THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2022
Our Own Scholar gave us more: Last Wednesday night, on blue state cable, everyone knew what the day's key bit of "breaking news" had been.
As we detailed yesterday, all the stars began the same way as they helped us get ready for bed. On CNN at 8 P.M. Eastern, Anderson opened as shown:
COOPER (1/12/22): Good evening. We begin tonight with breaking news that is not only a major step in the January 6th investigation but could also be a clear sign of where the House Select Committee is taking it.
The Committee late today asking the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to volunteer information about communications he had with the former president and the White House—former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on and around the day.
Exciting! The committee had asked McCarthy to please volunteer information concerning Donald J. Trump.
By 10 P.M., McCarthy had of course said no. But "the breaking news" had been intensely pleasurable for the few hours it lasted.
The stars of blue state "cable news" have been selling us this childish gruel for more than five years now. We always seem to be moments away from the exciting break in the case which will bring Donald J. Trump to his knees—or Rudy, or maybe Ivanka, or Meadows, or maybe one of Trump's friends.
They keep selling us this product. We keep gulping it down.
This approach has been good for ratings and profits, possibly quite bad for politics. Last Wednesday, the enjoyment was general (until 10 P.M.), with McCarthy now center stage.
In all this sameness, there has always been one "cable news" star from whom we liberals can expect to get a little bit more. In truth, Our Own Rhodes Scholar had always been a little bit different, if she and her parents did say so themselves:
BAIRD (12/1/08): Maddow was, according to her parents, a curious, serious child who never spoke baby talk. When her mother, Elaine, would walk into the kitchen to prepare breakfast, the 4-year-old Rachel would be perched on a stool, with her nightgown and bed socks on, reading the newspaper. Maddow remembers when she was 7, standing in front of their black-and-white television during the 1980 election and loathing Ronald Reagan, although she is not sure why now: "All I remember is the feeling of dislike," she says, laughing. "Maybe I have reverse-engineered it into my memory." As a teenager, her dreams revolved around basketball, swimming and volleyball—she wanted to be an Olympic athlete until a serious injury dashed her hopes. She was a fierce performer who insisted on playing through injuries and amassed a collection of crutches of varying heights. When she wanted to learn to ride a bicycle without training wheels, she circled the streets day and night. Her father, Bob, says it took one weekend.
When Chairman Mao swam the Yangtze, it is said that Maddow was there—and that she swam it faster! Only later did her three-sport Olympic dreams die.
Beyond that, she was the TV star who didn't own a TV set! (Not that she was saying that she was smarter than everyone else.)
That passage comes from Julia Baird's lengthy profile of Maddow in Newsweek, written at a time when Newsweek was still a major entity. We're assuming that Baird gave an accurate account of the various things she'd been told, but many such profiles were written of Maddow as she became the undisputed darling of our failing tribe.
The star was even weirdly praised in the New Yorker for "her performance of the Rachel figure." As our self-impressed tribe continued to fail, she was sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar, and she was always a little bit more.
So it was last Wednesday night. As everyone else pretended that the "breaking news" about McCarthy was a very big deal and was very important, Our Scholar found a way to go along—but also to make our pleasure more.
In truth, her endless opening monologue that night was built around that same "breaking news"—but she didn't mention the committee's request to McCarthy until she was a bit more nine minutes in.
The schadenfreude and the tribal pleasure were still built around McCarthy. But using a wide array of tools, Rachel made our pleasure more.
On this one cable program this night, a whole new framework was built around the miseries of McCarthy. Wonderfully enjoyably, the cable star started like this:
MADDOW (1/12/22): And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
You know, it is not the kind of problem that should come up all that often in politics. I mean, it happens from time to time, but really it seems like the kind of thing that would arise maybe, if you had a long career, it might arise once during your career. I mean, maybe if you had a really long career, it might arise twice if you were particularly star-crossed.
But people would talk about it because that's crazy. I mean, it's just a rare thing. At least it ought to be a very rare thing.
But for House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, it must feel like it happens all the time to him. In his time as a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, it has happened three times in the past five years already, and now it looks like it might happen to him a fourth time.
So completely enjoyable, and just so wonderfully cool! We were still allowed to focus on McCarthy, but we got to start with a type of mystery to solve.
Something had happened to him three times—and now, it looked like whatever it was might happen to him a fourth! Never mind the pair of qualifiers—this was good solid fun!
All over our childish "cable news" world, the stars had gone directly to the committee's request that McCarthy should share information. On her program, Maddow didn't mention that "breaking news" until nine minutes and 15 seconds had passed,
During that opening 9:15, she constructed a totally different framework concerning McCarthy's (imagined) miseries. Along the way, she misrepresented basic facts; wasted time on total trivia; went crazily over the top in praise of the brilliance of her cable and network colleagues; took a major flier on a very shaky speculation about another widely loathed Republican figure; and generally played the cosmic fool in the way she quite frequently does.
Tomorrow, as our week reaches its end, we'll run you through the various parts of this monumentally stupid nine minutes. We're speaking of nine minutes in which this multimillionaire TV star could have been discussing something of real importance—but she decided to play it this way, chuckling as she went.
Sitting at home, in our failing communities, we liberals have never quite been able to see what a clown Our Own Scholar quite frequently is. She has played us again and again, possibly with the best of intentions.
She should have been off the air long go. Those nine minutes provide one example.
Tomorrow: False, misleading, speculative—and just amazingly stupid