A WEEK IN THE LIFE: The Candide of major cable news stars!


Part 4—It's the best of all worlds Over Here:
Is a $15 minimum wage a good idea? A $15 federal minimum wage?

Like you, we don't have the slightest idea how to answer that question. In part, that's because we get our "news" from "The Carrot Top of Cable News Stars," as she's now often described.

Last week, this major star performed her show from Tuesday through Friday night. On Tuesday night, she opened her week by killing a whole lot of time, and a lot of brain cells, with a pair of numbing segments about Phyllis Schlafly, 91, who ceased to be a significant player many years ago.

Before she wasted our time on Schlafly, she wasted our time by letting us know what Prescott Bush thought about Nelson Rockefeller's divorce. What he thought about that divorce in 1964!

On Wednesday night, this same cable star opened her show with footage from the Tricia Nixon/Edward Cox wedding, a glorious event which took place in 1971. This particular killing of time had been preceded by footage of President Nixon's final address. We were told that he was weeping throughout, though it didn't quite look like that.

Question: Has anyone ever killed more time on "cable news" than this particular star? As it turned out, Wednesday evening's long journey through Nixon and Cox had led to that $15 federal minimum wage, which the cable star took pains, all week, to avoid discussing with respect to the substance or merits.

Would a $15 federal minimum wage be a good idea? This question was in the ether last week as Candidates Clinton and Sanders fought for the state of New York.

That said, you never saw a substantive discussion of this proposal on this major star's cable show. Instead, she used the exciting, unexamined proposal as a way to kill brain cells in one of the oldest ways there is--by insisting that the Very Bad People are all Over There, while our own tribe is able to boast The Best of All Possible Candidates.

Quick hint—our tribe isn't able to boast the best of all possible candidates. Each of our candidates is substantially flawed, as is often the case in the world.

That said, you'll rarely learn that saddening fact from this major star. Last week, she taught us something utterly different. She taught us how to loathe The Others, in the present and in the past tense.

She also taught us to love Our Own, as tribal players always will do. A cynic would say that the cable news star does this to fluff her ratings, and to keep corporate earnings up.

"Is everybody happy?" Long ago, Ted Lewis made the question famous.

In modern times, a cynic would say that this cable star asks herself the very same question as she plans her eponymous TV show. To justify her massive salary, a criterion must be met:

Her ratings are built upon the eyeballs of Clinton fans and Sanders fans. Both groups of viewers must be kept happy all through her hour-long show!

Last Tuesday night, she addressed each of the groups after the endless time waste built around the irrelevant Schlafly. Here's how the fawning went down:

In her next segment, the cable star wasted time with the suggestion that Vice President Biden and President Obama had both endorsed, or semi-endorsed, Candidate Clinton that day.

In fact, no one had endorsed anyone, but it was a good way to kill more time and to fluff Clinton supporters. She closed her segment with a promise to Sanders fans:
MADDOW (4/12/16): In the Democratic Party that really, really likes President Obama and Vice President Biden, if you are the woman who is running for president right now, both of those comments have got to be very welcome.

But I should also tell you, in that hard-fought Democratic primary, there was also some really, really good news for Bernie Sanders today.
And that's next.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Clinton fans got to be happy about those non-endorsements. But Sanders fans were going to get some good news too!

In the next segment, the star made them happy this way:
MADDOW: The New York primary is a week from tonight. On the Republican side of this race, Donald Trump is leading by such huge numbers, he may be breaking records for this primary season actually...On the Democratic side, it's not nearly as dramatic, but Hillary Clinton continues to hold a big lead in the state of New York.

All that said, though, there is one way on the Democratic side in which Bernie Sanders is really cleaning up in New York.
No idea what it's going to mean for the ballot box, but Bernie Sanders' rally crowds right now are freaking enormous.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Clinton is ahead in the polls, but Sanders is drawing really big crowds! Everyone gets to be happy!

The cable star rattled pointless statistics about those Sanders crowds. At the end of this waste of time, she oohed and aahed about a rally which would take place the next night:
MADDOW: And at this event, there are going to be more celebrities and bands than usual for a big Bernie Sanders event. But even still, look at this! So far, 17,000 people have RSVP'ed for the event on Facebook already and counting, and it's not until tomorrow night!

I mean, in terms of history here and context, in the 2008 presidential race, you might remember that Barack Obama also did a massive event at Washington Square Park. In the 2008 race, he drew a crowd of 24,000 people at the same location where Bernie Sanders is going to be tomorrow.

And turning out 24,000 people in New York City, that was almost an unimaginable number that year for candidate Barack Obama. But after he turned out 24,000 people in Washington Square Park, he went on that year to lose the New York primary to a candidate named Hillary Clinton.

So rallies are not votes, but they're something. The number of people Senator Bernie Sanders is turning out is a political phenomenon unto itself.

Watch this space.
A cynic would say that "Watch this space" was the key message there. The cable star is constantly telling us not to go away.

At any rate, this time-wasting segment gave both groups of viewers a way to feel good. Clinton was ahead in the polls—but Sanders was drawing amazing crowds! Within our own exalted tribe, it was the best of all possible worlds, especially when you considered Prescott Bush's views on divorce! In 1964!

Also, Schlafly's gay son!

It was all good in our glorious tribe, even as the bulk of the hour had been burned away. And sure enough! The following night, the cable star used that footage from the Nixon-Cox wedding to drive her point home again!

Forty-five years after the wedding in question, it turns out that Nixon's son-in-law is chairman of the New York State GOP! And as we showed you yesterday, it turned out, last Wednesday night, that he was about to do a horrible thing, perhaps as a reflection of his "troubled Republican royalty pedigree!"

As we showed you yesterday, the cable star revealed that "Edward Cox, Dick Nixon's son-in-law" was going to hold a black tie, $1000-a-plate fund-raising dinner that Thursday night! "In one of these huge midtown hotel ballrooms!" "In the heart of New York City!"

The "exclusive sold-out" gala event was "going to raise a gazillion dollars for the Republican Party of New York State," the major cable star said. Surely, no one else would ever behave that way!

In the course of her tribe-pleasing segment, she said the event would be "black tie" three separate times; six times, she called it a "gala." She failed to mention an obvious fact—all the pols for whom she pimps have attended a million such dinners.

Might we cite an example? Two nights later, Candidate Clinton was going to attend an exclusive gala in California. That exclusive gala was going to be up to $353,000-a-plate!

The cable star forgot to say that. Instead, she pushed the troubling Cox event into one of her brain cell-killing frameworks. She noted that people were going to protest the Cox event, demanding that $15 minimum wage.

She never discussed the actual merits of a $15 federal minimum wage. Given cost-of-living differences, should rural Mississippi have the same minimum wage as a place like San Francisco? Could a $15 minimum wage be harmful in low cost-of-living areas?

If the minimum went to $15 in Mississippi, where would it have to go in Seattle? Would these arrangements actually make good economic sense?

All week long, the cable star avoided such boring discussions. She avoided mentioning the fact that our two candidates differ on this proposal.

Instead, the cable star used that black tie gala to pimp the tribal greatness of her viewers, who she was making happy this night. Below, you see the way she closed her segment about that troubling exclusive event.

Her message was unusually clear. We are The Very Good People. We are Their "exact opposite."

We are living in "Oppositeland" as compared to Them:
MADDOW (4/13/16): On the Democratic side of the presidential race, we had stunning visuals today that showed how, on the Democratic side of the race, it's basically the exact opposite right now of the party-crashing we are expecting tomorrow night from the minimum wage protesters at the New York State black tie $1000-a-plate Republican gala. It is Oppositeland to that in the Democratic Party right now.

And that's next. Stay with us.
"Stay with us" may have been the key message there. The cable star was holding her crowd by saying they're morally great.

The Others are holding black tie galas! Over here, it's Oppositeland.

The cable star never discussed the merits of that $15 proposal. She never discussed the differing views of Candidate Clinton and Sanders, even after those differences came into question at Thursday night's debate. When she returned from that break on Wednesday night, the cable star pimped the various ways in which "the Democratic candidates in this primary spent today trying to outdo each other supporting working people, with trying to prove that they mean it."

She never mentioned any differences between the two Democratic candidates on any issues concerning working people. She never mentioned any specific proposals. It was fawning to her viewers, straight outta some imagined place.

Bill Clinton came from a place called Hope. We're now from Oppositeland.

The cable star spent large chunks of her week pandering to both major groups of her viewers. Clinton fans and Sanders fans got to be happy alike.

They all got fed the same old gruel about Schlafly and the weeping Nixon and his black tie son-in-law with the wedding we should resent and the exclusive gala. On Friday, they all got fed the same denunciation of Candidate Kasich, a borderline-demented attack which we'll review tomorrow.

They all got fed the same factual errors; such "errors" are a common part of this strikingly truth-challenged program. Later on that Wednesday night program, each group got fed a fawning interview with a United States senator who is supporting their hopeful.

Good God. Senator Merkley went first. He'd endorsed Candidate Sanders.

Quickly, the cable star started fawning. "When I described you as an iconoclastic liberal, I meant that in the nicest possible way," she said. "Iconoclastic in kind of a lot of different ways, at a lot of different levels," she said, "...because I think you have shown you're willing to go your own way and come up with your own policy positions and cast the political winds wherever they are."

Merkley supported Sanders well; he also spoke well of Clinton. And sure enough! When the cable star interviewed Senator Murphy, a Clinton supporter, she actually started with this:
MADDOW: I imagine you might have been able to hear my conversation there with Jeff Merkley. One of the things I thought was notable about his news-making endorsement today is that he is very positive about the Democratic field. He told us that Democrats are spoiled for choice. They're both two great candidates.

Do you feel that same way about this race?
Senator Murphy said he did! As she finished a notably worthless three-question interview, the cable star began gushing again:

"You and Senator Merkley are both—you go your own way, you're both such principled progressives. I really appreciated the chance to have you both here tonight."

She closed the show in her favorite way this night. Deliciously, we were headed back to her favorite sexy-time tale:
MADDOW: We have yet more news tonight, this time on a story we've been following more closely than sometimes feels comfortable. It's about the D.C. Madam case from about a decade ago and the fight by one lawyer involved in that case to release what he says are previously unseen phone records from the D.C. Madam escort service at the center of that scandal.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! It would be her program's fifth segment about the D.C. Madam, "a story we've been following more closely than sometimes feels comfortable." What else can you do when Governor Bentley refuses to "shtup" former aides?

The major star in question performed four programs last week. Given our own constraints of length, it's hard to capture all the ways she dumbed her viewers down—insulted their flagging intelligence, degraded the national discourse.

That said, her program is built on the wasting of time—the wasting of time and the love of loathing, delivered by any means necessary. She's dedicated to something else too:

Avoiding discussions of substance.

On Friday night, the cable star taught us how to loathe Candidate Kasich. Her lessons involved some astonishing logic and several flat misstatements.

Her segment about the ways to loathe Kasich was just this side of demented. Our view?

The cable star who performed that segment should be taken by the arm and led away, by attendants who really care.

Tomorrow: How to loathe Candidate Kasich. Also, how to bribe GOP delegates!

The cable star pretends: This was the cable star's second question for Senator Murphy, the Clinton supporter:
MADDOW: One of the reasons I want today talk to you tonight, sir, is you've been so forward about trying to define a progressive foreign policy and a progressive national security agenda on the Democratic side. Is that also key to your endorsement decision here?
Murphy said that was a part of his endorsement decision. "I think Bernie gets that as well," he said. "I just know in her work as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was pioneering in some of these ideas how you use softer power rather than harder power to influence world events."

Let's face it. That isn't the way Clinton is viewed by many of the cable star's viewers.

That statement begged for a follow-up question. The cable star followed with this:
MADDOW: Do you think you have a bead on how your state is going to vote? The Connecticut primary is not far off. There has not been much polling. But we have seen the polling tighten in Connecticut like it has in so many states over the course of this race.
The cable star was playing it dumb. The D.C. Madam was next!


  1. Since Bob put it in quotes and claimed it is often said, I put "The Carrot Top of Cable News Stars" into Google to see what came up.

    Two results. Both of them linking to this very post.

    But I bet Bob thinks he's so clever, that this is sure to go viral, any moment now.

    1. Another sad moment in the life of the irony-challenged.

    2. Bob Somerby has often been called "Not even Close To Carrot Top Caliber in Stand Up Comedy." And that may have been by his publicist.

    3. I thought Bob was known as the Gallagher of Harvard Philosophy Undergrads.

    4. The PeeWee Herman of Baltimore Fifth Graders.

  2. Another day, another screed about Rachel Maddow.

    1. Bob's readers, like good pupils, must master
      his lessons through repetition.

    2. I believe there are meds you can take for OCD.

      Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors?

    3. You sure do know your meds.

  3. MADDOW: One of the reasons I want today talk to you tonight, sir, is you've been so forward about trying to define a progressive foreign policy and a progressive national security agenda on the Democratic side. Is that also key to your endorsement decision here?
    Murphy said that was a part of his endorsement decision. "I think Bernie gets that as well," he said. "I just know in her work as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was pioneering in some of these ideas how you use softer power rather than harder power to influence world events."

    Somerby says that most of Maddow's cable viewers do not have this impression of Clinton's foreign policy views. That's because the NY Times and the Sanders campaign are both working overtime to portray her as a hawk. Maddow didn't go there because it would be off-message, undermine the narrative about that awful Clinton who just loves regime change. Forget her role in helping Northern Ireland find peace (acknowledged by George Mitchell). She just loves her some war, according to the narrative. Mustn't challenge the narrative -- so no follow up questions.

    If Maddow gets the substance wrong and says a bunch of factually incorrect things when she discusses actual issues, perhaps it is better that she avoids them.

    1. The commenter who penned those paragraphs should be taken by the arm and led away, by attendants who really care.

    2. Secretary Clinton has been endorsed by at least 40 Democratic Senators. Sanders landed his first last week, Merkley.

      I think Merkley has been on MSNBC a couple dozen times since.

      That is MSNBC, Fair and Balanced.

      PS: Maddow looked like someone squeezed a bitter grapefruit in her face on Tuesday. And MSNBC actually turned their microphone and chair over to Weaver on Tuesday, right after Hillary's victory speech. These are petty people over there.

    3. This would be the same MSNBC that had Steve Kornacki explaining rather carefully to Jeff Weaver that Bernie's chances are slim and none and Slim just left the building.

      When we cherry-pick in our hunt for bias against our chosen candidate, we can find it anywhere.

    4. Steve Kornacki was the guy who literally handed his microphone over to Weaver seconds after Hillary had made a stirring victory speech. Exactly why was Weaver invited to step on to the stage and play with the big map at precisely that time?

      I have never seen anything like it.

      I hope you're not trying to argue that MSNBC has been objective regarding the Democratic race because that is just laughable.

      I'm just guessing but I think they gave Jane Sanders a furnished apartment in the studio building so she would always be available for her countless appearances on the network the past few weeks.

    5. Yes, the same Steve Kornacki who told Weaver to his face that he was nuts. And the same MSNBC whose panelists quickly agreed with Kornacki, and called Weaver delusional.

      But like I said, those who make it their mission in life to find bias, will find it, even if they got to pretend it's there.

      Same goes with the Bernie Bros. Go look up a blog where they hang out (they certainly don't hang out here, but few do).

      They'll tell you how MSNBC has been in the tank for Hillary from the get-go.

    6. "...the same Steve Kornacki who told Weaver to his face that he was nuts..."

      Bullshit. Never happened.

      KORNACKI: Because you know as well as I do, if June 7th comes and goes and Hillary Clinton has won the pledged delegate count and the primaries, and she has won the popular vote, there are going to be calls from her campaign and calls from a lot of influential delegates in this country for you the Sanders campaign to make a decision to unite around her.

      You're saying instead of that, you will spend those months, those weeks in the summer trying to flip superdelegates to Bernie Sanders before the convention?

      WEAVER: At this point, yes, absolutely.

      I'm not going to argue about it anymore.
      The music was still playing, the crowd was still cheering, she had just started greeting the crowd, and immediately, for no apparent reason, MSNBC decided to cut away to their quiet and lonely studio where Steve Kornacki was standing in front of the map with Jeff Weaver. The editorial judgment there boggles the mind.

      As TDH showed yesterday, the next night, following Secretary Clinton's strong victory in NY, Darling Rachel opened her with her sour grapes description of how corrupt the voting system in NY State is.

      After months of displaying a demonstrable anti-Hillary Clinton and pro-Bernie Sanders bias, something seems to have changed at MSNBC, if the network’s two most recent interviews are any indication.


    7. By the way, no, those two most recent interviews changed nothing.

      Go down the list of the nighttime schedule,

      Chris Hayes,
      Rachel Maddow,
      Lawrence O'Donnell

      All blatantly anti - Hillary.

      The only one who has shown a minimum amount of objectivity has incredibly been Chris Matthews.

      For almost a year, the morning show Joe and Mika have been insanely anti-Hillary and Andrea Mitchel has been a joke.

  4. RM is awful, the way Dowd is awful.

    It was impossible to watch RM, Mathews, and Williams on Tuesday. I lasted about 25 seconds.

    1. Did you know that if you miss election night television coverage, the results of the election will still be the same?

    2. I realize it's natural to speculate who will win, but the vast majority of the coverage is about that polls, who won the debate, etc., also gaffes and things like who someone supported for president when in high school. There is hardly anything about what counts: what the candidates actual policies are (ok, some of Trump's nitwit ideas (not all) have been repeated about 8 million times); and what would the effect be if the policies were somehow implemented, who would win, who would lose, what are the potential benefits or downsides. After all, if there is one thing for sure, we will find out who wins the election, the day after (or even the evening of) the election. What did they do all those years when there weren't any polls? (I'm assuming they weren't around when Jefferson ran).

    3. You know, AC/MA, even the candidates know that long, detailed policy speeches will bore the hell out of everybody.

      So who's really to blame for the "horse race" coverage?

    4. Why are policy speeches necessarily boring? Who decided politics should be entertaining. Policy speeches are relevant to voter lives because they tell voters how a candidate will act in office.

      Those speeches are the reason I knew Obama would be bad for public education, wouldn't support the space program or funding for basic research, was soft on women's rights and health issues, and wouldn't prosecute Wall Street (Larry Summers was writing his finance policies) or support net neutrality. Those entertained by his "words" had a rude awakening. Not me because it was all there in his policy statements -- at the time when people were saying there were few differences between Obama and Hillary.

      Horse race coverage should point out the policy differences between the candidates. Why is that not part of the horse race?

      But the larger question is why everything in life must be pleasurable, entertaining, fun or exciting? People no longer want to watch movies that are dramas because they aren't fun. People no longer want to work at learning a game or skill or hobby because it isn't immediately rewarding. Food that tastes sour or bitter or savory doesn't sell so sugar is added to everything and we all get fat.

      We used to be taught that anything worth having requires work. Not so much any more. I that is to blame. Now I will be told that I sound like a codger, as if that were bad too. Young, beautiful, fun, sexy, pleasant -- that's all that matters to anyone any more.

      In a decade or two as we encounter the real legacy of global warming in the form of huge problems, our society will be ill-equipped to cope because of this emphasis on all fun all the time. I see a dark cloud on the horizon.

  5. Youngish readers need to know Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow were both once far more influential before your Howler Got Results.

  6. ::claps and rubs hands together:: So...what has become insufferable about Rachel Maddow, what has come to be an increasingly used rhetorical tic....what she and her staff have indulged in with increasing frequency...what is insufferable about Rachel Maddow...is her tendency to repeat and rephrase the beginning of a thought several times for decreasingly dramatic effect before finally finishing that thought.

    1. Plus there is the pandering...wasting chunks of time...asking you to stay through commercials...instead of getting rid of them...and taking the extra time...to seriously piss portions of her audience off.

  7. I am posting this here to see if Bob (whose attention is hard to get) would be interested in blogging about this recent cover piece from The Nation about Sandra Bland's background and depression.


    1. I appreciate the offer.

    2. Not sure Bob is able to form an opinion about that piece unless Rachel Maddow says something about it first.

    3. If Sandra Bland had never encountered the officer and had instead checked herself into a motel and then committed suicide after hearing that she had failed her background check at her new job, would anyone now be blaming the motel for failing to keep her safe?

      I would be more inclined to consider her record of many traffic tickets and arrests to be racial harassment if the tickets had no been for collisions and mechanical problems with her car, not simply speeding.

      Do we blame racism for her daily use of marijuana? The article makes it appear she was in despair because she could not find a job equivalent to her education but it is also plain that she was repeatedly hired and could not keep a job, perhaps due to that drug use or her feisty attitude that we all heard on the police transcript when the officer pulled her over.

      When an African American person has a serious personality disorder as well as depression, is racism to blame, is society at fault? Should police cut her slack because of her inability to conform her behavior to the law or to the demands of employment?

      I don't know what Somerby would say but I think the Nation tried to portray bland in her most favorable light but left a lot of unanswered questions.

    4. Another dead black person. Another white guy making excuses.

    5. The Nation, a paper for liberal white guys and gals, made a lengthy excuse for Sandra Bland's actions, assigning blame to her estranged family, her school, the employers who didn't want someone with a record, all those police enforcing our traffic and drug laws, and a racist society that doesn't permit black women to be anything less than strong. After that, no room for Bland to accept any responsibility for: (1) seeking help with her depression, (2) being less self-involved, (3) recognizing her own contribution to her employment and financial problems, especially her drug use and failure to drive responsibly.

      There are many African American students emerging from high schools and colleges who struggle to find jobs but do not engage in her self-defeating behaviors and eventually find a niche and make good lives for themselves. They don't wear out the good will of their family and friends with irresponsible behavior. It is wrong to ignore their success in order to excuse Bland for her voluntary behavior. She isn't dead because she was black. She is dead because she killed herself.

    6. I approve these comments at 10:44 and 1:26.

    7. Why bother discussing anything when it is so much easier to just call names?

  8. I have to give Bob thanks for reporting on Maddow's show...just so I don't ever have to. Her cutsie shtick makes want to heave. Hate to say it, but better you than me Bob...Bill from CT

    1. So why can't you simply ignore Maddow altogether if you find her so obnoxious?

      Why do you think Bob is doing you such a service by obsessing on such a horrible person?

      Are you so insecure in your own opinions that you need someone else to validate them?

    2. Maddow has a responsibility to her audience. Journalism is a profession with ethics. Without a free press our democracy will be lacking an important check and balance on the power of elected officials and those appointed to carry out our government. Did you fail your high school civics class?

    3. I do certainly see that Somerby has taught you well, grasshopper. The single biggest threat to a free press and democracy is Rachel Maddow.

    4. No, it is you, obviously.