Everyone in the news business knows what it’s like to try to keep the flow of information going on what is universally known as a “slow news day.” Time to fish that press release about the impact of chlorofluorocarbon emissions on the ozone layer out of the trash and dress it up for dinner.
But once in a blue moon, the planets align in a journalistic syzygy and everything happens all at once. And since no one can be fully prepared for everything happening on the same day, all sorts of important people get frozen in the global headlights, whether their pants are buttoned or not.
Thursday, June 28, 2012, was that kind of special day. Here’s how it unfolded:
12 a.m. EST: Seismic ripples make their way to the U.S. from across the pond, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel has unleashed a titanic hissy fit on her way to the latest EU summit meeting on the disaster that is the Euro Zone.
Angela wants everyone to know she is absolutely fed up with all of the desperate pleading from financial basket cases Italy and Spain that Germany agree to share some of their debt burden. Never mind that they all share the same currency and the German economy towers over all of the other EU member states.
Before flying off for another emergency slap-down of the new president of France, Mrs. Merkel tells an appreciative audience of German MPs that Italy, Spain and the rest of the EU beggar states should just shut up and take their medicine. A couple of decades of crippling austerity and they’ll be just fine.
Frau Merkel doesn’t bother to mention Greece, currently on life-support in the EU’s fiscal intensive care unit. Last week, she laughed her head off at the Euro 2012 quarter-final match in Poland watching the German national soccer team eliminate the Greeks in a lopsided trouncing.
9 am: Everyone anxiously awaits word from the U.S. Supreme Court on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (not to be confused with Romneycare). The decision will be revealed at 10 am, we are told, depending on how long it takes Justice Scalia to park his car.
10:01 am: A CNN reporter runs out of the Supreme Court building in Washington and breathlessly tells the world on live TV that a majority of justices have voted to strike down Obamacare. The news is blasted across the home page of CNN’s website in 80-point type. This report is joyously repeated on Fox News.
10:03 am: Numerous Republican members of Congress unleash a torrent of self-congratulatory tweets hailing the end of Obamacare.
10:04 am: Every news organization in the world (sans CNN and Fox) reports that the Supreme Court has in fact upheld the Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 ruling in which Chief Justice John Roberts unexpectedly casts the deciding vote.
10:10 am: News organizations report that Roberts has declared that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, forcing everyone to buy health insurance, violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, unlike CNN, these organizations do not stop reading Roberts’ 193-page majority opinion on page 3.
10:12 am: News analysts explain that, although President Obama and the Democrats in Congress insisted the penalty for violating the mandate is not a tax, Roberts says the penalty walks like a tax, quacks like a tax and since it is to be enforced by the IRS even though Congress has essentially eliminated the fine for violating it, it is in fact a tax and therefore the mandate is deemed to be constitutional. Got it?
10:18 am: News organizations role out myriad explanations of what the survival of the Affordable Care Act means to the average American. But since no one, including most of the members of Congress, actually has read the 2,700-page healthcare law (Justice Scalia famously said during oral arguments in the case: “You don’t expect us to read this, do you?”), nobody can explain what it means.
10:22 am: CNN sheepishly corrects the story and headline on its website, but forgets to change its twitter feed teaser.
10:35 am: Republican members of Congress begin deleting celebratory tweets about Obamacare. Democratic members of Congress begin posting expletive-filled tweets taunting Republicans.
10:40 am: Democratic members of Congress begin deleting taunting tweets, replacing them with statesmanlike tweets heralding the reaffirmation of the Republic.
10:51 am: Political pundits declare the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare a “great victory for President Obama.”
10:52 am: Political pundits declare the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare “an albatross” around the neck of the president that he will have to carry around until Election Day.
11 am: A doctored image of the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” photograph goes viral on the Web. President Obama’s head has been photoshopped over Harry Truman’s. Instead of the Chicaco Tribune, Obama is holding an iPad displaying CNN’s home page before they corrected their big mistake.
12 pm: The U.S. House of Representatives prepares to take an historic vote to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to provide documentation to a Congressional committee investigating a gun-running sting in Mexico about which said committee has already determined Holder knew nothing.
1 pm: Legal analysts attempt to explain how Congress might enforce a first-ever contempt citation against a sitting attorney general. Presumably, they say, Congress would ask the Justice Department, which is run by the attorney general, to take action against the attorney general. Nobody actually says that Holder would have to arrest himself.
1:30 pm: News reports circulate about an “uprising” in the CNN newsroom by “mortally embarrassed” staffers. Pundits speculate on whether CNN’s reporting error is “an albatross” that the cable news network will have to wear around its neck. Someone tweets that Ted Turner is demanding his CNN stock back from Time Warner.
2 pm: Germany’s soccer squad prepares to face Italy in the semi-final of the Euro 2012 tournament. The winner will face Spain, which has already advanced to the final. ESPN displays headlines that have been running in German newspapers all week. “NO ONE CAN STOP US!” one of them says, in 80-point type.
2:45 pm: The match between Germany and Italy begins in Poland. In Washington, more than 100 Democrats walk off the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and out of the Capitol Building as voting begins on the contempt citation against Attorney General Holder.
3:10 pm: Italy scores the first goal against Germany. The U.S. House of Representatives votes to hold Eric Holder in contempt, including 17 Democrats who say they did so out of concern that the National Rifle Association would lower their scores on the NRA’s scorecard, which keeps track of how loyally members of Congress adhere to the gun lobby’s positions on issues that involve guns.
3:45 pm: Italy scores the second goal against Germany.
4:45 pm: Germany scores its only goal against Italy in extra time.
4:46 pm: The referee in Poland blows his whistle. Germany is ousted from the Euro 2012 tournament. Italy will play Spain in the final.
4:47 pm: People begin dancing in the streets of villages throughout Italy and Spain.
4:48 pm: A German cable news outlet erroneously reports in an 80-point headline on its website that Germany has defeated Italy in the Euro 2012 semifinal.
4:49 pm: A correction is posted on the German website: “Das ist nicht correct” it says.
4:52 pm: Angela Merkel issues a statement. The German team must wear its defeat “like an albatross” around its neck, she says.
4:59 pm: The Italian prime minister announces at the EU summit that he made a bet with Angela Merkel over the outcome of the Euro 2012 semifinal. According to the terms of the bet, Germany must forgive Italy’s debt in the wake of the Italian victory in the soccer match.
5:05 pm: Spain’s prime minister says he also had the same bet with Chancellor Merkel.
6:15 pm: Germany announces it is withdrawing from the European Union and restoring the Deutschmark.
6:30 pm: The value of the euro suddenly collapses, making exports from Spain, Italy and Greece immediately competitive with German goods. Investors begin scooping up bonds securing the sovereign debt of the three nations.
6:35 pm: The prime minister of Greece rises from his hospital bed. “I can walk!” he says.
7:25 pm: Rush Limbaugh announces he has canceled his health insurance and vows to violate the individual mandate.
8:35 pm: The House of Representatives votes to defund the Internal Revenue Service.
10:59 pm: Eric Holder slips across the Mexican border wearing a disguise while driving a 1979 Ford Pinto.
11:35 pm: A U.S. border guard tells CNN he didn’t recognize Holder because “he was wearing an albatross around his neck.”
11:59 pm: President Obama pardons Attorney General Holder, declares the albatross “a pre-existing condition now covered by the Affordable Care Act.”