WAR AND TOWN: McConnell hands Our Town a gift!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2021

Community leaders choose war: Yesterday afternoon, we mentioned one of the pleasing scripts which have been widely deployed in Our Town.

The script has been recited in different ways. We provided a link to this iteration, as seen in the New York Times:

BROADWATER (2/13/21): Seven Republican senators voted on Saturday to convict former President Donald J. Trump in the most bipartisan vote for a presidential impeachment conviction in United States history. The margin still fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds needed to find him guilty.

Luke Broadwater's highlighted description is, of course, fundamentally accurate. 

It's true! There had never been  a Senate vote—not in all of American history!—in which so many members of the impeached president's party had voted for his conviction.

This stirring fact has been recited all through the streets of Our Town. Yesterday, we added a splash of context:

Before this past weekend, there had only been three such impeachment votes in all of American history! For that reason, the fact that Saturday's vote was the most bipartisan ever was perhaps not the world's most humongous deal.

Script may work in this way. A stirring claim will be repeated again and again, even if the stirring claim provides a bit more pleasure than insight—colloquially, a bit more heat than light.

Whatever! In fairness, the scripted claims in question were true—until 9:05 Eastern last night. At that time, a multimillionaire cable news host did what she constantly does.

Nancy Pelosi will be forming a commission to investigate the January 6 riot, she told her spellbound viewers. Then, the major star offered this:

UNIDENTIFIED CABLE NEWS STAR (2/15/21): That said, the record of what happened—particularly, the record of the president's personal culpability for what happened—is a public record already that, frankly, was very well developed by the the impeachment trial which which ended this weekend in the Senate in the most lopsided, most bipartisan impeachment vote against any president ever—a 57-43 vote to convict former president Donald Trump.

Within the industry, it's known as "the Gingrich Maneuver." Whenever these people say the word "frankly," onlookers should prepare to hear some type of misstatement.

In this case, the cable star had engaged in one of her standard embellishments. It's true that Saturday's vote was "the most bipartisan ever" (out of four)—but no, it wasn't "the most lopsided." 

Unable to help herself, the star had inserted that second claim. Or maybe her staff threw it in.

As we noted yesterday, the first of our four presidential impeachments produced a much more "lopsided" vote in favor of conviction. 

Way back in 1868, Andrew Johnson escaped conviction by the skin of his teeth. He escaped conviction by a single vote, not by the comfortable ten-vote margin Commander Trump enjoyed.

In Johnson's trial, 35 senators voted him "guilty," 19 voted "not guilty." Johnson was denounced as guilty by 65% of the vote, Trump by a mere 57.

Needless to say, none of this actually matters. This raises the question of why the cable star so reliably adds such embellishment to perfectly workable scripts. 

We can't necessarily answer your question. For the record, one misstatement is rarely enough on this high-rated cable news show:

UNIDENTIFIED MAJOR STAR (continuing directly): Now, 57 votes out of 100 is a clear majority—and again, that's the largest vote ever against a president in an impeachment trial.

Exactly as the cable star said, there she went "again!"

Was Saturday's 57 guilty votes really "the largest vote ever?" If you don't adjust for the increased size of the Senate, well yes, it certainly is! 

Also, President Lincoln's salary was shockingly small if you don't adjust for inflation.

This particular cable star loves to throw the inaccurate log on the fire. Within the business, this is known as "adding the fourth button," a locution which dates to Arianna Huffington's wonderfully comical embellishment during the long and angry press corps war against Candidate Gore's deeply troubling wardrobe selections—in this case, his troubling choice of suits.

The candidate's suit jackets had three buttons, not two; this troubled the children no end. Brian Williams  complained about it for three months. The angry anchor joined Chris Matthews in insisting that the choice of the three-button jackets was some sort of nefarious secret signal to the nation's female voters.

(Yes. That's what they said.)

Along came Arianna, a perfectly decent and very bright person. Speaking on Geraldo Rivera's nightly MSNBC show, she comically offered this:

HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons—all four buttons! You know, it's not just--it's just not the way most American males dress.

For a fuller chunk of this crackpot discussion, you can just click here. (In those days; Geraldo was a Clinton supporter, one of the only such people on cable. He show aired every weeknight.)

That entire discussion was a clownish, brain-damaged debacle. That said, the hopeful in question had worn no four-button suits. 

Perhaps in an attempt to stand out among a gang of faithful script-readers, one extremely intelligent pundit had sewn a fourth button onto his deeply troubling suits. Within the industry, this comical comment has given a name to a whole set of such add-ons.

Arianna had improved on the prevailing (ridiculous) script. So did the major star, last night, with an utterly pointless, yet tribally pleasing, inaccurate add-on statement.

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly. Elite pundits gotta push script. 

People are dead all over Iraq because the children spent the entire month of November 1999 launching attacks against that candidate's troubling wardrobe selections (his boots; his suits; his polo shirts; the puzzling number of buttons.) In fairness,  it's amazingly safe to keep reciting preapproved pundit script.

Occasionally, a major star will come along to embellish the preapproved script. When it happened again last night, our youthful analysts screamed and yowled and flopped on the floor, as if in physical pain.

As noted, this massively over-praised cable star does this quite routinely. And no, this type of conduct doesn't matter, unless you're wondering why all those people are dead in Iraq—including all those American soldiers.

Last night, this silly child's silly embellishment didn't actually matter a whit. But from there, she moved directly to another script.

More accurately, she moved to a Storyline everyone is now reciting here in the streets of Our Town:

She told us how the 43 Republican senators had cast their "not guilty" votes in obvious bad faith. That may well be true, of course—but this treasured Storyline leads in an unhelpful direction.

Lawrence O'Donnell came on the air last night right after this unnamed star. As he started, he contradicted the stance he had adopted in recent weeks, in which he'd said there was a chance Trump could be convicted.

As we noted last week, Lawrence had expressed that view on several occasions. Last night, at 10:08 Eastern, Lawrence threw his previous stance down the memory hole:

O'DONNELL (2/15/21): The most that fair-minded evaluators of the evidence could have hoped for at the beginning of the Senate trial was a majority vote of guilty. Fifty-one votes for guilty would have been bipartisan, and it would have bene the highest number of guilty votes in the history of presidential impeachment trials.

Fifty-one votes would have been great! This flew in the face of what Lawrence had said all through the past two weeks. And by the way, it's true:

Fifty-one votes for guilty would have been the highest number ever. Here too, Lawrence was only able to make this pleasing claim by failing to adjust for the increase in the size of the Senate over the past 150 years.

So it goes when Our Town's cable nannies sew their buttons on. So it goes when these corporate stooges treat us like fools in Our Town.

In truth, we aren't gigantically bright in Our Town—and we're wired just like The Others. Last night, though, there was an unusual departure from form:

Lawrence O'Donnell spilled with praise for Mitch McConnell's speech.

Surprisingly, McConnell had offered a gift to Our Town. In our experience, only O'Donnell has seemed to see this. Everyone else has been spending their time attacking the bad man's motives.

In such ways, our tribal leaders have plumped for endless war. "This is the way our species is wired," disconsolate experts have said.

Tomorrow: What McConnell said


23 comments:

  1. "A stirring claim will be repeated again and again, even if the stirring claim provides a bit more pleasure than insight—colloquially, a bit more heat than light."

    Is it enough to storm the Capitol and try to overthrow the government, or does it need more light?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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  2. Jeez, Bob, shouldn't there be something - anything - deserving more attention than this lousy zombie talking point?

    Ah, sorry, I forgot: now, as you have a brand-new rapist-mafioso figurehead president, no "grim milestones" anymore.

    Alas. Fewer opportunities for your cult's single doctrine: Orange Man Bad. Tsk. Sad. Our condolences, dear Bob.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Turn that frown upside down, Mao. Let your mind take you back to the day Trump gave a HUGE tax break to your bosses in the Establishment. Bask in the happiness you felt that day, and let all the bad thoughts about black people's votes counting in an election wash away.

      Delete
  3. The best news is Lindsey Graham believes Lara Trump, who has held no political office, and willingly married Eric Trump, is "the future of the Republican Party".

    Keeping Republicans from suppressing votes is all that stands in the way of a better future for the U.S.A.

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  4. "A stirring claim will be repeated again and again"

    This assertion would be more convincing if Somerby were to provide a list of the places where he heard the claim repeated. I read a lot of sites and only saw it one place. Because Somerby's main complaint is that liberals are working from a script, shouldn't he provide some stats about how many people repeated it and how many did not?

    And what is his basis for claiming that reading (or hearing) this fact gave us pleasure? I would think that most liberals would have shrugged or gone on to the next statement without paying much attention to it. Not enough of a reaction to be worth making any kind of fuss about.

    The same news does tend to appear in different places, but that is because each news source is reporting what happened, drawing on the same reality and current events. That doesn't mean they are all working off the same script.

    On the other hand, Republicans do work off shared talking points. It is part of their approach to politics, their party discipline. What is said on Fox gets echoed in what used to be called the Republican noise machine. But the same lock-step hasn't existed on the left. Somerby seems to think that simply accusing the left of doing what the right does, is enough to convict. But it merely illustrates once again, that every conservative accusation is a confession.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Or maybe her staff threw it in."

    Yes, does Somerby really think any of these cable news hosts write their own copy? And if the staff write it, does the host deserve to be reviled? Over such a triviality?

    It seems more likely there is something else about these hosts that irritates Somerby. This offense is too small to justify the pique that motivated today's "report."

    He is, of course, talking about Rachel Maddow. In his childishness, he thinks he can hurt her by not mentioning her name. I don't know whether it is because she is female, gay, or more successful than himself, but Somerby has had it in for her almost since her arrival on TV.

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  6. Somerby is single-handedly keeping alive those troubling details about Gore's wardrobe. No one else cares.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Since that fact is linked to one of the press shortcomings that is most obviously and deeply important to Bob, is that really a surprise? What he sees that journalistic travesty as having gone on to lead to is almost impossibly dark and enormous. You can believe the validity of that link Bob so often draws, or not. But since this is Bob’s blog, he gets to write about that just as often as he wants to. Is any of that a surprise to you? Because if not, what in the world was the point of your post?

      Delete
    2. I've stated my point several times here, as often as Somerby brings this up. This was a trivial attack on Gore, insufficient to have affected the course of the election. There were many other, stronger reasons why Gore lost. Gore no doubt has forgotten about this himself. I see this as a way in which Somerby avoids acknowledging the other, better reasons why Gore lost. I see these petty attacks as a way of signaling that someone (or some publication) is for or against a specific candidate, not a mortal wound.

      It does seem remotely possible to me that Somerby, like Trump, is a major narcissist and obsesses over slights (such as Trump's small hands), even to a loved one such as Gore.

      Delete
  7. "As he started, he contradicted the stance he had adopted in recent weeks, in which he'd said there was a chance Trump could be convicted."

    Should he keep insisting that Trump would be convicted after the vote had already been taken and Trump was acquitted? What else is he supposed to say?

    ReplyDelete
  8. “There had never been  a Senate vote—not in all of American history!—in which so many members of the impeached president's party had voted for his conviction.”

    In other words, it was “the most lopsided, most bipartisan impeachment vote against any president ever”, as Maddow said. She used the word “lopsided” in conjunction with “bipartisan.”

    Somerby calls this “a pleasing script.” Of course, he never defines what this “script” supposedly means. Why does he think journalists and Democrats are mentioning the bipartisan nature of the conviction? Let him spell it out.

    If no Republicans had voted to convict, Somerby would have eagerly cited that fact to prove how “tribal” the impeachment was.

    But since 7 Republicans voted to convict, he can’t say that.

    Again, Somerby needs to specify why he thinks people are noting the results.

    Notice that most of the Republicans who voted to convict have been censured by their state GOP.

    Notice that McConnell assigned moral responsibility to Trump, but refused to convict.

    Now, add that to the analysis.

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  9. What does the number of buttons on Gore’s jacket have to do with the fact that the vote to convict Trump was the most bipartisan ever? How are they of equal importance?

    ReplyDelete
  10. "In such ways, our tribal leaders have plumped for endless war. "

    I can't speak for other liberals, but I myself don't see this as an endless war of Democrats against Republicans. I do think Republicans see it that way. I see politics as a vehicle for improving people's lives and organizing the shared work of our government. I see the war as against covid, climate change, poverty, hunger and income inequality, injustice and natural disasters. But I don't actually see it as a war at all, just as striving for change against obstacles to human well-being.

    It is Somerby who frames this as some kind of tribal war, an idea that came from a conservative think tank, expressed as pseudo-anthropology. It is Somerby who blames liberals for supposedly seeing things this way, when they manifestly do not.

    Here is a repetition of Jamie Raskin's eulogy (presented in a Daily Kos diary). It is an excellent summary of liberal values, the things I too was taught as a child and try to live by today:

    Lesson One: My father taught us that, when a situation seems hopeless, then you are the hope. When everything looks dark, you must be the light.

    Lesson Two: Spoil children with love and wisdom, not with things.

    Lesson Three: Whatever the background noise, follow the music in your head and the dreams in your heart.

    Lesson Four: Go to school to teach as well as to learn and never let your schooling interfere with your education.

    Lesson Five: Bring your full intelligence and ethics to work every day and if you can’t, you may need to find a new job.

    Lesson Six: Hate war and work as citizens for peace and justice.

    Lesson Seven: Act pragmatically, not in the degraded sense of doing what powerful people want you to do, but in the Deweyean sense of promoting experiments to advance the ideals of freedom and the common good.

    Lesson Eight: Never give up on anyone, never hate anyone, and act with love whenever you can.

    Lesson Nine: No good act in life is ever wasted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Eulogy was presented by Jamie Raskin for his father, Marcus Raskin, in 2017.

      https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/2/15/2016163/-Teach-Your-Children-Well-How-Jamie-Raskin-s-Dad-Inspired-Him-for-His-Impeachment-Trial-Role

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    2. Really stupid list.

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  11. Don't get distracted.
    The people who tried to overthrow the government because black people's votes counted in an election are the Republican Base.

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  12. “Surprisingly, McConnell had offered a gift to Our Town. In our experience, only O'Donnell has seemed to see this. Everyone else has been spending their time attacking the bad man's motives.”

    It might behoove Somerby to explain what O’Donnell meant, so that TDH readers don’t assume Somerby sees the “gift” in the same way. (Or better yet, provide a link to the O’Donnell segment).

    Does Somerby think McConnell offered a gift to Our Town because he loves us so much and just likes giving us gifts?

    There’s also plenty of room to attack McConnell’s hypocrisy while also recognizing the opportunity his post-trial speech affords.

    McConnell isn’t just some schlub. He’s the GOP leader in the Senate. Why should vigorous criticism of him be off limits for Our Town when it is well-deserved?

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  13. "In such ways, our tribal leaders have plumped for endless war. "

    Politics is about promoting your agenda, your solutions. Of course you feel your side has better solutions than the other side. And you do have to fight to win. I think Democrats need to fight harder. They need to make crazy Greene the face of the GOP and obstructionist McConnell and insurrectionist Trump. Dems need to point out the bankruptcy of Republican policy. Republicans see this as a fight, and Democrats need to engage and fight back, not sit around a campfire singing Kumbayah and not giving up agenda items to please right wing voters the way Kevin Drum recently suggested.

    That doesn’t mean denigrating the voters, but Somerby seems to think that vigorous criticism of GOP leaders is the same thing as attacking their voters. That’s why he criticizes Dems for going after McConnell or Trump.

    He also seems to think that we should offer Trump amnesty with no accountability. It should be noted that Somerby’s hero Lincoln offered southerners amnesty only after defeating them in a huge, bloody war.

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    1. Mitt Romney (R) made a suggestion that parents be given monthly payments of their yearly child tax deduction and Democrats agreed that it was a very good idea for addressing child poverty and have been supporting it too. This doesn't sound like all-out war to me. There are times when our parties align. If most Republicans did not see this as a partisan fight, we might have united as a nation to condemn what Trump did on Jan 6 -- the American people agree but not Republican leaders.

      The difference between our parties was clearest under Obama, when Republicans united to keep Obama from accomplishing anything. That showed their bad faith. I don't think anything has changed since then with the Republican leadership, but there are changes among voters that may exert pressure on Republicans to change their ways.

      Biden ran on a promise not to give Trump amnesty. The people selected him as their President. I am in favor of presidents keeping their promises to voters.

      Appeasement is bad because it involves selling out your own values. Democrats need to follow their path as the elected majority. Obstruction is what powerless people do when they cannot convince anyone to follow them.

      Delete
  14. Only in Somerby’s world could people like Chris Mathews, Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Arianna Huffington be considered tribal leaders.

    Also, what is the Democratic response supposed to be when The Others accuse Dems of stealing an election that was completely free of fraud and Their President sends a mob to overturn it and members of Congress almost died? “I feel your pain; perhaps it was stolen; Let’s talk?”

    ReplyDelete
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