Dems unhappy with Rachel: We recommend two recent reports about the program content of pseudoliberal cable news, especially MSNBC.
We refer to this post by Erix Levitz at New York Magazine ("The Democratic Party Has an MSNBC Problem"), and to an earlier report at The Daily Beast which Levitz quotes.
That earlier report is by Gideon Resnick and Sam Stein. Stein is a frequent presence on cable news. But the content of the Beast report is captured by its headlines:
Dems Give Up on Trying to Get Cable News to Care About Anything but RussiaThe basic premise of these reports is this: Congressional Democrats want to talk about important policy issues—more specifically, about the Trump administration's "war on the middle class." But all Rachel and them are willing to discuss is Russia and also Russia, Russia the whole freaking time.
The party wants to talk health care. They really do. But they can’t get cable bookers or programmers to care.
The Russians are coming, and also the Russians are coming! It's the Russians the whole freaking time!
We refer to Rachel Maddow because she's the top star on MSNBC. But each of these reports suggests that Democratic election prospects are being harmed by the way MSNBC is selling its one and only TV show, The (explosive) Chase:
RESNICK AND STEIN (5/14/18): Eager to move a message that focuses on things like minimum wage hikes and health care premiums, [Democrats] have been overtaken by a steady stream of stories of Russian meddling, porn star payoffs, and shady Trump-world figures. Ultimately, many offices and aides have come to the conclusion that they should simply give up on trying to break through on cable news at all.Is this relentless diet of Russia trivia harming election prospects? That's a matter of judgment, but the diet is unrelenting and largely beside the point, absent eventual action by Mueller.
“It’s impossible,” said one Senate aide, “unless you want to talk about Russia.”
...[N]umerous other aides echoed this point, sharing stories of fruitless calls and emails to bookers and abrupt cancellations on pre-existing bookings. Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said she was bumped three times from a prime-time MSNBC show due to Trump scandals.
When it comes to her Russia obsession, Maddow is often so deep in the weeds that you can't see the swamp from there. With that in mind, we were struck by Levitz's claim, based on a study by The Intercept, that Maddow "devotes more air time to 'Trump-Russia' developments than to all other issues" combined.
The Intercept had studied Maddow's programs from February 20 through March 31. By their reckoning, Maddow had devoted 640 minutes to "Russia issues" during that period, but only 552 minutes to "Total Non-Russia Issues."
We couldn't help wondering—did Maddow really devote that much time to non-Russkie issues? What other issues does she ever discuss, we incomparably wondered.
We decided to run a quick check. Below, you see the summaries of Maddow Show highlights from the middle week in March. These summaries run on Nexis with transcripts of each night's program. We assume they come from the Maddow staff, but we don't know that for sure.
From these summaries, there's no way to assess The Intercept's statistical breakdown. But you may start to get an idea of what those "other" issues were in Maddow's Trump-obsessed issue palate. We highlight a few topics which aren't "Trump Russia" but come from the same family tree:
Monday, March 12:It wasn't all "Trump Russia" after all! It was also Kushner/Japan, plus the dumping of Tillerson and McMaster, along with the Stormy Daniels case and the embarrassment called Ben Carson!
HIGHLIGHT: David Corn and Michael Isikoff discussed with Rachel Maddow some of the insights explored in their new book, "Russian Roulette," including the unusual presence of people like Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos on the Trump campaign team, and how many of the ingredients of the Russian attack on the 2016 election were known to the U.S. intelligence community without the realization of the overall plot. Congressman Adam Schiff talked with Rachel Maddow about the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee shutting down their Trump Russia investigation with witnesses yet to interview and questions left unanswered.
Tuesday, March 13:
HIGHLIGHT: Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, talked with Rachel Maddow about the circumstances of Donald Trump's firing of Rex Tillerson and the foreign policy stakes around Trump administration upheaval. Senator Ron Wyden talked with Rachel Maddow about his objections to the elevation of Gina Haspel to director of the CIA and his concerns about the secrecy of the U.S. torture program and Haspel's role in it.
Wednesday, March 14:
HIGHLIGHT: Britain is to expel 23 Russian diplomats allegedly operating as undeclared intelligence officers after Moscow ignored a midnight deadline to explain how its nerve weapon was used in the attempted assassination of a former double agent on U.K. soil. Caleb Melby, financial investigations reporter for Bloomberg News, talked with Rachel Maddow about a hundred million dollar real estate deal the Jared Kushner's family company did with a Japan-backed company. Sarah Chadwick, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, talked with Rachel Maddow about National Walkout Day and how the national response has increased
Thursday, March 15:
HIGHLIGHT: Donald Trump secretaries Ben Carson and Steven Mnuchin are garnering the kind of embarrassing scandal headlines that seem likely to draw the ax-wielding attention of Donald Trump. "The New York Times" reports that Robert Mueller has sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization for Russia-related documents over a time that extends to before Donald Trump declared his candidacy. Nicole Perlroth, cybersecurity reporter for "The New York Times", talked with Rachel Maddow about new details of Russia's efforts to hack vital U.S. infrastructure accompanying new sanctions on Russia. Ashley Parker, White House correspondent for "The Washington Post", talked with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump being prepared to fire his second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, as soon as he arranges a suitable replacement and a non-humiliating departure. Rep. Eric Swalwell talked with Rachel Maddow about evidence House Intel Democrats say they've seen that shows the Trump Organization negotiating a deal with a sanctioned Russian bank during the election season.
Friday, March 16:
HIGHLIGHT: Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, talked with Rachel Maddow about the circumstances of Rex Tillerson's firing in contrast with the story the White House is trying to push about it. Donald Trump has hired attorney Charles Harder to represent him in the Stormy Daniels legal case, and filed to move the case to a federal court, showing a new seriousness about the situation. Ellen Barry, international correspondent for The New York Times, talked with Rachel Maddow about British authorities treating the death of Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov as a murder and re-examining more than a dozen past suspicious Russian deaths in the UK.
In other words, it's basically nothing but "Trump scandal and embarrassment." As Maddow socks millions of dollars away, little else ever intrudes, including major policy issues.
Last night, Maddow returned from vacation with one of her higher-energy evenings. It occurred to us that, when dealing with a dangerous president who seems to have mental health issues, it may be better to avoid having cable news anchors who have spoken about their own mental health issues, and who seem to exhibit such difficulties on a regular basis.
That said, it's now "Trump scandal and embarrassment" pretty much all the way down. Corporate cable is raking in bucks selling us an exciting "true crime" tale. We're perhaps a bit too enthralkled to see that we're being entertained, stroked, fluffed, talked down to and played.
Nothing matters except That Bad Man. Nothing affecting regular people need apply, let alone struggling children!
Corporate doesn't care about them. Neither do we, or at least that's what corporate guesses.