I have had an inconvenient bout of ‘flu this week. No big deal compared to the terrible events brought about by Superstorm Sandy. My ‘flu has forced me to switch off and sit back in front of my television set during these dramatic days of unprecedented danger to the East Coast of the USA, especially New York City and the State of New Jersey where I have good friends.
For a time we worried about you, my American friends, but you seem to have weathered the storm. Sadly not everyone was so lucky and the death toll is still rising as the extent of the damage is revealed in its full horror.
I watched the moving and impressive speeches made by President Obama and New Jersey State Governor Chris Christie and thought it was great to see the Democrat President and the Republican Governor standing as one and getting just the right amount of sympathy and practicality across to a shaken region of the States. To my, maybe naive, eyes and ears, both men seemed genuinely moved and involved in the human dramas and tragedies confronting them. The President, only days before the Presidential elections, looked to me to be first of all as human, then as the President, and only with hindsight, as a presidential candidate.
I was watching American news reports or American reporters on Sky News but then I turned over to the BBC News for a report by the BBC North America Editor, a windswept, ruddy-faced, Mark Maddell standing on the Atlantic City coastline, telling me that Barrack Obama had played it just about right at this point in the election campaign and that he would benefit from his performance in New Jersey. As far as Mr Mardell was concerned this was all about political gesturing.
I also saw former (sacked) director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, on the Sky News section on the newspaper headlines when he said, full of laughter, that Barrack Obama must have gone to bed last night thanking God for Hurricane Sandy.
I thought I was cynical but I hope never to get so tangled up in the power politics within the broadcasting media, to miss the human point so wildly as these two respected members of Britain’s television elite. I wondered if some of the current problems within the BBC over the previously much praised but now disgraced late paedophile pop presenter, Jimmy Savile, also stemmed from the blinkered vision that comes with an obsession with power games at the top of organizations that haunt so many decent journalists on their way to the top of their profession. Hearing these comments, I wondered if I had misread those moving scenes from New Jersey but then I clocked that, for some political pundits, in the end, politics is just a game and political commentary an exercise in showing off.
Back to last night’s BBC News which led with another cynical exercise in political trickery, the British Parliament’s short-sighted debate on the European Union’s budget which was analyzed by the BBC’s Political Editor with good-humoured scorn before moving on to Mark Mardell’s cynical report on the Obama visit to New Jersey that was followed by an update on the storm damage on the American East Coast, before a brief announcement from the anchor woman that if we wanted to catch up on other areas effected by the storm we could go to the BBC website. She was referring, of course, to the “forgotten” victims of Hurricane Sandy, the people of the Caribbean Islands where 66 people died. Britain seemed very parochial all of a sudden.