Years ago, I tried to free myself at 5:30 each evening to recap the day’s major events by watching the network news. Walter Cronkite on CBS mostly, but Huntley-Brinkley on NBC on occasion.
Maybe I was naïve back then, but I always felt the reporters and anchors did their best to report on the events of the day factually and objectively, regardless of how they felt off camera. In fact, Cronkite, whose reporting dated back to World War II, was sometimes called “the most trusted man in America.”
But one does not live by network news alone. I admit back in those days I also got a huge kick out of watching “All-Star Wrestling” each weekend. Growing up in far southeast Wisconsin, we were able to pull in pro wrestling telecasts from Milwaukee, Rockford and Chicago. The matches were the same, but the interviews were different, and they were the best part.
The villains were especially hilarious. I couldn’t sit through an interview with the likes of Baron von Raschke, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and some others without bursting into laughter. Some of these guys weren’t just good at staging fake fights; they were also very talented comedians who riled audiences with witty one-liners as they promoted their upcoming live shows.
Looking back, it was juvenile, but it truly was funny. And the best part, unless someone slipped up, nobody got hurt.
But nothing lasts forever, and when pro wrestling went glitzy, and then when it became obvious that some of the performers were taking steroids, I stopped watching.
Unfortunately, I find myself heading in the same direction with the nightly news. The interviews with politicians seem just as staged as the old wrestling shows, but they’re not funny. However, just like pro wrestling, the outcomes of their ruses are predetermined.
Listening to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admit on camera that he would not be an impartial juror as is his duty in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump signaled that following the proceedings was a waste of time, because the outcome was preordained.
The fact that Trump tried to extort help from a foreign government for political gain is obvious. Even his defense team didn’t deny it outright, but they argued that such a stunt does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. Rather than at least voice some concerns over this abuse of power, almost all of the Republican senators denied Trump did anything improper whatsoever.
I wonder what the GOP response would have been had the name Barack Obama been substituted for Donald Trump in exactly the same scenario. Anyone who believes it would be the same is more gullible than those who thought “The Baron” really could render an opponent unconscious with “The Claw” hold.
Closer to home, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, in his recent State of the State message, called on changing how our legislative district boundaries are drawn. After the 2010 census, the majority Republicans gerrymandered our state to their advantage with great effectiveness.
As I watched Evers call for change in his speech, my mind wandered, because we all know that those who benefit from a rigged system aren’t going to change it. And because the Wisconsin Supreme Court is now also inhabited by political hacks in robes and likewise controlled by Republicans, judicial relief to such an affront to our democracy is out of the question.
But in a self-governing system, we can’t simply give up and tune out, as tempting as that may be.
For example, Evers in his recent speech, also called on the Legislature to take up a series of bills aimed at helping the state’s struggling farm industry. Evers said he believes small family farms can and should be saved.
That doesn’t jibe with comments last fall by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who during a visit to Wisconsin said, “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America, we, for any small business, have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”
So, which is it going to be? Either way, it’s a very important issue that deserves much discussion and input. Will that meaningful dialogue and action occur? I hope so, but based on recent experience, I’m not getting my hopes up.
After all, our hard-working state Legislature is scheduled to adjourn March 26 … for the rest of the year.
Believe me, von Raschke and his cohorts were more productive than that, and their charade brought a smile to my face. Not so with what’s going on these days in Madison and Washington.
When Trump, a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, claims his daughter created 15 million jobs or calls House Democrat Adam Schiff “a sick puppy,” it’s straight out of the pro wrestling interview handbook.
But when it’s our president spouting such nonsense, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic.
Huebscher is a contributing columnist and former Leader-Telegram editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.