THURSDAY, MARCH 2, 2023
Morning Joe moves on: Ambition can be a driving task master.
That thought came to mind as we read the front-page report in yesterday's New York Times about the political career of former president Jimmy Carter, a person who is generally understood to be both good and decent.
Manifestly, Carter's a good and decent person, but he was also ambitious. He first sought office in 1962, when this local condition prevailed:
KING AND FAUSSET (3/1/23): [T]he repressive environment of the mid-20th century meant that he had no Black voters to woo when he started his first foray into electoral politics with a 1962 bid for a South Georgia State Senate seat. Due to racist restrictions, hardly any Black people were registered to vote in his district at the time.
How many black people were registered to vote in the Georgia of that era? The Times report doesn't specifically say.
That said, the report describes the way Carter campaigned for office at that time, up to and including his first campaign for governor in 1970. Here are a pair of excerpts, with the key word "ambition" in play:
KING AND FAUSSET: [E]nduring Black support for Mr. Carter illuminates two intertwined and epochal American stories, each of them powered by themes of pragmatism and redemption. One is the story of a white Georgia politician who began his quest for power in the Jim Crow South—a man who, as late as 1970, declared his respect for the arch-segregationist George Wallace in an effort to attract white votes, but whose personal convictions and political ambitions later pushed him to try to change the racist environment in which he had been raised.
After winning his 1962 State Senate race, Mr. Carter, a man of searing ambition, set his sights on the governor’s mansion but was defeated in 1966. He ran again and won in 1970, with a campaign full of unsubtle dog whistles to aggrieved white voters that included promises to restore “law and order” to their communities and, according to [biographer Jonathan] Alter, the dissemination of a “fact sheet” that reminded white voters that Mr. Carter’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Carl Sanders, had attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral.
Assuming the accuracy of those accounts, this is all part of our American history—American history from a fairly recent era. That said, how should such history be taught in the public schools?
How should it be taught to third graders? Also, how should such history be understood by contemporary American adults?
We hope to pursue such questions in our reports next week. For today, with a few days of travel approaching, we want to focus on something Lawrence O'Donnell has said.
He said it on last evening's Last Word. At the start of his program's second major segment, he offered this baldly inaccurate statement:
O'DONNELL (3/1/23): Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister of Rupert Murdoch's home country of Australia, tweeted today:
"Rupert Murdoch has done more damage to American democracy than any other person alive today."
Rupert Murdoch has had many co-conspirators in his attack on American democracy, including the most hysterical liar he has ever employed in his Fox primetime lineup, Tucker Carlson, who, like Rupert Murdoch, has been exposed in legal filings by the Dominion Voting Corporation as privately not believing any of Donald Trump's lies about the election while he and Rupert Murdoch did everything they could to publicly support and advance those lies.
Also, he has created a brilliant campaign to help the school children of Malawi. Admittedly, he has done this while paying little or no attention to the interests and needs of lower-income schoolkids here in the U.S.
That said, last night's statement about Tucker Carlson was just baldly inaccurate. Did Tucker Carlson "do everything he could to publicly support and advance" the crazy claims at issue in the Dominion legal filings?
As you can see in last Saturday's report, that statement is just wildly inaccurate. It comes to us, live and direct, from the land of The Lazy and Scripted.
In fairness, it's entirely possible that Lawrence didn't and doesn't know that his statement was baldly inaccurate. Many of our cable stars are frequently just a bit fuzzy concerning the world's actual facts, as opposed to preferred Storyline.
That said, the statement was wildly inaccurate. That said, the pleasure it gave to blue viewers may have appealed to Lawrence's ambitions.
Yesterday morning, we offered you a quick overview of Carlson's disordered presentation from this past Monday night. It's hard to know what words to use for such manifest journalistic disorder. (Lawrence has long seemed to know only two such words. We refer to "liar" and "lies.")
At any rate, such lunacy is offered on Fox, night after night, to millions of unsuspecting viewers, and newspapers like the New York Times rarely take note of this fact.
Last night, Lawrence entered the fray with a baldly inaccurate statement. In fairness, it was almost surely "close enough for journalistic work"—and in fairness, it's quite possible that he had no idea that his statement was baldly inaccurate.
So it goes as our tribe's TV stars tells us the stories we like. Quite often, they tell us these stories shorn of all context and shorn of all nuance, and in ways which may simply be wrong.
It's easier to do their jobs that way! Presumably, it helps them produce better ratings, their version of stock prices / votes.
In our view, this isn't an especially helpful way for our blue tribe to proceed. In large part, it stems from mammoth sloth. But this is the business our big stars have chosen, along with the corporate players who lurk behind the scenes.
To Lawrence's credit, he was at least discussing the legal filings which were made public within the past two weeks. At Morning Joe, a different approach has come to an end with the gang's return to form on this morning's broadcast.
As the program opened today, Joe and Mika—but mainly Joe—were back in the saddle again.
Joe went on and on and on about former president Donald J. Trump, concerning whom he loves to rant. Also though, it became clear that the program has escaped the gravity of Monday afternoon's legal filing concerning the testimony of that same Rupert Murdoch—a topic this normally brash show had gone to heroic lengths to avoid in its previous two broadcasts.
It had never occurred to us until this very week! It had never occurred to us that Scarborough loves to rant about Trump, but may be strongly inclined to give Fox News wide berth. As the Morning Joe gang pursues its ambitions, Fox may be more potent than Trump!
As we've noted in the past, it's much easier to notice the things a performer says than to notice the things he doesn't. That said:
"I never knew until this day that it was Barzini all along."
That's what Don Corleone once famously said at an earlier point in our history. For ourselves, we never realized, until this very week, that the Morning Joe team seems to have made a commitment to leave Fox News alone, even as it repeats its daily rants about Trump.
"I woke from my dream / My idols were clay?"
So says an unnamed person within the American song book.
The idols we're sold by our tribe's news organs may not always be playing it straight! Next week, we may start with Maureend Dowd's column from this past Sunday as we consider some of the ways this practice plays out in our world, even in our tribe's increasing focus on our brutal American history.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but millions of people saw Carlson's disordered performance on Monday night. For the most part, blue tribe America sleeps as this disordered figure engages in this bizarre and disordered behavior.
We'll be tossed a set of bones; at times, those bones will be absurdly inaccurate. It's easier for our tribe's stars to play it that way, but where does the country end up?
According to that Times report, Jimmy Carter's political ambitions eventually "pushed him" to change his approach with respect to race. We would also assume that his new approach brought his public conduct more in line with his private beliefs.
How should we present this American history to children in the public schools? To third graders, let's say. Or how about to middle school students? Or all they all the same?
Also, how should we American adults view the unfolding of this history—in columns like the one Dowd wrote, or in Charles Blow's new column?
Our history's a very long and winding and brutal road. How should we adults approach it?