What Maddow said about Joe Manchin!


The parable of the French cuffs: We the people love our "stories." We love our novelized tales.

As a case in point, consider a letter in this morning's Washington Post. Robin Givhan had published this critique of Joe Biden's press event. This morning, a reader spills with praise for Givhan's attention to detail:

It's the little things

All praise to Robin Givhan for once again turning her finely tuned fashion eye to small details that give us fresh insight into the impact of presentation on political perception. In her March 12 news column, “Biden spoke without swagger, to lift a weary nation,” she highlighted small gestures—the president’s slow removal of his mask, his polished attire (white French cuffs), the way he leaned into the camera to send signals—to convey the importance of still wearing masks, the potential for institutional power to make things better and the extent to which reaching the “shaft of light at the end of a dark horror” depends on all of us.  

Givhan is an astute observer, and we’re grateful for her persistent efforts to help us see and understand more of our world.

In all candor, it isn't the little things. Nothing was conveyed or changed by the fact that Biden was wearing French cuffs.

Givhan has been at this sort of thing forever, as has the wider press corps. Perhaps because we the people are so highly educated, we're inclined to credit her interpretations of the signals and symbols involved in the ways our top politicians dress.

In truth, the speed with which Biden removed his mask will have no effect on anything. Over on Fox, the French cuffs will be taken as a sign that the president is an elitist who's hopelessly out of touch.

Our sainted mother and her sisters always loved their "stories" (their favorite soaps). There was no reason why they shouldn't have.

That said, even on the highest levels, we continue to interpret politics as if we're watching our soaps. Our biggest stars invent, and sell, their heroes and their demons. They take vast liberties with basic facts, and with  Enlightenment values, as they perform these chores.

Sitting at home, we trust the judgments of the stars Our Town has come to trust. We repeat the pleasing things they say, never checking to see if they're accurate, rarely asking if they even make sense.

So it went this past Tuesday night on the Maddow Show. 

Rachel Maddow delivered her standard, 25-minute opening monologue. Most of it was devoted to an angry, sarcastic roasting of her current leading demon, the evil Senator Manchin (D-W.Va.).

At the heart of her scathing attack was a lengthy attempt to describe Manchin's behavior in April 2013, in the wake of the Newtown school shooting deaths. 

The diatribe began at 9:08 Eastern; it ran at least ten minutes, depending on where you want to say it finally stopped. Comically, the angry, sarcastic "cable news" star said this early on:

MADDOW (3/23/21): You might remember how this all unfolded. You're forgiven if it has blurred together over the years because of the way these things always resolve. But remember how this how this happened.

The cable star said we'd be forgiven if our memory was blurred. From there, she proceeded to offer a crazy, upside-down account of "how this all unfolded." 

Within hours, liberal sites were shrieking with praise for the cable star's brilliance. Town criers praised the inspiring way she had described Manchin's perfidy in the case of the April 2013 Manchin-Toomey proposal.

As we noted on Wednesday, Maddow's account of this matter was stupendously inaccurate. On its face, it didn't make any sense.

If we hadn't seen her do this sort of thing before, we would have found it hard to believe that her angry, sarcastic account could be as bogus as it was. That said, the star's account was stupendously bogus—utterly, manically, crazily inaccurate, misleading and false. 

It may be that the star's devoted staff wrote the material, and she simply performed it. But as a service to future historians, even if they're huddled in caves, we thought we ought to create a record of what this TV star said.

Luckily, we found a site which had transcribed the bulk of the TV star's rambling remarks. The TV star's corporate owners no longer provide that service, for reasons which strike us as perhaps  being blindingly obvious.

Today, we offer a quick review of The Case of What The Cable Star Said:

The Manchin-Toomey proposal was a late-gasp attempt to move an expansion of background checks for gun buyers through the Senate. Technically, it was an amendment to a pre-existing, more extensive proposal which, as everyone knew by that time (by April 2013), was plainly doomed to defeat,

The proposal was endorsed and supported by President Obama. In this report, the New York Times named one of its co-sponsors (headline included):

STEINHAUER (4/10/13): A Senator’s Search for an Ally Keeps a Gun Bill Alive


The politics of the deal are so fragile that Mr. Toomey asked that one of the Democratic co-sponsors of the amendment, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, not appear at a news conference Wednesday morning, Senate aides said. Mr. Schumer agreed, and told Mr. Manchin at the 50th-birthday party of the television host Joe Scarborough that he would not be attending.

Schumer was one of the measure's co-sponsors. The politics of the matter were extremely fragile. 

At any rate, the proposal was supported by President Obama—and it was hotly opposed by the NRA. After the proposal failed to achieve the required sixty votes in the Senate, Obama angrily condemned by the NRA for having lied about its provisions. 

On April 17, the proposal failed, despite receiving 54 Senate votes. All but five of the Senate's 55 Democrats voted in favor of the Manchin-Toomey proposal—and one of the five was Majority Leader Harry Reid, who supported the proposal but voted against it on the basis of  one of the Senate's three million arcane procedural rules.

(To peruse the roll call, click here.)

On the other side of the aisle, all but four of the Senate's 45 Republicans voted against the proposal. In other words, Manchin-Toomey was a Democratic Party proposal. It was opposed by almost all Senate Republicans, in line with the NRA. It was Senator Toomey, not Senator Manchin, who was behaving as a "traitor to his class."

None of these facts was ever mentioned during Maddow's lunatic presentation. The presentation made so little sense that it's hard to find a few key nuggets to quote. Below, you see the way the crazy diatribe started.

All across the liberal web, believers rushed to praise the star for her brilliant presentation. If there actually is a future, and if that future includes historians, we think such scholars should take note of what this overwrought crackpot said about Manchin's role in this failed Democratic proposal.

We offer this note to future historians. This represents the state of our failing nation's lapsed intellect as of March 23, 2021:

MADDOW (continuing directly): After Sandy Hook, Vice President Biden put in charge of a task force which moves with incredible alacrity, incredible speed, to come up with concrete proposals for things that can be done to try to reduce the number of people killed by guns in this country.

President Obama proposed just what you heard there, universal background checks. Background checks should be run on the buyer any time anybody wants to buy a gun in this country.

Ninety percent-plus support for that among the American people. And it's simple. You have to have a background check if you want to buy a gun. That's a simple idea. Overwhelming support, near unanimous support among the American people. 

But Republicans in Congress, including Republicans in the Senate, are not among that 90 percent plus, apparently. And they decided instead that they would go for something even lower than that smallest, unambitious, simple goal. 

Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey, both with A ratings from the NRA, they said that they wouldn't pursue, they wouldn't allow the pursuit of a simple rule that there ought to be a background check if you want to buy a gun. Instead, they had their own idea and they said they could get it done. 

They had their own way. They had something that they said they could pass. We wouldn't actually do what more than 90 percent of the country wanted to do. We'll instead just do a tiny little piece of it, because they said so. 

So instead of that simple thing, saying you have to have a background check in order to buy a gun, full stop, Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey said, "No, no, no. We think that's a terrible idea. We're against that. We know that more than 90 percent of the public is for it, we're against it, but we've got another idea.

"Our idea is that the law will be changed to just say you have to have a background check if you buy a gun at a gun show or on the Internet. We'll only extend background checks that far. Gun show purchases, Internet purchases. That's it."

It is hard to imagine a smaller reform, but that is what they said they would do. That's what they said they could do. And so the rest of the country, again, more than 90 percent of whom just want fricking background checks for gun sales, full stop—the rest of the country stood back to let these very serious, very credible senators pursue this basically rinky-dink, tiny reform instead, because they said that was something they could get done. And they failed. 

They couldn't even get that done. Not through the United States Senate. Not even right after the Sandy Hook massacre, 

Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey were convinced. They convinced the whole political class that they had magic gravitas on this issue to show that the legislative process in the United States Senate can be trusted to work to do at least the smallest imaginable thing on an issue of overwhelming public concern.

They were wrong. They could not even do that one pitiful thing. Not in the U.S. Senate. Not with filibuster rules in place that say a majority vote doesn't count. And so nothing happened in American law. No law changed. Nothing made it through Congress. 

The star was just getting started at this point, but the lunacy was already apparent. For starters, let's note one tiny factual point:

The cable star said, again and again, that Manchin had "an A rating" from the NRA. For the record, that was true at the time of the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

That was no longer true after the Manchin-Toomey proposal. When Manchin ran for re-election in 2018, the NRA gave him a D rating and endorsed his Republican opponent, complaining about the way he had conspired with Obama to extend gun control.

(Luckily, Manchin was able to hold on to his Senate seat, if by a narrow margin. Had he lost, Mitch McConnell would still be running the Senate. President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—Senator Manchin voted for it—would never have come up for a vote.)

In other words, Manchin sacrificed his NRA rating in the course of trying to extend background checks. The cable star never mentioned this fact. We'll guess that her staff didn't include that fact in the lengthy, soap opera-style diatribe they prepared for the star to perform.

The omission of that fact was comical but ugly. Now, let's consider the overall lunacy of what the cable star said:

The cable star made it sound like it would have been a simple thing to pass the initial, "unambitious" proposal for universal background checks. That's like saying that your neighbor's cow could easily jump to the moon.

In fact, the need for Manchin-Toomey arose after it had become clear that the original measure couldn't possibly garner sixty votes. On the Democratic side of the aisle, everyone from Obama on down stood in support of Manchin-Toomey because it was clear that this would be the best they could possibly hope to do.

On Tuesday evening, the cable star disappeared this obvious point. Instead, she offered a crazy account, in which Manchin and Toomey, by some unexplained act of legerdemain, persuaded Majority Leader Reid to forget the original "unambitious" proposal and vote on their measure instead.

You'd have to be crazy to think that made sense, but that's what the furious cable star said—and all across La La Land, liberal sites sang the praises of her obvious brilliance. Other career liberals—career liberals who knew how stupid this was—also knew that they mustn't say such things  about a tribal star.

This cable star has performed this way again and again and again and again down through the annals of cable news time. We're sure that she's a good decent person away from her need for wealth and fame, but she also seems a bit unstable, and she seems to possess almost zero political judgment.

(She's been bashing red-state Democrats in ridiculous, unintelligent ways ever since her corporate bosses put her on the air.)

Her crazy episodes have been many. Some have been episodes of commission; others have been episodes of omission and avoidance. But The Crazy runs riot on this corporate cable news show as we liberals roll over and die, in thrall to Storyline.

The cable star is a corporate confection. She was sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar, and she's extremely skilled at the process known as "selling the car."

Meanwhile, we the people are fairly sure that those French cuffs made all the difference. As a result of these manifestations, Future Historians Weeping In Caves often come to us, always late at night.

"It all began with those dick jokes in 2009," they despondently say, referring to the cable news star. "Jon Stewart even told her to stop!"

("Is this the upshot of your experiment" We suspect that they're working from that.)


  1. "In truth, the speed with which Biden removed his mask will have no effect on anything."

    This is not true. Doing something slowly calls attention to what you are doing. Removing his mask slowly emphasizes the mask and the fact that he was wearing one. That is important in a pandemic in which the president is urging citizens to wear masks.

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  2. "Over on Fox, the French cuffs will be taken as a sign that the president is an elitist who's hopelessly out of touch."

    But over here, the president's polished attire and lack of swagger will be reassuring because it reminds us that Biden is not Trump.

  3. "Our biggest stars invent, and sell, their heroes and their demons."

    This is an offensive remark given that we just got rid of a president who bungled the job so badly that several hundred thousand people lost their lives unnecessarily, and as an encore, he plotted and executed an insurrection to steal the election he had just lost.

    We don't have to invent any narratives involving bad guys. The past four years were written by Trump and his cronies. If Somerby doesn't like the new narrative of a change in administrations and the hope that brings, he has a bunch of friends waiting for him with open arms in places such as Rifle CO.

  4. "Most of it was devoted to an angry, sarcastic roasting of her current leading demon, the evil Senator Manchin (D-W.Va.)."

    Yes, she is keeping on the heat. Manchin appears to need that pressure in order to vote as a Democrat. Good for Maddow!

  5. "The omission of that fact was comical but ugly."

    We would go for just 'comical', dear Bob. All of your zombie cult's talking points are ugly, that's a given.

    They are all ugly, but some are also comical, and we appreciate that your zombie clowns can be entertaining.

  6. "In other words, Manchin sacrificed his NRA rating in the course of trying to extend background checks."

    Real Democrats don't worry about maintaining their A ratings with the NRA. It is fine to say that Manchin was elected from a red state, but if he behaves like a Republican he might as well be one. Actual supporters of gun control tend to have D and F ratings.

    1. He votes with Dems a lot of the time. There is no other living Dem who can carry WV. Manchin is a phenomenon and those who say he should become a R are morons.

  7. "On the Democratic side of the aisle, everyone from Obama on down stood in support of Manchin-Toomey because it was clear that this would be the best they could possibly hope to do."

    Except that 5 Democrats voted against Manchin-Toomey. That doesn't sound like the solid support Somerby claims.

  8. "(Luckily, Manchin was able to hold on to his Senate seat, if by a narrow margin. Had he lost, Mitch McConnell would still be running the Senate. President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—Senator Manchin voted for it—would never have come up for a vote.)"

    These hypotheticals are meaningless. If Stacey Abrams had won the governorship in GA, she wouldn't have engaged in her voter registration campaign and Warnock and Ossoff would never have been elected and the Dems would have had no chance of a majority at all. And if Diane Feinstein had never been born, she wouldn't be in the senate now and the Dems would still be short of a majority, or maybe if several Republicans had lost we would have had a much bigger majority and no one would care about Manchin's vote.

    See, this kind of speculation is a waste of time and it certainly doesn't make Maddow wrong in any of the things she has been saying about Manchin.

    1. No, this hypothetical is not meaningless. Manchin only won by about three points in a state Trump carried by 50.

    2. This will be moot when DC gets statehood.

    3. If Democrats became Republicans think how many red states we could carry!

      But there is a reason we don't do that. Think really hard and you can probably figure out why. It has to do with important issues such as gun control and voting rights.

      You run for office and get elected to do things, not to pretend to be Republicans so you can keep your cushy job.

    4. Dems should thank their lucky stars they have someone who can win a Senate seat in a state Trump won by 38 pts. Republicans would cut off their right arms to have a R who can win a Senate seat in VT or CA.

  9. "Her crazy episodes have been many. "

    It isn't kosher to talk about the "crazy episodes" of someone who has admitted to bipolar disorder. Kind of like when Trump mocked that reporter who had a motor disability.

    But when you hate someone as much as Somerby hates Maddow, all is fair, I guess.

    This makes me glad Bandy Lee lost her job. She set a piss-poor example for Somerby by using psychiatric labels for political purposes. Maybe Somerby will learn from her mistake and stop calling people he dislikes "crazy" and admit that his hate has little to do with her show's content and more to do with some past snub or ongoing problem with women in general, and lesbians specifically. We know it cannot be because of these criticisms. They are too trivial and often wrong.

  10. "It all began with those dick jokes in 2009,"

    And here we see the real reason Somerby dislikes Maddow. Some men just cannot stand a dick joke, no matter how funny their dicks might be.

  11. If Maddow needs a redheaded step-child in the party, why doesn’t she go with Kyrsten Sinema?

    1. Excellent point, Cecilia! The more I find out about her, the more baffling she becomes.

  12. “Majority Leader Harry Reid, who supported the proposal but voted against it on the basis of  one of the Senate's three million arcane procedural rules.”

    This brings up a major theme of Maddow’s discussion that Somerby, of course, overlooks.

    He wants to portray Maddow’s sole purpose as simply dumping on Manchin, apparently just for grins or to earn progressive cred or because she’s just a “crackpot.”

    Her real theme was to discuss precisely those “arcane procedural rules”, or at least one of them, the filibuster. The filibuster prevents normal legislation from passing, particularly in an almost 100% polarized senate. You need 60 votes to shut it down, and neither party has had 60+ votes in the senate since 1977-79, when the Democrats had 61. Neither party is likely to achieve this number in the foreseeable future.

    Thus, Maddow’s whole point was not to gratuitously attack conservative Dem Manchin, but to point out how a senate rule/procedure (the filibuster) causes the Senate to grind to a halt and become captive to the whims of the most conservative Dem Senator.

    This makes her not a crackpot. She understands the political realities of the filibuster far better than Somerby, it would seem.

  13. Maybe Manchin really was swayed by the gun marketing group funded by Russian oligarchs, who reminded him guns are needed to shoot police officers when they tyrannize the citizenry.

    Lobbying FTW!

  14. "Meanwhile, we the people are fairly sure that those French cuffs made all the difference. "

    I'm sure Somerby has never worn French cuffs himself and doesn't own a pair of cufflinks. He perhaps considers those extra long red ties that Trump wore to be the height of fashion. An ill-fitting suit doesn't make someone less of an elitist when he owns a gold toilet! But Democrats are the elitists because Biden looked spiffy? Meanwhile Ivanka has had more plastic surgery than women twice her age and porn stars combined, but she's not an elitist?

    Where does Somerby get his ideas about what the public can relate to? Too much reading Slate, no doubt.

  15. 'Our biggest stars invent, and sell, their heroes and their demons'

    Somerby's stars Hannity and Carlsom did just that, and Somerby gallantly defended their and his heroes -- Trump, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Zimmerman, Turner etc.

    1. All right, Centrist, now you’re back to one of your usual favorite lines of BS. But your previous two posts, making points about what an exceptional figure
      Manchin is, even if he doesn’t always do exactly what the Democrats want, were great.

  16. Republicans are too busy suppressing the votes of black people in elections to do anything about guns.
    What's Manchin's excuse?

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