TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2021
NPR gets it (slightly more) right: This morning, in the 6 A.M. hour, we saw discussions on Morning Joe which struck us as nearly insane. Needless to say, these discussions concerned a deeply important topic.
The program hasn't chosen to post any video of those discussions. Tomorrow, we may start to discuss the way recent events in Minnesota are being sifted in order to service our spotless minds with the simplest possible stories.
For today, let's review what happened when NPR got something (slightly more) right. We refer to the way Kelsey Snell reported the Senate parliamentarian's all-important (alleged) ruling back on Monday, April 5.
We refer to the ruling as alleged because, as far as we know, no one has actually seen the text of any such ruling. Reports of the ruling appeared last Monday. To her very minor credit, Snell began her report as shown:
SNELL (4/5/21): A new decision from the U.S. Senate's nonpartisan parliamentarian means Democrats could advance more of President Biden's agenda without the support of Republicans.
The official's interpretation of Senate budget rules would allow the use of the reconciliation process more than once in a fiscal year, and it is viewed by Democrats as a possible strategy for moving top policy priorities with a simple majority, since getting the needed 10 Republican votes in a 50-50 Senate has proved difficult.
Details are still unclear as to how Democratic leaders might use the additional chance to pass budget-related policies.
"The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions," Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday. "While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using Section 304 and some parameters still need to be worked out, the Parliamentarian's opinion is an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed."
Democrats have been vague about those additional parameters and the potential limitations that might come with this legislative pathway. The ruling appears to mean a majority party could revise budgets more than once in a fiscal year—each time giving them access to reconciliation instructions.
In all honesty, we regard that as poor reporting. But if we're grading on a curve, that work would receive an A-plus grade when compared to the journalistic messes created by the New York Times on two consecutive mornings, and by two of our cable news stars.
What's the best part of Snell's report? In paragraph 5, she seemed to admit that she didn't know what the ruling had held.
She should have addressed that point in paragraph one. But in paragraph 5, she said this:
"The ruling appears to mean a majority party could revise budgets more than once in a fiscal year—each time giving them access to reconciliation instructions."
That's what the ruling appeared to mean! In other words, it doesn't seem that Snell actually knew what the parliamentarian had held.
Snell never quoted the parliamentarian in her nine-paragraph report. She never quoted the text of the parliamentarian's ruling. She provided no link to any such text.
How then did Snell even know that a ruling had been issued? Unlike Emily Cochrane and Carl Hulse of the New York Times; unlike Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC; Snell at least seemed to indicate her source:
She seemed to source her report to a spokesperson for Majority Leader Schumer. The reader could at least assume that Schumer's office was the source for everything Snell wrote.
Snell's report appeared at 7:54 P.M. last Monday evening. A little over an hour later, Maddow burned away her program's first 25 minutes with a ludicrous pseudo-report about the important new ruling.
We haven't yet quoted the mountains of clowning with which Maddow burned away all that time. But at 10 P.M. that night, she and Lawrence, budget dorks both, offered viewers this:
O'DONNELL (4/5/21): Good evening, Rachel. And it was wonderful to see your glee at the beginning of your hour tonight, knowing that you had breaking parliamentary news to deliver to America about the mysterious workings of the United States Senate, and getting into it deeply with Adam Jentleson, who's also the guy to talk about that.
MADDOW: Well, I knew you would appreciate me dorking out on Senate rules and procedure because alone among everyone who I know, you are, not only an encyclopedia on this, but also as much of a dork about these things as I am.
But having Adam talk me down a little bit and explain what it means in practical terms was probably good because I was, in fact, giddy.
O'DONNELL: Well, you know, the idea of three reconciliation bills this year, most years they don't have any. I mean, these are not—they're just not things that are used all the time. So here we are, this is unprecedented. And it's going to be exciting to watch.
MADDOW: And it also means that they're going to have to think about legislation and legislative priorities in a very different way. I mean, if you're honest about the prospect of getting ten Republican votes, it`s never going to happen on anything. That means they now know it's not just one more reconciliation bill, it's three more. That means they need to think about their priorities in terms of what can be passed in a reconciliation bill, which is only a very specific kind of legislation.
According to Snell, the ruling appeared to mean that "a majority party could revise budgets more than once in a fiscal year." She was no more specific than that.
Two hours later, Maddow and Lawrence were much more specific—and they seemed to contradict one another as they dorked it out.
For unknown reasons, Maddow said the Democrats would be able to use reconciliation for three more bills this year, making four in all. (The pandemic/stimulus bill had already passed through reconciliation.)
Lawrence seemed to say—later, he explicitly said—that they would only be able to use reconciliation for three bills in all.
Where did Maddow and Lawrence get those numbers? Neither star tried to explain. In her 25 minutes of clowning, Maddow kept contradicting her own account, and she never identified the source of her alleged information.
Maddow returned to the topic two nights later, producing another self-contradictory mess. This is the kind of stone-cold clowning which now rules the TV shows we enjoy in Our Low-IQ Town.
Can anybody here play this game? More to the point, does anybody actually know what the Senate parliamentarian ruled?
At NPR, at the New York Times, on cable with two of Our Town's biggest stars, the answer seems to be no. But this is the way the game is now played here in the streets of Our Town.
Does anyone know what the parliamentarian ruled? More to the point, does anyone actually care?
Punchline to the old Paul Reiser joke: "Are we here to play some golf, or are we just gonna f*ck around?"
(Moses, speaking to God the Father; 1982.)