Close enough for cable!


To his credit, Lawrence O'Donnell didn’t miss a beat: Rather plainly, Chris Matthews’ reprogramming still isn’t complete.

On Tuesday, Matthews rather weirdly lamented the nation’s high taxes. Last night, as circuits popped and smoke puffed from his neck, the repurposed fellow said the following to a White House spokesperson:
MATTHEWS (10/26/11): Well, here’s somebody taking the fight at you. Here he is, Paul Ryan, who everybody likes because he was tough on budget-cutting. But he’s also an Ayn Rand ideologue of the objectivist school. He’s pretty far right when you get to— Here he is accusing President Obama of playing class warfare.
Matthews then played tape of Ryan, “who everybody likes because he was tough on budget-cutting.”

Presumably, Matthews meant to say this: “Here he is, Paul Ryan, who everybody likes because he’s Irish Catholic.” Whatever! As Matthews continues to get reprogrammed, the chips still sometimes fail.

The things you hear on cable TV! No, it doesn’t exactly matter. But we were struck by a puzzling statement uttered on last night’s Last Word.

Lawrence had booked Dorian Warren, an assistant professor at Columbia, to help him discuss income inequality. For the most part, Warren seemed perfectly competent during his short segment—although anyone who read yesterday morning’s New York Times could have said the same things he said. Weirdly, though, at one early point, Warren emitted this howler:
WARREN (10/26/11): It’s hard for Americans to believe the United States is the most unequal of all advanced industrial democracies. We are more unequal that Western Europe, for instance.

And most explanations are that it’s the economy, it’s the labor market. When in fact, this is due to politics and tax policy. Our tax policy has changed over the last 30 years so that the top rate, at 70 percent at one point, is now all the way down to 28.
Say what? We’ve watched the tape a good number of times. There’s just no doubt what Warren said about tax policy in the past thirty years. (Click here, scroll ahead to 3:15.) Quite plainly, he said the top (federal income tax) rate was 70 percent at one point (true). And then, he plainly said that it now stands at 28.

The top rate did go from 70 percent down to 28 during Reagan’s tenure. But it went back to 31 percent under Bush the elder, then to 39.6 percent under Clinton. Today, the top rate stands at 35 percent.

This is very high-profile stuff. It has been the stuff of endless high-profile debate during the tenures of each of the past five presidents. How could an assistant professor at Columbia say what Warren said?

We’ve watched the tape a good many times. There’s little doubt about what Warren said. To his credit, Lawrence didn’t miss a beat. Of course, he knew this statement was wrong. But Lawrence is serving on cable news, a medium which really should be known as “cable narrative.”

Warren was taking the appropriate line. Regarding his puzzling factual claim:

Rather plainly, Warren's statement was close enough for cable!


  1. That Warren Buffett, what a dope. Can't even keep the tax rates straight. It's a wonder he hasn't been institutionaized yet.

  2. Thank you Mr. Somerby for your website! Every day you pontificate on a very interesting dynamic in the US political culture: the role of the press. Many of us fall into forgetting how much the storyteller affects the stories. Your site is helpful to us citizens and deserves much praise.

    To all of the readers, please do not let the troll derail the emphasis of this site. DiC almost always attempts to divert the discussion from media critique to mainstream Repub v. Dem talking points. Let's allow Bob to open our eyes to the tactics of manipulation that our news organs use, unfortunatly, so successfully.

  3. Anonymous 1: Thanks for playing, but I believe Somerby refers to "Dorian Warren, an assistant professor at Columbia."