The plan by Barack Obama's government to "dramatically" shrink the size of the Army to its lowest level since World War II warranted a scant one minute and 56 seconds of total coverage on Monday's morning shows. Yet, CBS, NBC and ABC devoted 19 and a half minutes to such topics as TV shows, makeup and viral videos. [MP3 audio of ABC's military coverage here.] None of the networks mentioned the President, shifting the responsibility solely to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The Today show allowed the least amount of coverage, a mere 21 seconds. This despite the program's four hour running time. Natalie Morales revealed, "Under the plan, the Army would shrink to its smallest force since the World War II build-up." She asserted that "the proposal is likely to face fierce opposition on Capitol Hill." If that's true, why devote less than 30 seconds and allow no debate? Instead, the Today anchors spent almost nine minutes on the subject of makeup and body image.
CBS This Morning promoted Two Broke Girls, a show that airs on the same network, for four minutes and 29 seconds. Yet, the news impacting the nation's military warranted 34 seconds. Co-anchor Norah O'Donnell briefly explained, "Today, the Pentagon announces plans for cuts targeting the military from top to bottom."
She quickly informed viewers that "other recommendations include cutting subsidies to commissaries which sell groceries at a discount to military families and a hike in health care premiums and smaller allowances for troop housing."
ABC's Good Morning America managed two brief reports totaling one minute and one second. Martha Raddatz noted that Hagel "will submit a recommendation as part of a budget preview today that would shrink the Army to about 450,000 soldiers from a high of about 570,000."
Raddatz similarly insisted that "you can expect a big fight on Capitol Hill." While this brewing controversy barely registered a minute of precious air time, the GMA hosts used six minutes and five seconds to look at viral video "fails." As with NBC and CBS, there was no mention of Obama.
Is this really the best move for America's defense or our nation's military members? Perhaps an actual debate would have been warranted. The networks, however, couldn't make the time.
A transcript of the first GMA segment, which aired at 7:08am ET on February 24, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And meanwhile, a big announcement from the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about to announce his new budget, which projects the smallest United States Army since before World War II.
MARTHA RADDATZ: He will submit a recommendation as part of a budget preview today that would shrink the Army to about 450,000 soldiers from a high of about 570,000. There were already scheduled cuts, but this certainly goes further. There are also plans to cut an aging Air Force attack jet. But this is the reality of the post-9/11 era. The Pentagon does not see future wars involving massive invading armies. The focus will be on special operations and drones, but nevertheless, George, you can expect a big fight on Capitol Hill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about that. Martha Raddatz, thanks very much.