TALKING TO OURSELVES: The latest insult to the tribe!

MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2014

Part 1—Between a rock and two ferns: In 1980, the poet Billy Idol broke the world’s hearts with a sad tale of near-onanism:
When there's no one else in sight
In the crowded lonely night
Well I wait so long
For my love vibration
And I'm dancing with myself

Oh dancing with myself
Oh dancing with myself
Well there's nothing to lose
And there's nothing to prove
I'll be dancing with myself
Poor Idol! We thought of the poet’s sad lament as we watched cable this weekend. In part, we refer to a tedious pair of segments we saw Steve Kornacki host.

On balance, we like the cut of Kornacki’s jib—but good God, this was tedious! As we watched, we thought about the way poor Idol had once danced with himself.

On Saturday morning’s Up, Kornacki led a housebroken panel of pundits through an endless discussion about the way Obama was criticized for guesting on the Internet comedy series, Between Two Ferns. His two segments ate 16 minutes of broadcast time.

It took twenty minutes off the clock, including a break for commercials.

The discussion was tedious, scripted, wholly predictable, poundingly dull. To our ear, it represents the way we in the liberal world are increasingly choosing to dance with, and talk to, ourselves.

No “others” need apply!

In its usual slacker way, MSNBC hasn’t managed to transcribe Kornacki’s segments yet. That said, MSNBC had now been flogging this relatively trivial criticism of Obama for five solid days.

As the world of “cable news” breaks down into tribal camps, each corporate channel must feed its tribe a steady dose of insult and disrespect from the other tribe. This particular insult to Obama seemed to be the biggest act of disrespect MSNBC could locate last week.

The channel pushed it again and again, sometimes in very dumb ways.

No one dumbed it down more than Rachel Maddow, who—let the word go forth from this time and place—has reached the point where she’s willing to overtly talk down to her viewers.

On Thursday evening—Day 3 of the outrage—Maddow opened one of her childish “Dysfunktion Junction” segments with this insult to Obama.

Pee Wee Herman couldn’t have dumbed it down more. This is the way she began:
MADDOW (3/13/14): Hoot hooooooot! Debunktion Junction, what’s my junction?

What President Obama did this week, that was qualitatively unprecedented in terms of degrading the dignity of the White House. Is that true or is that false?

ABC News reporter Jim Avila at the White House press briefing this week was clearly making that claim.

AVILA (videotape): How much discussion was there at the White House about the dignity of the office, how much the dignity of the office might be lost? This is an interview like no other probably ever done by a president.

MADDOW: No other president has ever done anything like this. Why did President Obama decide to degrade the dignity of the office in this unprecedented way?
Maddow played tape of Avila asking a question at Jay Carney’s daily press avail. Before and after she played the tape, she offered embellished versions of what Avila supposedly said.

After her first embellished account, Maddow said that Avila “clearly made that claim.”

Maddow didn’t play tape of ABC’s actual news report about Obama’s appearance on Two Ferns, a news report which largely adopted the White House line about the event. Instead, she played tape of Avila asking a question at a presser.

She later declared that “ABC News” was “completely and totally wrong.”

Increasingly, this is the kind of low-IQ work we get from Our Own Rhodes Scholar. As Maddow denounced the top tribal insult, she also embellished a tweet by David Gergen, then clowned viewers with camouflaged pieces of tape:
MADDOW: David Gergen says it’s outrageous. Ike would never do a comedy show.

Behold, here is Ike doing a comedy show. President Eisenhower appearing on the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1955, on an episode on that also featured Abbot and Costello.

Ah, OK, maybe Ike did it, but surely Ronald Reagan would never do a comedy show. What was the phrase? He was always “carefully protecting the majesty of the office.” Reagan would never have done a comedy show.

Behold, here is Ronald Reagan doing a comedy show, as president taking part in comedy birthday specials for both George Burns and Bob Hope.
Gergen didn’t say that Reagan and Ike “would never have done a comedy show.” Beyond that, here’s what Maddow didn’t tell you as she played short video clips of those presidents:

In the first bit of tape which quickly flashed by, Eisenhower was reading a formal statement at the start of the Colgate Comedy Hour’s salute to Armed Forces Week in 1955. (The rest of the program was broadcast “direct from March Air Force Base in Riverside, California.” To watch the whole program, click here.)

Also unmentioned: In the piece of videotape Maddow clipped next, Reagan was appearing with Hope at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. It was one of the three million programs Hope staged for the troops over the course of four decades.

(You can watch Reagan’s segment here. Reagan: “I would like to say, on behalf of your audience, nothing in the job I have has made me more proud than these young men and women in uniform.”)

We didn’t vote for Reagan; we weren’t fans of Hope. It’s also true that much of the criticism of Obama was the silly, pitifully scripted piddle which increasingly defines our national discourse.

(Much, though perhaps not all: On Wednesday night, Maddow’s “beloved colleague,” Chris Matthews, agreed with Kathleen Parker that the timing of Obama’s appearance on Two Ferns may have been unfortunate, coming as it did in the midst of an international crisis. On Thursday night, Matthews discussed the topic for the third straight night, climbing solidly back in line with his channel’s message.)

Most of the criticism of Obama was silly, inane, faux, bogus. It was right up there with the standard complaints about presidents playing too much golf—that particular bullroar started with Ike—or going on too many vacations, perhaps to the wrong locales.

Remember how Bush would take too many vacations and also play too much golf?

Much of the criticism was silly, faux, dumb. But so was that pitiful segment by Maddow. So, to a much lesser degree, was Kornacki’s effort.

Kornacki’s segments about Two Ferns were scripted, predictable, tired. Clearly, the liberal channel had gone in search of the latest insult to the tribe, the life blood of corporate cable “news” in this age of tribalized division.

That said, was this really the best we could do, several of the analysts asked. Kornacki’s segments went on and on. It was Day Five of the reaction to The Great Tribal Insult.

The analysts groaned, writhing in boredom. We thought of the way poor Billy Idol had once danced with himself.

Tomorrow: Jonathan Capehart guest hosts


  1. Yeah, I remember how Bush took too many vacations and played too much golf. Now watch this drive!

  2. Prediction: Bone-gnawer is going to come up with a spirited defense of Paul Ryan ("inner city culture of not working") with scathing vitriol for "librulz"

    1. While he's at it he can slam Krugman for saying this today:

      "Indeed, race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics."

      The post you're predicting would get a lot of hits and comments--not that anyone at TDH cares about that. Though Bob does go over the comments to Dowd's columns pretty carefully...

    2. There are also quite a few actors and actresses who watch other people's films but not their own.

  3. "....Chris Matthews ... agreed with Kathleen Parker..."

    Yeah, she called him "sweetie" and he was hers from then on. Chris always seems to melt in the presence of a good-looking woman. I thought he was going to start "Dancing With Himself" those times he slavered over a clip of Sarah Palin in a tight-fitting T-shirt.

    Speaking of another cowardly lecher, Hope was great hosting the Oscars. They've never found anyone better. He was great in the Road pictures and other early films. If he faded a bit in his final active years as an institution and secular saint (Christmas shows for the troops), that's to be expected. I wouldn't put him in the comedy pantheon with Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, L & H, or Fields, but I liked him a lot when I was a kid.

    But then, as a kid I liked Jerry Lewis.

    1. I liked Billy Crystal better than Bob Hope.

    2. City Slickers was clearly better than any of the Road To
      pictures, and kept Crystal out of the comedy pantheon of Somerby,Victoria Jackson, and Michael Richards.

    3. You forgot Dennis Miller and Bill Maher (trending). But Somerby doesn't belong in that list. Only a troll thinks that anyone he or she doesn't agree with must be a conservative.

  4. Steve Kornacki has been breaking the rules established for cable news talent. He seems to know what he's talking about.

    1. Steve Kornacki, who routinely seems to know what he's talking about when he discusses New Jersey (and national) politics.

    2. We were first amazed by Kornacki in April 2010.

    3. Steve Kornacki broke through the clutter

    4. Often, Kornacki seems to be the only one who knows what he’s talking about.

    5. As many other people have noted, Kornacki has stood out in his handling of the Fort Lee matter. When he discusses New Jersey politics, he rather plainly seems to know what he’s talking about.

      You rarely see that on cable news channels—a person who knows what he’s talking about!

    6. Everyone knows the current rules:

      You praise Kornacki for his knowledge. After that, you simply ignore the buzz-kill things he says.

    7. Because, the point isn't what Kornacki said, it is the amount of time, the segments wasted on a triviality. You trolls don't seem to understand that when someone like Kornacki climbs onto the MSNBC bandwagon, even he will have to spend time talking about the kind of nonsense that builds ratings. I wouldn't expect Kornacki to turn down a paycheck, but it would have shown more integrity to not be part of this kind of circus, that cheapens anyone's brand as a serious reporter.

    8. Imagine that. The host of a cable talk show is trying to build ratings. Oh the horror!

    9. I agree with Bob. who finds much of what Kornacki says jibes with him and he likes his jib. Kornacki...simply the press corps' most valuable player concerning the Fort Lee fandango.

    10. @3:26 -- Ratings aren't inherently bad, but it does matter what you do to get them.

    11. It matters more what happens to you if you don't get them.

      You get reduced to retelling what Maureen Dowd said about Hillary in 1999 to a tiny band of blog faithful.

    12. Steve Kornacki explained why there could be an irrational backlash if Democrats oppose extending those tax cuts for the rich.

    13. Back in 2010 Steve Kornacki offered a detailed look at the polling history of the Clinton/Bush race in 1992, thus debunking Quayle’s claim. Three cheers for Kornacki!

    14. And now he's decided to sell out in order to hang out with the likes of Maddow.

  5. Television is inherently bad.

    1. It is a good thing Al Gore took the intiative to create the Internet as an alternative. Three cheers for Al Gore!!!

  6. Poor Bob, afraid of his race's true nature. Idol was not lamenting, he was celebrating. Most of us are comfortable with our masturbatory urges and actions. Poor Bob.