The Moment

Published: February 2, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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The first time I became aware that the plane was in trouble I looked out the window and realized that the ground was coming up quickly.


The oxygen masks dropped, and the pilot announced, “Yes, we want you all to put your oxygen masks on!”

Flight attendants quickly went about helping passengers remain in their seats and put on their masks.

Another look out the window and I noticed that the plane was leveling off.

When things began returning to normal, the pilot explained the problem:  in an effort to adjust the heat in a rear compartment, a malfunction caused the plane to lose pressurization.  We had to descend quickly because of a lack of oxygen.  The absence of pressurization meant that we would not be able to clear the Rockies making it necessary for us to land at a small airport in Texas and change planes.

The flight crew had handled the whole incident with cool professionalism.  It was quite a moment.  And although the entire episode never made the news, it made me appreciate the calm professionalism of pilots like U.S. Airways Chesley Sullenberger and his crew in the crisis they faced last month in making an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River.

Thinking back on it though, I started wondering, should I have done more to help?

Maybe I should have offered to help the attendants?  Perhaps I should have gone forward and checked on the pilot and co-pilot to see if they were doing everything possible to get us down safely?

Sound ridiculous?  Of course.

But that’s just what cable news pundits are doing with the economic crisis we’re facing and the President’s stimulus plan.

CNN’s “Situation Room” had a panel of experts review Mr. Obama’s performance in his second week in office; his secondweek!

Several cable programs jumped on the Obama-Watch bandwagon when the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by no less a financial authority than Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh offered his own stimulus plan:

“Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let’s say the vote was 54% to 46%.

“As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion — $486 billion — will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46% — $414 billion — will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me.”

Following-up this “sterling” proposal, CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” had Erin Burnett and Mark Haines interview Limbaugh.  This is the show that offers a variety of experts on all things financial. (The operative given being: financial experts.)

Both the Journal and CNBC had to know that the “Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan” was just another stunt cooked-up by the conservative radio host to focus more attention on only one thing… Limbaugh!

At a time when our country is in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we don’t need stunts, gimmicks or gasbags offering plans.  We need rational, realistic leadership in working our way out of this mess; a mess that will take years to resolve and get us back on track.

I’m all for inquiry and accountability through the press.  It’s essential.  But while the media is scrutinizing the responsibilities of Washington, maybe they need to exercise a little more responsibility of their own by examining the motives of potential guests before giving them air time, thus making their “plans” more credible then they really are.

I sure don’t want Limbaugh, or anyone else for that matter, going to the front of the plane second-guessing what the pilot and crew is or is not doing for the safety of the passengers.  I want the crew we signed on for to go about their jobs with the level of trust and confidence that we’ve placed in them.

The 111th Congress and new President have been in office less than one month.  Let’s give them a chance to succeed. Let’s not sabotage our own success with gasbag rhetoric and crackpot schemes.

Let’s have a media that tries to elevate the debate on important issues by asking the right questions of the right people.


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