Saturday, August 8, 2015

Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion by David Brinkley

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Those of you of a certain age will surely remember the nightly news anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. The Huntley-Brinkley Report ran for over two decades on NBC. The two signed off with their signature "Good night, David" "Good night, Chet" for the last time on July 31, 1970. 

Chet Huntley reported from New York City while David Brinkley held down the desk in Washington, D.C. After the news program ended with the retirement of Mr. Huntley, Mr. Brinkley continued his career in broadcasting and also wrote four books - two memoirs; a look at Washington, D.C. after World War II; and the one I am reading. 

Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion is a collection of short, one page commentaries he delivered on the Sunday political affairs program This Week With David Brinkley.

I came across this book last summer on one of my travels and am just now getting around to reading it. I am sorry I waited so long. Reading his wry observations written and delivered between 1981 and 1996 on the foibles of politicians and people in general is a reminder that things don't really seem to change. 

For example, on January 31, 1982 Mr. Brinkley bemoans the demise of two daily newspapers: The Philadelphia Bulletin and The Washington Star. I can't begin to count the number of newspapers that have ceased to be since then.

On December 12, 1982 he offers simple advice to those who complain they can't get any work done because they are forever being interrupted by phone calls:  If you are busy, don't answer. Of course today we have to contend with much more than ringing phones. (Remember when phones rang instead of singing to us or chirping like a bird?) There are email notifications, text message beeps, and other forms of "Alert! Alert! I am trying to get in touch with you!" interruptions.

He reports on February 5, 1984 that the American national debt was $200 billion and Congress couldn't figure out a way to lower it. Apparently it never has because today our debt is $18 trillion and rising.

He takes on the presidential election year and writes that the Republicans will spend, beginning on March 14, 1983, $100 million on television commercials. All this a year and a half ahead of the November 1984 election. It is estimated that the total television ad spending for the 2016 election will be $4.4 billion. 

It's all here from voter fraud to the first mention of the greenhouse effect to the U.S. Navy spending $466 for a pocket wrench that costs $1.49 at the local hardware store to Social Security funding woes and automobile safety recalls.

See what I mean? Same old, same old. Only the dollar amounts are higher.

Well, sometimes it is better to get the news thirty years on. Unfortunately, there is not much nostalgia for "the good old days" to be gleaned from these musings. He writes, though, so very cleverly about these absurdities and that makes for quite entertaining reading. And, I can still hear his distinctive voice in my mind as I read.

These commentaries are not all about The State of The Nation. One funny story is about a teenager who ran away from home and took up residence in an apartment building at the bottom of an elevator shaft. He fixed up a bed and brought in books, magazines, and a hot plate. He might have lived there forever but the tenants kept wondering why the elevator smelled like hot dogs cooking. The boy's nest was discovered and the jig was up.

Good night, David.


  1. I am old enough to remember Huntley / Brinkley. I miss the dignity they and Cronkite brought to the news. It's sad, though, to think that we don't seem to learn from the past and that we 'keep on keepin' on', as the old saying goes. No point in watching or reading the news since it's not really new.

    1. Joan, reading this book is like reading today's headlines. It is a lesson in "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it". These are very funny, although not Dave Barry funny as Mr Brinkley has a more subtle sense of humor. I am quite enjoying his take on what happened then and is now our history.

  2. I've noticed that watching old movies and TV shows is the same way--our problems are the same as they've always been--only now they're bigger. I'm not sure if I find that comforting or scary!

    1. I agree, Kathy. And it seems the bad news comes quicker and quicker. I hardly have time to process one startling story when there is another one on its heels.

  3. I remember when this came out, sure I would read it. I haven't it, but, know I would enjoy it. As Joan says above, the Huntley/Brinkley team and Walter Cronkite and their ilk were true journalists. Times have changed a bit in that respect, though there are still some good ones. The news - the same. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Hi, Penny. Send me your mailing address and I will happily mail this book to you when I have finished. I think you would appreciate it.

    2. What a very nice offer, Belle. Your kindness is appreciate. Thank you. I will send my information on to you. Penny