November 7, 2012

CNN is a funny thing. Ever since MSNBC abandoned the mushy center, transforming itself into a liberal fantasy land, CNN has stood alone at the intersection of cable news and vaguely serious reporting. Because it employs anchors who are more than crackpot ideologues, CNN has won the moral high ground by default. Rather than rise to the occasion and transform themselves into something authoritative and real, the network has floundered. CNN isn’t the New York Times of cable news. It’s something you watch in the airport.

No one embodies this bland style of journalism more than the network’s senior anchor, Wolf Blitzer. A man with a wonderful name, a trustworthy face, and a voice you could follow through a pea-soup fog, he looks every bit the part of a Serious Newsman. But really, he’s a moron.

This is a fairly well-known fact. The video of his horrendous performance on Celebrity Jeopardy! has circulated for a while now, but it’s always worth revisiting. What’s amazing is not just that he doesn’t know that fettuccine isn’t round, but how completely unfazed he appears to be by his catastrophic failure. He doesn’t wince; he doesn’t smirk; he doesn’t make any self-deprecating jokes. No matter how badly he screws up, it never dents his Teflon grin.

When faced with the clue, “Selected some material from a larger work,” he answers, “Annodated?” Not only is that wrong, not only is it not quite a word—he didn’t even phrase it in the form of a question! No wonder Wolfy doesn’t get to play with the Big Board.

During last night’s election special, the CNN team turned in their usual performance, with coverage that was as intellectually nourishing as a concussion. While John King tickled the swing counties of Ohio and Anderson Cooper stood around looking distinguished, Wolf floated around with all the authority of an untethered helium balloon. As the massive election ticker behind him wound down, all he could say was “Wow!”

It’s not clear to me why CNN has kept Wolf Blitzer around, except for the possible reason that his name looks wonderful on a sign, and he’s fit enough to spend six hours standing at a stretch. (For God’s sake, why doesn’t the Situation Room have any Situation Chairs?!) If the network wanted to be taken seriously, they would get someone with a little more class. Having Wolf tootle around the Situation Room night after night is a declaration of proud mediocrity. He’s not even a fool, he’s just not there—a cardboard cutout of a news anchor for a cardboard cutout of a news channel.

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