Part 2—An assault on Ridiculous Us: Sadly but inevitably, it's now one of our FAQs—one of our most frequently-asked questions.
It comes from schoolkids and seniors alike. The question goes something like this:
"Have you ever seen so much dissembling in a 14-minute segment?"
The question refers to the 14-minute opening segment of a major "cable news" program last Friday. Incomparably, we've commissioned this reply:
"Actually, no! We're not sure we've ever seen that much dissembling in such a short chunk of time!"
To watch Friday's segment, click here.
The cable star who produced that dissembling is a big major cable news star. She's considered the leading star on a "corporate liberal" cable news channel—a channel which has been showing large large ratings gain as her blizzards of bullshit fly.
She's the widely-lauded hood ornament in a gruesome prime time "cable news" lineup, a rogues' gallery we'll review tomorrow. But because her constant dissembling is aimed at a liberal audience, it is, in effect, an attack on the moral and intellectual health of the group called Ridiculous Us.
The widespread dissembling in that fourteen minutes, and in Monday evening's sequel, thus lies at the heart of the withered worldview of Ridiculous Us. We'll try to run through its various parts in today's report.
Like Caesar's Gaul, the cable star's segment can be divided into three parts. We'll memorialize them thusly:
The entertainment feature: The cable star began the segment with one of her entertaining old stories. The story which was larded with silly embellishments, s we'll note below. On the brighter side, it contained a large chunk of unintended comic relief, as we described on Monday.In these ways, corporate stars turn the liberal world into Ridiculous Us. A lot of dissembling occurred Friday night. Let's make an attempt to plow through it.
The tribal cheerleading feature: After telling her entertaining story, the cable star told her audience that Donald F. Trump had hired another incompetent lawyer. This false impression was accomplished through an act of vast dissembling. On the brighter side, it let her liberal viewers go Yay yay yay yay yay.
The slimy McCarthyite play: The cable star concluded her segment with a slimy attack on a favorite target. The attack was continued on Monday night. It was driven by an array of McCarthyite insinuations and misrepresentations.
The entertaining old story:
As we noted on Monday, the cable star's entertaining old story involved Fife Symington, the governor of Arizona from 1991 through 1997, when he had to resign his office after a criminal conviction.
The story involved a "possibly apocryphal" claim the star didn't exactly seem to believe—the claim that Symington saved Bill Clinton from drowning when both men were maybe 19.
The dissembling came early and often as the star told her tale. For starters, the cable star claimed that the near-drowning story had been widely discussed in the past, especially in 2001, when Clinton granted Symington a legal pardon.
That was a major embellishment. The comic relief occurred when the cable star said, on two occasions, that she herself has heard the story "a million times"—even as she kept mispronouncing the name of the story's protagonist!
Our youthful analysts tore their hair as the star referred, ten times, to a man named Fife SIMM-ington—a man who doesn't exist. She'd heard the story a million times—but had never heard his named pronounced correctly?
Over the course of time, we hope the young analysts will learn to laugh at clowning so sadly ridiculous.
For today, we'll note a few more points about which the star dissembled. Making her story seem more exciting, she was soon saying this:
MADDOW (6/16/17): In 1997, Fife Symington had been convicted of seven felonies related to his business life as a commercial real estate developer. Fife Symington was charged with a whole raft of corruption charges. He was ultimately convicted of filing false financial statements. Basically, he was convicted of bank fraud.Earlier, the star had claimed that Simington's pardon created lots of discussion in 2001. That simply isn't true.
Ultimately down the road, an appeals court would overturn his convictions and then later, in 2001, he would get a presidential pardon from bad swimmer Bill Clinton.
But when that case was brought, when those convictions happened, that was a big traumatic legal case, in the country broadly, but obviously specifically for Fife Symington. He was a very popular figure at Republican politics. People were looking at him as a person of potential presidential timber. Those convictions in 1997 forced him out of office immediately as Arizona governor and ultimately ended his political career.
She'd also claimed that the drowning story was widely discussed at that time. That claim was also false, though it did make her story more thrilling.
In the passage shown above, she claimed that SIMM-ington's trial "was a big traumatic legal case, in the country broadly." We're sorry, but that isn't true, as we saw when we checked.
Meanwhile, had people been looking at Symington "as a person of potential presidential timber?" You can Google and Nexis as much as you like. You'll have a hard time finding evidence supporting that claim, which made the story more exciting.
To read an AP overview of Symington's career, you can just click here. The story goes something like this:
Symington was first elected to office in November 1990, at age 45. In 1991, he became embroiled in a major federal lawsuit as part of the era's savings and loan scandals. As his business ventures collapsed, his net worth dropped to minus $23 million that year.
In November 1994, he squeaked out a surprise re-election. It was part of a huge Republican year; he had trailed by 15-20 points in polls earlier in the year.
In 1995, he declared personal bankruptcy. In 1996, he was indicted on a raft of federal charges.
We'll suggest you read that AP report and ask yourself when you think the GOP saw Symington as a White House hopeful. Increasingly, the cable star's stories are full of claims which makes her entertaining old tales more thrilling, but also less true.
We'll also note the possible jibe she aimed at—"Surprise!"—the Clinton pardons. This cable star seems to have a negative jones about Bill Clinton. It's part of her overall cluelessness about modern politics, a cluelessness she constantly tries to spread to Ridiculous Us.
The tribal cheerleading feature:
Why was the cable star telling this pointless old story? As she started telling the tale, she said it was "sort of relevant tonight to what we've just learned in Washington."
Pathetically, here's what she meant:
In his 1997 criminal trial (and in his successful pursuit of a reversal), SIMM-ington was represented by John Dowd, a well-known Washington lawyer. And uh-oh! Last week, Donald J. Trump added Dowd to his personal legal team.
The cable star wanted to let Ridiculous Us go yay yay yay yay yay. So she pretended that Dowd is a hopeless, incompetent legal bumbler, in the mold of a few of Trump's other lawyers.
In fact, Dowd is a thoroughly mainstream figure who's held in general high regard. In order to let Ridiculous Us go yay yay yay ya yay yay yay, the cable star embellished, dissembled and picked-and-chose to make us think otherwise.
How could she lead us to think that? She selected three cases from Dowd's career, then pretended they'd gone "very badly." This included the SIMM-ington case, where Dowd's client, who was quite likely guilty as sin, won a legal reversal of his convictions, and then a presidential pardon.
For her second example, the cable star selected Dowd's representation of John McCain in the Keating Five scandal. Of the Five, McCain escaped with the lightest punishment and the least amount of denigration, but the cable star seemed to say that Dowd had bungled that too.
From The Five, she segued to this wonderful bit of selective "con man" reporting. As the passage ends, she is helping us liberals see that Dowd is clownishly inept:
MADDOW: So John McCain survived the Keating Five scandal, but by the skin of his teeth, and his lawyer in that matter was the Fife SIMM-ington guy. It was this guy, John Dowd.Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! At home, in our best pajamas, Ridiculous We loudly cheered.
John Dowd is also famous for this case from 2011. This is a case that went very badly. I will, I will just read you the lead sentence from the New York Times report on this case the day the ruling came down.
Quote, "The fallen hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam received the longest prison sentence ever for insider trick—for insider trading on Thursday."
That fallen hedge fund billionaire—his lawyer when he got the longest prison sentence ever for insider trading, his lawyer was [dramatic pause] John Dowd.
John Dowd, Fife Symington.
John Dowd, John McCain.
John Dowd, "longest insider trading prison sentence ever."
And that same lawyer, John Dowd, is now going to be Donald Trump's new lawyer.
Sadly, we'd been played. In truth, the cable star's negative portrait of Dowd was almost impossibly clownish. Note this pitiful statement by the cable star:
"I will just read you the lead sentence from the New York Times report on this case the day the ruling came down."
The cable star offered that one sentence to create the impression that Dowd had clownishly failed. She failed to mention the length of that longest sentence ever—a mere eleven years—or to quote the parts of the New York Times report which explained the size of the convicted figure's misconduct:
LATTMAN (10/14/11): ''No matter the crime, if the rewards are great enough, people will ignore the risk of getting caught,'' said Jonathan B. New, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. ''For people who think that insider trading isn't a serious crime or that the rewards outweigh the risks, these heavy sentences do send a powerful message to the contrary.''According to the prosecutors, Rajaratnam had committed the largest crime of its type ever encountered. This explains his "longest sentence." Prosecutors had sought a much longer sentence due to the scope of his crimes.
Still, at 11 years, the sentence lacks the symbolic heft of the 19 to 24 years prosecutors sought. Mr. Rajaratnam deserved an outsize penalty, said the federal prosecutor Reed Brodsky at Thursday's hearing, because his crimes were ''brazen, pervasive and egregious,'' and, ''There is no one who is Mr. Rajaratnam's equal in terms of the breadth and scope of his insider trading crimes.''
The cable star left all that out. She was creating a comic book portrait, in which we liberals got to think that Donald J. Trump had hired another dud. Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! That's why we love her so much!
Within the legal world, John Dowd is a major mainstream figure. Last week, everyone got to hear that fact. Except Ridiculous Us!
The slimy McCarthyite play:
The third part of Friday's segment was the slimy McCarythyite feature. The cable star continued this slimy attack in the final segment of Monday evening's program. (The cable star didn't post the tape from Monday's segment.)
In this part of Friday's segment, her target was Vice President Pence, who had just hired a personal lawyer. The star set out to make us think there might be something fishy about the way this lawyer will be paid.
She also kept referring to her target's "legal defense." It's the type of slimy play this particular cable star loves.
Let's start with the issue of payment. The cable star expressed her slippery approach to this topic for the second at the start of Monday evening's final segment.
Providing a bit of unintended comic relief, she started the segment as shown below. You can see her make the same points in the tape of Friday's segment:
MADDOW (6/19/17): I think we are on to something concerning Vice President Mike Pence. So far, he will not tell us yes or no, so we can't be sure if we really are on to something. But the fact that he won't say either way is starting to become a telling thing. It's at least starting to make me more and more interested in this story.The Pences aren't rich, the cable star said, as she started her slimy segment. "They are not Trumps. They are not Kushners. They're not even Manaforts," the slimy major star said.
OK. The vice president and his family are not rich. It is—it's not like the guy at the top of the ticket, right? The Pence family, unlike the Trump family, they have normal American family finances. They are not Trumps. They are not Kushners. They're not even Manaforts.
"They're certainly not Maddows," several analysts cried, as they watched the slippery star perform. Does anyone provide as much comic relief as this disordered star?
The star was discussing an obvious point. As everyone knows, the age of scandal has presented waves of federal officials with the unpleasant task of paying large legal fees.
This has been true of major figures who are actually charged with misconduct, whether rightly or wrongly. It has also been true of many people who are simply involved in federal probes on the witness end.
At the present time, Vice President Pence hasn't been charged with a crime. There is no sign that he is the subject of any federal probe.
When he hired a lawyer last week, sensible people stressed the fact that this is standard behavior which doesn't suggest an admission of wrongdoing. On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin, an aggressive Trump critic, declared the hiring was "a non-event." He said that everyone knows this.
Everyone but Ridiculous Us! On Friday night, the cable star began suggesting that Pence was up to something shady regarding the payment of his forthcoming legal fees. She also used an unfortunate phrase again and again and again and again and again and again:
MADDOW (6/16/17): I mean, this is the person who's going to defend Mike Pence and represent Mike Pence in anything having to do with the Trump-Russia scandal or the obstruction of justice investigations. This is a lawyer who gets paid a lot per hour and is probably going to be working a lot of hours.We hate to be the kill-joy here. But at present, Mike Pence isn't involved in "a legal defense."
Is it possible that this fundraiser for Mike Pence's PAC tonight in Indianapolis, is it possible that's actually going to be a way for people to fund Mike Pence's legal defense?
We called the vice president`s spokesman tonight to ask whether the money that the vice president is raising right now tonight for his PAC, whether that money might be used in the future for Mike Pence's legal defense. The vice president's spokesperson would not really say exactly. But this is the exact response we got from him.
Quote: "His legal fees will be paid by non-tax dollars."
Quote: "That's all we are saying." We have not discussed it except to say that it is not tax dollars.
That was in response to us asking if this fundraiser for his PAC tonight is going to raise money for his legal defense. "It won't be tax dollars. That's all we're saying."
So, we don't know if that means that donations to Mike Pence's PAC are going to be used to pay his legal defense. If that's now going to be how he spends his time as vice president, doing fundraisers to pay for his lawyers. The only assurance that we have from the vice president`s office is that you know he's not going to have a taxpayer-funded defense. But we knew that already he can't have a taxpayer-funded defense.
Do you get the feeling this cable star wanted you picturing something different? Again and again and again and again, she just kept using that term.
We'll say this for the staffers who write this cable star's scripts. They're a gang of major enablers. But they're perfectly competent writers.
The repetition of that unfortunate phrase was stylistically clumsy—and the star and her staff aren't clumsy writers. We'd say the repeated use of that phrase was straight outta Tailgunner Joe, pretty much all the way down.
Love him or loathe him, Mike Pence isn't involved in "a legal defense." You won't see real journalists making that slippery claim.
The star said it again and again and again, stroking herself in the process. As she did, she made a set of slippery insinuations about the fundraiser Pence was holding that night.
The creation of Pence's PAC had been announced last month. The fact that it would engage in fundraising was explicit from the start.
Now, the cable star began suggesting that there was something odd about the fact that Pence was raising funds the day he announced that he had hired a lawyer. She began suggesting that he might use the PAC money to pay the legal fees, and that there would be something wrong about that if he did.
If your stomach is strong, you can watch her pimp these insinuations in the tapes from Friday and Monday nights. Especially in the Monday tape, you'll see her selling herself to Ridiculous Us as an admirable, dogged moral crusader as she spreads this slime around.
For ourselves, we'll simply ask you to remember the fact that people who are less wealthy than Maddow do, in fact, face terrible problems in the face of these federal probes.
Even in cases where they themselves have been charged with nothing, their legal fees may be very high. How can they pay these legal fees? This conundrum was widely discussed during the age of the legally expensive Clinton pseudo-scandals.
Many people were stuck with large legal fees during those gong-showe years. Might Pence end up using PAC money to pay his own future legal fees?
Despite this star's insinuations, there would be nothing illegal or unprecedented about something like that. Back in 1994, the Post's Ruth Marcus reported the way "bad swimmer Bill Clinton" had decided to handle the problem. She also named a bunch of slimeballs who were part of his Pence-like scheme:
MARCUS (6/29/94): President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday established an unprecedented defense fund to help them pay legal fees for the Whitewater investigation and the Paula Corbin Jones lawsuit that could run as high as $2 million annually.Slimeballs like Hesburgh, Richardson and Jordan were helping the Clintons with their Pence-like scheme. Five years later, the Post's Edward Walsh reported where matters now stood:
The fund will not accept contributions from corporations, labor unions, political action committees or other organizations. The donations and outlays will be reported twice yearly.
White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said the Clintons decided to establish the fund because "it's in the best interest of the country and the president" to have the large legal bills paid, and the Clintons could not afford it on his $200,000 salary.
In a statement, the chairmen of the fund, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and former attorney general Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, said: "No previous president has had to face the enormous personal legal expenses confronting President Clinton. Whatever the merits or motivations of these proceedings, we believe it is in the public interest to assist the president in meeting a financial burden that could otherwise distract him from performing his public responsibilities."
Also on the board of trustees overseeing the fund are two Republicans, former attorney general Elliot L. Richardson and former secretary of state John Whitehead; former Democratic representatives Barbara Jordan of Texas and John Brademas of Indiana; Los Angeles lawyer Ronald Olson; former Columbia University president Michael Sovern, and Michael Cardozo, an investment banker who was White House deputy counsel for President Jimmy Carter.
WALSH (2/25/99): The trustees of President Clinton's legal defense fund said yesterday that they have raised more than $4.5 million to help pay his legal bills and may eventually be able to cover most of the cost of the president's legal defense in the Whitewater investigation, the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and Congress's impeachment inquiry and trial.Slimeballs continued to give to the fund. Some of their names were mentioned.
At a news conference, Anthony F. Essaye, a New York lawyer who is a trustee and the executive director of the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, said the trust received 29,500 contributions totaling about $2.2 million from last August through the end of last year. He said that so far in 1999 the trust has taken in another 11,000 contributions totaling more than $800,000.
Essaye said that as of the end of October Clinton's legal bills totaled $9 million...
The trustees also released the names of people who have contributed to the Clinton defense and, as with the first wave of donations that were reported last year, the biggest givers included well-known names from the worlds of entertainment and business. The maximum contribution to the trust is $10,000 a year, the most that can be given without having to pay the federal gift tax, and 39 people gave that amount.
They included singer Tony Bennett; New York investment banker Steven Rattner; Hollywood producer Lew R. Wasserman and his wife, Edith; and Robert L. Johnson, president of Black Entertainment Television.
Another 17 people gave $5,000 each, including agri-businessman Dwayne O. Andreas and his wife; actor Robert DeNiro; writer Stephen E. King and New Orleans Saints football player William L. Roaf.
Essaye and former senator David Pryor (D-Ark.), who founded the trust last February, said the vast majority of donors gave small amounts. More than half the donations were for $25 or less and almost 95 percent were for $100 or less, they said.
No one knows what sorts of legal fees Pence may accrue. Everyone knows that the acquisition of huge legal fees has been, and is, one of the major problems surrounding this era of scandal and pseudoscandal.
The cable star isn't like the Manaforts in her wealth, but she's way past the Pences. In her role at corporate cable, she's paid $10 million per year to drive the culture of scandal. She was "working hard for the money" on her horrible "cable news" program last Friday.
At present, Pence is not engaged in "a legal defense." Last Friday night, and again on Monday, Tailgunner Joe and Roy Cohn smiled on the cable star's locution, and on her slippery insinuations, in which she has suggested, for several nights, that Pence has something shady in mind with respect to his legal fees.
There's no reason to think any such thing. The star was engaged in sliming.
McCarthy and Cohn surely cheered as they watched the ways she presented herself as a dogged moral crusader. They laughed to think that all this bullshit is aimed at Ridiculous Us!
Regarding the question we're frequently asked, we're going to have to answer in the negative. Last Friday's 14-minute segment was a masterwork of dissembling.
Have we ever seen anyone dissemble that much? In that length of time, we'll say no.
Tomorrow: The rest of the (completely ridiculous) gang