CNN’s resident immigrant basher and birther booster, Lou Dobbs, has announced that he is leaving the network effective immediately.
This comes as somewhat of surprise, as Dobbs was considered to be secure in his position despite significant protest from civil rights groups. But it is hardly out of the blue. There has been frequent speculation about Dobbs’ future with CNN. His opponents have mounted well publicized campaigns to persuade CNN to drop the anchor. And many observers have thought that he would be a better fit for a right-wing network like Fox, particularly its struggling business channel. A Fox News spokesman (not a notoriously credible source) said that there have been no discussions with Dobbs. However that would contradict reports a month ago that Dobbs was seen dining with Fox CEO Roger Ailes in September.
However plausible a Fox/Dobbs partnership may appear, Dobbs’ on-air farewell struck a tone that suggested another possibility entirely:
“Over the past six months it’s become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us, and some leaders in media, politics, and business have been urging me to go beyond the role at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”
Dobbs went on to lament what he called “the lack of true representation in Washington, D.C.” There was an unmistakable ring of political aspiration in his remarks. Does this mean he might seek political office? Dobbs lives in New Jersey where they just elected a new governor. The next available senate seat doesn’t come up until 2012. It seems unlikely that Dobbs would give up a multimillion dollar TV gig for anything lower.
If I had to guess, I would venture that he may want to mount an independent campaign for President in 2012. While there would be no realistic scenario in which he could prevail, it would be just the sort of thing to stroke his immense ego. And there is a vocal and motivated minority that is primed to get behind a third party protest candidate. He would sweep up the Beck/Palin malcontents and, in all likelihood, smooth the way for Obama’s reelection.
Closer to home, CNN now has a hole to fill at 4:00pm. Judging by their past timidity, it is unlikely that CNN will replace Dobbs with a partisan from either side of the aisle. The last opening they had was given to Campbell Brown, who is notable for…um…..
If CNN is serious about establishing itself as a straight up news provider in contrast to the modestly left-leaning MSNBC and the raving histrionics of Fox, they will need to find an anchor with journalistic bona fides. They will need to avoid the trap of personality-driven spokesmodels. It would be wise for them to build an investigative news group as the central point of their programming. Adding more news readers like Blitzer or Cooper simply won’t lift them from their cellar dwelling. They need to demonstrate that there is a place for reporting that is probing and informative. And that passion for journalism is not twisted into rancorous blathering.
That’s a tall order, but getting rid of Dobbs is a step in the right direction. Now they have to show that they can embrace this opportunity and aim for something higher. Yeah, I know…I’m not holding my breath.
Update: CNN has announced that their own John King will replace Lou Dobbs. King is an old-school, straight news reporter. This means that CNN is properly moving away from the Fox model of news screeching, but it also means that they are probably not planning on innovating and advancing the state of media. Oh well.