Part 3—What Hewitt and Maddow said: On Thursday morning, March 2, Hugh Hewitt made an extremely dumb remark in the Washington Post.
Hewitt is a conservative talk radio host and a frequently-used MSNBC contributor. His opinion column in the Post concerned Donald J. Trump's address to Congress two nights before.
We highlight the dumb remark:
HEWITT (3/2/17): The heart of the speech...was the president's tribute to Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens and his widow, Carryn, who in an act of incredible courage attended the speech and allowed the nation to grieve with her. By doing so, she invited every patriot to thank in their hearts and prayers all families who have suffered such losses, every veteran who has absorbed a wound. It was a transcendent moment, and indeed a defining moment. This president will stand by his troops."This president will stand by his troops?" Whatever a person may think of Trump's tribute to Owens that night, that comment was strikingly dumb.
In what way did Trump's remarks show that "he will stand by his troops?" We thought of the previous dumbness which brought Hewitt to these pages. We refer to the moment when Hewitt was shown applauding one of Trump's statements during a presidential debate—a debate at which Hewitt himself was serving as a moderator.
Hewitt is a high-IQ person given to the occasional dumb remark. His remark about Trump standing by his troops was one such nonesuch moment. That said:
Needless to say, our own liberal team swung into action in response to Trump's remarks about Owens that night. In one such manifestation, we stood in line to complain that Trump had "exploited" Carryn Owens and/or her husband's death during his speech.
Our lizard brains screamed this assessment and so we rushed to repeat it. For one example, click here.
Did Donald J. Trump exploit Carryn Owens? The judgment is easily uttered. Did he prove that he "will stand by his troops?" That was dumb all the way down.
That said, these are times of moral stampede. Such times encourage endless stiff-necked moral judgment, including interpretations of extemporaneous remarks based on stiff-necked true moral belief.
We refer, of course, to the debate which occurred on the evening of February 28 between the aforementioned Hewitt and his cable colleague, Rachel Maddow. Their debate followed a brief preliminary debate between Hewitt and Brian Williams, a reformed TV fabulist of the pre-Trump strain.
The Hewitt-Maddow debate involved conflicting interpretations of earlier remarks by Trump. Dumb as his subsequent comment was, we thought Hewitt displayed the better judgment in this debate, in which his stiff-necked, true-believing adversary seemed unable to grasp the fact that she interpreting Trump's earlier comments at all.
At issue was a pleasing script our liberal tribe quickly adopted. According to this pleasing script, Trump had semi-contradicted himself in his remarks about Owens that night.
In his address to the Congress, Trump clearly said that the raid in which Owens died had been a success. Anonymous sources had said different, many pundits noted.
(Trump directly attributed this assessment to General Mattis. Because all mainstream pundits have sworn by the greatness of Mattis, cable stars and liberal columnists have tended to hurry past this point as they denounce Trump's assessment.)
Liberal pundits tended to denounce that assessment by Trump. That said, the debate between Hewitt and Maddow turned on a different point.
On the morning of Trump's speech, Trump had appeared on Fox and Friends, the pitiful program he has described as the TV press corps' most honest. He was asked about Owens' death, and about the fact that Owens' father had refused to meet with Trump.
Owens' father had pleased our stampeding tribe greatly. On Fox and Friends, Trump offered this. Because dueling interpretations are involved in what came later, we'll offer no points of emphasis:
TRUMP (2/28/17): Well, this was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something that was, you know, just—they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals—who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I would—I believe. And they lost Ryan. And I was at the airport when the casket came in, the body came in, and it was a very sad—with the family,and it's a great family incredible wife and the children. I met most of the family. And I can understand people saying that. I'd feel, you know, I'd feel— What's worse? There's nothing worse.You can watch the Q-and-A here.
But again, this was something they were looking at for a long time doing. And according to General Mattis, it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.
Our lizard brains told us liberals to say that Trump was "blaming the generals." But had he really been blaming the generals? That was the deathless, largely pointless debate in which Hewitt and Maddow engaged that night.
Alas! In its typical scattershot way, MSNBC never got around to transcribing its programs on the night of Trump's speech. If you want to see the opening round of the debate we're discussing—the opening round between Williams and Hewitt—you can just click here.
Because we get tired of doing MSNBC's work, we won't transcribe their exchange. Starting around the two-minute mark, Williams asks Hewitt if "you will concede" that Trump had seemed to "blame the generals" on Fox and Friends that morning.
Hewitt says no, he won't concede that point. He says he didn't hear Trump's remarks that way. He explains what he thinks he heard Trump say instead.
A few minutes later, Maddow returned to this topic; her sense of annoyance was showing. To watch her great debate with Hewitt, you can just click here.
On that second tape, Maddow jumps in to challenge Hewitt's interpretation of Trump's remarks on Fox and Friends. Here's what we recommend for your consideration:
As she speaks with Hewitt, Maddow refuses to accept the fact that she's offering an interpretation of Trump's remarks! Her moral certainty is so strong that she thinks she's simply reporting facts. At one point, our own stiff-necked true believer engages in the fascinating highlighted exchange:
MADDOW (2/28/17): Hugh, his quote was, "This was a mission that was started before I got here. They explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I would—I believe. And they lost Ryan."In that last remark, Hewitt tells Maddow that she is interpreting Trump's remarks. Here's the interesting part of this debate:
I mean, he was asked about his reaction to this loss in this raid and to the grief of this seal's father, who has spoken publicly about the fact that he didn't want to meet this president on that tarmac at Dover.
He responded by saying, "This was started before I got here." As in, this wasn't me. Don't put this on me.
HEWITT: Yeah, well we just have to disagree, Rachel—
MADDOW: That's what he said. I'm not doing psychoanalysis.
HEWITT: I know! No, but it's not. It's interpretation.
Maddow refuses to concede or accept that basic point! She denies, to the very end, that she's offering an interpretation of what Trump said that morning. She maintains this stance to the end.
Near the end of the great debate, as Maddow signals displeasure with Hewitt, Hewitt offers this:
"I heard it completely differently. And that's the divide in the country. People hear things differently."
That's a very important point. Flatly, Maddow rejects it. Again, she seems to say that she's simply repeating facts. Hewitt is wrong and Maddow is right. Thus spake Maddowthustra!
Was either of these debaters right in his or her interpretation of Trump's remarks? We'd be inclined to say no. We think both parties were over-interpreting Trump's extemporaneous comments.
Was Donald J. Trump blaming the generals for what happened in Yemen on Fox and Friends that day? Our liberal lizards told us he was. It was a pleasing moralistic interpretation of Trump's remarks.
We'd say his remarks were less clear.
Was Trump blaming the generals? In our view, it's hard to say, in part because nobody asked him.
Extemporaneous remarks are often unclear; that's why follow-up questions were invented. No one followed up on Fox and Friends, cable TV's greatest program. At that point, the tribes took over, offering dueling accounts of what they said they heard.
We think Hewitt over-interpreted Trump's remarks; so did the stiff-necked Maddow. Having said that, there was a key distinction between the two, a distinction which made that debate a real keeper:
Hewitt acknowledged the fact that he was interpreting Trump's remarks. Maddow made no such admission. She seemed to think she was simply reporting the facts. Insisting on that stiff-necked claim, she was very, very not-smart.
A moral stampede is under way at the present time. Our own liberal and pseudo-liberal tribe is now stampeding quite hard.
Our lizards keep telling us what to see, think and say. This provides a great chance for us to spot the gross shortcomings which exist Over Here, within our own highly unskilled, vastly self-impressed tribe.
Tomorrow: A moral stampede of the past! The most consequential moral stampede of the past twenty-five years
Coming Friday: As part of our liberal moral stampede, we doctored what Rudy said