RACE AND POSE: O'Donnell fails for the third time!


Williams strikes a pose: Last night, at the start of his cable news program, Lawrence O'Donnell, to his (partial) credit, tried for the third time. 

For the third time, he tried to explain what the Senate voted on last week. Rand Paul had brought the (widely-discussed) measure in question—and, according to Lawrence, the measure had been widely misreported, perhaps by the mainstream press.

Are members allowed to say such things? For the third time, Lawrence tried:

O'DONNELL (2/8/21): It was widely, and incorrectly, reported last week that 45 Republican senators voted that it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial for a former president.

Some even said that they voted to dismiss the case. But that's not what actually happened. That's not what they actually voted on.

What they actually voted on was simply whether to debate the constitutionality of the issue on the Senate floor last week, or to to hear the lawyers on each side of the case debate that issue at the beginning of the trial tomorrow afternoon. And 45 Republican senators voted to have that debate last week—just to have the debate. That's all they voted on, to have the debate.

Now. no one actually voted to dismiss the case, since that never came up for a vote...

In this way, Lawrence tried to explain this for the third time. We give him only partial credit for the following reasons:

He started by saying that the matter bad been widely misreported last week. As a matter of fact, by Lawrence's lights, it's still being widely misreported today—for example, in an array of reports in this morning's New York Times.

(In one of those New York Times reports, Michael Schmidt seems to be so confused that he seems to report that Senators Cassidy and Portman voted against the measure presented by Rand Paul. In fact, they were part of the 45 GOP solons who voted for the measure--who voted to debate the constitutionality of the trial last week. But this is all drama and Storyline now. By now, it's all a matter of Whose (Tribal) Side Are You On in the exciting drama.)

Lawrence was polite enough to avoid stating the obvious—as with most such matters, this matter is being widely misreported, in the leading organs of Our Town, right to the present day.

He didn't name the names of any reporters. He didn't name the names of any news orgs. He didn't name his own news org, or any of its stars. Even though Lawrence was breaking the rules, he wasn't willing to behave in ways as outrageous as that.

All that said, Lawrence was doing something very unusual. He was trying to inform his viewers of a basic fact—they're being widely misinformed on this particular matter by the upper-end mainstream press.

Earth to Lawrence—such efforts never come to fruition. Here in Our Town, we run on the fuel called Storyline. Accuracy no longer exists.

Why was Lawrence restating his point? As it turned out, for a quixotic reason! As he continued, he noted that at least nine of the 45 Republican senators have indicated that they might yet vote for conviction in the Senate "trial" which gets started today.

Lawrence added those nine to the five Republicans who voted against Paul's measure. That gave him at least fourteen Republican senators who might yet vote to convict. He said that brings us close to the number needed for a conviction. 

Quixotically, Lawrence spent the rest of the hour looking for ways to imagine that Trump may get "convicted" in the Senate "trial." In our view, his overall effort was basically foolish, even though it started in a respectable way—with Lawrence trying to tell us rubes that we're being misinformed about what happened last week

Will Donald J. Trump really get "convicted" at his Senate "trial?" As always, everything is possible—but most things are highly unlikely. 

We're inclined to regard this "trial" as unwise—as one last flailing attempt in Our Town to react to Trump's past decade of lunacy. (He began his birther crusade in 2011.)  Also, as a continuation of the desire to punish, in lieu of a search for the best ways to persuade.

Almost everyone, though, seems to agree with the notion that the "trial" could be a bit of a distraction—a distraction from such minor matters as the nation's need to address the pandemic which is still claiming about three thousand lives per day.

Is this "trial" a distraction from the pandemic? To some extent, it probably is. Speaking a bit sardonically, we'll also say that it's a distraction from the impulse which tends to drive Our Town—from the desire to engage in silly, unbalanced, unhelpful discussions about matters of gender and race.

Here in the self-impressed streets of Our Town, we love to pretend that we care about matters of race; we love to pose and posture. Two weeks ago, to cite one example, Charles Blow was condescended to by Brian Williams in the following way:

WILLIAMS (1/29/21): We are so pleased to welcome to the broadcast the celebrated New York Times columnist Charles Blow, author of the powerful new piece of writing, The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto. Notably, he is also the author of the astounding and personal memoir, Fire Shut Up In My Bones.

Charles, it strikes me that another towering book, The Warmth of Other Suns, could be the preface for your new book...

In such ways, Brian postured as he introduced a remarkably short Friday night segment—an extremely short segment in which he would display zero curiosity or interest in the substance of Blow's powerful, towering book.

Can we talk? In that powerful new piece of writing, the celebrated New York Times columnist has made a "black power" proposal which strikes us as remarkably implausible. Perhaps for that reason, cable stars who have interviewed Blow have devoted almost no time to discussing the thesis of his powerful new book, which is also towering.

Late on a Friday night, Williams hustled the celebrated columnist on and off his show. He asked one question about the book, then moved on to a second and final question. As Blow was extended a cable bum's rush, Williams postured and posed a bit more:

WILLIAMS: Charles Blow, I hope we sell a bunch of books tonight because it's important people read and understand your very provocative point and the point behind the provocative title in this book. The book is, The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto. It has been our great pleasure to have the noted New York Times columnist, Charles Blow, among our guests tonight.

By now, Blow wasn't just a celebrated columnist. He was also noted. It had been Brian's great pleasure to have him on his show, even if for slightly less than four minutes.

Citizens, can we talk? We don't offer what follows as a criticism, but Charles Blow isn't a "celebrated" New York Times columnist, nor is he especially "noted."

Are there any "celebrated" New York Times columnists? All in all, only when a tribune like Brian is posing on matters of race.

Blow's new book has made a proposal which may seem to come straight from La-La Land. We may describe that proposal tomorrow, though we may be forced to move on.

In truth, no one will ever discuss Blow's book or its central proposal. But viewers of Williams' "cable news" program were told that Blow, the celebrated columnist, has written a powerful and towering new book, following his astounding memoir—an astounding memoir which was neither discussed nor read.

According to Williams, Blow's powerful and towering book has a provocative title. (That may be as far as he read.) Beyond that, the towering book makes make a very provocative point. And after Brian said these things, Blow was given a cable bum's rush. Brian had checked the appropriate boxes. He'd struck Our Town's mandated pose.

We aren't big fans of Blow's work around her, but of one thing we feel quite certain. Almost surely, Blow understands that he got the bum's rush that night. Our Town still runs on Race and Pose, and we feel sure that Blow understands that.

Today, we start an impeachment trial here in Our Town. Everyone agrees that both parties want to see it end fast.

Is the "trial" itself a bit of a pose? On balance, that's pretty much the way the trial strikes us. 

But on one point, there can be no dispute. At present, race and pose is the principal fuel of life in Our Town, and the time we're forced to spend on our "trial" may briefly distract us from that.

In effect, Williams had "taken a [person] to lunch." Within the all-too-human streets of Our Town, do some things never quite change?

Tomorrow: Race and pose and schools


  1. Technically, the vote was to table Rand Paul's measure. A vote against tabling it would be a vote in favor of Rand Paul's measure to debate constitutionality. That is why it is confusing to figure out what the actual votes meant. Someone in favor of Rand Paul's measure would vote against tabling it.

    How someone describes this depends on whether they are focused on the mechanics of the vote or whether they were talking about the measure itself or its larger importance as a tactic against impeachment. I would expect that different people were talking about different things.

    This is the kind of situation where it is easy for Somerby to confuse his readers and make it seem like lots of people were similarly confused or even misrepresenting what happened. Somerby likes to latch onto these sorts of non-controversies and use them to knock the press, but there is no beef here. This is pure nothing-burger.

    But this reveals pretty clearly how Somerby operates.

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  2. "Is this "trial" a distraction from the pandemic?"

    Here Somerby repeats the conservative meme, one that originally said that Nancy Pelosi brought impeachment charges against Trump in order to distract from her own failure to protect the capitol building due to insufficient oversight of the Capitol Police.

    It was pointed out last week that the Senate also has oversight and was controlled by Republicans, so Somerby has switched to claiming that Dems are distracting from the pandemic instead. This slipperiness is the sign of someone who makes up stories as a tactic, not to tell the truth or inform his readers.

  3. "As Blow was extended a cable bum's rush,"

    Another way to look at this is that Blow was being given exposure in order to announce and sell his new book. A bum's rush would have been not to give him any air time at all, or to pan the book.

    Somerby's negativity toward Blow is showing here. Framing Blow's appearance like this may be what racism looks like. Remember that Somerby is talking about a book he hasn't read, although he is confident that no one will ever discuss it. As usual, Somerby tells us nothing about Blow's premise. His point is only to counteract whatever positive exposure Blow may have gotten, by hating on Blow and his book. Apparently, the content of the book won't be discussed here either.

  4. "Today, we start an impeachment trial here in Our Town. Everyone agrees that both parties want to see it end fast."

    Somerby claims that Blow received a bum's rush, so that he can imply by association that Trump is getting a bum's rush too. Dishonest. The main purpose of dragging out Trump's trial would be to interfere with Senate business in support of approving Biden's nominees.

    Somerby will have a chance to see for himself whether this trial is "a bit of a pose", as he and the nation get to see the evidence laid out against Trump. Dems have been using trial consultants to present the evidence that a violent crime was committed. This is not a show trial, even if Republicans insist on treating it like one.

    Somerby demonstrates the way conservatives try to convince their followers that the reality of this trial is fake, just as they undercut other news. Calling this a "show trial" is no different than labeling other events "fake news". When Somerby does it, he makes it very clear where his allegiance lies. He is no liberal. He refers to the pose adopted by Democrats, but he is the poser here.

  5. Article I is the article of the Constitution that relates to impeachment. Art. I, sec. 2, clause 5 states that the House of Representatives "shall have the Power of Impeachment."

    Art. I, sec. 3, clause 6 states that "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath of Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice [of the Supreme Court] shall preside. [In the trial going on now, I believe that the Chief Justice is not presiding; if this is the case, I don't know what the justification is. Maybe because Trump is no longer president]. No Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

    Art. I, sec. 3, clause 7 states "Judgments in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of Honor, Trust or Profit under the United States, but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment according to Law."

    This language seems to presume that the remedy when someone is convicted after a Senate trial is removal from office. It wouldn't seem to apply to Trump because he is no longer in office. The other penalty on conviction is that the person convicted is barred from future offices of honor, trust or profit under the United States. There is nothing that says there is a separate vote, either by 2/3 vote or simple majority. The disqualification seems to follow automatically after a 2/3 vote to convict. I realize there are few precedents, if any, and several books which I haven't read have been written about impeachment (talking mostly about the grounds for impeachment, which are left nebulous in the Constitution). To the extent the Republicans argue that under the Constitution, a Senate impeachment trial can't be maintained post the president's term of office, that is not an unreasonable position. Also, I don't see how Trump, if he is not convicted by a 2/3 vote, can then be disqualified from future office by a simple majority Senate vote.

    1. The impeachment trial is in progress and is addressing your concerns. I recommend that you go watch it.

    2. AC: I have posted this at least twice:
      “The Senate imposed disqualification twice, on Judges Humphreys and Archbald. In the Humphreys trial the Senate determined that the issues of removal and disqualification are divisible, 3 HINDS ’ PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES § 2397 (1907), and in the Archbald trial the Senate imposed judgment of disqualification by vote of 39 to 35. 6 CANNON ’ S PRECEDENTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES § 512 (1936). During the 1936 trial of Judge Ritter, a parliamentary inquiry as to whether a two-thirds vote or a simple majority vote is required for disqualification was answered by reference to the simple majority vote in the Archbald trial. 3 DESCHLER ’ S PRECEDENTS ch. 14, § 13.10. The Senate then rejected disqualification of Judge Ritter by vote of 76–0. 80 CONG. REC. 5607 (1936). “

      The Senate has the “sole power” of trying impeachments.

    3. anon 1:48, I'm working, can't

    4. The only purpose of the Trump brief is to provide plausible cover to Republican senators who will vote against impeachment for political reasons. If Trump provided no defense, it would be blatantly obvious that anyone not voting to convict had political motives. The arguments don't have to be convincing or correct, they just need to be something a Trump supporter can point to and claim they found compelling.

      AC/MA, that you find these argument sufficiently substantive to raise here suggests you are either a Trump supporter or an idiot, or both.

    5. AC/MA -- this is what sick pay is for. This is a historic occasion. If you are truly concerned about the arguments, you should be watching.

      If you can type comments here, you can watch on whatever device you used to do that.

    6. mh - I believe that in the Nixon case, involving the impeachment of a Federal judge (not Richard Nixon), the Supreme Court ruled that the Senate's decision on conviction is not subject to review by the federal courts (including the Supreme Court). I still think, according to the language I quoted, the Constitution says that disqualification follows directly from the conviction by a 2/3 vote, so that if there is no 2/3 conviction, there is no disqualification. You may be right that the Senate can do whatever it wants to do. I personally wouldn't mind if Trump floated away into oblivion. I don't think what's going on now will help achieve that objective. The consequences of the idea that the House, by virtue of one party having a majority, can impeach a President; the trial before the Senate fails to achieve a 2/3 vote to convict; but a majority party of the Senate could then vote that the President or some other office holder is forever barred from future office - is not a good precedent. It will likely make a martyr out of Trump. Some day the GOP might have a House and Senate majority (but not a 2/3 majority) - what might happen then?

    7. AC/MA, I think that a president who incites a coup to try to stay in office is not setting a good precedent.

      Trump's style is to play the victim. He has made himself a martyr from day 1.

      We already know what happens when the GOP decides to weaponize impeachment. It happened to Bill Clinton. What happened is that the populace recognized bullshit when it heard it and his popularity rose. That didn't happen to Trump, who not only lost Republican supporters but caused them to leave the party in shame.

    8. AC:
      Are you saying the GOP can’t be trusted to wield power in anything other than political bad faith? What’s next? The sky is blue?

      One of the things you don’t do is precisely what Somerby is doing here: accusing the Democrats of playing bad faith politics, staging a “show trial”, trying to “distract” from Covid. Don’t you see how that poisons the well for Democrats and gives the GOP an excuse to play games in the future?

      This trial and impeachment are absolutely essential. Trump tried to overturn a free and fair election and take over the government. That is simply intolerable. Somerby and his ilk cannot conceive of noble motives, so he tries like hell to undermine Democrats.

    9. mh - hey, I share your view that Trump is abhorrent, a clown, though fairly shrewd. But I disagree with your black and white outlook. There are 2 sides, or more, to most controversies, and there are various reasons that people voted for Trump that you don't recognize. I think I understand them, but I don't think they justify voting for such a jerk. It's unfortunate that it has come to this. I don't think you appreciate how irrational, or questionable, a lot liberal story lines are (validly pointed out to some extent by TDH) and how they have led, to some extent, to the situation where someone like Trump could get elected. It's complicated though, not black and white, and I'm looking at it from an objective stand point not as a true believer advocate. At this point of life I'm not interested in kidding myself. The dems and liberals don't have a monopoly on the truth.

  6. "But viewers of Williams' "cable news" program were told that Blow, the celebrated columnist, has written a powerful and towering new book, following his astounding memoir—an astounding memoir which was neither discussed nor read."

    There are no plural "viewers of Williams' "cable news" program", dear Bob. You must be the only one.

    All this dembot bullshit - all the Williamses, Blows, O'Donnells - only exist in liberal-zombie 'matrix'.

    And you, dear Bob, keep swallowing blue pills. Not good, dear Bob. Not good.

  7. Note that back in 2000, Brian Williams was part of the “guild” who put Bush in office. Now, he’s simply part of “Our Town”. His error today? Not talking enough to Charles Blow. This proves that the concerns about race in “Our Town” are just a pose.

    Or something.

  8. “Is this "trial" a distraction from the pandemic? To some extent, it probably is.”

    This makes sense to anyone in the Somerby/Greenwald gaslighting brigade.

    Most informed people know what the Biden Administration and Congress have been doing to address the pandemic, with essentially zero cooperation from Republicans. Just a “small” thing as an example: in January, Biden signed an executive order opening up Obamacare enrollment for three months starting 2/15.

  9. Trump's defense just led with the idea that the Dems are seeking vengeance for horrific events because someone has to pay.

    What a coincidence -- that's what Somerby said yesterday! How odd that a liberal would speak the same words as Trump's defense team! They are both claiming that this is about seeking retribution. It is almost as if they were in sync.

    Now he is saying that Dems are being too emotional and misinterpreting the evidence. Too little reflective thought, just overcome by the desire for retribution. So, Republicans are making an argument based on emotion, not evidence or logic, too much emotion among the Dems, they are claiming. Shades of Somerby again...another coincidence?

    1. Now he is arguing that the Constitution is flawed.

    2. Now he is threatening to impeach Eric Holder.

    3. Now they are arguing that impeachment would overturn the will of those 75 million people who were insufficient to win the last election.

      And they have started shouting.