Rachel Maddow goes to Nam!


And massages some pointless old facts: Rachel Maddow may have the biggest tin ear for domestic politics we have ever seen.

Plus, she isn’t compulsively honest. She really does tend to massage the key facts. You can’t believe what you hear on her show. You have to look everything up.

Each of these tendencies came into play when Maddow journeyed to Nam last night. At issue was this warmed-over AP report about Mitt Romney’s lack of service. To watch Maddow's heartfelt segment, go ahead—just click here.

There’s nothing “wrong” with that AP report except its ridiculous premise. Steve Peoples states it here:
PEOPLES (6/5/12): President Barack Obama, Romney's opponent in this year's campaign, did not serve in the military either. The Democrat, 50, was a child during the Vietnam conflict and did not enlist when he was older.

But because Romney, now 65, was of draft age during Vietnam, his military background—or, rather, his lack of one—is facing new scrutiny as he courts veterans and makes his case to the nation to be commander in chief. He's also intensified his criticism lately of Obama's plans to scale back the nation's military commitments abroad, suggesting that Romney would pursue an aggressive foreign policy as president that could involve U.S. troops.
Really? Romney’s military background “is facing new scrutiny?” There’s no evidence of that in Peoples' report, except for the fact that the gloomy Jon Soltz has criticized Romney’s conduct.

In fact, no one cares about Romney’s lack of service—and no one is going to do so this year. In many ways, this is a major deliverance.

As Maddow semi-noted last night, the question of Vietnam service has dogged our presidential campaigns since 1992. Every four years, we’ve had some new distraction built around somebody’s service, or lack of same, in Nam.

Trust us: Due to the passage of time and due to the financial meltdown, no one is going to cares about this topic this year. But Maddow, a cloistered millionaire, has no earthly idea of this blindingly obvious fact.

(They don’t tell her this in Northampton.)

She wants us to was about Vietnam one more time—and she doesn’t have the slightest idea that no one is going to do that.

The AP report is warmed-over hash. Maddow was scratching her keister last night about a slightly foolish statement Romney made to the Boston Globe in 2007. Under the circumstances, no one is going to care about that—though Maddow, a multimillionaire, doesn’t understand why.

Final point: Maddow tried to make it sound like there was some pulling of strings involved in the way Romney got his missionary deferment. In this passage, the key word is “somehow,” found in the final paragraph:
MADDOW (6/6/12): Mitt Romney was 20, 21 years old at the height of the Vietnam draft, but he did not serve.

Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney`s father at the time was a very, very prominent man. He had been president of the American Motors Corporation. He was the governor of Michigan. He was a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1968.

Well, in 1965, Mitt Romney went to Stanford University. As a freshman, he protested in favor of the war in Vietnam and against anti-war protesters. In this photo, he’s holding a sign that says, "Speak out, don’t sit in."

In October of that year, his freshman year, Mitt Romney received his first deferment from Vietnam because he was a student at the time. The next summer, in July of 1966, Mr. Romney got his second Vietnam deferment. This time, it was for being a missionary in his church.

Because Mitt Romney’s church, the Church of Latter Day Saints, was in favor of the war in Vietnam, not every Mormon missionary automatically qualified for a deferment from service because of his service to the church. But Mitt Romney somehow did qualify for that deferment. And his deferment for being a missionary was for longer than the two years that a Mormon mission usually lasts. His deferment was for more than two and a half years.
The key word there is “somehow.” Maddow is trying to make you wonder if Romney got that missionary deferment because his father “was very, very prominent.”

Sorry. In one of the Boston Globe reports from which Maddow’s staff was working, this point was explored in great detail. Michael Kranish wrote the report in 2007 (we can’t find a link):
KRANISH (6/24/07): The deferments for Mormon missionaries became increasingly controversial in the late 1960s, especially in Utah, leading the Mormon Church and the government to limit the number of church missionaries who could put off their military service. That agreement called for each church ward, or church district, to designate one male every six months to be exempted from potential duty for the duration of his missionary work.

Romney's home state was Michigan, making his 4-D exemption as a missionary all but automatic because of the relatively small number of Mormon missionaries from that state. It might have been more difficult in Utah, where the huge Mormon population meant that there were sometimes more missionaries than available exemptions. Most missions lasted two and a half years, as Romney's did.

Barry Mayo, who was counselor to the bishop of the ward in Pontiac, Michigan, where Romney attended church, recalled in an interview that wards were allowed to exempt one missionary every six months from the draft. He said that he could not recall any time in which more than one potential draftee sought an exemption in the ward in a six-month period, so Romney's deferment was never in doubt.

"I was aware of the fact that there was an agreement of some sort of between the church and the Selective Service because there were some wards mostly in the West where the congregation was large and the number of youth was large," Mayo said. "The circumstances were very different here. Our congregation was small and the number of youth were small. To the best of my knowledge we never had a situation where we had more than two young men wanting to go in any one year... So I don't believe that we ever had to discourage someone from going on a mission because he was above that two-per-year limit."

Mayo said no records are available from the period that would show how Romney's deferment was handled. But he said he recalled "the conclusion was `we really don't have to worry about [exceeding the quota] because we were never in that situation.' "
Really? There weren't many Mormons in Michigan? Should somebody check that out?

At this point, none of this is worth talking about. But Maddow’s staff replaced that reporting by Kranish with the single word “somehow.” They were trying to make us suspicious, even though they plainly were working right from the Kranish report.

Trust us: No one is going to care about this in the curent campaign. In our own view, that’s a deliverance.

The problem is, our “liberal leaders” don’t know how to talk about policy, certainly not to the unwashed rubes whom they're inclined to mock. So instead, we're urged to discuss his occasionally unpleasant conduct in high school. And the fact that he didn’t do Freedom Summer at age 16! Nor did he go to Nam!

Also, he "strapped his dog to the roof of the car!" "In a cage," no less!

Voters aren’t going to care about Vietnam this year. But Maddow lives apart from the world. She doesn’t know what voters are thinking. She has no way to find out.

Tomorrow: Maddow and Collins go to Texas and bungle some very key facts


  1. "The problem is, our “liberal leaders” don’t know how to talk about policy...."

    For the last time, and Bog blast me if I ever post here again, and with the additional proviso that "liberal leaders" is both vague and contemptuous at the same time, a familar rhetorical trick of phonies, as it were (which "liberal leaders"? Who appointed them? Who pays their gas bills? Actual liberals or shams? What is the meaning of the quotation marks? Are we talking about Dean Baker? Paul Krugman? David Cay Johnston? Or some corporate creature Bob prefers to shoot in a barrel?) -- with all that said, did it never occur to TDH that "liberal leaders" employed by corporate America aren't *allowed* to talk about policy and that, additionally, corporate entities like NYT are strongly disinclined to talk about policies which reflect poorly on corporate governance? Has Bob ever looked at who sits on the editorial board at NYT?

    Or does TDH know all this perfectly well, but prefers to pretend it doesn't exist, so he has more fish to shoot?

    1. Bob expects you to have read a few earlier columns. Doing so it'll be clear that "liberal leaders" refers primarily to the institutions and individuals -- the New York Times' 'liberals', the 'liberals' at the WaPost, and MSNBC -- that Bob spends most of his time criticizing. No, not Krugman or Baker.

  2. Can't wait for Somerby's book on the 2012 election, should Romney lose, about how it was all because of a long media "War on Romney." Starring Gail Collins and Rachel Maddow as the evil geniuses behind a renentless smear campaign against the utterly helpless, defenseless Mitt.

    It should be ready somewhere around 2024.

    1. "relentless" of course.

    2. First of all, Somerby is repeatedly explicit in this column that voters won't give a sh!t about the Vietnam service attack launched by Maddow, so your sarcasm misses. Also, you're missing Somerby's overriding point, which is reasonably clear if you look at his recent spate of columns. And that is that a potentially excellent anti-Romney issue, Bain Capital destroying jobs and a steel company, is being ignored or rejected by the 'liberal' elite populating the pro-Obama mainstream media. Another Somerby attack on the plutocratic media, that's all, and good on him.

    3. Well, I don't think voters really gave a sh!t about Naomi Wolf, either. But Somerby for 12 years has been telling us that's the sh!t that turned the 2000 election.

      And I am sorry, but I don't think too many voters give a tinker's damn about Bain Capital, except for its usefullness as advancing the "narrative" as Bob would call it that Mitt just ain't quite like the rest of us.

      For example, here in KC we got just this last Sunday two Bain Capital stories in one in the KC Star. One part was about the steel mill and the looting. The other was about another firm in which Bain pumped millions into at exactly the right moment, it took off, the owner sold it for huge profits, and used those profits to set up his own Bain Capital to assist budding entrepreneurs.

      Fellas, you go into that briar patch, and you are going to get all sorts of stories about companies Bain not only saved, but took to new levels.

  3. I think Maddow's report is very important. Since the topic is so important, I look forward to her companion piece on the deferments that Vice President Biden received.

    * * * *

    Published: August 31, 2008 6:33 PM

    DOVER, Del. | Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, received five student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, the same number of deferments received by Vice President Dick Cheney, and later was disqualified from service because of asthma as a teenager.

    . . .

    In "Promises to Keep," a memoir that was published last year, Biden never mentions his asthma, recounting an active childhood, work as a lifeguard and football exploits in high school.

    1. link


    2. Gee, imagine that. Published by the Associated Press on Aug. 31, 2008.

      But I guess that since Rachel Maddow hasn't reported on it, there's a deep, dark conspiracy to keep a story reported four years ago a secret.

    3. As a lifelong Democrat, liberal, progressive, left-winger (my first vote was for Ted Kennedy in 1962 I wasn't old enough to vote for JFK or I certainly would have), I find it very annoying whenever someone comes up with "Dick Cheney had 5 deferments." Mainly because relatively few of our present day politicians of either party served in Viet Nam. Those that have don't seem to do any better in elections than those who haven't. So it seems to be irrelevant which I believe is Sommerby's point.
      In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I myself had 5 deferments and consider myself to have been very lucky. I graduated from high school in 1959. A few weeks after that I began a 4 year apprenticeship in a government shipyard. I saved some money and was able to go to college when I finished my apprenticeship in 1963. Four years later I graduated from college at the age of 26. I was allowed one more deferment for graduate school.
      I fully expected to have to deal with the draft after that. Persons having had deferments were eligible for the draft until they reached 34. If threatened by the draft my plan was to join the Navy and apply for a commission. That was unnecessary since I never was contacted by my draft board. I later learned that they didn't draft people over 26 even though they could have. Apparently it was thought that we would not make good draftees.

    4. Here's the problem though. It isn't the deferments. Just about every baby boomer was seeking them during the Vietnam War.

      It's the hypocrisy of thinking wars are just fine if other people are fighting them. You know, the whole "chickenhawk" thing.

      I don't hold it against Cheney or Dubya (who miraculously bypassed the long lines and got into the National Guard where he kept the skies of Texas safe). What I hold against them is needlessly sending thousands more of our finest kids to their deaths in a needless, senseless war.

    5. Agreed. I hold that against Obama, too.

  4. Some people think the way to campaign against an opponent is to raise every tiny or large criticism possible and hope that some of it will deter voters. I think that is why our "liberals" keep focusing on these trivialities that voters don't much care about. An aggregate of these meaningless criticisms may build to a focus of Romney as someone not quite good enough to vote for. The complaints don't have to be true and don't have to make sense as long as there is a constant barrage of them. Focusing on Bain takes too much energy when you are trying to nibble someone to death, politically speaking.

  5. Well at least Biden's son was in the military, that's more than Romney can say about his five sons. In 08 when he said his sons were serving their country, they were helping him get elected, I have never cared for him since.

  6. When TDH asks you for your "trust", as with anyone else, it's a red flag that his case is weak. We have seen evidence with W that the right doesn't care if it's leaders were chicken hawks, but does that mean "no one cares?" Is there any hard data on this issue? As long as The Republicans play, and they will this time, the role of the hard line tough guys who are better on Foreign Affairs than the limp wristed Demowimps, OF COURSE it's important. And the fact that Romeny had a sensible attitude towards Vietnam in real time OF COURSE embarrasses the idiot fringe of his party, who don't really like him anyway. So it may make perfect sense to bring it up.
    But that's just my opinion and TDH just gives us his. We used to get more from him.

  7. Wow. If this had been on the reverse--Democrat endorses war, Democrat criticizes war opponents, Democrat gets multiple deferments, Democrat later claims that he "longed" to go the war he dodged when he had every opportunity to fight--the Republicans would be all over it. If they were able to make John Kerry into some bogus, vainglorious creep even though he was an actual war hero (while making Bush, who, like Romney, let others die in a war he publicly supported, into an uber patriot) you'd never hear the end of it. What Romney did was just about the sleaziest form of talking out of both sides of one's mouth. A particularly egregious form of talking out of both sides of one's mouth that could be tied into all of time's Romney's already been caught talking out of both sides of his mouth to justifiably trash his character.

    I'm no fan of Maddow, but this time it Bob who has the tin ear.

    The problem is that in order for it to work you have to get all of the Democrats hammering away at the same time so the news media can't ignore it and the Romney team gets put on the defensive. Our side just doesn't know how to play that game.

    Bob's wrong about this one.

    1. I agree. She specifically said it wasn't about the deferrments. She pointed out that she was focusing on the three different occasions when Mitt Romney spoke publicly about the Veitnam war and his feelings about it while he was an elected public servant. Then, she pointed out how his position changed significantly every time he spoke. Her point was about Mitt Romney's inability to tell the truth about something that is pretty easy to determine. Her POINT is that he is a LIAR. We all know (even RACHEL MADDOW!),that everyone who wanted to serve in Vietnam, SERVED in Vietnam.

    2. That's not true. Tom Delay was to get his licks in but the day he (supposedly) showed up at the recruiters' they were only accepting minorities that day. What's a boy to do?

  8. I have a son, I certainly do care.

    This country was lied into war in Iraq by a who's who of Vietnam era chickenhawks. I refuse to be a "good sport" when it comes to chickenshit "bring 'em on" politicians.

  9. Classic example of discrediting the messanger...Romney's Vietnam story is the biggest joke of all time. Wow, what a fraud

  10. Now i'm simply no lover associated with Maddow, however this time it Bob who has the jar headsets. However , for it to function you must acquire each of the Democrats working aside as well and so the news media can't ignore it along with the Romney group gets put on the particular protective. Our side simply will not discover how to enjoy that video game.
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