Also, a cable star's Trump-like song of herself: Are people dying in Puerto Rico?
It seems to us that they probably are. It sounds to us like the situation may get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.
It sounds to us like the situation may get extremely bad. That said, a certain major cable news star decided to start her program last night by providing us with an 18-minute PEP—a Partisan Entertainment Product.
Her tribally pleasing PEP concerned the cost of those cabinet members' plane trips. At the start of last night's TV show, before saying a word about Puerto Rico, she spent more than eighteen minutes on this comparatively trivial topic.
Along the way, as she mugged and clowned and made us feel tribally good and pure, she made a trivial error, as you can see below:
MADDOW (9/29/17): But there's more. There's also Trump's Veterans Affairs chief and his wife, who taxpayers apparently just paid to send on a ten-day European vacation—sorry, "work trip"—that included a championship tennis match at Wimbledon.According to that Post report, the VA Secretary had attended a multi-nation meeting his predecessors have attended in the past. Along the way, it does seem that he and his wife squeezed a bit of a taxpayer-funded vacation out of the deal, although the Post doesn't yet seem to know, in full, who actually paid for what.
And I do mean championship. It was the women's final. We're talking Serena Williams.
The trip also included a tour of Westminster Abbey and a river cruise down the Thames and a canal tour in Copenhagen, where they saw the Little Mermaid statue, and trips to four separate palaces. In the middle of this trip, Trump's V.A. secretary reportedly had four straight days with no daytime business whatsoever on the calendar.
They were very efficient though. Clearly, he and his wife made the most of it. Four palaces is a lot. The Washington Post points out tonight that Secretary Shulkin took this whole taxpayer-funded shebang less than two weeks after he signed a memo for other staff at the V.A., telling them to please review their plan to travel, to determine if it was really truly necessary.
Quote, "I expect this will result in decreased employee travel and generate savings with the department." Signed, Secretary Shulkin.
So he signs that, and then on his way out the door, "Bye, got to go, I've got—I'm going to four different palaces and I'm going to see Serena Williams. I'm going to Wimbledon. Now, you guys get these travel costs under control. I got to go. My wife's waiting."
(Concerning the four days "with no daytime business whatsoever," the cable star gave it to you that way because, according to the Post there was some night-time business on two of those four nights.)
This pleasing report about Secretary Shulkin was one small part of the longer PEP with which the cable star opened her TV program. That said, as you can see, the cable star had made a trivial error:
This year's Wimbledon women's final featured Venus Williams, not Serena. The cable star got that wrong!
This error was utterly trivial. There was no gigantic need to correct the error at all, but the cable star lovingly did so.
She corrected it after an interview with Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico's largest city. The cable star had interviewed Cruz for less than seven minutes, after playing tape of Cruz's anguished statements from earlier in the day.
"We are dying," Cruz had said. Interviewed live, she made the same statement to the cable star, saying that she was sending a literal SOS to the rest of the world.
For ourselves, we would have been interested in a more careful analysis of how bad the situation in Puerto Rico is likely to get. (We're thinking of disease, and the absence of water and food, and the inevitable crime which results from such deprivations.) Instead, the cable star returned from a commercial break to provide us consumers with an appalling, spectacularly stupid, highly typical song-of-herself.
As she staged her histrionic self-correction, the cable star continued a years-long con, in which she impresses us with her assiduous devotion to accurate facts. She also engaged in her favorite pastime—talking about herself.
This is where the cable star went after listening to the mayor's anguished SOS:
MADDOW: Sorry. I need to make a correction from the top of the show.As you can see, before we got our pointless correction, we got our PEP all over again. We also got the usual dose of consultant-instructed hand jive and all-around silly-bill mugging. And we got to learn that the cable star had suffered a sleepless night because her back hurt!
[Seeming to whine]
It's Friday. There was one whole night this week when I didn't get any sleep because my back hurt, and then I got like the knock-on effect, where you're not really tired the next day, but you're tired the day after.
So, that's my excuse. Here's what I screwed up:
I said at the top of the show that when the Veterans Affairs chief went to Wimbledon this year, Serena Williams was playing in the women's final. Here's what I have to correct:
The Veterans Affairs chief and his wife did take a taxpayer-funded, ten-day European trip that did include trips to four different palaces, and a tour of Westminster Abbey, and a river cruise and a canal cruise, and four straight days with no scheduled events in the middle of their European vacation, I mean "work trip."
And the Veterans secretary did, on this taxpayer-funded trip with his wife to Europe, he did go to Wimbledon, where he did see a championship match, and it was the ladies' final, and it was one of the Williams sisters in the final.
But it wasn't Serena. It was Venus. And I need to watch my tennis, clearly.
My mistake. My apologies. Very sorry.
We'll be right back.
If you want to see the mugging and clowning which accompanied this song-of-self, you can do so here, though you'll be forced to watch a lot of corporate commercials. You should click ahead to the short segment around the 32-minute mark.
That said, we had several reactions to this presentation:
Many people have said that Donald J. Trump seems unable to demonstrate concern about the specter of death all over Puerto Rico.
We had a similar thought about this cable star as we watched her performance. Her interview with the mayor had been deeply sobering. She moved directly into her trademark mugging, clowning and messaging, with her standard talk about her favorite topic, herself.
This cable star has been playing these games for a very long time now. Mercifully, she no longer posts her DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS sign when she stages her trivial self-corrections. But she continues the general practice, which seems designed to make us (mistakenly) think that she's a stickler for accurate facts.
She continues to love discussing herself. Next to playing videotape of herself, we'd call it her favorite pastime.
Beyond that, we were struck by the callousness of the juxtaposition of segments. The mayor's (literal) SOS had been deeply sobering. The cable star moved directly into this silly sponge bath inflicted upon herself, with us invited to watch.
Massive wealth and massive fame have often been highly destructive. In our view, this cable star often seems a bit like Donald J. Trump. Is our increasingly tribalized band simply too starstruck to see this?