WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2022
The Scholar made us wait: Last Wednesday night—it was Wednesday evening, January 12—all the hosts on anti-Trump "cable news" knew how to open their TV programs.
Everyone knew what the key event had been that day! On CNN, at 8 P.M. Eastern, Anderson opened like this:
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.
Now, McCarthy as you know could have volumes to say about what the former President was saying and thinking as violent supporters assaulted the Capitol.
He was on the phone with him begging him to call off the mob he incited, only to be answered with the following, quote: "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are." That's according to a Republican congresswoman who memorialized the exchange and notes at the time.
According to Cooper, this "breaking news" had been "a major step."
In fact, this "breaking news" could hardly have been much more underwhelming. The January 6 committee had asked Kevin McCarthy to volunteer information about his communications with former president Donald J. Trump!
This "breaking news" could hardly have been less impressive. Consider:
The committee hadn't received any information from McCarthy about those communications. For that reason, the committee hadn't released any information on that topic.
Also, the committee hadn't subpoenaed McCarthy—hadn't issued a formal order that he should provide information. The committee had merely invited him to do so, possibly saying "please" as they did—and this request would be turned down before the evening was done.
This "breaking news" could hardly have been any less significant. Still, it neatly fit industry guidelines for prime time cable news product.
This "breaking news" was the type of product blue state cable had been selling us for years, dating back to the days when the fiercely independent Robert Mueller was going to lock Trump up.
Night after night, then year after year, the silly stars who people our cable had been pleasuring us with dreams of Trump's impending legal destruction. After Mueller crashed and burned, the silly stars on whom we rely moved on to other such empty assurances.
For the past five years, this has been the pleasing pablum with which they'd been sending us off to bed. And so, on this latest enchanted evening, all the vacuous cable news stars knew they should start their TV shows with this utterly pointless piddle, concerning which the wide range of non-tribal voters take no interest at all.
The stars all knew where to start that night. On CNN, Erin Burnett had started her show the same way, one hour before Cooper:
Erin Burnett, CNN: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Outfront tonight, the January 6 Select Committee raising the stakes, asking the House Minority Leader to meet with them, offering up to specific dates for his testimony.
And here's their letter tonight to the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They write, "We write to request your voluntary cooperation on a range of critical topics, including your conversations with President Trump."
So it's about five and a quarter pages here....
It was five and a quarter pages! The committee had raised the stakes by making that request!
And no, it wasn't just CNN. Over on The One True Channel, the 6, 7 and 8 P.M. stars had opened their programs as shown:
Ari Melber, MSNBC: Welcome to The Beat. I am Ari Melber.
We begin with breaking news in the January 6 probe. Congressional investigators are making it clear they want to hear from numero uno, Trump ally and the leader of the House Republicans Kevin McCarthy. They have asked him for an interview. That would be testimony, a big deal, as well as cooperation and provide information.
And they also are signaling, as they have in some of these other dramatic letters—there was the one that went out to Sean Hannity and other people—the information they have already gathered.
Joy Reid, MSNBC: Okay, good evening, everyone. We begin The ReidOut tonight with big news from the select committee. They have officially requested cooperation from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in their investigation of January 6th.
Now, while it's not a subpoena, it is a necessary step given McCarthy's extensive communications with Trump, including a phone call while the siege was underway.
Chris Hayes, MSNBC: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. The committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is asking that the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, come and give them testimony before them.
This is the man poised to become Speaker of the House should Republicans take back control in the midterm elections later this year, which is certainly a strong possibility. But before that happens, they want to hear about what McCarthy knows about the insurrection.
Hat in hand, the committee was asking McCarthy to testify; it would be "a big deal" if he did! Their letter constituted "big news." It had been "dramatic!"
The stars have been feeding us this gruel for more than five years now. By 10 P.M., the buzzkill had been delivered, though a good time had been had by all:
Don Lemon, CNN: This is Don Lemon Tonight. And here is our breaking news.
We're watching the Djokovic decision that should come down during the show and we'll get you on that. But the big breaking news, Kevin McCarthy—you know who he is—he says that he will not cooperate with the January 6th committee, claiming that the committee's only objective is, and I quote here, "to attempt to damage its political opponents."
In fact, the committee is charged with getting to the truth of what happened on January 6th and who is responsible. The committee believes that McCarthy knows more than he is telling about January 6th and the days leading up to it and the then president's state of mind.
So, from the committee's letter, I have it right here and I quote, it says....
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, Lemon said as he continued. Forget the tennis fight for now. This was the big breaking news!
Again, it wasn't just CNN. Over at The One True Channel, Lawrence listed the names of his upcoming guests, then formally started as shown:
Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC: All of that is coming up. But the breaking news of the night is that Kevin McCarthy has proved himself a liar once again. After last year saying he would testify to a committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, tonight, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is refusing to testify to the committee.
In a written statement tonight, Kevin McCarthy said he is refusing to cooperate with the committee because the committee, quote, "wants to interview me about public statements that have been shared with the world and private conversations not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the capitol. I have nothing else to add."
Lawrence always calls someone a liar. He can be sharper than the others, but that's the value he reliably adds.
Back to our basic point! The stars all knew how to open their TV shows this evening. Last night, everyone opened their shows the same way, with the exciting news about some actual subpoenas, which may simply be ignored.
Here in our utterly childish tribal world, the story has long been the same. Mueller is days away from locking Trump up. (He already has his tax records!) Or maybe Ivanka will get locked up. Or maybe those fake electors! (The ones the Michigan Attorney General doesn't seem willing to charge.)
This silly gruel gets ladled out night after night after night. It's the way we get sent off to bed, possibly alienated from the interests, frameworks, needs and concerns of the wider range of voters.
These investigations are actual news—but to us, they're the only news. Last Wednesday night, the various stars all knew that the dramatic letter about the request had been the day's breaking news.
That said, one big star within the stable knew how to stretch out this "news." That major star was Rachel Maddow, best known as Our Own Rhodes Scholar.
This major star had been a bit different—a little bit more—ever since she seceded from Tucker Carlson and set sail on cable news on her own.
She'd been reading the newspaper since she was 4—and she never talked baby talk. She'd never owned a TV set. More on these signs tomorrow.
More on those auguries tomorrow! But on this latest special night, she too would build her endless opening spiel around that request to McCarthy—but she wouldn't specifically mention this breaking news until she was nine minutes in.
This particular cable star always offers a little bit more. On this evening, she mugged and clowned, and misled and misinformed viewers, for a full nine minutes and 15 seconds before she unveiled the day's major news.
Based upon that very strange nine minutes, she may have been having one of those possibly manic nights. At any rate, she mugged and clowned and entertained and gave us a look at one of the reasons why this nation's in big trouble—why we may be sinking fast.
Tomorrow: The Scholar's opening framework