I once met the late ABC News anchorman Peter Jennings on the American University campus, in Washington. I can't remember the occasion but I took the opportunity to ask him if the TV networks ever show those graphic pictures of aborted infants. No, they don't, he said. They put just about anything on TV, but make an exception in this case. It's obvious why. Images of dismembered infants tell us what is really involved. Therefore they hurt the "pro-choice" cause. It's not too much to say that support for abortion has been sustained, at least in part, by a conspiracy of silence; abetted by circumlocutions like "procedure," "reproductive freedom," and "clinic."
The budget drama that has filled headlines for weeks is an important story, yet its outcome is still uncertain. Much is at stake: Is the U.S. to be kept on a permanently higher government spending path, which is what President Obama, most of the news media, and all the Democrats want? Or can spending be restored to pre-2008 levels?
I have been writing budget articles for years and in that time I have learned a simple lesson, as the following two anecdotes may show. My first such article, for Harper's in 1979, included an interview with Chris Matthews. A longtime aide to Speaker Tip O'Neill, Matthews, now a TV star, was an officer with the U.S. Capitol Police when he came to Washington. When I saw him he was toiling away in a Washington bureaucracy downtown -- maybe the OMB.
Chris was full of jokes, but he gave me this heads-up. "Budget?" he said in mock alarm. "No one reads articles about the budget!" Government reorganization was the number-one turnoff for readers, he said, but "budget" came in a close second. After I had written a few more (unread) budget articles, I realized how right he was.