WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2021
Bizarro World meets Manchin: It's amazing how badly a person can be misled and misinformed by watching "cable news."
As a case in point, consider Rachel Maddow's upside-down performance last night concerning the 2013 Manchin-Toomey proposal.
Maddow's account of this event lasted at least ten minutes. In the course of her bizarre presentation, she reactivated her angry, sarcasm-loaded loathing of Joe Manchin (D-WVa). She also completely misinformed her viewers about the failed attempt to pass gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown killings.
Alas! MSNBC no longer creates transcripts of TV shows like Maddow's. The channel has also cut way back on the amount of video it makes available.
Presumably, MSNBC has taken these steps to make it harder to critique crazy performances by cable stars like Maddow. And make no mistake—last night's performance was about as crazy as it gets.
Maddow's rant about this brief historical episode lasted at least ten minutes. To see roughly one-third of her presentation, you can visit her program's site.
If you watched the whole presentation last night, you were given the impression that Maddow's most loathed politician, Senator Manchin, joined forces with Republican Senator Pat Toomey to thwart the public's will for gun reform in the wake of the Newtown killings. The three-minute tape her site provides carries this crackpot headline:
How Joe Manchin and a broken Senate squandered U.S. will for gun reform after Sandy Hook
That isn't what happened at all. With links to news reports below, here's what actually happened:
The murders at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred in December 2102. By the following month, President Obama and Senate Democrats had proposed an array of gun reform measures.
One such measure would have created universal background checks for gun sales. That would have replaced the prevailing (crackpot) system, in which a gun buyer needed a background check if he was buying his gun at a gun store, but not if he was buying his gun at a gun show across the street.
Obviously, that system made (and makes) no sense. Obama had proposed a law requiring universal background checks, even if you were just buying a gun from your uncle or your grandmother.
By April of 2013, it was plain that Obama's proposal wasn't going to make it through the Senate. The Manchin-Toomey proposal was a slightly scaled-back measure—a measure which was supported by almost all major Democrats from Obama and Biden on down.
Repeat: Barack Obama supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal; the NRA opposed it. When the proposal was voted down in the Senate (actually, when it failed to clear the sixty-vote bar), all but five Senate Democrats voted in favor of the proposal.
(One of the five was Majority Leader Harry Reid. He supported the proposal, but voted against it as a procedural maneuver.)
All but four Senate Democrats supported Manchin-Toomey. All but four Senate Republicans opposed it—voted against it.
In other words, Manchin-Toomey was heavily favored by Democrats. It was kept from getting sixty votes due to near-unanimous opposition from the GOP, with Ted Cruz braying loudest.
Last night, Maddow spent at least ten minutes conveying the opposite impression. She snarked and sighed and directed her vast sarcasm at the man she currently loathes.
Assuming even minimal competence (we don't), her presentation would have been astoundingly dishonest. We assume that Maddow may have believed the things she said. We regard her as that incompetent.
If you watched that presentation last night, you got to see where tens of millions of corporate dollars, mixed with vast celebrity, will sometimes take certain people. You also got to see how vastly people can be misled by watching cable news.
(This was hardy a first for Maddow. Her rap sheet is clownish and long.)
Below, we'll offer several links helping you see what actually happened. The overview, though, is this:
Obama and Biden supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal. So did almost all Senate Democrats.
The NRA opposed Manchin-Toomey. When Manchin-Toomey failed to get sixty votes, the NRA exulted.
The four Senate Dems who opposed the measure came from bright red, pro-gun states. Those senators later lost their seats. This helps explain why there are only 50 Senate Dems today.
The fact that Manchin has managed to hang on in West Virginia explains why Mitch McConnell isn't still running the Senate. But just try telling that to Maddow! She lives in a novelized realm.
One last time:
Manchin-Toomey was a last-gasp attempt to pass an expansion of background checks. It was favored by Barack Obama and by almost all Senate Dems. It was aggressively opposed by the NRA.
If you watched Our Own Rhodes Scholar last night, you were treated to an angry, demonological presentation which seemed to say precisely the opposite. If MSNBC was a journalistic enterprise (it isn't), the cable star of whom we speak would have been sat down a long time ago.
This is the world in which we all live. Here in Our Town, it can be extremely hard for many of us to get clear on this point.
Let's take a trip back in time: It's hard to believe how crazy Maddow's presentation was last night. (Unless you regularly watch her at work, in which case her presentation was basically par for the course.)
At any rate, what was the history of Manchin-Toomey? We'll give you three (or four) easy links:
On April 10, 2013, the New York Times reported the last-minute emergence of the Manchin-Toomey proposal. This was the basic overview:
STEINHAUER (4/10/13): Senator Joe Manchin III so craved a pro-gun-rights Republican as a partner for a bill to expand background checks on gun buyers that he took to buttonholing senators on the in-house subway that ferries them from their offices to the Capitol, making his pitch while his colleagues were trapped with him in the tiny car.
Repeatedly rebuffed, Mr. Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, decided to call on his friend Senator Patrick J. Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican known almost exclusively for his conservative fiscal positions. On a recent Amtrak trip from New York to Washington where they happened to intersect, Mr. Toomey agreed to listen.
On Wednesday the two gun owners, long favorites of the National Rifle Association, came together in a last-ditch effort on a background check compromise that opened the door to a rare Congressional consideration of gun law changes, beginning Thursday. While their agreement ensures only that the measure will reach the Senate floor for debate, it rescued gun law changes sought by President Obama and gun control groups from an early defeat.
Duh! Obama's proposal for universal background checks was on its way to defeat. Manchin-Toomey emerged as an attempt to fashion a slightly scaled-back proposal which might have a chance to pass.
Five days later, the New York Times discussed the measure again. Once again, the paper noted that the measure was designed as "the best hope" of fashioning a bipartisan measure which might hope to pass:
STEINHAUER (4/15/13): Mr. Manchin and Mr. Toomey have written an amendment intended to substitute for the background check component of the current bill, which has attracted scant support from Republicans. Mr. Manchin and Mr. Toomey’s bill has far more exemptions as well as pieces that strengthen gun rights in some ways, and is seen as the best hope for a foundation of a bipartisan consensus measure.
O'KEEFE AND RUCKER (4/17/13): Background checks for all gun buyers, long considered the most politically palatable of Obama’s proposals, were the linchpin and last week had seemed poised for passage after a pair of pro-gun senators, Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), announced a compromise deal.Yet even a late flurry of meetings between senators and Sandy Hook Elementary School parents was not enough to bend the will of Democratic centrists and more moderate Republicans. Although they had been open to expanded background checks, many of them voted no.Obama sounded exasperated that senators were not more responsive to public opinion and did not offer what he considered worthy explanations for why they voted down the measures.The president lashed out at the National Rifle Association for having “willfully lied” about the background-check proposal to stoke fear among gun rights supporters that Congress would violate their Second Amendment rights or create a federal gun registry.And he laid the blame squarely on Republicans, although four Democrats also opposed the bill.