TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2021
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