The Nightly News Follies at ABC

ABC World News Update:

Okay, first of all, I am an Elizabeth Vargas fan.  I faithfully watched Bob Woodward and Elizabeth Vargas nightly, expecting them to eventually vault to the top of evening newsdom’s pinnacle.  When Bob Woodward was wounded on assignment in Iraq, I immediately saw that his tragedy would be as definitive for the career of Vargas as it would be for his own.  The couple was television history in the making.   Although, I will admit that their replacement, Charles Gibson, has been stellar and there is no going back.  Gibson has a humble and effective style, the sort that worked so well for so long for Tom Brokaw over at NBC.

All of that notwithstanding, I cannot let pass a stunning moment this week when Vargas, sitting in for Gibson, had this inane exchange with correspondent Martha Raddatz.  I don’t know if the words alone will convey the moment.  You would have had to have been there.

Raddatz was reporting on the brutal power of iron man, Robert Mugabe, and his disruption of the election run- off in Zimbabwe.  And then Vargas and Martha had this exchange.

Says Vargas, with the breathlessness of a teenager, her face all screwed up in appropriate puzzlement, “But Martha, is there any way, in this day and age, to stop a man who will do anything to stay in power?” 

So help me, that is exactly what she said.  Apparently her writer is young, quite young, and devoid of any sense of history, “this day and age” being quite different from the age of Alexander or Caesar or Genghis Khan or Napoleon or Stalin or Pol Pot.  Wow, what an amazing “day and age” we live in.

To which Martha Raddatz, gave a very serious, mournful reply, straight, not a hint of a smile in her demeanor, “I think what they are doing at the U.N. is taking this one step at a time….” Ya de da de da.

Hmmmm. Now, what’s going on at ABC?  Nepotism? Writer’s strike? A last minute replacement? If it is the latter, I duly apologize.  It ain’t easy to write something with the start of the program only minutes away.

Or maybe it was the editor.  Maybe the original text was….

“But Martha, given America’s over extended commitments, and the war weariness in this nation, and the apparent lack of resolve at the U.N., what can be done?  Is there any way to stop a man who will do anything to stay in power?” 

Maybe the editor said, “Cut that in half!”

Oh well, American television news still beats the French, whose lead stories may be about a new musical recording or a change in the menu of a Parisian restaurant and who interview their politicians with softball questions.  “Mr. Minister, why do the people seem to like you so much?”

So, gee, what can ya do with a fellar like Mugabe in this day and age?

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