It was a perfect moment. Mid-afternon, June 15, 2016. CNN.
Wolf Blitzer had his team of talking heads ready to bloviate on Trump versus Hillary in the context of the Orlando shooting. They had just seen a video clip of the Donald, posturing and gesticulating, the consummate blowhard, bully, and con man. Then followed a clip of Hillary, giving a policy wonk speech at some conference, displaying all the empathy and connection of a dry sponge.
To top it off, the screen showed a graph of the candidates' respective disapproval ratings: 77 % disapproval for Trump, 55% for Hillary. The talking heads had just started when, inexplicably, the screen cut to a live press conference being given by the FBI and local officials on the ground in Orlando.
Suddenly, we saw real people. Not posturing for our attention, trying to convince us of their worth, but people doing a difficult job, asking the media for help, but also asking the media to give them a break.
There was the kind of police chief we rarely see on T.V. Talking about how the whole community was grieving. The gay community. The Latino community. His own officers, tough, hardened veterans who had faced down murderers and thieves, and nothing they had experienced before had prepared them for something like this. All those officers were on leave, undergoing counselling, and the chief pleaded with the media to leave them alone, noting that some aggressive media types had been trying to force themselves on the officers in their own homes.
There was the local US attorney, asking members of the public who were phoning death threats to members of the Muslim community to cut it out. "All you're doing is making our work more difficult."
He could barely contain himself, he was so mad.
There were others--the lead FBI agent, the mayor. Each time a speaker said there was someone else who wanted to say a few words, I braced myself for some opportunist coming forward to exploit the moment, make it about them rather than about what had happened.
Not a sign of it.
Even more amazing, the CNN coverage of the press conference went on for a good ten minutes. Maybe their people on the ground were as mesmerized as I was.
Wolf and his team never came back.
How is it that in America we only see these kinds of people, this kind of character, in the aftermath of a tragedy?