There's only one word for this—sad: In fairness, the children have to spend lots of time in hair and makeup.
They also have to study their scripts. As Talking Cable Star Ken has said, "Cable news is hard!"
Once in a while, the children's scripts compel them to tackle some technical matter. So it was that Willie Haskell-Geist found himself attempting to discuss voter turnout down Alabama way.
Willie tried to tackle the topic in the first segment of today's Morning Joe. Joe Scarborough played along as Willie bungled the topic.
To observe the initial bungling, click here, move four minutes in:
GEIST (12/13/17): I said something on the air yesterday about the African-American turnout. They had talked about getting Obama-level 2008 turnout. I think the term I used was "pipe dream." I couldn't see how, without Barack Obama on the ballot, that was going to happen.The feel-good scripting is easy to spot. But as Willie and Joe carried on in this way, a visual seemed to say that African-American turnout in yesterday's election had been 29 percent.
They did it! They did it. African-Americans turned out in the same numbers as they did—think about that!—in 2008 with Barack Obama, an historic candidate, on the ballot. Look at that!
JOE: That's just staggering. That is the most incredible story of all coming out of—
WILLIE: Isn't that unbelievable?
WILLIE: Doug Jones rode into the Senate on the back of African American voters and some suburban Republican women voters in this state.
That would be an extremely low turnout rate. Why in the world would Willie and Joe think that was so great?
Inevitably, Willie had bungled this topic in every conceivable way. For starters, let's try to establish some basic facts:
For starters, No, Virginia! African-Americans didn't "turn out [yesterday] in the same numbers as they did in 2008." On the other hand, black Alabamians didn't post the miserable turnout rate of 29 percent.
As technical topics go, "turnout" and "turnout rate" just aren't real hard at all. But they proved to be way too much for Willie and Joe this morning.
A few minutes later, Willie tried to tackle the topic again. This time, his pitiful technical bungling was even more apparent. Click here, move six minutes in:
GEIST: Just to underline these numbers one more time:Question: Has anyone ever been more incompetent than Willie Haskell-Geist? Who but a major "cable news" star could possibly be this dumb?
2008, black turnout in Alabama was 29 percent. 2012, it was 28 percent. And again, last night, 29 percent, in an off-year election without Barack Obama on the ballot.
WILLIE: And by the way, the broader turnout, according to the Secretary of State, was 40 percent. Remember his prediction, 25 percent? Forty percent last night.
Note what Geist said in that second bite at the apple. First, he seems to praise black Alabamians for a turnout rate of 29 percent. He then says the overall turnout rate was a much higher 40 percent!
Why would he want to praise black voters if their turnout rate was so much lower than the overall rate? This obvious puzzle went unexplained as Mika simply said "Wow."
In fact, Geist had thoroughly bungled this topic. Let's take it step by step:
Black turnout: Almost surely, black turnout was not as large yesterday as in 2008.
In 2008, there were 2.10 million votes cast in Alabama. Yesterday, only 1.34 million votes were cast.
Overall participation was much lower yesterday. Almost surely, way more black Alabamians went to the polls in 2008.
Statewide turnout rate: According to Geist, the Secretary of State has said that the overall turnout rate yesterday waas 40 percent. That's the type of low turnout rate which our democracy routinely produces, even in high-profile elections.
We'll assume that's an accurate statement. But when Geist says black turnout rate was a much lower 29 percent, he's almost certainly wrong.
In that statement, Geist is confusing "black turnout rate" with "black turnout as a percentage of total turnout." As compared to 2008, voter turnout was way down on a statewide basis. But the black percentage of the total vote matched the percentage from 2008.
There's nothing hard about these topics, until a hapless bungler like Haskell-Geist comes along. That said, the scripting here was obvious. In line with current, extremely childish feel-good nostrums, the children wanted to praise blacks and women for pushing Jones over the top.
Haskell-Geist tried to do accomplish this task. As he did, he seemed to say that yesterday's black turnout rate was 1) extremely low, and 2) much lower than the overall turnout rate.
No one challenged his obvious bungling. Mika knew she ought to say "Wow;" Joe simply played along. No one else corrected the record. On Morning Joe, the rules are clear:
The minions do not correct the stars as the stars bungle along.
None of this pitiful bungling matters, except as a portrait of corporate press corps incompetence. These people are overpaid TV stars, full and complete total stop. They know very few facts, can handle few technical topics.
They do understand their prevailing scripts. They exist for one purpose only:
To peddle prevailing corporate narratives, thus treating their viewers like marks.