Very-special Valentine’s Day traffic lane report: An amazing thing happened on cable last night:
Rachel Maddow did an informative segment concerning Governor Christie!
How did this rarest event occur? Maddow interviewed Andrea Bernstein, the WNYC reporter who actually seems to know actual things about the Christie years.
Last Thursday, we cited Bernstein’s informative-seeming appearance with Lawrence O’Donnell. On that occasion, Bernstein explained David Wildstein’s job at the Port Authority—exactly one hour after Maddow announced, for perhaps the ten millionth time, that no one knows how to explain it.
Last night, Bernstein did the impossible. She created a segment on Maddow’s show which wasn’t straight out of clown college.
This was a gigantic surprise—and it truly was time for a change. On Wednesday night, Maddow had staged one of the strangest, dumbest hours in the annals of cable “news.”
Rapidly, Maddow’s becoming a parody. Let’s review the clowning from Wednesday night’s show—a program on which your Daily Howler actually started getting results!
How dumb was Maddow’s program? Yesterday, we discussed one especially pitiful segment, in which Maddow pretended to have exciting new reporting about a claim which had fallen apart on Hardball one night before.
At this point, Maddow can barely sneeze without calling it “an exclusive report.” That said, how clownish was Wednesday night’s program? Let us list the ways:
*Bonus scandal coverage: Maddow’s coverage of “Bridgegate” extended till roughly 9:45. When she returned, she did yet another segment about political scandal, focusing on former Connecticut governor John Rowland, a massively insignificant figure at this point.
Rowland has been charged with no crimes. But Maddow seems to be reinventing herself as the scourge of political scandal, no matter how small, insignificant or unproven such misconduct may be.
*All the ridiculous people: As part of that extra segment on scandal, Maddow spent some time in her favorite pose, mocking average Americans. The segment started with a reference to self, this particular TV star’s favorite type of reference:
MADDOW (2/12/14): If for some reason I do not show up to work tomorrow, I’m telling you now, look for me in Trenton, New Jersey. And not in a bad way, in a good way, because Trenton is a heck of a town.Maddow can’t seem to stop herself from doing this sort of thing. On the bright side, she didn’t commission Ana Marie Cox to direct a raft of dick jokes at the seniors as they did the electric slide.
Look at this! (Plays videotape of senior citizens dancing) Trenton, New Jersey, where for example you get to have an actual really good time at Christmas, courtesy of the town. Even when you have a lot of gray hair, you still get to have a really good time in Trenton, New Jersey. The town throws a Christmas party for you. Come on down, get in there!
This is the mayor’s annual senior gala in Trenton, New Jersey. Soooo awesome!
And do not think I’m kidding here, I’m not kidding. Trenton, New Jersey gets maligned in much of the rest of the world. In New Jersey, you think people make fun of New Jersey? Trenton, New Jersey, they make fun of twice, once for being New Jersey and the other time just for being Trenton.
But anybody making fun of Trenton is wrong. Look at them doing the electric slide with Santa! In Trenton, you get to dance, not only with Santa, but with the mayor, in his bright red tie, for Christmas sake. At the senior gala every year!
He really, really, really enjoys being mayor of Trenton. You see him there in his suit.
The reason for this all too familiar mockery? The mayor of Trenton has just been convicted of corruption. After 45 minutes of Bridgegate, Maddow started her bonus scandal segment with this topic, which is also amazingly insignificant on the national scale.
*Maddow's favorite topic: In her first two segments, Maddow wallowed in the fact that MSNBC’s Fort Lee coverage was cited in a Republican find-raising letter this week.
Two more chances to talk about herself! “It’s very exciting for us,” Maddow said, making an accurate statement.
*Cursive writing is hard: Maddow continued her granular pseudo-coverage of Fort Lee events. At one point, Bozo the Clown averted his gaze as she offered these remarks about a document which was released more than a month ago:
MADDOW: It’s sort of a mysterious document, looks kind of like a prepared statement but doesn’t have any headers or explanatory information on it. It was found as a partial document, deep inside the 900-page document dump that was provided by David Wildstein following his first subpoena back in January.Maddow was reviewing an apparent draft of the opening statement Bill Baroni delivered before a New Jersey legislative committee on November 25. She seemed mystified by the idea that such a document would have been edited. She wasted everyone’s time as she puzzled about the mysteries of the handwriting on the edits—“importantly,” she declared.
There also appears to be a draft of at least a portion of the statement. And it’s all full of cross-outs and markups and rewrites. Somebody’s editing it.
And there’s no explanation offered as to who wrote the statement originally or why they wrote it or why somebody then made all these handwritten changes to it.
Importantly, we do not know whose handwriting is all over this statement, and it doesn’t help that there appears to be at least two different kinds of handwriting on it. Is that one person with a cramp or two different people?
Maddow has become an undisguised circus clown. Some moments from Wednesday evening’s gong-show were clownish, but more significant. Consider her appalling flip on the identity of “Nicole.”
At one point, Maddow discussed the text messages in which Baroni sought instant feedback about his November 25 testimony. In one of the texts, Wildstein wrote this to Baroni: “I have only texted Bridget and Nicole and they were very happy.”
Presumably, “Bridget” was Bridget Kelly. But who has Nicole? On Wednesday night, Maddow said this about “Nicole:”
MADDOW: Who’s Nicole? The only person named Nicole who’s previously been subpoenaed in conjunction with this manner is Nicole Davidman Drewniak. She worked on the governor’s re-election campaign.Maddow said she doesn’t know who “Nicole” actually is. Unfortunately, she went on at some length on January 17, strongly suggesting that “Nicole” was Nicole Davidman Drewniak and that she had been part of the crime.
In terms of tracing the cover-up, if the guy getting high-fives for his cover story performance is getting them from someone on the governor’s re-election campaign, that’s really interesting. Why would the governor’s re-election campaign be in on this?
But maybe there’s an alternate explanation. Now a second person named Nicole has been subpoenaed in conjunction with this matter...
(Maddow on January 17, after a long exposition about Davidman Drewniak: “The documents we have so far indicate that not just Governor Christie’s office, in the form of Bridget Kelly, applauded and said, Oh, we’re really happy with that false testimony, even though Bridget Kelly was in a position to know it was false testimony while she was applauding. But now, we also know that a person who appears to be a staffer from the governor’s re-election campaign, Nicole, said the same thing. Good job! You did great!”)
As of Wednesday night, Maddow finally said she doesn’t know who “Nicole” is. But so what? Back on January 17, she basically had the first Nicole convicted. This is what happens when cable clowns channel Inspector Clouseau, crossed with Joe McCarthy.
Along with the segment we discussed yesterday, all this ridiculous clowning occurred on Wednesday night. That said, your Daily Howler did start getting results that evening! Here’s how it all went down:
Maddow continued the lack of reporting in which she fails to tell viewers about the actual conduct involved in Wildstein’s so-called traffic study. Whatever he actually may have been doing, Wildstein went through all the motions of conducting some sort of study, or test.
Maddow’s viewers have never been told about those very basic events. Here's why that matters:
Because of Wildstein’s actions, the bridge director and the bridge general manager testified that they had believed that Wildstein was conducting some sort of study or test. (Cedrick Fulton, Robert Durando.)
Is it possible that Baroni also believed that Wildstein had conducted some sort of actual study or test? We don’t know how to answer that question. Absent insights from actual journalists (people like Bernstein), we will await results of the ongoing probes.
But good lord! On Wednesday night, for the very first time, Maddow floated the possibility that Baroni may have believed that Wildstein conducted a study or test! In fact, she did so twice.
The first such moment? After puzzling about the two kinds of handwriting seen on Baroni’s statement, Our Own Clouseau said this:
MADDOW: Does this prepared statement and the handwritten notes all over it provide any indication of what took place at that meeting? And who drafted the cover-up story? And who edited it?The analysts roared. After all these weeks, Maddow had finally brooked the possibility that some of the people she’s been convicting might have believed that Wildstein had actually conducted some sort of study or test.
And when they edited it, did they know that it was cooked up? Did they know that it was made up? Or did they think it was the truth?
More ahead with the co-chair of the investigative committee. Stay with us.
Fulton and Durando thought that. Why couldn’t somebody else?
After a break to pay the bills, Maddow went there again! When she spoke with co-chair Loretta Weinberg, she explicitly brooked the possibility that Baroni might have thought something that Wildstein conducted a test:
MADDOW: To the extent we know that the cover story exists, and we know it was delivered by Bill Baroni, do you know who was in on cooking it up? Do you know if Bill Baroni knew he was telling an untruth in that testimony? Did he knowingly do it? And could he have been sold something that he believed and he said it not knowing that it was untrue?As usual, Weinberg went on to deliver a speech which wasn’t responsive to Maddow’s question. But good grief! The analysts roared as Maddow voiced a new possibility: Maybe Baroni actually thought that Wildstein had conducted a study or test!
WEINBERG: Well, I suppose anything is possible. Mr. Baroni has not testified before us yet, so we can’t—we haven’t had the opportunity to ask him that question.
(In his opening statement, Baroni referred to the lane closings at one point as “a traffic study or analysis.”)
Did Baroni think that Wildstein was really conducting a test? Not being Perry Mason, we have no way of knowing; neither does Maddow, of course. But finally, after months of clowning, Maddow brooked the possibility! Truly, anything is possible, just like Weinberg said!
On this Valentine’s Day, we offer one last point. For unknown reasons, two major players in these events seem to [HEART] Bill Baroni.
The first such person is Pat Foye, the New York-based executive director of the Port Authority, the fellow who called a halt to the lane closings. On December 9, Foye testified that he “wasn’t aware of any traffic study”—it isn’t clear what he meant by that—and that he “didn’t know why it [the reduction in access lanes] was done.”
Foye was extremely hard on Wildstein in his testimony. But he was quite complimentary about Baroni, repeatedly saying his failure to inform him about the lane closings was “aberrational.”
Foye spoke quite favorably of Baroni. Somewhat oddly, a second figure took the same tack in a recent interview. Speaking to Bloomberg News last week, Mayor Sokolich said this:
VOREACOS (2/8/14): After the week of traffic jams and unreturned calls, Baroni called Sokolich the next week to set up a meeting. Sokolich agreed at first, then canceled.The mayor still thinks Baroni’s a decent guy? We’re not sure why he would say that if he believed that Baroni engaged in deliberate heinous conduct, as Wildstein seems to have done.
“He was a friend,” Sokolich said. “I thought I knew him well. I’m immensely disappointed and betrayed.”
Still, he said, he thought Baroni was “a decent guy. I still do. I truly wish the best for him.”
He is less charitable with Wildstein, who was at the Port Authority offices in Fort Lee when the traffic jams began...
Baroni was still at the Port Authority when Foye spoke favorably of him. By last weekend, Baroni was long gone, but Sokolich still couldn’t quit him.
Voreacos should have asked the mayor if he thought Baroni knew what Wildstein was doing. But on this special Valentine’s Day, we can exclusively report two things for the first time:
At long last, Our Own Inspector Clouseau has acknowledged a possibility: some Christie people, including Baroni, might have believed that Wildstein conducted some type of study, test or review, just as Fulton and Durando did.
Foye and Sokolich both seem to [HEART] Baroni. As we await results of the ongoing probes, we can’t tell you why they do. We can’t tell you if they should.
We also don't know who “Nicole” is. Maddow should perhaps refrain from stringing folk up until she learns their last names.