Part 5—Clowning clown’s cowardly cowardice: Last Monday night, Rachel Maddow had to ask for help.
For weeks, she had been wasting her viewers’ time with endlessly inane attacks on obscure Republican “candidates.”
She couldn’t distinguish former governor Ehrlich (of Maryland) from former governor Gilmore (of Virginia)! She couldn’t recognize Pataki’s head shot! She pretended to snore every time she mentioned his (hugely irrelevant) name!
She offered inane, contradictory profiles of possible candidate Kasich. Night after night, she played her childish game of “poof” as she removed the names of three of her possible “candidates”—three people who were never going to be candidates in the first place.
In such ways, people like Maddow line their pockets and dumb liberal viewers down. But last Monday night, mysteriously, our Queen of Snark needed help in the case of Trump!
As we noted last Tuesday, Maddow began with a long, rambling discussion of her skills as a cable news star. With apologies, we’ll remind you of the endless things she said.
To us at home, what follows was supposed to be a marker of Maddow’s thoughtfulness and humility. In reality, this was her way of ducking Donald Trump:
MADDOW (6/15/15): Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend...And thanks for staying with us for the next hour.At this point, Maddow listed three political stances she simply “doesn’t get.”
Even for things that we are pretty good at, even for things that we are paid to do, all of us have our limits, right? Part of being an adult is recognizing the outer boundaries of what we are capable of as people.
So my job, for instance, is understanding and explaining the news. And in order to do that job, I do a lot of exposition in terms of just the raw, factual explanation of what’s going to in the world and in the news. I also do some analysis, a little analysis thrown in to explain about what’s important about going on in the news or at least what makes it interesting.
I don’t think I’m the best at my job. There are people in this building, for example, who are better than me at every aspect of my job.
I think I’m OK. Mostly, I’m really glad this is my job because I love doing it. I work hard to get better all the time.
But I have come to realize that there are limits. There are some things I can’t explain, or at least that I can’t analyze in any meaningful sense, because there is something that plainly is appealing about these things, or that seems important about these things, but I just can’t grasp it.
I know it means something to other people. I can see it in their faces. But I can’t get it. I can’t empathize.
And there aren’t a ton of these things, but there a few of them that come in a recurring way in politics, things that obviously really resonate with other people that honestly, I’ve figured out, I just don’t get.
(Third example: She doesn’t get why presidents wear that special jacket when they’re on Air Force One. No, we aren’t making that up. This is Maddow’s way of saying she thinks your IQ is 60. It’s also a way to kill time.)
Eventually, Maddow reached her actual point. She doesn’t get the (alleged) appeal of apparent candidate Trump:
MADDOW: And here, we get to the limits of my abilities as a person who has a job like this, because it is not at all that I dislike Mr. Trump and, therefore, don’t see the appeal because I don’t share the affection for him that his supporters have. It’s nothing like that. It’s not qualitative at all.In most of the national polls, Trump “does pretty great?” By the next night, Maddow would be telling her viewers that Trump actually has the highest disapproval ratings of any candidate for president in the past thirty-five years!
I do not recognize—what’s going on here is that I don’t recognize, I cannot see that what he is doing is something that might conceivably to anyone have any political appeal.
I can’t see that kind of public persona, as being something that lays the foundation for a viable presidential run. But I also recognize that Mr. Trump does very well in the polling among Republican voters. There’s one new poll out today which he does lousy, comes in at 2 percent. But usually, and most of the national polls this year, he does pretty great.
So it has gone as Maddow conducts her absurdly faux “campaign reporting.” By now, Maddow has been running a campaign gong-show for well over a month.
Especially given her previous clowning about a string of Republican candidates, Maddow’s agnosticism regarding Trump was especially striking. Suddenly, the snark was gone! In its place was sheer puzzlement, helped along by a remarkable statement:
“It is not at all that I dislike Mr. Trump,” the cable star said. “It’s nothing like that.” According to Maddow, her complaint or confusion concerning Trump is “not qualitative at all.”
What a remarkable statement! During the Obama years, Trump had been one of the most repellent voices on the entire American landscape. His birtherism has been unbelievably stupid—and depending on how you assess the motives for his ludicrous conduct, it has also been remarkably nasty.
As we’ll see, Maddow knew all about this. As we continue, we’ll explain why she played it dumb about Mr. Trump after weeks of mocking all other Republican hopefuls, often in remarkably low-IQ ways.
We’ll save that revelation for later. For now, Rachel Maddow needed help in analyzing Mr. Trump, who she doesn’t dislike at all! As she closed her opening segment, she offered her first tease for what was to come:
MADDOW: Frankly, I think he is going to run. I think he is also very easily going to make the debate cut, when a lot of serving Republican governors of major states are not going to make that cut.Maddow couldn’t figure it out—but someone was going to help her! After a commercial break, she teased the appearance again:
But at a very base and a very present level, I just don’t understand this. I don’t know how this works politically. I don’t know how to analyze this phenomenon because part of me does not believe it is real.
It is real. Republican voters believe it is real, but I do not get it. I do not understand it. But joining us next is someone who tends to understand things when I do not.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So Donald Trump is going to announce tomorrow that he is running for president of the United States.Maddow was savoring this amazing day—and a special surprise guest was going to help her do it!
And Jeb announced today, Jeb please don’t use his last name. And Hillary Clinton announced this weekend and started running these last few days not in the way that anybody expected her to.
We don’t have many days like this in politics. But we savor them when they happen. We have a special surprise guest coming up next here specifically for amazing political days like this. That’s next.
Stay with us.
We recall thinking that her special guest must be Dan Rather—but no! When she returned, Maddow played tape of Obama mocking Trump in 2012 with the help of Jay Leno. After that, she introduced her friend, who tends to understand things when she does not.
She introduced Chris Matthews. In the process, made it clear that she understood Trump’s ugly history in the Obama years.
To watch this whole segment, click here:
MADDOW: President Obama, speaking in 2012, apparently never met real estate developer Donald Trump when Mr. Trump spent months railing at President Obama to release his rrrreal birth certificate.Rachel rolled her r’s when she said the word “real,” the way she does when a minute has passed without any of her relentless clowning.
But now, Mr. Trump is apparently launching a campaign to not just meet but to actually become president of the United States and Republican voters apparently don’t mind the idea too terribly much.
And I do not understand to think about that. I do not understand how to think about it. I do not understand what it means. I don’t even understand whether or not this is politics.
Joining us now is someone who I would like to help me, the host of Hardball, Chris Matthews. Chris, my friend, thank you so much for being here.
MATTHEWS: So I’m the grand vizier when it comes to explaining Trumpy.
MADDOW: I just feel like I don’t honestly know if this is just a celebrity/reality TV thing that I don’t get. Is this real politics? He kind of polls well.
As she did, she made it clear that she knows what Trump has done in the past six years. But so what? Continuing to play it dumb, she introduced her friend, Chris Matthews, to help her puzzle out Mr. Trump’s large appeal.
Question: At this point, why would any progressive have no qualitative criticism of Trump at all? Of all people, why would Maddow, the queen of snark, adopt this agnostic posture?
One obvious answer would emerge as Matthews analyzed Trump. He started with this account of Trump’s alleged appeal, which actually seems to be rather low among Republican voters:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Well, he’s kind of a comic book figure. I mean, if you imagine in a Superman or better yet a Batman comic episode, he would be “Downtown Developer,” walking around with his trench coat, good-looking wife, lots of money, a flash. He’s a showoff.To Matthews, Trump is a swaggering “show-off” from the world of comic books. The average guy sees Trump and thinks that he’d behave that same way if he could.
He is the kind of guy, a sort of Sinatra of land development, where the average working guy who doesn’t have much money, says this is how I’d behave if I were rich. I’d have big buildings named after me. I’d have a beautiful wife, I may have several wives. I would show off and talk about running for president even, I’d make fun of other people. I would be kind of a wise guy—a showoff. I can’t do better than that.
And that is what he is. I think that is the appeal, just that.
According to the national polls, not too many average guys think Trump should be president on this basis. Later, Matthews’ analysis became a good deal less benign:
MATTHEWS: On the issue of the birth certificate, I think that’s where the malice comes in. I think, as a business guy, he deals with a lot of land developers who are very right-wing, very hawkish, on the Middle East especially, very hawkish. And I bet every time he walks into a business meeting with one of those fellows they congratulate him for accusing Obama of being a foreigner, some sort of usurper, a Kenyan. Some absurd claim.We’re slow to drop R-bombs here. But plainly, Trump has been playing to some sort of “rabble,” offering the stupidest possible claims and insinuations about that fellow named Obama.
They seem to like it because it is malicious and it does play to racism. I’m not saying, you know, Donald Trump’s a racist. But he’s playing to the rabble out there that love the fact that some rich, successful guy underwrites their claim that Obama shouldn’t be president by some tribal illegitimacy. I think it’s all very business-like and malicious. I do think that.
Why wasn’t Maddow able to say something like that herself? Why did she stage that long, inane rumination about her own limitations, then bring Matthews on the set to offer this analysis?
She had mocked everyone else for months! Why so polite about Mr. Trump, who she doesn’t dislike at all?
One possible answer is obvious. Matthews tracks it here:
MADDOW: If...he does actually both declare that he is running and go through the motions and make it into the debates, how does it affect the whole Republican field?According to Matthews, people find Trump entertaining. Also, Trump goes for the jugular with everything he’s got, including that “media power.”
MATTHEWS: Well, it’s like an Agatha Christie play. It’s like Ten Little Indians. And I think if he gets in [the debates], he won’t just get in there and push out or crowd out someone.
He will be the show, because he will attack whoever the front-runner is. If it`s Walker—Scott Walker, he’ll knock his head off. He’ll do the same to Marco Rubio or even to Bush, if he makes a comeback.
His whole game the first night out, will be to knock out the front-runner and get in the lead. He won’t be in the jump. He will be the top of the story. And that will make the Republican Party look like a clown car because he’s in it. It’s going to happen.
It’s going to hurt the Republicans more than– You seem dismayed by the man’s media power. He’s got it. People pay big money to live in one of his towers. They’re paved with gold.
You know, they’re, they’re confections, but people do go for it, as they went for Sinatra. Sinatra had talent. This guy is a particular kind of talent. It’s called PR. He knows how to build himself up and it’s all part of this comic book image that people are taken with.
They don’t hate Donald Trump. People don’t. They find him entertaining.
Almost surely, this explains why Maddow has been happy to savage everyone else, but bowed and scraped in deference to Mr. Trump, who she doesn’t dislike at all, whose appeal she can’t understand. This is the way it works:
If you mock George Pataki, nothing happens. But if you mock or criticize Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump pushes back, often extremely hard.
We’ll guess that this simple fact explains the silence of Maddow—her refusal to criticize Trump all week, even after his ugly speech about all those Mexican rapists.
Concerning Maddow, let’s talk:
If you’re a liberal, Maddow votes the same way you do in presidential elections. In that sense, she’s “on your side.”
She also shares your stands on many issues. She supports abortion rights. She supports marriage equality. She is opposed to unnecessary restrictions on the right to vote.
In our view, she doesn’t seem to care very much about low-income kids or working-class people. But Maddow shares your position on the major social issues—and she’s endlessly willing to clown for you as she keeps imploring you to “stay with us” and “watch this space.”
Last week, she wasn’t willing to criticize the disgraceful Donald Trump. She did everything but scrub his back and comb his hair as she assured the world that she doesn’t dislike Mr. Trump at all—that it’s nothing qualitative!
What a truly horrible person this clowning clown has turned out to be! She continued to clown about Trump all week, even after the disgraceful speech he gave last Tuesday morning.
After Charleston happened, she took what she called “a point of personal privilege;” she spent an entire segment Thursday night kissing the ascot of Brian Williams. As mourning and analysis continued, she then took Friday night off.
It makes for a better news show.
Increasingly, we've come to see Maddow as an energetic con artist. Yes, she votes the same way you do. She shares your views on many issues.
But in our view, she relentlessly dumbs liberal viewers down and endlessly serves herself. Watch her (endless) segments about Mr. Trump last week. Tell us how we’re wrong.
Next: Two more quick points about Matthews’ critique. Plus, what Dan Abrams said.