It’s hard to underestimate the importance of what went on today in Washington. James Comey, the former head of the FBI, accused our president of telling “lies, plain and simple.”
The three or four of you may have watched it live with me. I went to Planet Fitness after doing the radio show and got on the treadmill. One of the cool things about doing this is that there are 10 huge TVs on the wall. You can watch ten channels at once, catching up on all of your current events in a 20-minute sweat on a treadmill.
This morning, six of the ten televisions carried Comey’s appearance live. That’s a lotta Comey. Of the four channels that were not carrying Comey, two were sports channels, one carries only reruns of old shows from the 1970s, and the other was the in-house Planet Fitness channel of music videos. Other than that, the whole world was watching James Comey.
“I was fired… to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
This is a deep allegation about President Donald Trump. If true, as many of the talking heads on CNN and other channels have been saying tonight, it hints of obstruction of justice. We could be watching Watergate all over again.
Or maybe not. Yes, it looks bad for our president. But then again, he is new to the game of politics and could have simply made a mistake that should be forgiven so he can go on running our country. At least that’s what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said today about Trump – “"The President's new at this. He's new to government. So, he probably wasn't steeped in the long-running protocols…”
The three or four of you and I don’t know what’s going to happen. We may not even know how we feel about Donald Trump, which became clear to me after the radio show this morning.
“So how do you feel about Donald Trump?”
That’s what WJOB station manager Debbie Wargo asked me as I was standing there working on something with producers Ryan Walsh and intern Max Baker. This question made me think.
First, Debbie has heard me talk on the air every morning for hundreds of hours about Donald Trump. If she doesn’t know by now how I feel about Trump, then she’s never gonna know. Perhaps she’s not listening.
Or maybe she is. Maybe I have walked a tightrope with Trump, pointing out what I see as his flaws while giving credit for his accomplishments and potential. This would be old-school, a way of presenting that is not in vogue at the moment. It seems that to be successful on the radio these days, you have to take a stand one way or another.
In the past, as in when I worked at WJOB in the mid-1980s, you could stimulate discussion and thought by rolling out poignant questions and observations about an elected official. You could present both sides of their worth and then let the callers decide.
These days, however, in a time when hate rules and truth does not, most hosts have become the callers of the 1980s – they take sides, they rant, they let their own feelings about politicians be known.
But what if you’re not sure about a politician. What do you do then as a radio host?
And that takes us back to Debbie’s question – “how do you feel about Donald Trump,, JED?”
I’m not sure. That’s the answer I gave to Debbie and the same one I present to the three or four of you just before midnight on Thursday, June 7, 2017.
I’m not sure.
As an American, I want Donald Trump to succeed at his job. I don’t care as much about what party he’s in or even about much of his dogma. And as a businessperson, I see the merit in putting someone in charge who knows business.
But he’s screwing up.
“One of the things that worries me these days is that he’s being so stupid. I don’t like stupid.”
“Well,” Debbie responded. “I just feel that no matter what he does it’s not gonna be taken as right. I wish he’d stop tweeting.”
She has a point. Much of the country has closed its mind to Donald Trump. He really is a buffoon. I get that. But then again we elected him and why is there this strong thrust to scratch him off of the pedestal that we’ve created called the presidency? It’s part of our current culture of hate and not truth, a culture which Trump tapped into to get elected in the first place. But there’s a real danger if millions of Americans don’t even accept that he’s in charge. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, we’re headed for a real downfall if we don’t get this straightened out.
So, since life imitates radio, maybe I gotta figure out exactly how I feel about Trump. In that regard, thanks to the three or four of you for allowing me to ramble to nowhere. It helps me sharpen my own confusion so I can bring to the air in five and a half hours a more focused confusion.
This morning, I did the following:
6:30 – interviewed Brenda Cook, who was on the South Shore train on Tuesday when it derailed.
6:50 – talked with Tom Long, the CEO of NITCO, which is taking on Comcast and AT&T in East Chicago and elsewhere
7:25 – sat in studio with Ralph and Tina Flores, who are bringing the Serbian national baseball team to Oil City Stadium in Whiting to play the Oilmen. It turns out that there are only 300 baseball players and one field in Serbia, but they wanna grow. Don Poprovac, who owns the Oilmen, also came in.
7:50 – Scarlett Mrvan, 10, came in with her dad, Frank, the trustee of North Township. Scarlett has a rather whippy attitude, which makes for decent radio. As a matter of fact, the whippier, the better. Frank and I talked about poor relief.
There was an interesting phone call with Dave from Crown Point near the end of Frank’s show. Frank had been talking about the 100-plus layoffs in the East Chicago schools and how he’s “reaching out” to those laid off to see if he can help.
“Sounds like you’re pandering for votes,” Dave from Crown Point said. And then we had a really good discussion about the role of government when there’s big layoffs. It could have gotten nasty, but Scarlett was sitting there with headphones on. Dave from Crown Point, who was making the criticism, was even more civil than normal.
10:15am – As I was walking the treadmill at Planet Fitness, my phone rang. It was Debbie.
“The cameras aren’t working. Phil Potempa’s here with a bunch of people to do his show, and the cameras aren’t working. What do we do?”
So I hopped off the treadmill and onto my bike and rode to WJOB not on the bike trail, which would have taken more time but have been much safer, but on busy route 41. Several semis whizzed by, but I was able to get two of the four cameras working. This means that two aren’t working. I set my alarm for 3:30am so I coujld ride my bike down to the station early to fix them.
You’d think, the three or four of you, that I’d be pissed about being pulled from my reverie on the treadmill, where I was watching the Comey-Trump drama unfold. But not really. As I was pedaling under 80-94, with a semi a few feet away, I thought of something.
“Look at me. I’m rushing back to the station, not to fix radio but to fix TV. Phil could do his show on radio only, but that’s not what he wants. He wants TV.”
And that’s the message of the day – “he wants TV.” As the three or four of you know, I write this blog partly to catch the transition of radio to something other than radio. It’s happening quickly. I was able to fix a couple of the cameras. Phil interviewed three women from Johnson Farms in Hobart, where they have installed a kiddie train and other entertainment venues. And in the second part of his show, Phil interviewed Johan, who teaches religion at Bishop Noll high school. Life goes on. Radio goes on. And now, streaming video goes on too.