Back before the Earth cooled, it was an unquestioned article of faith among those laboring in the fields of the Fossil Fuel Media that August was “a slow news month,” especially for politics.
With schools, Congress and the Legislature all out of session, the highly-paid, glass-office suits headed for Tahoe or Bora Bora, leaving the peons behind to mind the city desk and confront long weeks of desperate striving to devise something – anything! – to fill the vast, barren stretches of newsprint strung between the Macy’s underwear ads.
Veteran members of the Calbuzz Content Production Team fondly recall their papers running massive, front-page color photos of rug rats sucking water from a garden hose – festooned with “How Hot WAS It?” headlines – or ersatz stories about alligators mysteriously spotted in urban lakes , or “Dear Reader” editor’s columns about the dearth of news in August (sort of like this one).
But now, it appears, the traditional slow news month has gone the way of other civilized newsroom traditions, like the pica pole, the early slide and the liquid lunch.
In California, partisans and pols have barely paused for breath in the 100-year war over the state budget , while wannabes disdain the quaint notion of taking a summer siesta off the campaign trail or halting tit for tat attacks.
And on the Right Coast, the Biggest Foot columnist for the New York Times
has declared that this month – August! – to be a make or break month for President Obama, a theme embraced, echoed and embellished by other powerful pundits:
“July proved the most difficult month of (Obama’s) young administration,” Dan Balz, the Boswell of Big O’s Administration wrote in a widely noticed WashPost piece:
“His approval ratings dropped. Disapproval of his major initiatives rose sharply. Neither the House nor the Senate met his deadline to pass a version of health care. Finally, the White House and its allies at the Democratic National Committee ended up in a high-pitched argument over whether citizens protesting health care were expressing real or manufactured anger.
That raises the stakes for August. As Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg put it: “Everybody understands they [Obama and his Democratic allies] have to be in a new chapter when they come back at the end of August.”
While Balz’s piece provided a characteristically clear and conscientious survey of the current political terrain, Calbuzz looked in vain for discussion of a crucial point about the perils facing the president: his closed door deal with Big Pharma.
Beyond the howls and shouts about the town hall meetings over health care, it is the ongoing White House double talk and conflicting reports about what Obama did or did not promise the pharmaceutical industry in secret confabs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue which pose the greatest risk of self-inflicted political damage to the president.
Throughout the campaign, Obama famously promised that when he came to tackle the intractable problem of health care, he would broadcast on C-Span his meetings with Big Pharma, which he vowed would bend to the full power of the federal government in negotiating prescription drug prices for Medicare, perhaps the single most important and practical consumer reform at stake in the health care debate.
If reports are true, however, that Obama promised to cap the concessions on promised savings by the industry at $80 billion -– in exchange for a $150 million advertising campaign backing whatever plan the president supports — Obama will swiftly lose the mantle of political and personal integrity that was the crucial factor in his election as a tribune of new politics. Without that, his Yes-We-Can rhetoric about fundamental change will grow ever more empty and hypocritical.
Slow news month, indeed.
P.S. Amid all the real news, it’s good to see that leading media organizations have not forsworn that hardy summer perennial, the August anniversary story. Here are three of our favorites:
1. Jon Pareles of the New York Times churned out a delightful essay on the coming 40th anniversary of Woodstock, accompanied by a cornucopia of multi-media delights that reminded Calbuzz of our head band and love bead days.
2. Speaking of head bands, the Post also made good use of what you like to call your multi-platform storytelling in a 40-year look back at the Manson Family and the Helter Skelter murders.
3. And lest we forget, the By God L.A. Times reminds us that the Big Dick, who almost screwed the pooch on Manson’s conviction by declaring him guilty before the verdict, resigned as president 35 years ago this month.