Part 1—Our own team's gross incompetence: Last night, in his opening segment, Lawrence O'Donnell really got it on.
The transcript isn't available yet, not even through Nexis. Given the way his corporate channel works, who knows when it will appear?
The transcript isn't available yet, but we're willing to show you how O'Donnell started his program last night. You see his words below.
In many ways, O'Donnell's show is currently well worth watching. But what you see here is spectacularly dumb—and dumbness is a large liberal problem. It helped put Trump where he is:
O'DONNELL (1/23/17): So we have now entered the presidential era of falsehoods and footnotes.To watch the full segment, click here.
Parents and teachers around the country who have been trying to teach kids to follow George Washington's example of never telling a lie are now busy explaining to those same kids what a "falsehood" is, now that much of the media has seemd to arrive at an informal agreement to call a lie a "falsehood."
In many ways, O'Donnell's show is well worth watching. He frequently offers well reasoned discussions. His viewers aren't subjected to the mugging, clowning and sheer pomposity with which they will have been assailed in the preceding hour.
In many ways, O'Donnell's show is well worth watching. But what you see in that brief excerpt tilts toward spectacular dumbness—and dumbness has been a major liberal problem, dating back at least twenty-five years.
Manifestly, our dumbness helped send Donald J. Trump to the White House. That dumbness has been on display in the past few days as our leaders stumble and flail concerning the meaning of everyday terms like falsehood, misstatement and lie.
For starters, make no mistake—our team is genuinely dumb. We've been putting our dumbness on display as we posture, flail and clown with these concepts and terms.
Have we really thrashed and flailed? For starters, consider what O'Donnell said, and seemed to say, in that short opening passage.
O'Donnell said this: Much of the media has seemed to arrive at an informal agreement to refer to lies as "falsehoods."
In what it claims, and in what it implies, that statement strikes us as quite dumb.
Has "much of the media" decided that they should refer to lies as "falsehoods?" It's hard to unpack all the things which are implied by that claim.
But if it's a short answer you want, we'll say the answer is "no." We see no sign that major news orgs have made any such decision.
Please note—as he continued, O'Donnell revealed a key fact. He understands that many falsehoods, possibly most, don't qualify as lies.
Duh! Lawrence O'Donnell understands that many falsehoods aren't lies! He explained this blindingly obvious point in the following passage:
O'DONNELL: A falsehood is simply a statement that is untrue. You could pass along a falsehood not knowing that it's untrue. And in that case, it wouldn't technically be a lie, because a lie is the deliberate use of a falsehood with the intention to deceive.Duh! O'Donnell made a blindingly obvious point in that blindingly obvious passage. On the other hand, he managed to make a silly statement even there. We refer to this:
"You could pass along a falsehood not knowing that it's untrue. And in that case, it wouldn't technically be a lie."
It wouldn't technically be a lie? Actually, in that situation, your misstatement wouldn't be a lie at all! It wouldn't come close to being a lie! There's nothing "technical" about it.
Duh! If you don't know that your statement is false, you haven't told a lie! As an example, consider a groaning misstatement O'Donnell himself once made.
It was Friday, October 6, 2000. O'Donnell was taping that weekend's edition of The McLaughlin Group, a high-profile TV gong show.
The program was being taped three days after the history-changing first Bush-Gore debate. Inevitably, John McLaughlin was pimping the mandated claim that Candidate Gore had issued a new assortment of "tall tales" and "fibs."
O'Donnell quickly affirmed this mandated claim, making an erroneous statement which we'll show you below. This completed a hat trick on O'Donnell's part this night.
O'Donnell had already trashed Gore for having sighed too much in the debate. (This was another mandated claim. Gore had done this deliberately, O'Donnell further said.)
O'Donnell had also already said that Candidate Bush had won the debate by exceeding expectations. ("Bush won by not getting flattened by Gore as everyone expected," he said. In this way, O'Donnell had voiced another mandated claim.)
O'Donnell had already acceded to these mandated scripts. Now, he completed the hat trick. He did so by offering a misstatement, alleging an "untruth" by Gore:
O'DONNELL (10/6/00): John, his most ridiculous and his most relevant untruths are his claims of legislative achievement. He told Time magazine last year that he enacted the Earned Income Tax Credit, which of course went into law before he was ever in Congress.Working hard to send Bush to the White House, O'Donnell uncorked a plain misstatement—a plainly inaccurate claim.
In fact, Gore hadn't "told Time magazine [in 1999] that he enacted the Earned Income Tax Credit." The transcript of Gore's Q-and-A with Time makes that fact perfectly clear.
That said, many journalists had made that claim in 1999, advancing the narrative they were building about Big Liar Gore. We'll guess that O'Donnell heard those claims—and that he dumbly believed them.
One year later, O'Donnell made a misstatement about this point on the McLaughlin Group. That said, we don't doubt that he dumbly believed what he said.
Plainly, O'Donnell made a misstatement. But we know of no reason—none at all—to think that he told a "lie." And no, we aren't making a "technical" point. There's nothing "technical" about it:
O'Donnell made a misstatement, full freaking stop. We know of no reason—none at all—to suppose that he told a lie.
Can we talk? Back in October 2000, O'Donnell's statement was false. Last night, several of his statements struck us as rather dumb.
Back then, he helped send Candidate Bush to the White House. Last night, he was preening and helping establish a basic point about our world:
Over here in the liberal world, our intellectual leaders are frequently rather dumb.
The dumbness of our liberal world has been on display in the past week as we struggle with the concepts of falsehood, misstatement, lie. That said, we liberals have been strikingly dumb for a very long time. Plainly, our tribal dumbness has helped produce the astonishing state we now find ourselves in.
We slept in the woods for twenty-five years. Now we're all out there marching!
What's a falsehood, a misstatement, a lie? In what way does a statement that's false differ from one that's misleading?
How should journalists deal with such questions? We'll ponder such basic points all week. As we do, we'll warn you of a continuing problem:
We liberals are deeply self-impressed, but we're also reliably dumb.
The other team relies on that fact. We rarely disappoint them.
Coming: Waldman and Drum and Chait and oh my! Also, why in the world do we have to have so many different words?