cited his concern for pilots at military installations in Virginia.
“If pilots at Oceana or elsewhere are reporting flight hazards that interfere with training or put them at risk, then Senator Warner wants answers. It doesn’t matter if it’s weather balloons, little green men, or something else entirely — we can’t ask our pilots to put their lives at risk unnecessarily,” spokeswoman Rachel Cohen told CNN. (Yes, the same CNN we just told you to turn off).
That prompted us to ask: “So are there aliens? If so, do they represent a threat or do they come in peace? Perhaps the senator cannot say, but speaking hypothetically, if there were such a thing as space aliens, how would that change U.S. policy?”
Cohen’s response on Warner’s behalf: “These are all very good questions.”
Yes, we thought so, too.
We’re still waiting on actual answers, by the way.
We probably shouldn’t have expected Warner to blurt out that there’s an alien invasion fleet hiding behind the moon. And, realistically, if there were such a thing, you’d think we’d see the governments of the world responding a lot differently than they are. Suddenly that wall on the southern border wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. Unless Cuccinelli’s concern about illegal aliens is really of a more extraterrestrial variety? If you see Warner renting a copy of “Independence Day” at the neighborhood Redbox, let us know. Maybe McAuliffe will have something to say about all this on CNN? We’d make an exception for that.