TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2020
It's all over but the screaming: At long last, Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff, had revealed the secret!
He'd done so while speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union. Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell played videotape of what Meadows had said.
Here's the part of Sunday's exchange which Lawrence aired last night:
MEADOWS (10/25/20): That's exactly the point. So, here's what we have to do. We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas—
TAPPER: Why aren't we going to get control of the pandemic?
MEADOWS: Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it's contagious—
TAPPER: Yeah, but why not make efforts to contain it?
That's where Lawrence cut the tape—and good lord! "We're not going to control the pandemic." Finally, Meadows had said it!
Finally, Meadows had revealed the secret! The Trump administration isn't trying to "control" or "contain" the pandemic!
Lawrence stressed this point again and again. He appeared beneath a large visual which said, "We are not going to control the pandemic." At one point, he even told viewers this:
O'DONNELL (10/26/20): In the interview, Jake Tapper fought back against [Meadows'] lies about Joe Biden's position. But Mark Meadows never changed his statement of, "We are not going to control the pandemic."
It is hard to imagine anything that can be said that will make the difference between the candidates on the most important issue of the campaign more clear than, "We are not going to control the pandemic."
Mark Meadows said, "We are not going to control the pandemic" because it is contagious!
Meadows "never changed his statement," Lawrence explicitly said. After the short speech we've just posted, Lawrence played the videotape, editing Meadows' exchange with Tapper exactly as we've shown.
Meadows "never changed his statement," Lawrence explicitly said. Meadows never changed the statement in which he said that the administration isn't trying to control (or contain) the pandemic.
This made a stirring battle cry for Lawrence to offer us viewers. Except this is what Mark Meadows said in the fuller exchange with Tapper as recorded, CROSSTALK included, on the CNN transcript:
TAPPER (10/25/20): [The spread in cases] is coming from all sorts of places. It's coming from all sorts of places, because the pandemic is out of control.
MEADOWS: That's exactly the point. So, here's what we have to do. We're not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas—
TAPPER: Why aren't we going to get control of the pandemic?
MEADOWS: Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it's contagious.
TAPPER: Yes, but why not make efforts to contain it?
MEADOWS: Well, we are making efforts to contain it. And that's—
TAPPER: By running all over the country not wearing a mask? That's what the vice president is doing.
MEADOWS: Jake, we can, we can get into the back-and-forth. Let me just say this is what we need to do, is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments, to make sure that people don't die from this.
That was the fuller exchange. Lawrence edited the tape right before Meadows said that the administration is trying to contain the pandemic. He wanted you to hear the first statement, not the statement which followed.
"Meadows never changed his statement?" If we loved the L-word the way Lawrence does, we might angrily call that a lie.
In fairness to Lawrence, Meadows can be said to have described efforts at mitigation rather than at control or containment. It could be said that he described efforts to help people after they've become infected, rather than to keep them from getting infected in the first place.
That said, it seems to us that Lawrence's editing was baldly deceptive. He cut the tape right before Meadows said they are trying to contain the virus. A moment later, Meadows added this:
MEADOWS: Well, when we look—when we look at the number of cases increasing, what we have to do is make sure that we fight it with therapeutics and vaccines, take proper mitigation factors, in terms of social distancing and masks when we can.
Meadows seems to include masks and social distancing as "mitigation" strategies. All in all, even though he spun incessantly, it didn't sound to us like he was saying that we should give up on trying to control or contain the spread.
Question: Is the Trump administration trying to control or contain the pandemic? Is it possible that Donald J. Trump has secretly decided to adopt a "herd immunity" approach?
That's certainly possible! At present, we have a crackpot president who has crazily hired a crackpot radiologist to serve as his principal adviser on a type of public health issue in which the crackpot radiologist has no expertise or experience.
It may well be that Donald J. Trump, in his heart of hearts, has decided that some version of "herd immunity" is the way to go. But is that really what Meadows said? Is that what Meadows meant?
We'd say that isn't clear at all—until you decide to edit the tape in the way Lawrence did.
Of course, Lawrence has hardly been alone in this approach. Every liberal pundit and his ardent nephew has reported the first thing Meadows said—"We're not going to control the pandemic"—without mentioning the second statement—"We are trying to contain the pandemic."
Beyond that, Lawrence didn't mention Meadows' several endorsements of distancing and masks. In such ways, we liberals are told the sorts of things we most long to hear.
What was Meadows actually saying as he battled with Tapper? We'll guess that he may have been trying to offer a Kennedyesque rhetorical flourish in his initial statement, the statement in which he said what the White House is and isn't trying to "control."
Meadows has often revealed himself as a clumsy, almost oafish, public speaker. He doesn't necessarily seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.
In our view, it's a stretch to assume that he was somehow giving a secret away when he said the (various) things he said. It remains true that he works for a public crackpot who has taken crackpot approaches and made crackpot statements all through the course of the year.
"It's all over but the shouting," political observers have traditionally said as Election Day approaches. In these final days of our failing republic, the shouting has perhaps become a bit more like a scream.
Tapper is sharper than the average cable news bear, but he endlessly interrupted Meadows in the course of their largely useless exchange. When Meadows said, "We can get into the back-and-forth," we actually thought that he was lodging a valid complaint.
The CROSSTALKs in the CNN transcript are testimony to a breakdown in the way such discussions are now being conducted by major mainstream journalists. A much more ludicrous example presented itself last night.
Last night, we watched Chris Cuomo pretend to interview Tim Murtaugh, the principal spokesperson of the Trump campaign.
In our view, Murtaugh is deeply dogmatic and routinely odious. Last night, we thought Cuomo was substantially worse.
We say that Cuomo "pretended" to interview Murtaugh because the two men's "interruptions" turned into a pair of dueling primal screams. They constantly spoke over each other, in the crazy manner of the ludicrous "interviews" Cuomo used to conduct with Rudy Giuliani.
For long stretches, the two men simply spoke in unison, each orating at the same time without taking notice of the other. This is the image of tribal breakdown in its more advanced stages.
Our suggestion? You should take a look at the CNN transcript to see what that sort of behavior produces. You'll see that the breakdown became more extreme as the lunacy continued.
It seems to us that Cuomo has virtually lost his mind at this point. Last night, his approach produced dueling monologues, a pair of equal-but-opposite rants conducted at the same time.
"It's all over but the shouting," political pundits once said As our nation slides toward the see, is it secretly all over now but the (primal) screams?
Tomorrow: So many to choose from, so little time! More snapshots from the edge