Amid the instant coverage surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden — which President Obama announced on Sunday night — one element was noticeably lacking: Politics.
While video captured the exulting crowds in Washington and New York and anchors struggled to provide information as it dribbled in, there was almost no discussion, thankfully, regarding how the story would play out in the days ahead politically.
CNN did feature analyst David Gergen, who merely mentioned — accurately — that CIA director Leon Panetta would likely breeze through confirmation hearings for his new post as Secretary of Defense. But in the few hours of coverage that I consumed, that was about it.
Granted, by mid-morning Monday, Rush Limbaugh will doubtless have found a way to turn the whole thing into a negative for the Obama administration. But to their credit, the networks — and this includes Fox News Channel — kept their focus on the central bit of news that came out: Bin Laden’s death, how it was accomplished, and how people felt about it, coming as it did a little over four months before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.
That isn’t to say the coverage was all scintillating and crystal clean. While George Stephanopoulos and Christiane Amanpour provided solid analysis, ABC had a technician or producer walk through a live shot, which was a little unsettling. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer threw to John King and his “magic map,” which as far as I can tell is just a blown up version of Google Earth — another lame attempt to transform staid old “news” into a videogame. And Fox News’ Jon Scott — a swaggering Ted Baxter impersonator in the best of times — tried to be cute by saying that Bin Laden had found out that the promise of 72 virgins after his death “was bunk.” And hey, be sure and tip your waitress!
In addition, all the networks — struggling to fill time — turned to social media, like Twitter, which is a lame means of soliciting commentary. CNN, for example, shared a Tweet from “How I Met Your Mother’s” Neil Patrick Harris. Talented guy, but I’m a little quizzical about his national-security credentials.
All told, though, a pretty good night for the networks, and by the way, a tough weekend for Donald Trump. First, he takes a verbal drubbing at the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner — and was apparently miffed by it. Then President Obama delivers the news that Bin Laden has been killed during “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Small indignities, sure, but I’ll say about his weekend what I’d say about Bin Laden’s: Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.