THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2022
A portrait of the fall: Monday evening's Senate debate continues to be debated.
We refer to the Pennsylvania Senate debate between Candidates Fetterman and Oz. In this morning's print editions, the New York Times offers three separate reports:
Fetterman’s Debate Showing Raises Democratic Anxieties in Senate Battle
Pennsylvania Voters Absorb an Unusual Debate: ‘I Felt Sorry for Fetterman’
What the Pennsylvania Media Is Saying About the Senate Debate
In print editions, that first report is the featured report atop the paper's front page. In that third report, four Philadelphia journalists are quoted saying these things:
Sharp critiques from The Philadelphia Inquirer’s opinion staff
A panel of columnists and other contributors was less than charitable in its reviews of both candidates, giving Mr. Fetterman an average score of 4.3 out of 10 and Dr. Oz a score of 4.1.
Here’s some of what the panelists said:
“The only good thing you can say about Fetterman’s performance is that he didn’t put on airs. He is authentically inarticulate.” — Jonathan Zimmerman
“Rather than counter his reputation as a snake-oil salesman, Oz leaned into it for most of the debate, with slick answers that were as empty as the diet pills that he once promoted (despite his ridiculous dodging answer) on TV.” — Will Bunch
“Fetterman’s stumbling and verbal gaffes made the debate a complete cringefest from beginning to end.” — Jenice Armstrong
“For all his years on TV, Oz came across as a fast-talking used car salesman.”—Paul Davies
Borrowing from Paul Simon's The Boxer: "Does a columnist hear what he wants to hear and disregard the rest?"
For ourselves, we would vote for Fetterman, for the obvious reason:
Within our current political system, the only thing which really matters in this race is which party controls the Senate. As we note this obvious point, we'll be straightforward enough to note this related fact:
Down in Georgia, some voters will vote for Candidate Walker for the exact same reason.
Across the nation, few people watched this debate. You can watch the whole debate, and read a full transcript as you do, thanks to the invaluable web site Rev.
"Cable news" was perhaps less helpful last night. We say that for the following reason:
At 8 P.M., we watched Tucker Carlson. At 10 P.M., we watched Lawrence.
We watched Tucker and Lawrence last night. Each host opened his program with a segment about the Pennsylvania debate.
In our view, each fellow was uselessly partisan. This is all part of our floundering nation's ongoing political fall.
At 8 P.M., Carlson engaged in his standard behavior. He started with a reasonable premise, given the fact that Fetterman's performance had raised valid points of concern.
That said, he was quickly overstating wildly, with both thumbs on the scales. Consider what he said about Rebecca Traister's appearance on Alex Wagner Tonight, an appearance we discussed in yesterday's report.
Carlson played tape of Traister's first few remarks. Then, he offered this:
CARLSON (10/26/22): We just keep clips like that around just for future historians to assess what went wrong in America and we wanted the hackiest possible response, the most dishonest assessment ever offered of any public event, and we just played it for you.
For a transcript and tape of Carlson's monologue, you can just click here.
For the record, Traister actually didn't present "the most dishonest assessment ever offered of any public event." For the record, Carlson tends to perform that task himself, pretty much on a nightly basis.
As an example of what we mean, consider what Carlson said next. In the passage shown below, he is referring to Traister's claim that "there were moments where [Fetterman] was really strong, including...his very fluent and direct response on raising the minimum wage. I thought was a really strong moment:"
CARLSON (continuing directly): Because we're literally can't control ourselves, you just heard her say that Fetterman had a strong answer to a question. Talk about patronizing, by the way. Well, we thought we'd go and check what was his answer. You can assess for yourself whether this was "strong." Here it is:
MODERATOR: What do you say to small business owners who have told us that if the minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour, it would put them out of business? You have 30 seconds.
FETTERMAN: We all have to make sure that everyone that works is able to, that's, that's the most American bargain that if you work full time, you should be able to live in dignity is well true and I believe they haven't, have any businesses being, being, we can't have businesses being subsidized by not paying individuals that just simply can't afford to pay their own way.
CARLSON: Again, we could fill the hour recapping John Fetterman's sad responses, but it's not really that surprising. Anyone who's been following John Fetterman for the past five months, you knew that he was profoundly cognitively impaired, and it turns out he is.
Is Fetterman "cognitively impaired" at all, let alone "profoundly?" We aren't qualified to make such assessments. Neither, of course, is Carlson.
We are prepared to tell you this:
As you can at the Rev site, Fetterman responded to two (2) consecutive questions concerning the minimum wage.
His first response—the response to which Traister was likely referring—was in fact fairly articulate. His second response was not, so that was the lone response for which Carlson provided tape.
Carlson dissembles in such ways on a nightly basis. He also offers ludicrous, sweeping assessments concerning the motives of Others. (Traister had also been selective in ignoring that second, jumbled response, in which Fetterman had to respond, off the cuff, to a follow-up question.)
Carlson often starts from a reasonable premise, then dissembles in ludicrous ways. His presentation last night was pure propaganda, as his efforts frequently are.
That said, we're not sure that Lawrence did a whole lot better.
First, our apologies! We can't link you a transcript of Lawrence's presentation. MSNBC began slow-walking its transcript production long ago, we assume for the obvious reason.
At present, the most recent transcript from a Last Word program dates from October 4. We assume it's obvious why the channel is doing this—and yes, it's an obvious mark of the times.
That said, you can watch Lawrence's full presentation here. We'll say this about that:
All in all, Lawrence delivered a monologue in which he made an obvious point: Many political leaders have continued to serve despite significant medical events.
Lawrence cited the medical history of several important political figures, including Winston Churchill. In his second segment. he interviewed Senator Chris Van Hollen, who suffered a mild stroke back in May.
Van Hollen was back on the job within a week. This, of course, tells us nothing about the possible severity of Fetterman's medical event. Nor did Lawrence interview any medical journalist—any person who could have offered specialized information concerning the general topic at hand.
Tucker was pushing his viewers one way. Lawrence was also pushing his viewers, though in the opposite direction.
In the process, every scrap of relevant medical information was left far behind. We'd vote for Candidate Fetterman ourselves, but we would vote against the way these "cable news" channels perform.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Increasingly, our public discourse is a highly tribalized joke.
Carlson at least transcribes the things he says. Our own stars won't even do that!
Tomorrow: Hopefully, back to what Professor Johnson said