And massages some pointless old facts: Rachel Maddow may have the biggest tin ear for domestic politics we have ever seen.
Plus, she isn’t compulsively honest. She really does tend to massage the key facts. You can’t believe what you hear on her show. You have to look everything up.
Each of these tendencies came into play when Maddow journeyed to Nam last night. At issue was this warmed-over AP report about Mitt Romney’s lack of service. To watch Maddow's heartfelt segment, go ahead—just click here.
There’s nothing “wrong” with that AP report except its ridiculous premise. Steve Peoples states it here:
PEOPLES (6/5/12): President Barack Obama, Romney's opponent in this year's campaign, did not serve in the military either. The Democrat, 50, was a child during the Vietnam conflict and did not enlist when he was older.Really? Romney’s military background “is facing new scrutiny?” There’s no evidence of that in Peoples' report, except for the fact that the gloomy Jon Soltz has criticized Romney’s conduct.
But because Romney, now 65, was of draft age during Vietnam, his military background—or, rather, his lack of one—is facing new scrutiny as he courts veterans and makes his case to the nation to be commander in chief. He's also intensified his criticism lately of Obama's plans to scale back the nation's military commitments abroad, suggesting that Romney would pursue an aggressive foreign policy as president that could involve U.S. troops.
In fact, no one cares about Romney’s lack of service—and no one is going to do so this year. In many ways, this is a major deliverance.
As Maddow semi-noted last night, the question of Vietnam service has dogged our presidential campaigns since 1992. Every four years, we’ve had some new distraction built around somebody’s service, or lack of same, in Nam.
Trust us: Due to the passage of time and due to the financial meltdown, no one is going to cares about this topic this year. But Maddow, a cloistered millionaire, has no earthly idea of this blindingly obvious fact.
(They don’t tell her this in Northampton.)
She wants us to was about Vietnam one more time—and she doesn’t have the slightest idea that no one is going to do that.
The AP report is warmed-over hash. Maddow was scratching her keister last night about a slightly foolish statement Romney made to the Boston Globe in 2007. Under the circumstances, no one is going to care about that—though Maddow, a multimillionaire, doesn’t understand why.
Final point: Maddow tried to make it sound like there was some pulling of strings involved in the way Romney got his missionary deferment. In this passage, the key word is “somehow,” found in the final paragraph:
MADDOW (6/6/12): Mitt Romney was 20, 21 years old at the height of the Vietnam draft, but he did not serve.The key word there is “somehow.” Maddow is trying to make you wonder if Romney got that missionary deferment because his father “was very, very prominent.”
Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney`s father at the time was a very, very prominent man. He had been president of the American Motors Corporation. He was the governor of Michigan. He was a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1968.
Well, in 1965, Mitt Romney went to Stanford University. As a freshman, he protested in favor of the war in Vietnam and against anti-war protesters. In this photo, he’s holding a sign that says, "Speak out, don’t sit in."
In October of that year, his freshman year, Mitt Romney received his first deferment from Vietnam because he was a student at the time. The next summer, in July of 1966, Mr. Romney got his second Vietnam deferment. This time, it was for being a missionary in his church.
Because Mitt Romney’s church, the Church of Latter Day Saints, was in favor of the war in Vietnam, not every Mormon missionary automatically qualified for a deferment from service because of his service to the church. But Mitt Romney somehow did qualify for that deferment. And his deferment for being a missionary was for longer than the two years that a Mormon mission usually lasts. His deferment was for more than two and a half years.
Sorry. In one of the Boston Globe reports from which Maddow’s staff was working, this point was explored in great detail. Michael Kranish wrote the report in 2007 (we can’t find a link):
KRANISH (6/24/07): The deferments for Mormon missionaries became increasingly controversial in the late 1960s, especially in Utah, leading the Mormon Church and the government to limit the number of church missionaries who could put off their military service. That agreement called for each church ward, or church district, to designate one male every six months to be exempted from potential duty for the duration of his missionary work.Really? There weren't many Mormons in Michigan? Should somebody check that out?
Romney's home state was Michigan, making his 4-D exemption as a missionary all but automatic because of the relatively small number of Mormon missionaries from that state. It might have been more difficult in Utah, where the huge Mormon population meant that there were sometimes more missionaries than available exemptions. Most missions lasted two and a half years, as Romney's did.
Barry Mayo, who was counselor to the bishop of the ward in Pontiac, Michigan, where Romney attended church, recalled in an interview that wards were allowed to exempt one missionary every six months from the draft. He said that he could not recall any time in which more than one potential draftee sought an exemption in the ward in a six-month period, so Romney's deferment was never in doubt.
"I was aware of the fact that there was an agreement of some sort of between the church and the Selective Service because there were some wards mostly in the West where the congregation was large and the number of youth was large," Mayo said. "The circumstances were very different here. Our congregation was small and the number of youth were small. To the best of my knowledge we never had a situation where we had more than two young men wanting to go in any one year... So I don't believe that we ever had to discourage someone from going on a mission because he was above that two-per-year limit."
Mayo said no records are available from the period that would show how Romney's deferment was handled. But he said he recalled "the conclusion was `we really don't have to worry about [exceeding the quota] because we were never in that situation.' "
At this point, none of this is worth talking about. But Maddow’s staff replaced that reporting by Kranish with the single word “somehow.” They were trying to make us suspicious, even though they plainly were working right from the Kranish report.
Trust us: No one is going to care about this in the curent campaign. In our own view, that’s a deliverance.
The problem is, our “liberal leaders” don’t know how to talk about policy, certainly not to the unwashed rubes whom they're inclined to mock. So instead, we're urged to discuss his occasionally unpleasant conduct in high school. And the fact that he didn’t do Freedom Summer at age 16! Nor did he go to Nam!
Also, he "strapped his dog to the roof of the car!" "In a cage," no less!
Voters aren’t going to care about Vietnam this year. But Maddow lives apart from the world. She doesn’t know what voters are thinking. She has no way to find out.
Tomorrow: Maddow and Collins go to Texas and bungle some very key facts