These are important times.
In Congress, Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a political tug-of-war over runaway federal spending. It will again reach the critical stage when Congress is asked to raise the limit on the federal debt. If Congress capitulates and again raises the debt ceiling, conservative Republicans say it will only encourage more irresponsible federal spending. That’s probably true, but it is not raised, the United States for the first time will default on its loans. Almost everyone agrees that will have a tremendous economic impact not only on the economy of the United States but of the entire world.
Members of Congress are still grappling about illegal immigration and reforming Medicare and Social Security. However, the solutions most Americans support simply will not work. Unless we want to throw 12 million or so illegal immigrants in jail or ship them home, we cannot “solve” the immigration programs without offering some form of amnesty.
Many Americans want to keep Medicare and Social Security just as they are, and as someone who plans to start drawing my Social Security in the next few years, I also would like to maintain the status quo. However, I also recognize Uncle Sam lacks the money to fund Social Security and Medicare without major reforms. The funding problems are only going to get worse as millions of baby boomers like me retire. But instead of trying to solve the problems, both Democrats and Republicans are resorting to “scare” tactics and making as much political hay as possible off of this very real issue.
But my intention in this column is not to talk about raising the debt ceiling, offering amnesty for illegal aliens, taking essential steps to prevent Social Security and Medicare from almost certain bankruptcy, ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, what I think about the Republican candidates for president or any other “trivial” issues of the day.
Instead, my intention is to write about what the 24-hour TV news channels keep telling me is the most important story of our time: the murder trial of Casey Anthony in Orlando, Fla.
I thank the 24-hour news channels for telling me just how important this trial is. When I first heard about it, I thought the trial of a mother charged with killing her nearly 3-year-old daughter in June 2008 was just one of dozens of other similar trials that take place in the United States every year.
The idea of a mother killing her little girl is a horrid thought, and if she is found guilty, Casey Anthony deserves to be severely punished. However, whether Anthony is found guilty or is acquitted, it won’t affect my life in the least. If Casey Anthony is freed, the chances of her coming to Ashland and killing someone are next to zero.
So do I think she is guilty? I have no idea. Every time the talking heads on the news channels begin discussing this case, I turn my brain off. I don’t have a dog in this fight. The only people whose opinions count are those serving on the jury. What I think and the so-called legal eagles on the news channels think is of no importance, so why spend hours discussing this case?
All this coverage has little to do with seeking justice and everything to do with getting ratings. If Casey Anthony were unattractive and poor, this trial would never be mentioned on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News or any other TV news program. But she’s young, reasonably attractive and something of a spoiled brat. That’s why she is getting so much face time on TV. It certainly is not because this trial is of national importance.
Once upon a time, I was a strong advocate of allowing cameras in the courtroom, but the O.J. Simpson trial changed my view. Because of the virtual gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial, it became more about providing entertainment than achieving justice. The lawyers became “performers” in a real life drama.
More than a decade has passed since that trial, but we all remember the late Johnny Cochran’s most famous line: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Clever but not very profound.
If you are interested in achieving justice, keep the TV cameras out of the courtroom. If you want higher ratings, let the cameras roll.
Cannon is a co.lumnist with The Daily Independent in Ashland, Ky.