SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2020
The statements of Rachel Maddow: Thirty-six hours later, we're still thrilled that we got to see Savannah Guthrie's confident, skillful performance at Thursday night's town hall.
You almost never see major journalists perform in a competent manner. Especially on that one early question—When was Trump's last negative test before contracting Covid-19?—Guthrie performed with tremendous confidence and skill.
As citizens, you almost never get to see that. It simply isn't done.
In each of the last two nights, MSNBC star Rachel Maddow has displayed the more typical upper-end conduct. We'll get to one part of that below. First, a basic question:
Is Donald J. Trump cognitively impaired? If so, what would that even mean?
Is something wrong with Trump's cognition? We refer to the painfully childish way he responded to many of Guthrie's questions.
For one such childish embarrassment, consider his comments concerning the killer masks.
At several points in the hour, Trump mangled a recent study concerning the role of masks. When Guthrie challenged the wisdom of his mask-free rallies and White House events, Trump responded by offering this apparently ludicrous claim:
TRUMP (10/15/20): As far as the mask is concerned, I’m good with masks. I’m okay with masks. I tell people, wear a mask. But just the other day, they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it. So this is a very—
The claim seems ludicrous on its face. Presumably, if 85% of people who wear masks become infected, our nation's total infection number would be in the stratosphere by now.
Trump's claim seemed ludicrous on its face. At that point, Guthrie broke in to dispute what he'd said, and this exchange occurred:
GUTHRIE (continuing directly): It didn’t say that. I know that study.
TRUMP: That’s what I heard, and that’s what I saw. And regardless, but everybody’s tested and they’re tested often.
That's what Pharaoh heard! Trump constantly falls back on this standard of proof. This behavior is stunningly childish.
That said, Trump persistently displayed the logic of a (rather young) child as she spoke with Guthrie. Consider:
Why does Trump hold maskless rallies and White House events? Because, in his role as president, he can't stay in the basement!
Why would be post a transparently crazy claim about the death of Obama bin Laden? It was just a retweet, Trump said! He's letting the people decide!
Why has he made a radiologist his top adviser concerning a completely different area of medicine and public health? "He's one of the world's great experts," this childish fellow said.
Why is he trying to kill Obamacare? "In order to replace it with a much better health care at a much lower price!"
Presumably, everyone would favor "much better health care at a much lower price." In our view, Guthrie wasn't sufficiently clear in articulating the obvious response to this silly statement:
From June 2015 to this very day, why haven't you ever proposed a plan which would accomplish that? Why haven't you ever presented a health care plan at all?
Routinely, Trump's attempts at adult discourse are just stunningly childish. Beyond that, he doesn't seem to realize how childish his attempts at reasoning will inevitably seem to the occasional adult observer.
Is this merely the best he can manage in an attempt to influence voters? Or does this endless, childish performance suggest some sort of impairment?
We'd like to see appropriate medical specialists offer their thoughts on this matter. Unfortunately, the upper-end press corps has long since agreed that such specialists must never be consulted, and that such obvious questions must never be asked.
Trump's childish imitations of life continue along, unabated and underdiscussed. At that point, along comes Maddow and other such TV performers.
We were struck by Maddow's terrible work immediately after Thursday's town hall. As with Trump, so too here—her conduct rolled back, in effect repealed, the accumulated wisdom of centuries, even millennia, of human intellectual development.
We'll try to discuss that matter next week. When MSNBC stopped posting transcripts, they made it much harder to discuss the work of the network's stars.
We'll try to discuss Thursday's effort next week. For today, consider the way this TV star behaved on last night's program.
Did Donald Trump test negative for the virus before his debate with Biden? On Thursday evening, he kept telling Guthrie that he couldn't remember if he was tested on the day of the debate.
(He also said that he had frequently been tested.)
Inevitably, Maddow denounced the statement that he couldn't remember as a "lie." She also offered this cavalcade of her own misstatements:
MADDOW (10/16/20): That was a strange exchange, like how do you not remember that? But also, there's something really wrong with that.
It was a rule from the Commission on Presidential Debates that the candidates had to get tested on the day of the debate. Trump is basically saying that he didn't!
[PERFORMS ENTERTAINING IMPRESSION OF TRUMP]
"Possibly I did, possibly I didn't."
And then, three days later, he's in the hospital. This matters in terms of the debates.
I mean, would you want to get into a closed space and stand next to him on stage if he's been lying and breaking the rules, not just about over-talking the moderator and his opponent, but he's been lying and breaking the rules about his Covid testing?
He admitted last night that he didn't follow the rules when it came to Covid testing for the first debate. Should there be a third debate then?
It would be hard to cram more misstatements into a speech of that length. Start with this apparent groaner:
"It was a rule from the Commission on Presidential Debates that the candidates had to get tested on the day of the debate."
Is that statement accurate? As we noted yesterday, news orgs have been rather lazy with respect to this basic question.
That said, it appears that the commission actually required that each candidate had to be tested within 72 hours of the debate.
On October 8, ABC News reported that this had been the requirement. The report even included a specific statement to that effect by a Biden spokesperson.
We can't swear that this was the case. The hopelessly foppish CPD seems to have issued no official statement on this matter. (Almost all our elite institutions function as this one does.)
(The Cleveland Clinic, the CPD's partner, has apparently issued at least three statements on this general topic. But none of the statements we were able to find reported the exact testing requirements.)
When Maddow made her claim last night, she seemed to offer this news report as her source. The report's headline appeared on the screen behind her, along with a brief excerpt from the report.
Unfortunately, the report doesn't say that the candidates had to be tested on the day of the debate. In effect, Maddow had offered a classic "link to nowhere" in support of her pleasing claim.
We've seen no evidence in support of Maddow's central factual claim. Beyond that, consider her logic:
Trump said he can't remember whether he was tested on the day of the debate. Maddow implied that this claim didn't make sense on its face, then seemed to say that Trump was lying when he said it.
For unknown reasons, she said that Trump "admitted that he didn't follow the rules when it came to Covid testing for the first debate." She also said that Trump was "basically saying that he didn't" get tested on the day of the debate.
We have no idea why she'd make either statement, aside from entertainment and messaging purposes.
Was Trump tested on the day of the debate? It's entirely possible that he wasn't.
Was he tested within the 72-hour window? We have no idea. For all we know, he may not have been tested for weeks. Given his obvious mental disorders, he may have taken a Pharaonic approach, in which those approaching Pharaoh were tested but Pharaoh himself was not.
Was 72 hours the real requirement? We've seen no definitive statement to that effect, but ABC News quoted a Biden spokesperson making that very statement.
Is it possible that Trump doesn't remember when he was tested, or if he was tested at all? In our view, Donald J. Trump is badly disordered. We have no idea why a multimillionaire corporate employee like Maddow would make any assumptions about what Trump knows, believes, understands or remembers, except is pursuit of tribal or personal gain.
In our view, Maddow should have been taken off the air long ago, or subjected to major supervision. That said, she's exceptionally skilled at "selling the car," and our massively gullible liberal world has largely purchased the product she's selling.
We would very much like to know if Trump was ever tested before that debate. We're sorry that Guthrie didn't ask Trump to commit to releasing such information.
In fairness, that's just us! We'd also like to know why NBC News leaves Maddow on the air.
In our view, Maddow's performance on Thursday was even stranger than her performance last night. That said, our national culture is dying or dead wherever you look, and the crowd-pleasing programs on MSNBC are certainly no exception.
On balance, Guthrie performed superbly on Thursday night. At the upper ends of our national press corps, you almost never see that.
We assume that Trump is badly impaired. What's the story with Maddow?
Concerning the death of transcripts: MSNBC has joined Fox News in refusing to transcribe any of its TV shows. One possible motive is obvious.
The lowest-rated of the three channels still transcribes every show.