A day that was jam-packed with news: Why were those Fort Lee access lanes closed?
Someday, we may find out.
Last weekend, our old pal Bill Maher came around to one part of our thinking on this topic, as we knew he eventually would. He complained about the way MSNBC had been immersing itself in the topic, pushing all else to the side.
Can we talk? The Channel has been selling Fort Lee as a TV mystery drama—as a cable product. Last night, the analysts chuckled as Rachel Maddow continued the sale.
She was finishing her latest interview with her program’s co-host, Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Does Wisniewski live at 30 Rock? He sure doesn’t seem to have trouble getting over the bridge!
As she finished, she couldn’t help it. The cable star blurted this:
MADDOW (2/17/14): Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee investigating the bridge scandal, thank you for your time tonight.Are you kidding? Was a lot happening all at once? In fact, very little has been happening in this story, as all cable viewers can see.
Lots happening, all at once. I keep thinking this is going to slow down, but it doesn’t.
WISNIEWSKI: Not yet.
MADDOW: Not yet. Thank you, sir.
That is the nature of such probes. Investigations take a long time. On most days, nothing happens.
That said, people selling the probe as a mystery/drama product have to pretend that things are constantly happening. Maddow kept soldiering on last night in her two Fort Lee segments.
Very little has been happening. Consider the topic Maddow placed first above all others last night—the question of the redactions.
Behold redactions! Here's how Maddow started last night’s first segment about Fort Lee:
MADDOW: Behold redactions! [Holding up pieces of paper] These black lines were not added by me.What a wonderful mystery! According to Maddow, someone had finally been able to see what’s underneath all those black marks!
I’m more of a highlighter kind of gal, rather than a black magic marker person.
When you get official redactions like in a publication, like in this book, Ali Soufan’s book, The Black Banners, about interrogating al Qaeda suspects, in a book like that, publications, the redactions are nice and tidy because they do them with a machine. But when it’s some guy crossing out things by hand, it admittedly looks a little more sketchy.
And in 908 pages of documents and e-mails and text messages that were handed over by Chris Christie ally David Wildstein when the bridge lane scandal broke open in New Jersey, either Mr. Wildstein or his lawyer just marked up by hand about 45 pages of the 908 pages. What’s underneath the black marks?
Well, today, somebody appears to have finally found out. The Star-Ledger and Bergen Record reporting today the special counsel for the committee investigating the bridge scandal met with David Wildstein’s lawyer in private and looked at the un-redacted documents. At what was under the black magic marker.
So, the special counsel apparently has seen what has been blacked out in these documents. It’s not clear that anyone else has seen them, except him. But apparently he has, in private. Nobody else has seen them.
Remember, this was the most important event in a day which was crammed full of action! By the way, does it sound like a lot of redacting was done? According to Maddow, it sounded like only 45 pages, out of 908, had been redacted at all.
To our admittedly unjaundiced ear, that didn’t sound like a lot.
Whatever! Maddow presented several other puddles of piddle, then took a commercial break before introducing Wisniewski. When she asked him about the redactions, he seemed to say, “Nothing to look at,” much as a bridge cop would:
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the redactions first...Reid Schar, the special counsel, has reportedly now seen what’s beneath these redactions. Why has he seen them and what does that mean about whether you’re going to see them and whether or not the public will?Are we reading that correctly? Rather clearly, Wisniewski seemed to say that, preliminarily, the redactions seem to be justified. According to Wisniewski, the original statement by Wildstein’s lawyer was “pretty much on the mark.”
WISNIEWSKI: It’s a process that counsel worked out with one another. We wanted to see them from that day. You showed the clip where he was first at the committee meeting and we wanted to see them. So, Mr. Zegas, the attorney for Mr. Wildstein, has agreed to provide them to our council who`s going to review them and they`re going to come to an agreement on what can be included.
What we’re told preliminarily is the statement that Mr. Zegas made that they were outside the timeframe or outside the subject matter, it`s pretty much on the mark. There are a couple of pages that our counsel says that probably should be included. So, we’re hoping to work that out and have them included with the record and I hope to have more to say about that in the near future.
Wisniewski tried to cushion the blow, but this was hardly big news. But according to Maddow, this was the number one revelation in a day that was jam-packed with news!
Wisniewski broke it to her gently, then made his way back over the bridge. The analysts began to jest until we forced them to stop.
(“Lots of bullroar keeps happening, all at once,” one of the analysts said. “I keep thinking this is going to slow down, but it doesn’t,” an eye-rolling youngster replied.)
We aren’t making light of the probe, which may end up revealing criminal conduct. We are making light of the attempt to sell the probe as TV entertainment, a product.
For further exploration: Eric Wemple thinks Billmar went too far. We agree, and then too we don’t.