My First CNN Commentary

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(Originally on CNN: March 8, 2014)

I’m Michael Smerconish. 

I’ve worked in television as a commentator and guest-host for years, but I’ve always wanted a program of my own.

This is it. And I’m excited.

It’s fitting that it should air on a Saturday morning, given our political climate.

See, Saturday mornings, growing up in the Philly suburbs back in the 70s, that’s when my brother and I used to watch pro wrestling.

We’d be down in our rec room, surrounded by cheap paneling and sitting in these hideously colored bean bag chairs. On TV, we’d watch our heroes: “Haystacks” Calhoun. The “Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino, and my favorite, “Chief Jay” Strongbow (by the way, I can still do his war dance).

And look at me now…

Today, I work in media equivalent of the pro wrestling I used to watch as a kid. There are good guys and bad guys. Every battle is good vs. evil. The sides are pre-determined. And very fight is choreographed.

Nobody got hurt watching pro wrestling back in the day. Our parents all knew it was fake. But today, this media form of entertainment comes with a cost. It sets the tone for our public debate.

In the last thirty years, we’ve experienced  unprecedented polarization. Consider that in the early 80s – on Ronald Reagan’s watch – 60% of the Senate was comprised of moderates. Today, every Senate Republican is more conservative than every Senate Democrat, and every Senate Democrat is more liberal than every Senate Republican. “Compromise” has become a dirty word. And incivility reigns.

That’s the same time period that has marked the rise of a polarized media. And I don’t believe in coincidence.   I see a causal connection. I think too many elected officials are taking their cues from broadcasters who should be wearing wrestling tights. 

So I’d like to try a different approach. By covering the news of the day in a way enhances your ability to reach our own independent conclusions.

I myself have plenty of opinions – they just don’t fit neatly into one label. I’m liberal on some things.  Conservative on others. And there’s plenty I just haven’t figured out.

There’ll be no litmus tests for watching.

Thanks for joining me.