Maddow trumps pitiful Matthews: To appreciate the depth of last evening’s scandal clowning, you have to consider the opening segment from Hardball the night before.
Remember the key rule of scandal entertainment: Each night, the TV stars must convey the impression that they’ve just uncovered an exciting new scandal.
On most nights, that won’t be true. On those nights, the stars will pretend.
There has to be a new scandal each night! On Tuesday night, frothing and foaming, Chris Matthews started his program as shown below.
As you can see, this opening passage is a masterwork of scandal clowning. This remarkable passage ought to go straight to the Cable BS Hall of Fame:
MATTHEWS (2/11/14): Christie claims executive privilege! Let’s play Hardball.Wow! Let’s marvel at the perfect bullshit found in those five paragraphs:
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington. Let’s start tonight with this report out of New Jersey that says the Christie administration will keep the governor’s staff from testifying before legislative committees.
Does this mean Governor Christie is claiming some sort of executive privilege, that he’s asserting the right to have his staff refuse to testify before committees, even those digging into the scandal involving the deliberate jamming up of traffic on the George Washington Bridge?
While a spokesman for Christie denies this is his claim, would this be Christie’s ultimate move to protect himself, by claiming his right to keep his top staff people, especially his chief of staff and counsel, from answering questions from the Democrats investigating him in Trenton, to resort to Richard Nixon’s defense that even in a case involving possible criminal charges, that the papers and communications of top government officials are beyond the reach of the law?
Well, tonight, we look at Chris Christie’s latest gambit, his administration’s declaration of independence from those in Trenton, even those investigating the infamous bridge scandal.
As he started, a frothing Matthews announced that Christie was claiming executive privilege. But uh-oh:
By paragraph 3, Matthews’ stance had changed. By paragraph 3, he was asking a question: Is Christie making that claim?
In paragraph 4, things got worse. Matthews revealed that Christie’s spokesman says he isn’t claiming executive privilege! In response, Chris went subjunctive:
Excitedly, he suggested that this would be Christie’s ultimate move if he were actually making it! And of course, as required by Hard Pundit Law, he then compared Christie to Nixon!
Matthews finished his opening statement in a time-honored way. He said he’d examine Christie’s “declaration of independence”—the declaration Christie’s spokesman said he hasn’t made!
That progression represents the Platonic ideal of cable news buffoonism. In a rational world, news executives would take this buffoon by the scruff of the neck and kick him out into the street.
You don't live in any such world! Indeed, things only got worse as Matthews tried to explain what had him frothing so.
What had Matthews so excited? In this passage, he referred to “a remarkable story” which had appeared in the New Jersey press.
According to Matthews, Christie was claiming executive privilege! Except, he said he wasn’t!
MATTHEWS: A remarkable story hit the Jersey press today. A local news outlet called New Jersey Spotlight ran this report: "The Christie administration informed state senator Robert Gordon, Bergen, chairman of the Senate legislative oversight committee, that it is Christie administration policy that no members of the governor’s office are allowed to appear before legislative committees."In fact, the “remarkable story” in New Jersey Spotlight devoted exactly two paragraphs to the claim which had Matthews worked up. Spotlight quoted state senator Gordon saying that it was “a Christie administration policy” that no members of the governor’s office could appear before legislative committees.
Well, in this particular case, it was Christie’s office stonewalling the state’s legislative oversight committee, which wanted access to Hurricane Sandy officials inside the governor’s office. But what this means for the state’s super-committee, which is leading the investigation into the bridge scandal itself, is the much bigger question.
We reached out to Christie’s office today and got a response from Colin Reed—that’s the governor’s spokesman—who said, in part, quote, "It doesn’t exist. It would be inaccurate to say this policy exists." So we’re getting crossed signals here.
Christie’s spokesman had told Matthews that Gordon was wrong, that no such policy exists. And uh-oh! When the cable star brought Gordon on, the hapless state senator said the same thing!
He did so several times:
MATTHEWS: Let’s go to Senator Gordon. This is strange. You got—according to word we’re getting in our reporting, you got a very clear declaration from the administration in Trenton saying they’re not going to let staff people testify before your committee. And now we’re hearing from the spokesman for the governor, “Oh, no, there is no such policy.”This was already pathetic, although it would get a bit worse.
How do we put that together?
GORDON: Well, Chris, I don’t know about a policy. I was told clearly through my staff that no one from the governor’s office would be available to testify on the Sandy restoration program, which we were investigating today. I should say we were told–
MATTHEWS: Well, but that article–
GORDON: —that a cabinet member would be available, but no one from the governor’s office, particularly the person we wanted, who is the czar of the Sandy recovery program.
MATTHEWS: Well, according to the article that came out today in New Jersey Spotlight, it says the Christie administration policy is that no members of the governor’s office are allowed to appear. Was that what they told you, they had a—your staff people? Did the administration–
GORDON: I wasn’t—I didn’t hear the word “policy.” I was just told no one would be permitted from the governor’s office to testify.
As you can see above, Gordon seemed to have played played a bit of “Pass It On.” Gordon had been relying on something a staffer had said; some Christie staffer said something to some Gordon staffer, who had then said something to Gordon. Meanwhile, this seemed to concern some particular request for testimony about one particular issue, not some sort of “policy.”
Speaking to Matthews, Gordon now said that he “didn’t hear the word ‘policy,’” “didn’t know about a policy.” That’s strange, because that’s what Gordon had been quoted saying in the “remarkable story” which had Matthews so overwrought.
Just for the record, Matthews’ segment eventually fell apart even further. In this passage, Gordon explained that his committee going to get the information it needed:
GORDON: The hearing was at 10 o’clock this morning. I heard late yesterday afternoon that no one from the governor’s office would be coming. We did hear that the commissioner of community affairs would make himself available at a date that worked for him. He’s a— He had a tough schedule today. And I spoke with him, and we are going to work out the scheduling so that he can testify. And I would say that he probably knows more about this problem than the folks in the governor’s office. So I’m confident that we’re going to get the information that we need.Truly, this was pitiful. But so what? Matthews turned it into a spittle-flecked segment which ran more than thirteen minutes. All through the embarrassing, bungled segment, he frothed about a Nixonian executive privilege policy which doesn’t quite seem to exist.
On Tuesday night, that was a pitiful segment. But good God! One night later, on Wednesday night, Maddow took this same ridiculous story and conned her viewers with it.
Adding to the air of deception, she framed it in her now-standard way: The Maddow show was breaking some news! One night after Matthews’ meltdown, here’s how her bullshit began:
MADDOW (2/12/14): We have yet more new reporting tonight on the Chris Christie bridge scandal in New Jersey, new information that has not been reported elsewhere tonight about what could be the next big fight in this investigation. Or maybe what we’re about to say about it tonight will head it off. Kumbaya!As always, Maddow was pretending to have “new information,” “yet more new reporting.” Her new information “has not been reported elsewhere tonight,” she said, failing to note that her new information drove Hardball’s opening segment one night before.
After killing a bit of time, she told her viewers that Tuesday had brought “a rather shocking revelation” in New Jersey Spotlight. She was discussing the same report with which Matthews struck out Tuesday night:
MADDOW: Yesterday [Tuesday], there was a rather shocking revelation involving that part of the story when New Jersey Spotlight published this piece, look at the headline here, "Rule prevents staff from testifying in Bridgegate, says Christie administration."Twenty-six hours before, Gordon told Matthews that he never heard anything about a “policy.” Matthews reported that Christie’s spokesman said there was no such policy.
Senator Robert Gordon, who’s chairman of the legislative oversight committee in New Jersey, he announced yesterday that he had been told by the Christie administration, that it’s Christie administration policy that no members of the governor’s office are allowed to appear before legislative committees. Senator Gordon told the New Jersey Spotlight, quote, "This is a Christie administration policy. There was no such policy before this in previous administrations.
Pay no attention to that! As we’ve told you, the rules of scandal culture are clear: Scandal hustlers like Maddow need new excitement each night.
After killing a bit more time, this is what she said. Note the way she kept pretending that this was exciting and new:
MADDOW: Senator Gordon wanted testimony from people who work in the governor’s office on a matter sort of unrelated to Bridgegate, it was something having to do with Hurricane Sandy recovery. But if it is a blanket policy of the Christie administration that’s just being announced now, that no staff from the governor’s office is never allowed to testify before the legislature, that has big implications for the whole scandal going forward, right, and this whole investigation.“The governor’s office tells us tonight!” “The governor’s spokesman told us tonight!” Repeatedly, Maddow pretended that she was breaking new news. In the process, she quoted the Christie staff saying the same thing Matthews had reported them saying one day before.
Well, just tonight, we got copies of subpoenas four more people who work as staff in the governor’s office and getting a subpoena doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to be called to testify. But is there some rule? Some Governor Christie rule, some Christie administration rule that says anybody who works in the governor’s office isn’t allowed to testify if the legislature asks them to or tells them to?
Well, tonight, Governor Christies office says, despite this other reporting, despite what State Senator Robert Gordon says he was told by the governor’s office, the governor’s office tells us tonight that there is no policy in the Christie administration of preventing the governor’s staff testifying before the legislature.
The governor’s spokesman told us tonight, quote, “The New Jersey Spotlight story is wrong.”
Governor Christie’s spokesman tells us that the governor’s staff couldn’t attend a specific hearing held yesterday on the issue of Sandy, that was basically just a scheduling conflict." And that, quote, "the administration would welcome the opportunity to provide testimony later this month." The governor`s office added, quote, "Everyone here is committed to the highest levels of accountability and transparency."
Assuming minimal competence, you’re looking at a cable news con—a classic piece of scandal culture. It only got stupider when this big fraud asked Loretta Weinberg to comment.
Note how long Weinberg filibustered about her own greatness before she stamped this campfire out, speaking “somewhat in fairness:”
MADDOW: Joining us now is New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg. She’s the co-chair of the Legislative Select Committee investigating the lane closures. Senator Weinberg, thank you for being here.Weinberg went on and on before she spoke to the matter at hand. When she did, she rather plainly seemed to say that this is a big nothingburger at this point.
WEINBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: What do you make of the governor’s office in this rule about testifying before the legislature? They clearly were trying to tamp this down today and say this is not going to be an issue. There’s no administration rule that should make this a problem.
WEINBERG: Well, there’s no doubt this is one of the more closed administrations that I have ever seen. And when I served on the committee that had the hearing yesterday on Sandy, and when I sit across from advocates who had to go to court to get basic documents to find out how the money is flowing, and Sandy is so frustrated, I happen to be a great believer in open government, I have been the sponsor sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully of almost all the governor bills that come back before us in the last number of years, and to sit there, it is so frustrating to deal with a government with an executive who would much rather say no and make you fight for documents than to just hand them over.
These are things that are owned by the taxpayers who pay the salaries of all these folks that might or might not be allowed to testify before us. And I think, somewhat in fairness, I think there is—the governor’s office is probably making a distinction between a cabinet member, a commissioner or department head, versus staffers in his office. I don’t really recall that—I haven’t served on any committees in the recent past where we’ve had staffers from the governor`s office. We will soon see, as you pointed out.
“I haven’t served on any committees in the recent past where we’ve had staffers from the governor’s office,” Weinberg said. After two nights of cable bullshit, she spoke “somewhat in fairness.”
Senator Gordon’s performance was awful. Weinberg orated at length before finally dousing the flames.
But Matthews behaved like a clown Tuesday night. Assuming minimal competence, Maddow was that much worse.
As we’ve often told you, Maddow isn’t obsessively honest. As scandal culture grips her less than obsessively honest soul, her apparent self-promotional illness seems to be getting much worse.
We’re discussing a pair of cable TV scandal clowns. You may choose not to see that.