Part 4—Adopting the tribal pose: Lawrence was just especially smarmy on this Monday night's Last Word.
He stuck his big long nose quite deep into somebody's underwear drawer. Is Lawrence our sickly tribe's number-one Dimmesdale? At times, we get that sense.
Lawrence is never especially shy about assuming the pose. We'll likely explore his recent conduct in our reports next week.
That said, Lawrence is also technically smart, and he's experienced inside the Congress. In part for those reasons, you sometimes hear accurate statements about real things on Lawrence's "cable news" show.
On Monday evening, November 13, viewers of Lawrence's ludicrous program got to hear an accurate statement about a major point of concern. The statement was made by Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official under Hillary Clinton.
Sherman's statement came near the end of a segment about—who else?—Roy Moore.
Needless to say, the segment didn't involve Moore's very strange political career, which is too boring for cable. The segment involved his real, imagined and alleged sex life forty years ago, including allegations of sexual assault. More and more, that's the type of high-octane fuel our partisan cable runs on.
Sherman's statement was thoroughly accurate, and also hugely important. It's also true, of course, that absolutely nobody cares:
SHERMAN (11/13/17): All over the world, girls face assault. Everything from people who are just creeps to rape, to sexual assault, to child marriage. These are issues which we have to put out in the open and as I said at the beginning, Lawrence, at the end of the day, this is about power. I know that lots of people feel powerless. But when you feel powerless, the way to gain power is not to assault a child.To watch the whole segment, click here.
Sherman's statement was accurate. Her claims are true about girls (and women) all over the world. Those claims are also also true about girls and women right here in our own failing nation. This includes the "little girls" concerning whom her smarmy host enjoys adopting the pose.
It's also true that, within the culture of "cable news," nobody gives a flying fark about any of this. Within the world of "cable news," mistreatment of women and girls mainly exists to be weaponized, as does everything else.
What doesn't exist to be weaponized in our tribal wars? Remember when our cable stars pretended to be upset about the fact that Sgt. LaDavid Johnson's widow hadn't been permitted to see his body, apparently despite regulations?
A month has passed since we struck that pose. On cable TV, at your liberal sites, have you heard a single subsequent word about that?
Answer: Of course you haven't! No one on cable actually cared about that 25-year-old widow's concerns. Cable had simply launched a complaint designed to create a more perfect tribal union—a way to help cable stars like Lawrence make it through the night. That's why you've seen no follow-up about our heartfelt pose.
In our view, the segment in which Sherman spoke was also highly tribal. That day, a second accuser had come forward to say that Roy Moore had assaulted her when she was a teenager.
This second accuser, Beverly Young Johnson, said Moore violently attacked her in his car on a darkened parking lot in late 1979 or early 1980. In this way, Johnson became the second woman to allege a sexual assault by Moore. But because we're dealing with tribal cable, she was listed as the fifth accuser of Moore on Lawrence's smarmy show.
In the days to come, we'll look at the way our failing tribe processed the statements made by our alleged second, third and fourth accusers. But on this night, Lawrence was reacting to Johnson's account, which had appeared that day.
In the manner of tribal cable, Lawrence had assembled a panel of three guests, all of whom were going to say The Exact Same Things about the matters at hand. Lawrence's viewers wouldn't be asked to hear some possible range of reactions.
That practice has ceased on MSNBC. On cable, Our tribe has gone totally tribal, even more so than Theirs.
Two of the people to whom Lawrence spoke that night had ties to Bill or Hillary Clinton. Sherman had served under Hillary Clinton in the State Department. Neera Tanden, a second guest, had worked on at least of Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns, and had then served as policy director on Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign.
Needles to say, there's nothing wrong with any of that. That said, we were struck, that Monday night, by the tribal pomposity of the discussion Lawrence occasioned.
As noted, all three of Lawrence's guests said the same things during this discussion. This is the way Lawrence's program is booked.
All three guests said the things we liberal tribals wanted to hear. We thought the problem with the segment became most clear in these remarks by Maria Teresa Kumar, who seems to be a perfectly decent and sensible person:
O'DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar, your reaction to what Beverly Nelson Young had to say today.Kumar nailed every requisite point. Let's create a list:
KUMAR: I think it's devastating but I think it also highlights that the Republican Party has a lot of—has to bear a lot of the burden of this, because we had the exact same allegations literally a year ago, Lawrence, on this show, with woman after woman coming after saying, "Look, Donald Trump groped me. Donald Trump crossed the line. He sexually harassed me."
And at that time, when the Republican Party could have said, "Yes, this is not OK, we stand and we believe the women," they decided to send in a sexual predator to the White House. Now, they have bigger problem on their hands because you have a party that—where people feel that they can have a political career based on what they saw as a pathway to higher leadership office. And that is the danger.
It is great that Mitch McConnell came out today, but they need to do more. They need to show more. They need to believe the women, because it's not one. The reason that Roy Moore may not remember Beverly is because there's so many other women that are hiding in the shadows that are afraid to come forward, and it's time that we have an honest, frank conversation of what leadership truly means. And that means making sure that women are safe in the workplace, that little girls are safe where they are, and that the community comes forward.
The fact that the Alabama paper came out saying that, yes, it was known that the district attorney would literally go around the mall and at high school games trying to date young girls, that should have, literally the whole community should have come out in protest. But instead, they decided to elect him year after year.
Requisite standard wholly familiar easily memorized points:According to Kumar, Republicans need to believe the women accusing Moore, because there are more than one.
1) Last year, the Republican Party decided to send a sexual predator to the White House.
2) Instead, they should have stood and said, "We believe the women."
3) Republicans need to believe the women accusing Moore because it's more than one.
In part, that statement was accurate, though by our count, there were now two accusers. If you listened to Lawrence, the count that night stood at five.
At any rate, Kumar had rattled off the requisite points. In our view, the sanctimony was rather high this night. This is why we say that:
As we watched Lawrence's segment, we couldn't help thinking of the way this segment appeared "as seen by Others." Uh-oh! All across this bustling nation, conservatives would react to Kumar's presentation in a wholly predictable, not blatantly crazy way:
They would make an easily memorized statement. They would say that people like Sherman, Tanden and Kumar had in fact refused to "believe the women" when the women in question had been accusing Bill Clinton!
All over the country, that's thought wwould have occurred to The Others. We're forced to say that this highly familiar point, however fair or unfair in the end, does make perfect sense on its face.
Did Republicans decide to send a sexual predator to the White House? All across the nation, but never once on our own tribal channel, people would say that that was what we Democrats did, first in 1992, then again in 1996.
As we watched three people All Say The Same Things that night, we marveled at the broken state of our public discourse. We marvelled at the very idea that we liberals can watch Lawrence's ridiculous show without noting how scripted the program is—in this instance, without wondering what Sherman, Tanden and Kumar would have said if they'd been asked this blindingly obvious question:
The obvious question:That obvious question would pop into the heads of tens of millions of people. But of one thing you can be certain:
Isn't that what Democrats did in 1996?
On Lawrence's treacly, smarmy program, that obvious question will never be asked! You'll never see guests like Sherman, Tanden and Kumar asked to provide reples!
This Wednesday night, Lawrence signed off with a heartfelt recollection of the death of Dear Jack in November 1963.
It seems fairly clear that this selfsame Jack Kennedy assaulted a 19-year-old intern, right there in the White House, when he was president. Based on the highly credible way the story is told, we'd pretty much call it a rape.
Lawrence doesn't talk about that. Instead, Lawrence discusses Roy Moore, then lovingly strokes himself as he helps us remember Dear Jack.
This is the way our smarmy corporate hosts toy with us, and with the nation, on cable. As we watched Lawrence listen to Sherman, Kumar and Tanden, we wondered what his guests would have said about "believing the women" when the women are Others.
That's why we agree with Chris Hayes' brave bold tweet, though only in theory, and only up to a point. His tweet suggested that we fiery liberals should start addressing the matter of Bill Clinton's accusers.
Hayes triggered that column by Michelle Goldberg; after that came Ross Douthat and others. A rather large pile of manifest dumbness emerged from Hayes' brave bold tweet, in which we suspect that the brave bold Hayes was perhaps and maybe possibly striking a bit of a pose.
Could it be that Hayes was striking a pose? We aren't sure! Does anyone emerge from cable with his soul intact?
Coming in part 5: Kathleen Willey v. Leigh Corfman
Expected next week: Roy Moore in Hollywood!