Maddow watch: Has your Daily Howler been getting results?


If so, the results are flawed: Has your Daily Howler been getting results?

We have no idea. But on Monday night, Rachel Maddow did a report on the Obama campaign’s new ad about Romney and Bain. In her sprawling ruminations, the former Rhodes Scholar went all the way back to Romney’s 1994 senate race against Ted Kennedy, in which Kennedy attacked Romney’s record at Bain.

Has your Daily Howler been getting results? In the course of an error-riddled report, Maddow offered the highlighted statements. To watch the full segment, click here:
MADDOW (5/14/12): Right now in 2012, Mr. Romney does not want to run on his record as Massachusetts governor. He wants to run on Bain. He wants to run on what he did for America at Bain.

It’s because he has put Bain at the center of his campaign, as really his sole credential for the presidency, that explains why details about what he did at Bain can be so devastating to his candidacy. What he actually did at Bain may be the most devastating things that will be said about Mr. Romney throughout the entire campaign.

So if that’s the case, you have to wonder, strategically, is president’s re-election campaign doing this too soon? It is only May, after all. You would think they would want to save the Bain thing so it would be ringing through voters’ ears 5 1/2 months from now when people are going to the polls.

Turns out, don’t worry. There’s plenty more to say where this came from. One thing the Ted Kennedy campaign used against Mitt Romney back in 2004—excuse me, back in 1994—that the Obama campaign has not yet used, is the fact that as Mr. Romney and company shut down these American factories and made tens of millions of dollars for themselves and put hundreds of Americans out of work, they also sometimes shut down these factories and put people out of work in a way that made sure that you, the American taxpayer, would have to cover the laid-off workers’ pension costs. Yes.

So Bain and company profited. Taxpayers had to clean up behind them for all the people they laid off. Private profit, public risk. Does that sound familiar?

Big action by big business that is hugely profitable. But when it goes bad, the people who took those big risks, who got rich off them, they didn’t have to pay for them going pad, taxpayers had to pay for it going bad. That is part of the Romney at Bain story that I think the Obama campaign must be planning on rolling out later in the campaign.

The taxpayers having to pick up the pensions after Romney and company ran off with the company’s money? Yeah! I think that is still to come.
Let’s ignore Maddow’s ridiculous attempts at campaign strategery. At several points, she tried to say that Bain looted companies for very large sums even as it underfunded their pension plans. “The taxpayers [had] to pick up the pensions after Romney and company ran off with the company’s money,” she said.

Did Romney loot pension funds, requiring a bailout? As far we know, this was the first time anyone except Ed Schultz had said such a thing at The One True Liberal Channel.

What was the source for Maddow’s claim? Hungrily, we checked her web site, which directed us to this Politico report from July 2011. No other source was cited for Maddow’s account of the looted pension funds.

Can we talk? As is often the case on this ballyhooed program, Maddow’s report was crawling with errors:

That Politico report has nothing to do with pension funds.

As far as we know, the sole documented case of pension-looting involves that steel mill in Kansas City. This unseemly episode occurred after 1994.

Relatively minor point: The Politico piece does refer to an ad which was created for the Kennedy campaign. But it clearly says that the ad was never run. This ad, and the issue it concerned, was not a part of Kennedy’s successful attack on Romney.

More significant point: When Romney looted the pension funds, it wasn’t “the taxpayers” who had to step in. Repeatedly, Maddow made this representation, and it certainly heightened her claim. But the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation isn’t funded by tax revenues, even though it’s a government entity.

For our money, the worst part of this report involved Maddow’s posing as a campaign strategist. Should the Obama campaign “save the Bain thing so it would be ringing through voters’ ears 5 1/2 months from now when people are going to the polls?”

Please. We don’t know which is worse—Maddow’s attempts at strategery, or the all-knowing way she delivers her ideas to her viewers. And by the way: Ted Kennedy’s attacks on Romney’s conduct at Bain happened in blue-state Massachusetts, back in 1994, as Romney ran against a liberal icon. It isn’t smart to assume that such attacks will be magic in the present national campaign, absent a strong attempt at explaining the issues to voters.

Maddow isn't real good at talking to regular voters, whom she sometimes seems to despise and rarely seems to understand.

Strategerization to the side, Maddow’s staff seemed a bit confused on some basic facts. That report from Politico doesn’t deal with pension funds. It seems to us that it deals with a rather murky episode which would be hard to use in an attack, although judgments may differ on that.

That said, where the heck did Maddow’s staff get its new line about pension funds? Someone out there has been getting results, even if the results in question were riddled with errors, as always.

Are we being too snippy: We aren't big fans of Maddow or of her ballyhooed very-smart program. Because she covers some very important topics, we wish she would get off her high horse and her keister and produce better work.

We're sure that she's a very nice person, especially within her own tribe. Unfortunately, the bulk of the public doesn't belong to our tribe.


  1. According to the website: "Operations are financed by insurance premiums set by Congress and paid by sponsors of defined benefit plans, investment income, assets from pension plans trusteed by PBGC, and recoveries from the companies formerly responsible for the plans."

    1. But...The PBGC is authorized to borrow up to $100 million from the U.S. Treasury and P.L. 96-364 requires that the PBGC's receipts and disbursements be included in federal budget totals. Since 2000, the corporation has been running a deficit in both of its reserve funds. $26 billion total in fY2011. With pension plans going the way of the dodo, I suspect that tax payers will eventually be holding the bag.

  2. Speaking of "results".... It appears Bob *may* have finally been dissuaded from referring -- just as the right wing does -- to mainstream media, as "liberal" media, simply and only because the actors who read the news and conduct interviews on TV tend are obviously coastal "liberals" on social issues, to wit, reproduction and sexual conduct (i.e., they support gay marriage and freedom of abortion and contraception) and socially liberal on the environment to the extent it doesn't cost them anything. That they're also toadies to power, love corporate America and are right-wingers on matters of taxation and war is conveniently forgotten.

    Now, having achieved this landmark at The Howler -- the mainstream media is not "liberal" media! -- what can we do to persuade Bob that MSNBC is not a liberal network, that it doesn't speak for liberals, that liberals don't control it, and that shilling for Democrats for ratings is not the same as "liberalism".

    How many times does this simple assertion, which Mr. Somerby has never attempted to refute, have to be presented in comments to achieve "results"?

    Finally, speaking of Rhodes Scholars -- I've known a few, including at Oxford (and no, I wasn't one of them). They're chosen largely for being inoffensive, and unlikely to scandalize the U.S. The fact that Maddow comes from a military family (so she says, anyway) no doubt had a lot to do with her selection. Some level of academic competence is required, but high intelligence and an original mind are not sought or required.

    1. While I am not absolutely certain, but after reading Bob for some time, I believe his use of the term "liberal media" is ironic, and is the result of decades of referrals of the media by the right as being liberal. Of course, such subtleties escape some.

      Horace Feathers

    2. @Horace Feathers

      Ah, the irony defense!

      I count myself an expert, when it comes to Bob's use of "liberal" on this site. You have "fiery liberals", "mainstream liberals", "'liberals'" (in quotes), pseudo-liberals, etc.

      Now, some of these monikers are doubtless meant to be ironic (though in what precise sense, if any, is left to the imagination of Bob's readers), but the nomenclature is so diverse by now, who but you has the discernment to know what in the world Bob is talking about, when he mentions liberal or liberalism? Does he he mean "real" liberals? Somehow contemptible liberals? Phony liberals? Real but blinkered liberals?

      For example, just the other day, CBS and NBC were reproached as "liberal" media. Was Bob being ironic, apparently satirizing the right-wing which holds that preposterous view? Or was reproaching these networks for being inadequately liberal? Only Horace Feathers knows for sure.

      So you're absolutely right: these subtleties do escape some of us. Just thank your stars for your superior mind.

    3. Dear Anonymous 12:17,

      So you agree with Bob? That's all I can gather from your post. He's spent years debunking the "liberal media" canard. Really, everything in your post above could have come from a Daily Howler blog post. What gives?

      And how about doing us all a favor and choosing a screen name so we can avoid the tiresome routine of referring to "Anonymous" this and "Anonymous" that. Your style distinguishes you as it is, that strange puffed-up outrage at Somerby's faults, real and imagined.

    4. Yes, cacambo, at one time, Somerby did spend a lot of time debunking the claims of liberal media coming from the likes of Bernie Goldberg and Ann Coulter.

      Now he is practically indistinguishable from them in his obsessive criticism of MSNBC and the NYT, with the Washington Post thrown in every now and then for good measure.

  3. As Einstein noted, it all depends on the position of the observer.

    - From a blog in today's Arizona Republic, mocking a comment that Fox and Rush were right wing propagandist, this rebuttal. -

    You mean as opposed to MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, NYT, LA Times, Boston Globe, and on and on...?

  4. As a long time reader, I believe The Daily Howler believes that on some issues, some of the time, yes, Virgina, there is a liberal media. As for Maddow, perhaps we should simply display better manners, like Cal Thomas.

    1. Do you suppose his use of "The One True Liberal Channel" is a clue?

  5. So, out of curiosity, why isn't Bob's preferred term "looting" also part of a tribal, novelized, spin-rather-than-facts presentation of the Bain story? If it's tribal and novelizing to describe what happened to Lauber at Cranbrook as a form of gay-bashing so that all good liberals can cluck their tongues at the unenlightened opposition, isn't it just as novelistic to choose a word that makes Romney and Bain into pirates? That's been a crowd-pleasing tale since the 17th century. I don't get how Bob decides which rhetorical devices are legitimate and which are unforgivable license.

  6. I'm not sure you can peak too soon in a campaign. It's at the center of how Romney will attempt to define himself. Republicans, and I know it went a bit further, didn't hesitate to drum the "invented the internet", nonsense, they didn't wait til October. If it's a liability, hammer it. Politically speaking.