I know this is a sensitive subject, so I'll do my best to be thoughtful and polite.
As I wrote the other day, I was sorry to hear about Nancy Reagan's passing. She lived a long 95 years, which is wonderful, and I wish comfort to her family.
It was odd, bordering on bizarre, how much an incredible amount of time the cable news networks spent covering the death of a 95-year-old former First Lady, upwards to six hours. But so they did, and we moved on.
Or so I thought. Because now it turns out that everyone -- not just cable news, but all the networks, as well -- have preempted their regular programming and are covering her funeral.
I don't even begin to grasp why.
She was the First Lady. This isn't a presidential funeral. Her husband was in office a quarter-century ago. And I don't recall the funeral of any previous, former-First Lady ever being broadcast before during the age of television. I don't recall it for Jacqueline Kennedy, or for Lady Bird Johnson, or Betty Ford, all of whom in many ways were highly admired, or Mamie Eisenhower or Pat Nixon. I don't have a recollection if there was a televised funeral even for Eleanor Roosevelt, who may be one of the most renown First Ladies in American history. And "may have been" is probably an understatement.
But total coverage for Nancy Reagan? Is this going to be the standard from now on? When we lose Barbara Bush or Rosalyn Carter will their funerals be covered? (And then eventually one day there will be Hillary Clinton, but then she became a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, although the networks may get cut a break on deciding since she may well become President.) Will we get six hours of reporting when all future First Ladies pass away? On the one hand, we'd darn well better, and this had better not be a Special Thing just for Nancy Reagan for some unknown reason? On the other hand, we'd darn well better not, because this is inexplicably unnecessary. It's a dear loss to the family, and it's an unfortunate passing for a figure in American life. But seriously, that's it. For the moment part, admirable though some may have been, we know of them purely because of who they were married to, not for their accomplishments. Some did have public accomplishments -- Mrs. Kennedy impacted cultural life, so too did Lady Bird with her beautification programs, and Betty Ford did a great deal for addiction after her husband left office. -- but so have a great many public figures. And I'm not aware of any from Mrs. Reagan. (And no, I don't include "Just Say No," which was more a short-term PR slogan, rather than a serious and ongoing anti-drug effort she was actually committed to beyond the hype.)
So, what this is all about is beyond me.
I didn't expect national coverage of any of the previous First Ladies who passed way in recent years or ever during the age of television. I'm sorry for all their passings, and salute that they all had a part in White House history. But I believe that national coverage of funerals should be held to a high standard of something special and meaningful for a moment in American history.
And this doesn't even come remotely close to that standard. And it adds a false impact that is not deserved.
And again, I'm sorry to the family for their loss.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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