President Trump plans to address the nation on Tuesday regarding the government shutdown. He asked the networks for just eight minutes of air time to discuss this not inconsequential topic.
The networks reportedly agonized over whether to grant Trump the time. In the end, apparently, they agreed to do so. According to this report, CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC will air Trump’s address, as will cable networks Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Any other outcome seems almost inconceivable. Dylan Byers, writing for NBC News, notes that the networks did not air a speech about immigration by President Obama back in 2014. But Trump’s speech isn’t just about immigration, it’s about the partial shutdown of the federal government. The Democrats’ unwillingness to appropriate funding for a border wall led to the shutdown.
Thus, unless the networks consider the shutdown unimportant — a position that cannot be inferred from their reporting on it — the case for airing Trump’s address is overwhelming. There may have been a case for airing Obama’s 2014 remarks too, but if so, it was far less compelling.
We don’t know what Trump will say tomorrow, but it’s possible he will declare a national emergency at the border and announce his intention to wall off more of it without a congressional appropriation of funds for that purpose. In that event, the networks would look particularly ridiculous if they hadn’t given Trump air time for this announcement. But even without the possibility of Trump declaring an emergency, the decision to air his address should have been a no-brainer for the networks.