WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2021
The Crazy Train battles the Clown Car: This morning, at 6:18 Eastern, the red-faced shouting returned.
If anything, the shouting was even more red-faced than it was last week. Needless to say, the standard echo-providers were on hand to support and enable the shouting.
The cast included Willie Geist Jr., the human echo who's increasingly known as "Joe Scarborough's Mike Pence." That said, Jonathan Lemire and even Kasie Hunt aren't far behind in the modern "journalistic" skill known as echo provision.
As a group, these players are increasingly known as "The Pips." It's a nod to the back-up singers who would instantly repeat whatever Gladys Knight just said.
(Hat tip: comedian Richard Paul, circa 1983.)
As a general matter, this morning's red-faced shouting concerned yesterday's Senate vote. For those who would explore the anthropology of the moment—for those who would explore the ancient claim that we humans are "the rational animal—insight and amusement can be drawn from the press corps' failed attempts, this very day, to describe that Senate vote.
In the Senate vote in question, 50 Democrats and five Republicans voted one way; 45 Republicans voted the other. But what these solons voting on?
Go ahead! Try to find out!
Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell explained what they had voted on. (He was once a high-ranking Senate staffer.) In the process, Lawrence contradicted everything everyone else would say on The One True Channel last night.
This morning, major newspapers show no skill at defining the provenance of yesterday's vote. When the hundred senators cast their votes, what were they voting on?
On the front page of the Washington Post, the attempt to answer that questions starts like this. For now, ignore the headline. According to Lawrence, it's wrong:
DEBONIS AND KIM (1/27/21): Nearly all GOP senators vote against impeachment trial for Trump, signaling likely acquittal
All but five Republican senators backed former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in a key test vote ahead of his impeachment trial, signaling that the proceedings are likely to end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The vote also demonstrated the continued sway Trump holds over GOP officeholders, even after his exit from the White House under a historic cloud caused by his refusal to concede the November election and his unprecedented efforts to challenge the result.
For now, ignore the headline! (If we go by what Lawrence said, that headline is simply wrong.) Instead, let's turn to the text of the Post's front-page report.
According to DeBonis and Kim, yesterday's Senate vote was "a key test vote." But sad! Before they tried to explain what the vote concerned, the scribes began explaining the motives behind the vote:
According to DeBonis and Kim, the vote showed the sway Trump holds over the 45 GOP senators who voted that one way. It doesn't show the sway his legacy holds over the 50 Democratic senators who voted the other.
Ignore that motive-based quibble! When the hundred senators cast their votes, what the heck were they voting on? For our money, DeBonis and Kim never explain that point. For our money, this is the closest they come:
DEBONIS AND KIM (continuing directly): Trump’s trial is not scheduled to begin until Feb. 9, but senators were sworn in for the proceedings Tuesday, and they immediately voted on an objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioning the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president.
The highlighted statement isn't wrong. It's just that it's very fuzzy!
It's true! Senator Paul did voice an objection to something on the Senate floor. In the course of voicing his objection, he did question the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president.
That still doesn't explain what The Hundred ended up voting on. According to Lawrence, they didn't "vote against an impeachment trial," no matter what that Post headline says. That isn't what they were voti9ng on, Lawrence quite plainly said.
For our money, DeBonis and Kim never explain what The Hundred were voting on. In fairness, neither does Nicholas Fandos, in his corresponding front-page report in today's New York Times.
Eventually, DeBonis and Kim cite subsequent remarks by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the 45. In saying he may still vote to convict, Portman helps us understand that yesterday's vote actually wasn't a vote against holding a trial, the understanding some headline writer took from the Post's report.
Whatever! You can go to Lawrence's site to see if videotape of his explanation exists. We can't link you to a transcript of what he said. Over the summer, MSNBC joined hands with Fox News. The channel stopped providing transcripts of its shows, even disappearing years of past transcripts in the process!
This morning, we get to see the basics of our nation's modern discourse. We had red-faced shouting on cable TV, linked to incoherent front-page reports in our most famous newspapers
Along the way, the Post's report brought the eternal note of sadness in. Once again, readers were exposed to a bit of baffling logic:
DEBONIS AND KIM: Democrats and many legal scholars have balked at the argument that a former president—or any former official—cannot be convicted in an impeachment trial.
“The theory that the Senate can’t try former officials would amount to a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for any president who commits an impeachable offense,” Schumer said.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president, or any official, could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’s impeachment powers by simply resigning, so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disqualify them from future office.”
Once again, there was Schumer's baffling logic. According to Schumer, a president could "avoid accountability" for "a heinous crime" simply by resigning from office before impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate.
Stating what is blindingly obvious, such a former president could be criminally charged, then criminally tried and convicted, for the "heinous crime" he'd committed! Whatever the merits of a Senate trial of Trump might be, such trials don't send a person to "jail."
In the case of a heinous crime, criminal prosecution can.
Schumer's logic is lacking, but such is the cosmos we live in. Trust us! No one will ever explore the peculiar logic of disqualification, in which fifty Democrats could decree, all by themselves, that the Republicans can't nominate a Candidate Trump again in 2024.
That strikes us as an amazing idea on its face. Our journalists blow right past it.
The former commander-in-chief strikes us as badly disordered. We're forced to admit that other elites aren't necessarily that far behind.
How silly are our cable elites? In a brief aside, consider the way Lawrence began last night's show:
O'DONNELL (1/26/21): Well, when you Charles Blow the last word, get out of the way and let him talk! And that's what I plan to do at the end of this hour when my friend Charles Blow returns to The Last Word to discuss what the Georgia election results for president and the Senate tells us about the power of the black vote in the 21st century.
How close is the friendship between Lawrence and Blow? We'll take a wild guess—not close!
That said, in the realm of The One True Channel, corporate branding requires the stars to say that the other stars are their friends. In CNN's version of this clown show, Cuomo and Lemon started last night's 10 o'clock hour in the familiar scripted way, telling us rubes how much they love one another.
The boys staged one of their trademark dumber-than-dumb opening chats. It began and ended as shown:
CUOMO (1/26/21): I want to bring in the big show, CNN Tonight, with D. Lemon, its big star right now. [My daughter] Carolina said to me, "You are too negative, and you always tell me what you think is wrong, but you never asked me what I think is wrong."
LEMON: I love her.
CUOMO: I thought—I thought, "You know what, she's right." First of all, about me as a lousy parent.
LEMON: You're not a lousy parent.
CUOMO: Guilty. But as people, let other people tell you how they feel and what hurts and just listen. It can hurt you to listen. Great instruction from that kid.
LEMON: I mean, look, every night, every night, my pain, the cross I have to bear, is having to talk to you. So I know there are some discomforts there.
CUOMO: I feel for you. I feel for you. I do.
LEMON: I love you.
CUOMO: There but for the grace, D. Lemon. There but for the grace.
LEMON: I'll see you later.
CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.
LEMON: More than you know. Thank you, brother. I'll see you soon.
These hucksters stage this branding ritual night after night after night. It's their way of letting us know how dumb their bosses think we are.
At MSNBC, everyone is everyone's friend, like in the Mickey Mouse Club. At CNN? As it once was Blume in Love, now it's Cuomo and Lemon!
In the part of the hand-off we've deleted, Cuomo and Lemon performed one of the dumbest discussions of race and racism we have ever seen. You can read the transcript here. CNN still produces them!
Along the way, does anyone care about the facts concerning yesterday's Senate vote? What was the truth about that vote, and where would you go to find it?
To see the way Lawrence explained the vote, you can to his program's site and see if some tape is provided. That said, accuracy and truth just aren't the fuels our national discourse runs on.
In this new post, Ed Kilgore describes the "crazy train" one GOP House member rode in on. Over at The One True Channel, we're exposed to the corresponding Clown Car which runs through the streets of Our Town.
This morning, the red-faced shouting was on again; The Pips were all reciting. A Crazy Train runs through their towns. In Our Town, we have our Clown Cars.
Anthropologically, this is all extremely instructive. But is there an avenue we can take out of this mess?
Tomorrow: Over here, in Our Town, Biden is called a liar!