Grandpa battles the expert: Lawrence O’Donnell is a real piece of work. Of that we can all feel sure.
Last night, he devoted an entire segment to the guilty verdict in the Whitey Bulger trial. Wierdly, he did the entire four-minute segment is a light “Townie” accent.
You can hear this if you listen again. The man is very strange.
(In part because of Affleck and Damon, “working class chic” became tres chic at some point among arts-class Bostonians. O’Donnell is a genuine nut who likes to pose as a former street tough from Dawchestah. Last night, he took this foolishness to the next level with his latest strange act.)
Last week, O’Donnell managed to anger a self-identified Russia expert. The expert in question was Julia Ioffe, who blasted back at the man she called “grandpa” in a somewhat overwrought blog post.
To watch the full segment, click this.
We have to admit that we were glad to see Ioffe play the “grandpa” card. Coming from the youngish pundit, we felt that this piece of invective might hurt. That said, the kerfuffle matched a pair of hot-headed players—and it helped us see how a cable “news” segment can come to ruin.
How did it get this far between O’Donnell and Ioffe? Let’s take things step-by-step:
Selection of the panel: O’Donnell was doing a segment about the cancellation of the Obama-Putin summit. Toward this end, he had booked three guests—Ioffe, a Russia specialist, plus Krystal Ball and Ari Melber, two on-site cablemates.
This was a fatal decision. The segment ran 11 minutes and 30 seconds total. By the time O’Donnell finished his introduction and his first question, only 6:45 was left.
Why do you book three guests, including a Russia specialist, to kill less than seven minutes time? If any disagreement or confusion arises, you won’t have time to straighten things out.
Grandpa’s love of the L-word: In this case, confusion did break out, in Ioffe’s response to O’Donnell’s first question. To understand how that occurred, you first must understand grandpa’s love of the L-word.
O’Donnell loves to say that various people are “lying.” He seems to think that this locution makes him seem hard-nosed, even straight-talking. In fact, his use of the word just makes him seem dumb. And it helped create the collision with his expert guest.
Don't step on your question: O’Donnell’s first question went to Ioffe. This is what he said:
O’DONNELL: A foreign policy adviser for Putin said today, "We are disappointed by the U.S. administration’s decision to cancel the visit of President Obama to Moscow planned in early September. It is clear that the decision is due to the situation around the former U.S. Special Services employee Snowden, which we did not create."Should the administration have mentioned the Snowden factor in their official statement? Across America, cable viewers were fighting for consciousness as O’Donnell posed this sleep-inducing question to his guest.
Joining me now, Krystal Ball and Ari Melber, co-hosts of MSNBC’s The Cycle, and Julia Ioffe, a senior editor at The New Republic. Previously, she was a Moscow-based correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker. Julia, the—
To start with the Snowden factor. For that, the Russians’ statement, to say, “This is a situation which we did not create” is, of course, a lie. They were in complete control of the outcome of what would happen to Snowden the second he arrived at that airport.
But the administration: Are you surprised that the administration included it in their official statement about the decision?
Perhaps for that reason, Ioffe reacted to Lawrence’s blustery remark about one part of the Russians' statement, which he said was “of course a lie.” O'Donnell's blustery comment thus got in the way of his question.
When the Russians said they “didn’t create the situation around Snowden,” was that “of course a lie?” Please. The statement was so vague as to be virtually meaningless. But it’s silly to get all hot and call it “of course a lie.”
Who or what created “the situation around Snowden?” For starters, the situation was created when the U.S. engaged in certain kinds of surveillance, to which Snowden took offense. In reaction, Snowden downloaded all kinds of information. He fed some of the information to journalists, then fled to Hong Kong.
By this time, “the situation” was well underway. Indeed, it was already a major world event, and the Russians hadn’t had anything to do with creating it. It’s silly to take that anodyne statement and say it was “of course a lie.” But Lawrence loves to brandish the L-word, and for some reason, the Russkies had gotten his goat.
Confusion from the guest: O’Donnell asked Ioffe if she was surprised that the administration mentioned Snowden. Instead of answering that question, Ioffe seemed to take offense at grandpa’s bluster concerning the obvious lie.
Unfortunately, Ioffe didn’t seem entirely clear on what O’Donnell had termed a lie. Extemporaneous speech is often like that, of course. This helps explain why (1) you shouldn’t book three guests to help you fill six minutes; and (2) you shouldn’t unleash a blustery claim even as you ask your guest a question about something else:
IOFFE (continuing directly from above): I want to start actually with the first part of your statement. I don’t agree with you that it’s a lie. I think that Snowden showing up in Russia whether or not the Russians knew about it in advance or not, they couldn’t then let him go once the Bolivian plane was downed in Austria. They saw that—initially, they wanted him to get out of the country. They saw very quickly that he was becoming a headache for them but once the U.S. and U.S. allies in Europe downed the Bolivian president’s plane because they feared that Snowden was on board this was really nothing that the Russians could do.At this point, Grandpa began to get mad. “Julia, hold on. Julia, hold on a second,” he said, his gorge plainly starting to rise. Again.
By now, O’Donnell and Ioffe were talking at cross purposes. She said the Russians’ hands were tied once the Bolivian plane was forced down; that happened more than a week after Snowden arrived in Moscow. In reply, O’Donnell kept insisting that Putin had complete control over Snowden’s movements once he arrived in Moscow. Those statements don’t seem contradictory. But it’s hard to clarify something like that in six minutes, especially when two other guests are waiting to perform.
The next day, in her angry blog post, Ioffe still seemed unclear about the nature of the dispute. She did seem sure that she was an expert. After all, she had worked in Russia, for all of three years!
O’Donnell is a genuine piece of work. His alleged rudeness to Ioffe was quite mild compared to his most famous historical meltdowns. In fairness, at least he didn’t make her listen to him affect a working-class accent.
To relive part—just part!—of one of O’Donnell’s greatest meltdowns, treat yourself by clicking here. To hear him pretend to be street, listen to his ridiculous segment about the “Bulgah” verdict.
O’Donnell is a piece of work. Meanwhile, despite her three years in Mother Russia, Ioffe might be better advised to view herself as a “specialist.” Her alleged expertise didn’t get her far during, or even after, her cable clash with O’Donnell.
That said, what’s Boston street for “grandpa?” Surely, O’Donnell knows.