We sure have our priorities right in this country of ours. According to my daily habit, I flipped on the TV after an early lunch at about 11:45 this morning, E.S.T. Thought I’d check on the latest developments in Iraq, Lebanon, and Capitol Hill. I started with CNN, then flipped over to Fox, then MSNBC.

None of three had anything to say about international or domestic affairs. All were maintaining a breathless vigil outside a courtroom in Santa Maria, California, because Michael Jackson, whose name is somehow still preceded by the adjective “superstar,” had decided to stop at a hospital en route to his trial for child molestation. It seems the single-gloved wonder was suffering back pains that had required emergency treatment; unfortunately, he didn’t have permission from the court to show up late.

This isn’t the first time Jackson has been late arriving at court. So the judge, a self-described no-nonsense type, issued a warrant for the one-time rock star’s arrest, but granted him an extra hour to make it from the hospital to court before enforcing the warrant. This meant if Jackson didn’t make it to the Santa Maria Courthouse by 9:45 a.m. P.S.T., he’d face jail time and forfeit $3 million bail.

Amazingly, it looked as if the cable networks knew in advance it was going to happen. All three had cameras at the ready, which panned down a tree-lined boulevard in Santa Maria in anticipation of the arrival of a black SUV and the motorcycle escort that Jackson travels with. Superimposed on the TV screen, believe it or not, was a digital time clock, ticking off the remaining minutes and seconds of the grace period, while Jackson’s lawyer, a tall man with gray hair of approximately the same length as his client’s, and another lawyer, a drop-dead gorgeous babe in high heels and a skirt up to here, paced the exterior of the building, each with a cell phone pressed to the ear. All that was missing from this extraordinary scene was a white Bronco.

Meanwhile, back at the studio, medical and legal pundits were speculating on 1) the genuineness of Jackson’s sudden ailment, and 2) whether Hizzoner the judge would actually decide to send Jackson to prison should he fail to arrive by the deadline. Where did these experts come from on two hours’ notice? What doctor worth the name would abandon his practice to travel to a TV studio for the purpose of commenting on the (possible) illness of someone he’s never met, let alone treated? Would you take medical advice from this man?

As the clock ticked down to zero, all three networks announced to a breathless nation that Michael Jackson had failed to make it to court in time. It was like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, folks, except nobody was cheering. What was going on Iraq at that moment? Where was Osama bin Laden? What about global warming? We’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s paper to find out.

Then, a few minutes later, there suddenly appeared a black SUV…two, in fact, and a queue of motorcyclists. It was Michael! He had made it at last! The gray-maned lawyer and his gorgeous assistant moved forward to help the ailing superstar, who stepped gingerly from the SUV wearing a black jacket…and pajama bottoms! He seemed woozy, and needed help walking the few steps to the courthouse entrance. For some bizarre reason, Jackson’s assistant held an umbrella over his head, even though it wasn’t raining. Jackson managed a weak wave to a cheering group of loyalists off camera.

Flash back to the studio. “Tell me, doctor, does Michael Jackson’s appearance seem consistent with back pain? Could he be groggy from the pain medicine? He’s tilting to his left; does that suggest back problems?” Cut away to the courtroom door. People are dashing in and out, frantically. The lawyer with the long gray hair is back on his cell phone, and his associate with the great legs smiles for the camera. Suddenly all is well in La La Land. Jackson enters court, and a few brief minutes later comes back out.

I turned the set off at this point, and tried to guess what the rest of the afternoon would bring…more legal pundits, searching for a precedent to cover an aging rock-and-roll star’s late arrival at court on a medical pretense, and for whether any rock-and-roll singer had ever forfeited bail before while wearing pajamas outdoors…new medical experts, offering the latest research bulletins from the Art Linkletter Institute for Spina Bifida. Judge Lance Ito, in retirement on the island of Bora Bora, offering his views on how to control celebrity trials. And Geraldo Rivera, suggesting that Michael Jackson’s motorcade had been deliberately delayed by pickets demonstrating outside the hospital in behalf of underpaid orderlies, and that the judge should consider that in deciding whether to enforce the arrest warrant.

Oh, yes. There was another suicide attack in Iraq. Forgot to mention that.