WATCHING STORY GROW: Typecasting the latest drama!


Part 4—Chris’ new love affair: Thirteen years ago, E.R. Shipp explained the way this low-grade conduct works.

At the time, Shipp was serving as ombudsman for the Washington Post. In a column called Typecasting Candidates, she explained the way a person like Chris Matthews reacts when story starts to grow.

That headline was very important. In a short but sharply insightful column, Shipp explained the way the Post was “typecasting” the four leading White House contenders:
SHIPP (3/2/00): Typecasting Candidates

...[R]eaders react—sometimes in a nonpartisan way, more often not—to roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama. Gore is the guy in search of an identity; Bradley is the Zen-like intellectual in search of a political strategy; McCain is the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a "maverick"; and Bush is a lightweight with a famous name, and has the blessings of the party establishment and lots of money in his war chest. As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.
For the record, Gore was also being cast as the world’s biggest liar. Beyond that, the negative typecasting of Bush was largely temporary. After that war hero/maverick left the race, the typecasting of Bush quickly swung to Plain-Spoken Bold Leader Who Says What He Really Thinks.

Shipp’s description of the process holds to this very day. According to Shipp, people posing as political journalists were really “assigning roles” to various “actors” in an “unfolding drama.”

“As a result of this approach,” some of these candidates were “whipping boys,” Shipp correctly noted. “Others seem to get a free pass.”

Plainly, the process Shipp described isn’t real journalism. She was describing one part of the process we’ve long called novelization.

Alas! Shipp’s description played to radio silence from the career liberal world. E.J. Dionne didn’t say a word. Other “liberals” just kept pushing the typecast drama Shipp had correctly described.

This same approach has been playing out as the Fort Lee story grows. Nowhere has the process been more undisguised than on the pitiful cable show, Hardball.

The cable program’s beast-like host has been scripting a drama all this week about his latest beloved. Speaking with one of his many stooges, he made his approach explicit on Tuesday evening’s program.

Back in Shipp’s day, did the Washington Post assign typecast roles to the various actors in a political drama? That’s what Chris said he was doing:
MATTHEWS (1/14/14): OK. Let’s go to, let’s go to Alex Wagner, my colleague.

Alex, it seems to me that all great dramas involve personalities, faces we begin to recognize and know well. Certainly, Bridget Kelly is now one, fingered by the governor directly, called a liar four different ways in one big press conference.

She’s the bad one. She’s the betrayer. She’s the traitor. She’s the liar, phrases that are just amazing that you’d call into question about a person who’s been working with you. We`ve got lots of pictures showing them working hand in glove. She’s got the clipboard. She’s got the phone. She’s taking him around. They are working—all of a sudden, he doesn’t talk to her, doesn’t call her up, just announced that she’s a louse on television, not to be talked to, not to be trusted, not to be believed.

Somebody said the other day, and I thought it was pretty profound, what he’s doing is setting her up as a liar on the witness stand. He wants her—he assumes she’s going to come out against him. Better to lace her first, before she gets in the chair.

These are strong words. He could have said, “She could have come forward.” He could have called her in the office and said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were involved in this?” And besides all that, what we have from the e-mails is, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” That wasn’t the beginning of a conversation. That’s in the midst of a conversation. She had been talking to people in the governor’s office, all kinds of people—well you, know the story.

I think we got a great drama developing here. And I think, based on being today on The View with a lot of women in that audience, they’re rooting for her, not the big guy in Trenton.

Your thoughts.

WAGNER: Well, yes, I think you hit it, Chris...
“I think we got a great drama developing here,” Matthews said. He then began to define its shape, helping us see who we ought to be “rooting for:”

Kelly is the loyal servant who’s being fingered by her boss. Christie is the bestial fellow who’s setting her up as a liar.

To state the obvious, Maathews’ description of the drama was loaded with speculation—and with insinuation. From that outline of the drama, you might think Christie called Kelly a liar over and over again in last week’s press conference.

You might think he called her a liar—and a betrayer, and a traitor, “phrases that are just amazing.” In fact, none of these words were used in Christie’s two-hour presser, in which he did say that Kelly lied to him about her role in Fort Lee.

That statement may be true, of course—it may be that Kelly did lie to Christie in some way. But Matthews was building a head of steam as he defined the outline of the exciting new “drama.”

As in 1999 and 2000, this is the way Matthews has been scripting his stooges—laying out the story line they’ll be asked to affirm. Can we talk? Matthews has always handled his staff much as Christie is said to have done!

Matthews’ scripting of Wagner wasn’t finished yet. Earlier that day, he had taken his outline of the drama to a wider audience.

In this part of his conversation with Wagner, he played tape of his appearance on that day’s The View. Once again, he helped viewers understand whose “side” they should be on—who they should be rooting for:
MATTHEWS: But as I just said, earlier today, I was on The View, a very popular show here in the—actually, an ABC show. And the audience certainly sound like they were on Bridget Kelly’s side.

Listen to this reaction from a lot of women who came to that program today.

MATTHEWS: My question is going to be answered when Bridget Kelly shows up in the witness booth and she’s under oath—
BARBARA WALTERS: She’s the aide—
MATTHEWS: And she’s been called a liar a number of times by the governor, who’s trying to destroy the jury pool by saying she’s a liar to start with. If I were her, I’d come back with everything I had against this guy.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back—let me go back to Ted Mann and his story. Where are the likes of this story heading right now, to the witness box, to people under oath in Trenton? Where’s it going?
Based on the amount of applause we heard on the tape, we’d say reaction was mixed from the audience at The View.

That said, Matthews engaged in lurid speculation about Christie’s motive—speculation Walters should have quickly identified as such. He also drove his new typecasting, in which the poor abused Kelly “has been called a liar a number of times.”

Did Kelly actually lie to Christie in some way? Like Matthews, we have no way of knowing. But even as he told the world that Christie was trying to destroy a jury, Matthews was trying to script the public about the way this drama—his word!—ought to be understood.

Matthews isn’t going to wait for the investigations—he already knows what occurred! Back in the day, he staged these pogroms year after year, against both Clintons and then against Candidate Gore, endlessly misstating facts as he worked to ensure the election of Bush.

This is the process Shipp described in March 2000. Her piece disappeared down the memory hole.

Career liberals knew they mustn’t discuss the drama being typecast around Gore. Dearest darlings, careers were at stake! Major liberals held their tongues about the process they all understood. Today, you see them performing as well-paid consultants on MSNBC.

Last night, the typecasting of the newest drama continued on Hardball. As Matthews spoke with two more stooges, his latest love affair started to deepen, perhaps revealing its essence:
MATTHEWS (1/15/14): Howard Fineman is editorial director of the Huffington Post and David Corn is Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones. Both are prized MSNBC political analysts.

Anyway, I’m fascinated by a couple things. I love personalities in politics. I love people that are on the stand, they get the 5 o’clock shadow, they’re scared to death, they don’t know what’s going to happen, but you want to know who’s telling the truth. It’s like the old quiz shows in the 60s. Who’s telling the truth?

I’m looking at Bridget Kelly. Maybe her name grabs me, the name Bridget Kelly—sounds like something out of a, I don’t know, a—a detective novel.

FINEMAN: Yeah. Raymond Chandler.

MATTHEWS: Raymond Chandler. Exactly, Raymond Chandler! And I was thinking, like, like The Maltese Falcon. There’s somebody really named Bridget Kelly! OK.
Once again, Matthews speaks as if he’s discussing a work of fiction, a drama. For decades, it has been clear that Matthews views these history-changing episodes as his cable toys.

That said, his growing attraction to Kelly echoes love affairs from his past—his love affair with Gennifer Flowers, his affair with Kathleen Willey.

In this case, he finds himself “grabbed by” Kelly. He says it may have something to do with her name.

Last Friday, he may have been a bit less guarded about his growing attraction. As always, the stooges agreed:
MATTHEWS (1/10/14): I’m sympathizing. Maybe it’s my background, my Irish background. But I want to hear what Bridget Anne Kelly has to say.

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think she is the total villain in this piece.


MATTHEWS: And operating completely outside the framework she is working in. Who trained her? Who taught her? Who led her?

CORN: Yes, who led her to believe she could—

MATTHEWS: It’s like Scooter Libby in another case. He wasn’t working for Cheney? Are you kidding me?

REID: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He wasn’t robbing gas stations to pay for the family. He was working for the boss, like she was.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Joy Reid. Thanks. Have a nice weekend, Joy.

REID: Happy weekend.
Don’t worry! The children have many happy weekends. They are being paid quite well to help Chris pimp these tales.

Let’s be clear—it doesn’t matter if Chris [HEART] Bridget because of his Irish background.

(You may think that can’t be it. Thinking that, you would be wrong.)

It doesn’t matter if love of the Irish is involved, as Chris said it might be. Whatever the reason for his clowning, Matthews is doing what he has always done when story starts to grow.

He has started to typecast a drama. It involves a misused younger woman and a powerful jury-fixing boss. Chris has no way to know what actually happened. But he doesn’t plan to wait around to find out.

Shipp described this process in 2000. All the stooges and all the stooges-in-waiting disappeared what she said.

Tomorrow: Two key lessons


  1. lowercasedog, is that your whistle?

    1. Staying. Fumigating.

    2. credit where credit is due. mathews is quoted as saying his "irish background". this seemingly small change from calling himself "irish" is an enormous leap forward. it doesn't marginalize americans who happen to have an irish background into second class citizenship.

    3. Anon 3:44pm, no, you're fulminating.

  2. OMB (Boxcar Willie Dead. Dowd Insane. BOB Howling)

    "Shipp’s description of the process holds to this very day. According to Shipp, people posing as political journalists were really “assigning roles” to various “actors” in an “unfolding drama.”

    “As a result of this approach,” some of these candidates were “whipping boys,” Shipp correctly noted. “Others seem to get a free pass.”
    Alas! Shipp’s description played to radio silence from the career liberal world.

    Glad to see BOB has adopted a key phrase of Christie's not-high-school friend in this piddle of a scandal for use as Story Grows. And treated us to his greatest hits. Irish. Willey. Flowers. The Beast.


    1. Neither one of these guys invented that term. My impression is that it is part of the English language and thus available to all. Further, just because one guy uses it, that doesn't make anyone else using the term equivalent to him in all other reespects. For the confused, Somerby is not Wildstein or Christie just because they use the same figure of speech.

      Trolls are trolls because they don't think very well. I'm not sure how to fix that or if it can be fixed. I do know this garbage wastes a bunch of time, but think of the damage trolls would be doing in the real world if they weren't wasting everyone's time here instead.

    2. "For the confused, Somerby is not Wildstein or Christie just because they use the same figure of speech."

      Why thank you. I am certain all the other "confused" people reading this blog are very grateful to have a person as smart as you around to guide us.

    3. If the troll understood this point, why did he write as if he didn't? If you understand this point, why do you tolerate nasty cracks about "radio silence" from people who are clearly either stupid or making trouble? Bob chides journalists who say nothing when there is malfeasance in print. Why do we say nothing when these ugly, stupid trolls make nasty cracks on a blog we obviously feel is worth reading? I want these ugly, stupid trolls to wake up in the morning and go somewhere else to spread their garbage. If you are not confused, say something -- don't just stand around gawking while they make these insulting, garbagey comments here. Fight for a troll-free comment section, especially if you agree with Somerby that responsible journalists should be fighting to clean up their profession by expressing themselves when people like Matthews make up stories instead of reporting news.

    4. My dear Anon. @ 11:29,

      Your comment deserves radio silence. But I have learned at the blogging feet of the OTB that silence is assent.

      I did not, as you appear to suggest, wish to imply that BOB is equivalent to Wildstein, who, when first independently described by BOB, was a high school friend of an apartheid inducing thief.

      Nor did I wish to have my words interpreted in any way compare BOB to Christie. Can we talk? BOB has NEVER handled his staff much as Christie is said to have done!
      At least as far as we know.


    5. KZ thank you! These insights of yours are surely worth a great multiple of what we are paying to get them...

    6. You are welcome. And thank you for your kind words and as inspiration. Thousands of poor kids need to see practical use of those math skills they have been improving over the last forty years.


    7. OTB = off track betting?

    8. NWJ as the say down Mexico way.

    9. kz says,

      "But I have learned at the blogging feet of the OTB that silence is assent."

      >>> with all due respect to your status as a renowned somerby scholar and mvp in the anti-somerby resistance, i have to take issue with you here.

      i have seen numerous commenters, myself included, who often let the other guy have the last the word even if its a ridiculous one, sometimes because it a ridiculous one. of course each interaction or non-interaction depends on the specifics being discussed and the personalities involved.

      on a different note, i find the long drawn out colloquies usually, but not always, uninteresting. my taste is for as much brevity as one can muster and still make 50-80% of what you want to say.

      and these people who only want to talk about trolls are the trolliest trolls around, derailing the thrust of the comment threads, and dreadful bores.

      american commander, silly blogs

  3. Bridget Anne Kelly is hot and has a sort of iconic name - like Christine Todd Whitman or something.

    I have a strong suspicion she's going to pose for Playboy (tastefully, of course).

    Nothing wrong if Chris Mathews finds her drool-worthy.

    1. She isn't hot. She is average looking (her face is thin and her complexion poor) but she has blonde hair. Is that all it takes to be considered "hot" or does one only have to be young and female? Why would you ever say that a woman pursuing a career in public service and politics is going to pose for playboy? Because she is female?

      There is definitely something wrong if Matthews finds her "drool-worthy" because women are people and they were not put on this earth to be eye-candy for men. She is a real person with goals and ambitions, skills and talents, training and a desire to be taken seriously. This is a wholly sexist comment, but you probably intended that. Nevertheless, we must taken time protesting these kinds of gratuitous remarks and pointing out what a worthless waste of time your comment was. Please go away.

    2. Anonymous 11:42

      You can't hide behind anonymity. I spotted you early on.
      You're the guy pictured in the short sleeve shirt!

    3. Chris just wants what he said he wants. He wants Kelly to unload on Christie.

      That thought is what makes him drool.

    4. Cecelia (I fall on the floor and I'm laughing)

      You go girl. Way to put that beastly pimp in his place.


    5. It's hard to decide which is more corrupt. Is it beastly pimps like Matthews who will turn on a dime toward whatever advances them professionally?

      Or is it beastly pimps like you who troll the Internet like Salem witch-hunters to ensure tribal purity?

      On second thought, Matthews is not as bad.

      Freedoms are less threatened by mercenaries than they are by petty tyrants.

  4. Trolls are easily dealt with at every blog I know, other than this blog. Simply ban the trolls and there is no more problem ever. For whatever reason Mr. Somerby chooses not to ban trolls for now, which I think a mistake but no matter since I notice a troll comment and skip by.

    Trolls are not crazy, they are simply horrid bullies who wish only to destroy the work of others. Trolls are also cowards. Who cares though?

    1. I'm sure Bob cares--without the "trolls," there wouldn't be any interest at all in his blog. There are very few comments from readers other than "trolls" and the sock-puppet replies.

      Horrid bullies? Well, they don't engage in the same level of personal abuse that the sock-puppets do, but whatever...

      As far as "destroying the work of others," what are you talking about? Commenters can't change, deface or in any other way affect the blog postings. Anyone who bothers to read the comments always sees that critical comments are balanced with Bob's sock-puppet replies, so what's the problem?

    2. Troll imagines that trolls are what's interesting here.

      Who could have guessed?

    3. Sock-puppet response to critical comment.

      Who could have guessed?

    4. Troll doesn't like being identified as a troll, sez that Anonymous is a "sock-puppet," meaning... meaning... well, meaning absolutely nothing.

      Hey troll, your wet fart wasn't a "critical comment" -- it was just an ugly stain.

    5. Bingo! with the personal abuse from the sock-puppet.

      Why do you think that sort of thing makes you look smart? or tough? witty? What is it you're going for?

    6. Speaking of sock-puppets, what has happened to our strawman version Lionel.

      Isn't he from New Jersey?

    7. I hope he did not have a close enounter with a person of colour.

  5. By the way, because of the trolling I generally skip comments or at best as today glance over them

    1. I liked this place much better when the only comments were trolls spamming for other websites.

    2. I actually miss DinC at this point. Why can't we go back to the days when DinC was misstating basic facts about Social Security?

    3. What, global warming gobbledygook isn't good enough for you? He was all over Somerby's pro football proves Al Gore was right post after the Pats beat Indy.

  6. 11:57 AM

    Was it appropriate for blogger to draw attention to Maddow's perspiring?

    At any rate - I have made a prediction and let see what happens..

    1. Sweating in that context implies hard work, labor.


  7. I was out for a run. Broke into a sweat. Missed everything. Did Matthews hit on any chicks tonight?