O'Donnell mentions just one: At 10:05 PM Eastern, last night, Lawrence O'Donnell landed a direct hit on Deborah Birx.
In our view, his attack on Dr. Birx was constructive and perhaps a bit overdue. O'Donnell may have overstated a bit, but it seems to us that his critique takes us in a constructive direction.
O'Donnell was attacking the silence of one group of lambs—even though, at yesterday's televised White House briefing, there were two groups of silent enablers present in the room.
O'Donnell went after "the Trump team." Below, we'll mention the journalists.
O'Donnell's criticism of Dr. Birx concerns the recent peculiar decision by Georgia governor Brian Kemp. He has given permission for tattoo parlors to open in Georgia—also, barbershops and massage parlors, and bowling alleys too.
These entities have been cleared to open, even though the state of Georgia shows no sign of getting the coronavirus under control. Nor has the state come close to satisfying the guidelines for (very limited) Phase One reopening, as announced by Trump late last week.
As O'Donnell noted, Georgians will now be able to get a tattoo, then head to the bowling alley. He then launched his attack on Birx. Note the key words "once again:"
O'DONNELL (4/21/20): Dr. Deborah Birx was asked about this at the White House briefing today and, once again, Dr. Birx gave the kind of answer that a Republican Party lawyer would give, an answer designed to protect any Republican office holder with a bad idea.Can someone cut your hair from six feet away? Edward Scissorhands maybe!
Dr. Birx actually said that it's perfectly OK to open these businesses as long as you can maintain social distancing inside those businesses. Social distancing for a massage. Social distancing for a tattoo. Social distancing six feet away for a haircut!
Dr. Birx actually pretended that all those things were possible:
BIRX (videotape): If there’s a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don’t know how, but people are very creative.
O'DONNELL: That is a purely Trumpian answer. Dr. Birx is saying that someone can cut your hair from six feet away.
At any rate, O'Donnell's paraphrase of Dr. Birx may have been slightly overstated. In our view, it wasn't overstated by much—and it moves the discussion in the right direction.
For ourselves, we've found Birx's performances at these prime-time sessions increasingly maddening. She's become a master at performative bafflegab—at meandering, technocratic orations which rarely seem to address the matter at hand in a way TV viewers and high-end journalists are likely to understand.
Unexplained slides flash by at warp speed as Dr. Birx pretends to address whatever topic may be at hand. But in these performances, Birx conveys the impression that various actions by Donald J. Trump are supported by scientific authority.
Last night, O'Donnell continued his critique of Birx after playing tape of Donald J. Trump himself. The tape showed Trump saying that demonstrators have been practicing social distancing at their LIBERATE MICHIGAN protests.
Trump said they seemed to be social distancing—plus, they had a lot of American flags! O'Donnell responded with this attack. Note the key word "her:"
O'DONNELL: If there was a serious public health official in that White House briefing today with the president, she would have raised her voice and said something like:Was O'Donnell being fair? He said that Birx should have "raised her voice" at yesterday's session and openly contradicted the commander-in-chief. Does that advice make sense?
"I have seen the pictures of those protesters and they are not social distancing. And they are all risking their own lives by doing what they're doing and they are risking the lives of other people in their communities—their neighbors and their families, who they might come in contact with after being in the thick of one of those reckless and dangerous demonstrations."
But everyone in that room working on the Trump team knows that being a Trump team member requires keeping their own safe distance from a truth like that.
Many observers have assumed that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci (he was absent again yesterday) have avoided speaking freely and clearly in service to the greater good. In theory, such reticence may make sense—but it has seemed to us that Birx has drifted increasingly far in this "Trumpian" direction.
At any rate, O'Donnell savaged the silence of one group of lambs in that room yesterday. He savaged the silence of the lambs serving "on the Trump team."
Trump team members refuse to speak up, O'Donnell said. But as he did, he failed to mention the silence of a second group who pleasantly sat in that room.
We refer to the various lambs of the upper-end press corps. Theoretically, they'd been assembled in that room to question Commander Trump.
In recent days, several upper-end journalists actually had aggressively tried to challenge President Trump.
As we told you yesterday, they'd tried—and they had failed. In the process, they were insulted by President Trump—savaged for their failed attempts to serve.
Yesterday, the lambs were back. We refer to those in the upper-end press, not those who serve on the Trump team.
Obvious questions went unasked; obvious follow-ups didn't occur. Most strikingly, Trump wasn't pushed about Kemp's weird decrees, which fly in the face of the very guidelines Trump announced late last week.
The lambs in the press corps behaved themselves, as did the lambs on Trump's team. You can imagine an excuse for the silence of Birx. We can't say the same for the journalists.
For liberals, it's easy to see the weird misconduct and mental disorder of President Donald J. Trump. It may be harder to recognize the abject failures—the failures and the refusals to serve—of our upper-end journalists, who may seem to be "on our side."
Yesterday, this second group of lambs displayed a remarkable silence. In recent days, several others had failed to serve through their remarkable lack of even the most basic skills.
Tomorrow, we'll return to Yamiche Alcindor and Weijia Jiang as they try to challenge the commander in chief concerning an obvious point. On successive days, they tried to ask Trump an obvious question—they tried, and in each case they failed.
Tomorrow, we'll peruse the remarkable lack of skill which doomed their attempts to serve. On Friday, we'll offer a list of ways our upper-end journalists and upper-end news orgs should serve in the face of the virus itself, and in the face of these ridiculous prime-time "briefings."
"What's to be done?" So the other Vladimir once quite thoughtfully asked.
What should the upper-end press corps be doing? On Friday, we'll offer a list.
Tomorrow: In search of the most basic skills
A correction: Yesterday, we said that Yamiche Alcindor works for the New York Times.
Alcindor seems like a very nice person. She moved from the Times to the PBS NewsHour way back in the faraway past.