PLAYING WITH DOLLS: Even dragging out Chucky!


Part 2—Progressive leader gone wild: Rachel Maddow sometimes does informative news segments.

Over the years, she has followed some important topics—abortion rights and voting procedures in the various states, to name two.

That said, Maddow’s informative segments now tend to come in the second half of her program. Up front, we tend to get the puzzling, long-form presentations in which the cable star tends to play with dolls.

On Wednesday evening, July 30, Maddow literally played with dolls—with paper dolls of the heinous Bob and Maureen McDonnell. As Maddow played with these paper dolls, she even pretended to speak in their voices.

Then, Maddow fashioned a virtual Chucky doll, representing the national press. A ludicrous bit of press criticism followed.

This is the way it began:
MADDOW (7/30/14): The corruption trial of Bob McDonnell has been incredible so far. Today was Day Three. Jonny Williams is going to be back on the stand tomorrow morning.

But as the national coverage of this corruption trial picks up, there is something sort of wrong about it or at least something unexamined about it. And here’s what I mean...
Something was sort of wrong about the national coverage!

As Maddow continued her segment, she fashioned a virtual Chucky doll as she assailed the work of the national press. In the process, she authored one of the strangest segments we’ve ever seen on TV.

According to Maddow, what had been wrong with the national coverage of the first three days of the trial?

She started with some observations about the frequency with which the McDonnells had been holding hands in public—and were now failing to do so.

Then, she complained about four “salacious” headlines. Two of the four were perfectly accurate. They were also completely on point:
MADDOW: Here they are again, arriving today at the courthouse 40 paces apart. This is what they are doing now in public, now that the trial has started.

And that fact, I think, is part of the key to understanding the salaciousness of the headlines you’ve been seeing about the Bob McDonnell trial. The headlines are all like this this week, right?

“Trial reveals governor’s wife had crush on CEO.”

“McDonnell corruption trial bombshell: CEO became Maureen McDonnell`s favorite playmate, say her lawyers.”

The trashy Daily Mail from Britain, as always putting the finest points on it:

“Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer claims her marriage to ex-Virginia governor was over. And she had a crush on wealthy donor who lavished her with gifts.”

“McDonnell trial reveals ex-Virginia governor’s broken marriage. Wife’s crush on government star witness.”
On screen, the first and fourth headlines were attributed to the AP. The second headline came from NBC News.

The third came from “the trashy Daily Mail from Britain,” which had somehow now become part of “the national coverage.”

Were those headlines “salacious?” Not especially, except to Maddow, who is weirdly puritanical about matters involving sex, especially when The Other Tribe is involved.

More to the point, the headlines from NBC News and The Daily Mail were perfectly accurate and directly on point. Quite accurately, they summarized what Maureen McDonnell’s lawyers had said as they outlined her defense in court.

Predictably, this made Maddow angry. For the rest of the 14-minute segment, she savaged the national press for daring to report what the defense lawyers said.

(The two AP headlines were in fact bungled; they treated the lawyers’ assertions as “revelations.” Maddow didn’t draw this distinction. To her, all the headlines were bad.)

From this point on, Maddow made one of the strangest presentations we’ve ever seen on a TV news program. It’s hard to summarize her presentation any way but this:

She doesn’t think the national press should report what the defense lawyers say.

We know, we know—it doesn’t seem possible that Maddow could have meant something like that. But in cases dating to Rod Blagojevich, Maddow has often betrayed the presumption that prosecutors speak for us and can’t really be wrong.

Plus, the McDonnells are very bad. It’s a disgrace when the national press reports the terms of their defense!

We strongly suggest that you watch the segment where Maddow rails in this fashion. At the six-minute mark of the tape, she plays around with her paper dolls. From that point on, she fashion a virtual Chucky doll, demonizing the national press in the most ludicrous manner.

Is it good for progressive causes when our corporate-selected intellectual leaders are as wacky as this? This is the way Maddow ended:
MADDOW: That McDonnell defense, that their marriage is on the rocks, that she had a crush on somebody else—it does make sense as a legal strategy. What does not make sense is the media helping them with it.

To the extent this trial is being covered nationally, so far, it is being covered purely in a tabloid way, right? Purely through the lens of catty, frankly sexist gossip about the first lady and how she like expensive shoes and fancy shopping sprees, while Bob McDonnell is cool, calm and collective. He is essentially collateral damage for his wife’s trashy, expensive taste.

I mean, that framing is not only sexist and gross, it ignores the fact that Bob McDonnell himself was doing things like setting up meetings for this wealthy donor with the top state health officials, right? The government is going to have to prove that he was doing those things that he did in exchange for the vacation trips and the golf clubs and the Ferrari rides and all the rest of it. They claim they have the evidence to prove it.

But if the Bob McDonnell defense is going to be to blame it all on the lovesick, emotionally erratic, Louis Vuitton-loving wife, they are, at least so far, doing a masterful job of injecting that story line into the press and getting the press to mount their defense for them. The press is bending over backwards to help the McDonnell legal defense.

I mean, this is a legal strategy that they’re mounting. And it makes sense as a legal strategy.

But attention news media! This is an overt strategy, and you are helping one side of this legal case by advancing the strategic story-line for them, because you can’t resist a tabloid soap opera tale.

You’re being played! You’re being played. I mean, it’s your choice if you want to cover it this way. But you are being played, by covering this as a tabloid story about a marriage and not a crime blotter story about a corrupt governor.
Truly, that is astounding, in an array of ways. For starters:

At several points, Maddow berated the press for the “tabloid way” it was said to be covering this trial.

Coming from Maddow, that’s an amazing critique. Has anyone been more “catty” or tabloid than Maddow herself?

Has anyone been more catty and tabloid than Maddow? This dates to the earliest days of this case, when the cable star endlessly pleasured herself by discussing the question of Governor McDonnell’s laxatives and body wash, which the state of Virginia had paid for, perhaps incorrectly.

Maddow went cuckoo for colonics! For one example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/20/13.

No one has covered these endless events in a cattier tabloid way than the magnificent Maddow. Just two days before this Day Three rant, on Day One of the trial, she had wasted everyone’s time on a catty, tabloid-drenched treatment of Maureen McDonnell’s handling of the governor’s mansion’s Christmas tree ornaments—a catty, tabloid-drenched pseudo-report she had read, at peculiar length, from the catty Washington Post.

Two nights later, Maddow was complaining that the national press was behaving in a tabloid way when it accurately reported assertions made in court by the defense lawyers. To Maddow, these perfectly accurate news reports meant that organs like NBC News were “bending over backwards to help the McDonnell legal defense,” were “mounting their defense for them.”

NBC News was “helping one side of this legal case!” They were “being played!”

Go ahead—watch this remarkable segment, starting six minutes in. You’ll see Maddow play with some (literal) paper dolls, then with a figurative Chucky doll representing the national press.

Is it good for progressive interests when our multimillionaire leaders play with dolls in such ludicrous ways? We will say the answer is no, but the conduct is quite widespread.

We often think we see our “leaders” playing with dolls. Much more on this problem tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Back to the (lack of a) future

You should watch that tape: We dare you to watch the tape of that ludicrous, 14-minute segment. (Start at minute 6.)

Maddow trashes the national press on the basis of four headlines, one of which comes from England. Two of the headlines are perfectly accurate and very much on point.

She offers no other evidence of wrongdoing. Those headlines were all she had!

Is it good for progressive interests when our millionaire leaders function this way? We will say the answer is no. More on this problem tomorrow.


  1. Progressives seems to be progressing pretty well on many fronts. Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the past 6 presidential elections. Things are looking good for 2016. There's much greater attention now than before in income inequality. Americans are becoming more reluctant to go to war. There are good signs that economic progressivism is on the rise. It's been a glorious decade for advocates of gay marriage. And so forth.

    Believe it or not, America's grassroots and kitchen tables don't take their cues from low-rated cable shows. And we're not forever stuck in the 1980s. The times are indeed a-changin' --- albeit slowly and unevenly.

    1. The progressives are actually NOT progressing well. The massive debt run up by Obama and the Fed shenanigans will derail progressive projects in the future. With no money and no willingness to add to the debt, we have reached the logical end to social democracy. Income inequality is a fact of life as immutable as day and night and no Bolshevik dream will change that without putting bayonets to people's backs -- which would not bother Progressives at all. Lefties do like war (Wilson, both Roosevelts, LBJ all loved it) but they'd prefer to kill white people, preferably wealthy white people to be sure, but white people in general will do.

      The forced multiculturalism has also chaffed many. If there is a civil war in America, Progressives will lose, they prefer to hire people to fire guns for them so their hands won't get dirty.

  2. Her show seems to be written by young, inexperienced people. Let's face it, it won't be on the air much longer.

    1. This blog is written by a old, inexperienced person. Let's face it. It will last as long as he does.

    2. hahahahaha, the trolls are so funny, funnnnyyy!!!!


    4. So, @12:41, tell us. What about the Rachel Maddow makes it "seem" like young, inexperienced people write it?

    5. It's consistent poor quality. It's consistent use of sarcasm is also a red flag. It's so biased and unmeasured. Doesn't it come off like it's written by teenagers? I could be wrong. Whatever, they will all be out of job soon anyway no matter what their age and skill level.

    6. It seems like you have nothing specific.

    7. Well, if Rachel Maddow does go off the air, it will certainly prove whether or not all the Bob critics are paid to troll on her behalf.

    8. It's just my impression. They may be old and experienced.

  3. I wonder if Rachel's idee fixe on the McDonnell Scandalette has to do with the fact that she was kind of an early bird on it. Perhaps she considers herself something of a Woodward-Bernstein with a dash of Murrow on Rolex-gate. Howler did get on to her for focusing what seemed to be minor at the time, but then it grew into something substantial -- for the McDonnells anyway. Of what importance it is to the country at large I couldn't say. Did really put a Democrat in the governor's mansion, or was it the crazy Republican candidate who did that? Or the state's changing demographics?

    Anyway, this is Rachel's baby, and she's going to milk it for what it's worth. (As mixed metaphors go, that one was kind of disgusting.)

    What do you expect her to do? Untangle the Middle East and explain Putin?

    1. Explaining complicated issues to the public would put her on the side of the angels. She doesn't have to actually propose any solutions. Just help people understand the world.

    2. I carry a list of all of Somerby's top solutions around with me in my wallet. It's tucked in next to a picture of Chucky.

  4. I think her focus on the press coverage is to justify her interest in what is not really a national story. Her interest, I think, is prurient. Blaming the press gives a tiny bit of gravitas to her personal obsession with other people's flaws. If I were a psychoanalyst I could take this a step further and say that her interest in politics is also a cover for focusing on the transgressions of other people, cleansing one's own party and attacking the other party. Hence the obsession with scandals and the unwillingness to admit her own mistakes while trying to appear open to correction. Reaction formation.

    1. "If I were a psychoanalyst....."

      Pity you are relegated to merely offering foolish opinions instead.

    2. Not being a psychoanalysts doesn't make my ideas foolish -- it has the opposite effect.


  5. Progressive leader gone wild

    the cable star endlessly pleasured herself

    Maddow, who is weirdly puritanical about matters involving sex,

    Maddow was creaming, as she frequently does,

    So what was Rachel discussing last night, pleasuring herself as she did?

  6. I don't watch Rachel Maddow. But this time, just because Bob asked us to, I watched her.

    She's a creep.

    1. What did you think of her virtual Chucky? It left a lot to the imagination in my view. Yours may differ.

  7. Is it good for progressive interests when our millionaire leaders function this way?

    Frankly I'd rather them wonder around late at night on a plane, claiming someone said they were a model for a famous novel/movie character. Or two years later claiming credit for the initiative in creating the internet. Or lamenting being dead broke fourteen years ago the wake of a successful multi million dollar campaign for a Senate seat in a state you had not previously lived in.

    When they do that instead of invent virtual Chuckys our interests are enhanced a thousandfold. Too bad Salonistas like Joan Walsh (Pundit-McCarthysville) can't figure that out.

  8. Even Digby's pointed out that the Left has a major blind spot when it comes to applying the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" to allegations of sex crimes, especially those that involve accusations of rape, particularly with college cases.

    For some reason, the Puritanism arises when it comes to accusations of culpable male sexuality. All of a sudden it's "Hang 'em High!" for many liberals. Just why is that? Same thing here.

    If there's a sexual accusation, and it's against a man, or a man's involved, dispense with the trial.

  9. Two headlines Maddow did not use:

    The Lavish Life and Broken Marriage That Put Bob McDonnell and His Wife In Court ABC News

    "Blaming the flirtatious wife? Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s trial turns tabloid" FOX News

    The first headline helps make Maddow's point better than the others.
    The second reinforces her criticism of the media, but the test does not.
    The text does, however, agree with her that the tactic used seems a bit of a ploy.

    "In a Richmond courthouse, the former governor has mounted an eye-opening defense, saying that his wife was smitten with the guy while their own relationship had collapsed.

    I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Call it the broken marriage defense: Bob McDonnell says he’s innocent because his wife—who is also on trial—was flirting her way into a sleazy relationship with Williams. And Maureen is on board with the legal case.

    This strikes me as a fairly audacious attempt to save the former governor’s skin by blaming the mess on his wife. He was an upstanding leader while she was swooning over this Jonnie fellow. She was the one who really wanted the gifts. The problem with this defense is there is also evidence that implicates Bob McDonnell as a player in this scheme.

    Williams, who has already changed his story once, ran a company


    But let’s face it: What’s driving the media interest is the newly disclosed salacious side of the story, the one in which staffers referred to Williams as the first lady’s “favorite playmate.” It’s hard to know what’s more riveting: the details of the couple’s dysfunctional marriage and Maureen’s alleged flirtation with Williams, or the weirdness of the couple using this argument to beat the rap.


    Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times Dispatch writes of the couple’s “body language”:

    “The two routinely make separate entrances at the fortress-like federal courthouse on East Broad Street…McDonnell coolly greeted his wife ahead of Tuesday’s proceedings. They were expressionless as defense sketched a portrait of their marriage.”

    All this, he says, is very different from “the image Bob McDonnell advanced as a candidate for governor. To blunt his controversial graduate school thesis – it decried working mothers, cohabitation, homosexuality, and premarital sex – McDonnell ran television commercials in which his wife and five children were front and center.

    “In one ‘Leave to Beaver’-esque advertisement, Bob and Maureen were a model of suburban contentment, sitting in front of a trim house as their smiling, chattering kids bounded out the front door, with one of the twin boys cheerfully demanding the keys to the family car. Now, several of those children are witnesses at their parents’ trial.”

    If nothing else, this trial dramatizes the difference between the image that some politicians and their families present to the public and the sad reality of their private lives. But it also shows that tabloid allegations don’t always come from the media; sometimes they surface when defendants are trying to save themselves."

    Howard Kurtz

    1. Both prosecution and defense have a strategy. If you point out one even-handedness requires you discuss the other one too. To focus only on the defense strategy as self serving while accepting what prosecutors say as truth is unfair.

  10. When are trials of governors for corruption not national news, especially when it's a family-values Republican and the commentator is a declared liberal? Rod Blagojavich appeared on Letterman.

    The legitimate news here was this: McDonnell defense strategy: "She did it, not me (and she's a slut, too)." The headlines Maddow cited as "salacious" gave only the "she's a slut" story. They did not even hint at the strategy part. That's a perfectly legitimate point by Maddow, as is the manipulative way they suddenly stopped showing up together. Too bad Bob despises her so completely that he couldn't even see it.

    1. Just for clarity: the doll "playing" lasted about two seconds.

    2. If you notice the Howard Kurtz quote in my comment above, Maddow is not the only person who remarked on the strategy. You also notice that, while Somerby will criticize Kurtz when he counters the TDH meme, and hold him up as an authority when he supports it, here he ignores him. Perhaps that is because Kurtz supports Maddow's contention about the defense strategy, does not support her in blaming the media, but his headline is a pain for Somerby's point of view.

  11. To borrow a Howler phrase, "Who the Sam Hill is Chucky?"

    1. He must be talking about Chuck Todd. Somerby always has a nickname for NBC folks. Like "Puppy" for Chris Hayes.
      I didn't watch the video so I can't be sure if she had Todd on as a guest.

      Speaking of which, do you think he will cover the rumor Todd will replace David Gregory at Meet the Press? I know Somerby must like Gregory. He doesn't say nasty things about him like he did to Tim Russert.

    2. Checking the TDH archives I find no reference to Chucky.

  12. I have only been recently introduced to Bob Somerby's blog and have two rather simple observations.

    1. The fact there are so many commenters using the username Anonymous is surprising. I don't know why Bob doesn't this by requirin unique names to improve thread flow.

    2. I know I am not the first one to observe that Bob sometimes dwells on minor faults in what is an otherwise decent informative report by someone on cable news.

    1. Most of Bob's commenters were once in the witness protection program for squealing on guild members who broke the unwritten rules.

  13. Whatever happened to Bridgegate? That one sure went on holiday,

    1. Indeed. Of course so did Colonicgate for a while.

    2. Bridgate died along with Christie's reputation as a hands-on, full-speed governor who gets things done when he began throwing staffers under the bus, claiming he never had any idea they were up to such shenanigans.

      The thing will explode again if and when indictments are issued, as well as immunity deals.

  14. It appears to me based on the video, that Maddow's script after the six minute mark was remarkably similar to that of Bob Somerby in his criticism of the media. And the Chucky metaphor? It seems as if the man who once declared "Maddow is FOX" has himself become Maddow.

  15. Dowdy announced the swiftboating of Hillary Clinton. After Four years of peace and prosperity in the world through her efforts as Sec of State we find out Clinton is Hawk #1, responsible for starting Bush's Iraq War and now restarting it, away from Obama's calming influence. Hillary hatred will believe anything.

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  18. quiere decir un gran agradecimiento, gracias, gracias al Dr. Johnson hechizo de todo para todos que no cree en el hechizo, yo era uno de esos en un primer momento. Yo no estaba muy seguro de si quería hacer esto, ya que otros que he probado llamados hechizos ruedas y que no funcionó y fue un desperdicio de mi tiempo y dinero. Sin embargo, cuando leí a través de los testimonios de otras personas en este sitio web y después de hablar con el Dr. Johnson, quien respondió a todas mis preguntas y era muy agradable y sincero sobre todo, decidí darle una oportunidad. Me imaginé que sería mi último intento de conseguir mi chico espalda. Así que mi historia es que yo estaba en mi oficina cuando el chico con el que estoy enamorada me dijo que él no estaba enamorado de mí y nunca lo será y que él no quería hablar ni verme de nuevo, sobre todo porque él estaba hablando con otra chica. Cuando hablé con el Dr. Johnson en ello, me hizo saber que explica que sería más adecuado para mí y elegí los que iba a traerlo de vuelta a mí y quedarse conmigo y quiere casarse con me.As pronto como comenzó el los hechizos, mi chico volvió a entrar en mi vida! Fue un milagro para mí y estoy muy agradecido por eso. Las cosas han ido bien, y más o menos de acuerdo a lo que el Dr. Johnson dijo que sucedería. Él siempre está ahí cuando se le necesita, puede ponerse en contacto con él a través de correo electrónico