Like many of you, I've had a big problem with the mainstream media's coverage of the defining story of the past two weeks. The cruel speculation, the invasive badgering of family members and friends, the unseemly fascination with autopsies and coffins and interments: Why, I ask you, can't or won't the media stop dwelling on the tragic deaths of those seven U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan?
Fortunately, one brave soul refuses to go along with the herd. With a parent's calm forbearance and the steely resolve of a crossing guard, this individual has explored a tragically under-discussed issue intelligently and incisively, never once raising her voice above conversational volume. Were it not for her, we'd have heard nary a peep about the death of faded '80s hitmaker Michael Jackson.
Nancy Grace, I salute you.
Such restraint has been Grace's hallmark since her elevation into the primo prime-time slot at the network formerly known as Headline News. Where other telepundits scream, accurse and vilify, Grace reasons. Where the others rush to assign guilt or innocence, Grace refuses to draw conclusions -- about the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape, for instance, or the individuals with whom Natalee Holloway may or may not have spent her final hours -- until all the facts are at hand.
Indeed, when a child goes missing, Grace abandons her beloved deconstructions of federal tax policy and does everything within her power to support the family. When a politician is embroiled in scandal, she ignores the lurid aspects and calmly returns the focus to his legislative agenda. She's as much a public servant as a media personality. On numerous occasions, she has remarked that the Salem witch trials rank among our most profound miscarriages of justice.
What really makes Grace the North Star of cable news' night sky, however, is her relaxed, nonconfrontational manner. Her resume says that she was a prosecutor in a past life; her gentle demeanor suggests instead that she spent her pre-media days applying liniment to the feet of homeless people. Her voice is tender to the ear, like a Callas aria or a kitten's whisper. She sounds nothing at all like a human jackhammer who owes her command of the English language to Kid Rock records and "Hooked on Phonics."
If there's a problem with Grace's show, and I'm not sure that there is, it's in her scorn for Johnny Lunchpail and Janey Pole-Dancer. Grace has long surrounded herself with intellectuals -- a Doris Kearns Goodwin here, an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn there -- and refuses to accept calls from any individual not pre-screened as a Mensa member or Democrat. If she doesn't broaden her socio-intellectual palette, her show risks alienating several demographically desirable populations (vigilantes, the unemployable, etc.).
Grace would also be well-served by peppering her questions with fewer nickel-and-dime words. If I had a quarter for every time Grace inserted "sesquicentennial" or "gynotikolobomassophilia" into one of her low-key exchanges with a pan-European diplomat, I'd be able to join AT&T, Geico, Nutrisystem and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" as an advertiser on her show.
But those are mere quibbles, tiny imperfections on a porcelain forehead. Less a call-and-response examination of high-profile crimes than a wondrous orb pulsing with light, warmth and unconditional love, Nancy Grace's HLN show makes "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" look like a fart sandwich. Thank you, Nancy, for elevating us all with your bonhomie and insight, and for remaining a woman of such uncommon, well, grace. Good night, friend.