Interlude—Cite last night's segment with Franken: Last night, they came to us again, as if in a dream, complaining about Zeus of the aegis—and about the long-running gong-show, Hardball.
Perhaps more strikingly, they complained about our nation's "philosophers"—and they made it perfectly clear where those scare quotes belonged.
We were visited by several lesser Olympian gods, to whom qwe've granted anonymity because they haven't been authorized to discuss the way their more powerful colleagues, including Zeus of the aegis, manipulate life here on Earth.
The gods were angry last night. "Modern liberals complain about dumb TV shows," one of their number bitterly said. "Is any TV show any dumber than the silly entertainments the gods have manufactured here, dating back through sacred Homer?"
These particular gods came to us in the wake of last evening's Hardball. For obvious reasons, they focused on one part of Chris Matthews' interview with Al Franken, late of Saturday Night Live, a leading purveyor of script.
"As it has started to turn out, Franken may actually be 'one of ours,' " one suspicious god said.
These gods referred to an exchange between Matthews and Franken during the opening segment of last evening's Hardball.
At the start of his program, Matthews interviewed the Minnesota solon for fifteen minutes; you can view the full interview here. At roughly 10:25, the orange-haired multimillionaire host introduced an exciting, tribally-pleasing topic—the marketing of Hillary Clinton's new book.
Below, you see how the topic was introduced. Trigger warnings: Mutual pandering; overt self-dealing:
MATTHEWS (9/6/17): Speaking of interviews and the stagecraft of politics, Hillary Clinton has had a couple of chances the last couple weeks to push the book. And I know how you push books.To watch the entire discussion, click here, move to roughly 10:20.
Sometimes you push a book—
FRANKEN: You go on your show!
MATTHEWS: Sometimes that helps. By the way, your book's called—
FRANKEN: Al Franken, "Giant of the Senate."
MATTHEWS: Let's talk about Hillary—
[CHUCKLING BY FRANKEN]
Franken pandered to Matthews, then pimped his own book. With his chuckling, he signaled that he was well-pleased with his various efforts.
Whatever! At this point, Matthews and Franken began discussing Clinton's claim that she was stalked by Candidate Trump during their second presidential debate. Matthews played videotape of the alleged stalking before he and Franken discussed the alleged offense.
We had been struck by this exchange as we watched Hardball last evening. Hours later, the rueful gods called it to our attention.
Below, you see the transcript of what was said on this "cable news" show. As Matthews continued, he previewed Clinton's accusations against Candidate Trump:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Let's talk about Hillary.At this point, Matthews played the audiotape of the accusations Clinton makes as she reads from her new book. As the audiotape played, Matthews ran the now-iconic videotape from that second debate.
Hillary Clinton [INAUDIBLE] a couple of things, but one of the things that grabbed a lot of people's attention was going after Trump—well, let's watch.
Let's watch what happened here, and what she said about what happened with her opponent, Donald Trump.
How the gods on Olympus must have laughed! The videotape which Matthews aired showed Trump doing none of the things Clinton was alleging! Despite this fact, Matthews and Franken just plowed ahead, advancing the new tribal script:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): Let's watch what happened here, and what she said about what happened with her opponent, Donald Trump:As we noted on Monday, this is now one of the official stories on which our failed discourse runs:
CLINTON (audiotape): We were on a small stage, and no matter where I walked, he followed me closely, staring at me, making faces. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he were't repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, "Back up, you creep! Get away from me.!I know you love to intimidate women, but you can't intimidate me. So back up."
MATTHEWS: So he pulls the Godzilla number, comes up behind her like he— I don`t know what he's—
He obviously wanted to make her uncomfortable. She said she felt uncomfortable, maybe professionally uncomfortable, meaning, "I shouldn't have to have put up with somebody doing this to me."
What do you make of it? What are politicians, male or female, supposed to do when some lug comes at you?
Pulling the Godzilla number, Candidate Trump came up behind Candidate Clinton, obviously wanting to make her feel uncomfortable. He followed her no matter where she walked, repeatedly invading her space and making faces at her.This is now an Official Group Story, so christened by the New York Times. But even as the Official Group Story was being repeated on Hardball last night, the videotape Matthews played showed Trump doing none of those things!
Trump was "literally breathing down my neck," Clinton says at another point in the audiotape from her book.
In the videotape, Trump is standing at his assigned station, exactly where he should have been.
He's standing fairly close to Clinton on that small stage because Clinton has "invaded his space!" (Perfectly reasonably, she's standing directly in front of his lectern as she speaks to an audience member who has posed a question.)
The videotape doesn't show Trump "coming up behind" Candidate Clinton. It doesn't show him "following her closely." Indeed, it doesn't show him following her at all, and certainly not "no matter where she walked on the stage."
It doesn't show him making faces at Clinton, unless you count the Mussolini-esque countenance Trump tends to plaster on his face when he tries to look serious, displeased or concerned. (Trump isn't a very good actor.) It doesn't help us understand how she could have thought he was making faces, since he was standing behind her as the videotape ran.
In short, the videotape showed Candidate Trump doing none of the things Clinton has pleasingly alleged. But so what? Matthews and Franken continued ahead as if the videotape supported Clinton's pleasing claims in every disgusting respect!
As the conversation continued, Franken even dragged in Candidate Gore, saying he had done the same thing in a debate with Candidate Bush. But both participants acted as if the videotape supported Clinton's claims.
We're sorry, but it simply doesn't, unless your lizard's in charge.
Last night's exchange helps illustrate the way our discourse has worked for at least several decades. Our discourse is narrative all the way down. In case you haven't noticed it yet, this constitutes a dangerous total fail.
TV stars agree to stick to established scripts in the face of obvious contradictory evidence. They'll keep reciting established group scripts year after year, for decades. In case you haven't noticed it yet, this constitutes a dangerous fail. A modern nation simply can't run on this kind of fuel.
For the record, it was no surprise to see Matthews behaving this way last night, though a very strong irony existed. We thought back to the all the name-calling in which he engaged, for many years, with respect to Hillary Clinton.
Relentlessly, he trashed her as "Evita Peron;" as he did, the liberal world just sat there and took it. With regard to the invention of facts, has anyone ever invented more facts that this broken-souled corporate employee did, for twenty months, with respect to Candidate Gore? (We liberals just swallowed that too.)
It was no surprise to see Matthews behaving as he did last night. Regarding Franken, we'll only say this:
Sad. Completely pathetic, but sad.
(And by the way, won't you please go out and buy the senator's #&% book?)
On the merits, last night's exchange was gruesome. On the brighter side, it provided the latest striking object lesson concerning the way our failed discourse works.
That said, we were struck by one remark the disgruntled gods made as they discussed this exchange. They blamed all this on the "philosophers," making it clear, through their tone of voice, where the scare quotes belonged.
They specifically mentioned Professor Appiah, who appeared on NPR last week. "Did you listen to that program?" one eye-rolling deity angrily said, suggesting that it had been engineered by gods above him in rank.
These gods even blamed the philosophers for the endless gong-shows emerging from Hardball! Tomorrow, we'll return to Professor Appiah's visit to NPR, and we'll start explaining these gods' surprising claim.
Tomorrow: Lehrer describes the book