Rachel the Destroyer: Last night, the Maddow show had nothing about Chris Christie.
The enormous national story had apparently died down. In its place, we got an early tease about Governor Ultrasound:
MADDOW (12/19/13): Will Bob McDonnell be the first-ever Virginia governor to be criminally indicted while still in office? Today, we got an answer to that question, and it turns out it’s a fascinating answer.The second tease was longer. It jacked up the power of the story, which Rachel called “mind-blowing:”
That story is ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In political terms, one of the things that’s happening this holiday season that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s term in office is coming to a close. He has spent his final month in office being fairly festive.In truth, the story wasn’t mind-blowing. On the other hand, we thought it revealed an intriguing turn of mind on the part of Cable Host Vlad the Destroyer.
He put out a proclamation that the month of December is Christmas Tree Month! That’s smart.
He attended a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Ta-da!
He unveiled a— “Oh, what’s that? A portrait of me? You shouldn’t have!”
All in the line of duty for Governor Ultrasound.
None of these things, though, have distracted anybody from the big legal storm cloud that has overshadowed his final year as governor. It turns out, though, that the legal gods just recently have presented one very, very special Christmas gift to Governor Ultrasound—a very special present, almost a festive present.
Stay tuned. This story is next and it is mind-blowing.
When her full segment began, Rachel worked from a front-page report in the Washington Post. She seemed to misstate the report in at least one major way.
According to the Post, this is the state of play for Governor U-sound:
HELDERMAN (12/19/13): Federal prosecutors told Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell last week that he and his wife would be charged in connection with a gift scandal, but senior Justice Department officials delayed the decision after the McDonnells’ attorneys made a face-to-face appeal in Washington, according to people familiar with the case.According to Rachel’s account, the Post report left no doubt that McDonnell will be indicted. The date on which he will be charged has merely been delayed.
On Friday, the day after the meeting, McDonnell’s attorneys were told that the decision would be put on hold, the people said. A final decision about whether to press charges is now not expected before Jan. 2 and could come as late as February, they said.
That pretty much isn’t what the Post said. But Rachel, like Dusty Springfield before her, seemed to be wishin’ and hopin’.
Lovingly, Rachel rattled off the alleged offenses by McDonnell, which, to be perfectly honest, involve extremely stupid and venal behavior but don’t amount to much. She was careful to mention the children, as she always does at such times.
Rachel is a true believer in the evil of Others. As she introduced her guest, she expressed her frustration with the failure to charge:
MADDOW (12/19/13): The Justice Department is not commenting on the Washington Post’s reporting, and the Justice Department would not make someone available to talk with us tonight about this case.Cullen tried to talk Rachel off the ledge. He told her that it isn’t “unusual for the Justice Department to overrule a U.S. attorney like this.”
But it is thought to be unusual for the Justice Department to overrule a U.S. attorney like this. And if they are delaying the indictment out of deference to Governor Bob McDonnell’s standing as a public official, why is that?
The alleged crimes here, violations of the Hobbs Act, the alleged crimes here, they are public official corruption crimes. Of all the crimes, wouldn’t that be the kind of crime where you would not defer to the guy’s stature as a public official? Isn’t the whole point that he has abused the office? Why keep him in it if that’s what he’s done to it?
Joining us now is Thomas Cullen. He’s a former federal prosecutor in Virginia.
He said an indictment at this time might be disruptive to the transition to Governor McAuliffe. “So I think for all those reasons, the department was receptive to the argument, you can wait a little while if you’re going to do this, buy some time, and let’s continue a dialogue about potentially how to resolve this case without an indictment.”
In response, Rachel let her destroyer flag fly. Shouldn’t we want to see McDonnell “humiliated and ruined,” she now asked:
MADDOW: If the argument is that it would be disruptive for the political process in Virginia, the other side of that is the argument for why you would ever bring charges in a case like this in the first place, right?In Rachel’s mind, the Justice Department tries to ensure that people get punished “and incidentally, humiliated and ruined.”
I mean, the federal government intervenes in a case like this. It’s a federal charge, in order to essentially ensure the integrity of public office, so that people are punished and incidentally humiliated and ruined when they abuse their office in such a way that causes them to violate the Hobbs Act and potentially go to prison.
So if the idea is to deter, the reason you prosecute these things to deter other public officials from doing it, isn’t that a good counterargument against the threat of disruption to the political process?
We thought that was weirdly harsh. But after another attempt at soothing by Cullen, Rachel went there again:
MADDOW: I understand the argument. I totally disagree with it. I think the public interest in this case is about nailing people for public corruption and it helps if you ruin their career in the process.It helps if you ruin their careers! Apparently, Rachel thinks the ruination of Ultrasound would be less next month.
But, apparently, they’ve made their decision.
We thought this display was odd for two basic reasons:
First, as noted, McDonnell’s alleged corruption is actually pretty small cheese. He took a lot of money from a business owner, but he didn’t do much to help him. The public interest wasn’t harmed in any gigantic way, if it was harmed at all.
Our second reason was a bit different. As Rachel rattled off the various ways McDonnell accepted money, we couldn’t help thinking of all the money Rachel is shoving into her pants as she snarks and frets her way across the stage.
She is accepting much more money than McDonnell ever did. In our view, she violates the integrity of her own position pretty much every night.
We’re a bit more mellow than Rachel. It struck us as strange that she would want to see someone “humiliated and ruined” at all.
It struck us as especially strange, given that her own misconduct seems to have eclipsed his.
That said, Rachel the Destroyer left no doubt about the way she feels. Someone gave Ultrasound a watch. On that basis, she wants to see him “humiliated and ruined.”
Rachel is a very strange duck. In our view, she works quite hard, in various ways, to keep you from seeing that.