COMFORT FOOD IS US: Lawrence presented some happy talk!


But here's what Weissmann said: Us and Them is the oldest, and perhaps the most powerful, of all known human drugs.

With that in mind, ponder this:

Yesterday's Morning Joe began with 59 references to the claim that Trump voters are members of a "cult." To watch the full onslaught as it unfolds, you can start right here.

Today, Morning Joe's 7 a.m. Eastern hour (no links available yet) took us in a similar direction, with Mika describing support for Trump as "a disease"—a disease afflicting people who have ingested a "poison."

Why do tens of millions of fellow citizens—friends and neighbors!—still support Donald J. Trump? On MSNBC programs, you will never see a Trump supporter asked this basic question.

You'll never see a Trump supporter asked to explain his support. You'll just continue to hear the hammering as the silos get reinforced.

For the record, yesterday's extensive reference to cults hadn't appeared out of nowhere. 

According to the Morning Joe gang, there was no other way to explain the results of a brand-new CBS / YouGov poll. One day before, two major mainstream figures had authored this somewhat aggressive reaction to that same CBS survey:

Brian Klaas, an associate professor of global politics at University College London, reacted to the poll on Sunday writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, "Trump voters believe Trump is more likely to tell them the truth than their friends and family. Again: to understand the modern GOP, you need to understand what an authoritarian cult of personality is, because that's what it has become."

Tom Nichols, staff writer for The Atlantic, also posted to X in response to the poll and wrote, "Insanely cultish."

So wrote Anna Commander, reporting on the new CBS survey in this report for Newsweek

Klaas and Nichols had paved the way. One day later, everyone on Morning Joe had the exact same reaction! 

For ourselves, we'd rather see the Morning Joe squad interview some Trump voters. However appealing it may be, it's our impression that name-calling of the type on display yesterday morning isn't likely to help.

At any rate, yesterday morning's extensive name-calling wasn't "happy talk." For that, we return to Lawrence O'Donnell's performance last Thursday night, when the gang on MSNBC's The Last Word were pleasuring blue tribe viewers with such presentations as this:

O'DONNELL (8/17/23): Amy Copeland, one struggles to imagine what anyone could seriously say in Donald Trump's defense at [Trump's newly canceled] Monday event, which is why I read just that one page of the [Fani Willis] indictment, which contains thirteen lies told in the famous phone call to Brad Raffensperger, lies that usually get ignored by us in our coverage of the phone call because we're just stuck on the solicitation part of it, which is the "Get me the 11,000 votes." 

But if you are defending Donald Trump against this accusation of this being a criminal enterprise, you have to take on each one of those grotesque lies in those thirteen lies in that phone call.  I just don't see where the Trump defense begins on material like that.

Last week, Lawrence had gushed about the brilliant writing in the newly-released Fani Willis indictment of Trump (and 18 others). Now, he said that he couldn't imagine where a defense of Trump could even start at trial.

As we noted yesterday, Copeland replied with a snarky quip, and the panel enjoyed a group laugh. This is the type of Complete and Total Group Agreement with which the blue tribe viewer will be rewarded when he or she decides to watch this ratings-based blue tribe "news channel."

During his famous phone call with Raffensberger, Trump had told thirteen "grotesque lies," and Willis had listed them all! Lawrence couldn't begin to imagine where a defense could start.

It's the sort of comfort food on which our tribe has long fed. But then, to his undying credit, legal analyst Andrew Weissmann briefly broke through the happy talk.

The gang had been enjoying some happy talk. Then came this killjoy buzzkill:

WEISSMANN (8/17/23): [W]hat you would say here, if you were a defense counsel, is, "You know, I had lawyers telling me this is what happened. I had people doing this data collection, so I was relying on things. So even though I may have been wrong, I didn't kn— I wasn't knowingly lying."

Because remember, you can't— It's not enough that he was just saying it and he was wrong. It has to be with knowledge, intentionally, at the time.

Oof! For one brief, shining moment, this reminder from Weissmann briefly broke through the somewhat cultish spell.

According to Weissmann, it's not enough to show that Trump made the thirteen statements in question. It's not enough to show that the statements turned out to be wrong.

According to Weissmann, a prosecutor would have to show that Trump had made those false statements "with knowledge, intentionally." Willis would have to show that Trump had known that his claims were wrong.

In fairness to Weissmann, he went on to say that it would be hard to show that Trump had believed his false claims. But ever so briefly, the happy talk had been interrupted among the circle of very dear blue tribe friends.

(As you know: On MSNBC, every pundit falsely claims that every other pundit is one of his or her "friends.")

Cable news of the red and blue kinds are now broadcast from alternate silos. Seldom is heard a discouraging word to those from the blue or red tribe.

Weissmann provided a service that day—a traditional journalistic service. That said, traditional expectations are rarely allowed to intrude on the pleasing experience offered to us when tribal gatherings on MSNBC serve us our comfort food.

At this point, we offer a few quick reminders:

It will take only one juror, out of twelve, to kill hopes for a conviction of Donald J. Trump in some forthcoming trial. 

Also this:

If a Fani Willis jury votes 11-1 or 10-2 in favor of conviction, no conviction will be forthcoming. And that result will instantly be bruited as an acquittal. It won't actually be an acquittal, but it will be successfully bruited that way far and wide.

Tomorrow, we'll continue along from the happy talk-based comfort food Lawrence was serving last Thursday night. For today, we'll leave you with this observation concerning blue tribe cable:

Sometimes we get served happy talk and comfort food on our blue tribe cable. Other times, we get pleasured with sweeping denunciations of the Others, who all come from a cult.

Us and Them is a cherished drug, but we'll leave by asking this. If the Others are so brainwashed, what makes Lawrence, or anyone else, believe that a unanimous verdict could ever emerge from a trial?

Tomorrow: Concerning that famous telephone call


  1. First Somerby says:

    "Us and Them is the oldest, and perhaps the most powerful, of all known human drugs."

    Then he complains about Joe and Mika:

    "Today, Morning Joe's 7 a.m. Eastern hour (no links available yet) took us in a similar direction, with Mika describing support for Trump as "a disease"—a disease afflicting people who have ingested a "poison."

    I see no difference between Somerby referring to us as having taken a drug and Mika saying Trump support is a poison. Why does Somerby think he will convince his readers not to use language this way, when he does it himself?

  2. Former Trump supporters are themselves referring to MAGAts as a cult. Experts who study cults are also referring to Trump supporters as a cult. It seems like this is a matter of fact, not of name-calling. Cults are real and they do exist and they have properties that can be identified and compared to groups to determine what is and is not a cult.

  3. "You'll never see a Trump supporter asked to explain his support."

    This is a ridiculous assertion, easily contradicted. Back when Trump was first running, that was all you heard anywhere and everywhere -- Republicans being interviewed about why they love Trump. Then there was that series of focus groups a few months back in which the NY Times asked earnest Trump supporters why they were still supporting him for President. This imbalance in reporting has been so extreme that liberals have been asking why Biden supporters have no visibility in the press.

    Most recently there has been that stupid poll showing that Trump supporters and Republicans still love Trump despite his Georgia indictment. They do -- no surprise. How can Somerby suggest that no one cares about the reasons of Trump supporters when there has been this ongoing, unrelenting focus on the motives and beliefs of Trump supporters?

    When Somerby comes out with something like this, it convinces me that he is playing mind games here, not writing serious blog essays. This claim is just too stupid to contemplate.

    1. He may have meant on MSNBC.

    2. Why should EVERY media outlet have to be doing what Somerby says? He has never insisted that Fox News interview Biden voters to see why we support Biden.

    3. I was just pointing out the original commenter's embarrassing misreading.

    4. It is only a misreading if you know what Somerby was thinking. I doubt you have access to that info.

    5. With “Us and Them” Bob is pointing at others for doing what he ALWAYS does. Very much like, sorry, Donald Trump. Perhaps it’s why Bob finds him so sympathetic.

    6. 1:28 maybe, but that does not exonerate Somerby, as MSNBC has done the very thing Somerby is requesting.

      Furthermore, Somerby has referred to Dr Bandy Lee as an expert whom he trusts, and she is very clear on what explains Trump supporters: she says they are suffering from a pathology that keeps them stuck in survivor mode which makes them incapable of logical reasoning.

      Other research, from Dr Bandy Lee and others, indicate that unresolved trauma, particularly unresolved childhood trauma affects brain development, which dovetails with other research that shows that right wingers develop a non hereditary smaller brain frontal cortex and larger amygdala, which impedes their ability to reason under stress, and intensifies the sensation of fear.

      Since Dr. Bandy Lee expounded on her views of Trump supporters, Somerby dropped her like a sack of potatoes.

      Corporate news outlets like MSNBC and CNN have been asking Trump supporters to explain themselves ad nauseam, and they never offer a genuine, good faith response, which is rich, considering the daily attacks on the blue tribe from this ridiculous blog.

    7. At least the war is Ukraine is going great.

    8. Indeed, under Trump, Putin was having his way, and now, under Biden, Putin and Russia are having their ass handed to them.

  4. "You'll never see a Trump supporter be honest when asked to explain their support."
    Fixed for accuracy.

    1. Some may be honest in always supporting Trump. It’s stupidity born of Religion.

    2. Religion requires indoctrination, generally of those in their formative years, not dissimilar to breaking a horse in order to ride it. It’s a pernicious form of child abuse that is a major root cause of why some turn away from our innate nature of being communal and good natured, and towards being a right winger, obsessed with dominance.

  5. "It will take only one juror, out of twelve, to kill hopes for a conviction of Donald J. Trump in some forthcoming trial. "

    This is true in any criminal trial, of anyone for any crime, from Ted Bundy to Charles Manson.

    The question is not whether one person would prevent a conviction, but whether there will be any juror who insists that Trump is not guilty after the prosecutors present their case. That is true in any trial too, so the matter rests not on jury procedure, but on whether the evidence exists to convince jurors that Trump is guilty of the charges brought.

    Somerby carelessly uses this phrase: "in some forthcoming trial". One juror can hang the jury and cause a mistrial, but then Trump can be tried again.

    Someone who is sufficiently suggestible to become a Trump supporter, might not have the backbone to stand up to the facts of a trial and the peer pressure of other jurors during a lengthy jury deliberation. A juror cannot refuse to engage with the evidence. Once he or she does, then there is the opportunity to change from blind Trumpiness to reasonable consideration of facts and responsiveness to the arguments of both the prosecution but also other jurors. Go watch the film 12 Angry Men to see how this happens.

  6. "It will take only one juror, out of twelve, to kill hopes for a conviction of Donald J. Trump in some forthcoming trial. "

    Somerby repeats this statement today as if it were his own form of comfort food. We are not allowed to hope for the best outcome during Trump's trial, but Somerby is allowed to cling to this hope as if it were inevitable and not merely a possibility.

    And what is Somerby's advice to supposedly prevent a Trump addict from hanging the jury? Does Somerby think that if all liberals are extra special nice to The Others, even on MSNBC, then miraculously, some Trump juror will vote to convict him?

  7. "And that result will instantly be bruited as an acquittal. It won't actually be an acquittal, but it will be successfully bruited that way far and wide."

    So what? Trump doesn't need to wait for a trial verdict to claim his innocence. He has been doing it for years now. Everything he does is "perfect". He is lying ahead of the trial and he will lie after it, no matter what the outcome.

    Somerby appears to be telling us not to get our hopes up about justice for Trump and the American people, but to what end? What does Somerby gain if we mope around because Trump is going to get off?

    I remember thinking the same pessimistic thoughts about the verdict of the E.Jean Carroll trial and look how that turned out! It restored my faith in juries -- which remain the best way humanity has figured out to determine truth and enact justice in conflicting cases. Why must I assume it won't work again in the other Trump trials?

    What is Somerby's motive in urging extreme pessimism and even nihilism concerning the American justice system? I think he is just lashing out at liberals and trying hurt those who are seemingly already "punishing" dear leader Trump. Somerby cannot stand to see the hope on the left, so he is striking out at liberals, trying to hurt us in the same way he feels injured by the charges brought. It is ugly, but very human of him to be doing this, in the guise of concern that we may be disappointed by the trial outcome. But if we believe his predictions, we must also believe that we live in a country where justice is not possible for the wealthy, powerful or popular. That is what is really at stake here -- not Trump's future. Trump is an old man who will die soon. He has no chance of becoming president again, and he is destroying the Republican party in his flailing attempt to claw his way back into the White House. But justice matters and is worth fighting for, which means that even a pathetic old fart like Trump needs to be put on trial and convicted of his crimes.

  8. The other day I asked how it comes about that lying is a crime. I repeat the question. Can someone explain this?

    1. Perjury (lying under oath) is a crime because the search for truth via the judicial process is impossible without making it one. Determining truth in court is necessary to the common good, so society has made that a crime.

      Lying is central to the definition of other crimes too. Fraud and forgery involve lying as part of the crime of getting money or favors from people using false claims or documents or other misrepresented items. Lying is part of impersonating an officer of the law, which is a crime. Lying about not having HIV or another STD is a crime. Practicing a profession without a license is a crime.

      Your problem, David, is the mistaken belief that lying is protected by the 1st Amendment, when it occurs in the commission of a crime. Lies are not protected when used to commit fraud, slander or libel or other crimes.

      The charges against Trump involve statements that urge others to violate their oaths of office (a defined crime), and to commit fraud (a defined crime) and to deprive others of their right to vote and have their vote count (a defined crime). That's why the lies Trump told are not protected speech but evidence of the crimes he is charged with committing.

      Ultimately, Trump is not being charged with lying, but with the commission of crimes involving lies in which those lies are evidence.

    2. David in Cal,

      Lying is only a crime in certain circumstances. So your question contains the false premise that lying, in and of itself, is a crime. It's not.

      But I have a feeling getting you to understand this is a task that is positively Sisyphean.

    3. You should look at the comments more than once David, because your idiotic premise was well refuted the other day. The notion that you have never heard of “fraud” or “perjury” in the first place is not credible. Yes, I am calling you a liar.

    4. The next good faith argument made by a Right-winger, will be the first.

    5. DIC tells weird lies about trivial matters, for example he lies about having a cousin he does not have, so it’s unsurprising that he would lie here about being ignorant of basic crimes like perjury and fraud.

    6. Ask David what he thinks about a sitting president misleading testimonyt about a blowjob in a civil deposition, a subject which was ruled immaterial to the actual civil case.
      David will give you chapter and verse on the perjury law then.

  9. "If the Others are so brainwashed, what makes Lawrence, or anyone else, believe that a unanimous verdict could ever emerge from a trial?"

    Such an easy question to answer.

    During jury selection, prospective jurors are asked questions to determine whether they are capable of serving effectively and carrying out the instructions of the judge. Anyone who indicates by their answers that they cannot do that will be removed by the judge for cause. Bias is one of the reasons that allows the judge to remove someone, ahead of the questioning by attorneys and challenges they are permitted to make.

    For example, last time I had jury duty, I saw a man removed because, when asked whether his wife worked, he answered that his wife and daughters all stayed in the home, as God intended. The defendant was a woman accused of stealing from her employer.

    Does Somerby think that a Trump supporter would be able to conceal that bias during voir dire questioning? Such a person would have to lie to do so, and that is perjury, a crime punishable by imprisonment. Note that all of the defendants charged with insurrection-related crimes have been successfully tried and convicted, despite the probable presence of Trump-supporters on their juries and among the judges trying them. Some of the co-defendants may plead guilty and most of the witnesses presenting evidence will also be Trump-supporters or former supporters. Given that many Trump supporters have religious convictions, will they be willing to violate an oath sworn on the Bible to lie for Trump or fail to consider evidence during deliberations? We have seen how religious Trump supporters have excused his wrongdoing, but this would require them to violate personal convictions themselves, to things that may challenge their own conscience. Are Trump supporters really people with that kind of spine -- to stand up for an obvious miscreant by committing their own sins? Maybe, but it seems like a lot to ask of someone who may just enjoy the atmosphere at Trump's rallies without thinking too closely about anything he says.

    Beyond that, people have all kinds of biases and prejudices that they bring into court with them. Ferreting them out may be impossible in most trials and yet juries can and do routinely bring back unanimous verdicts in criminal trials. How is that possible given that people how such divergent views coming into the situation? It emerges from the method of presenting evidence and then deliberating. There is a large literature studying the psychological dynamics of juries, largely of use to lawyers and judges who are engaged in the whole process. Juries work for good reasons, that make Somerby's claim that Trump can never be convicted ignorant and cynical beyond belief -- how does Somerby think anyone gets convicted, much less a fraudulent lying sack of shit like Trump? The idea that Trump is some sort of superman who is not only above the law but beyond human judgment inflates Trump's human frailty but shows a total lack of faith in our justice system. If justice cannot work for Trump, it doesn't work for anyone else either and we should be questioning every conviction that lacked a true believer supporting the defendant as unfair to the accused.

    But we all probably recognize that Somerby is being an asshole about this.

    1. We do recognize that, but you say it well.

  10. Somerby says: "This is the type of Complete and Total Group Agreement with which the blue tribe viewer will be rewarded when he or she decides to watch this ratings-based blue tribe "news channel."

    But then, oh no, he says: "Then came this killjoy buzzkill"

    If there is a buzzkill, there obviously is not complete and total agreement.

    What is Somerby's purpose in pretending these was such agreement? He wants to call the MSNBC participants a cult too. But what is the definition of a cult? It isn't complete and total agreement and it has nothing to do with "comfort food".

    According to Wikipedia:

    "Cult is a term, in most contexts pejorative, for a relatively small group which is typically led by a charismatic and self-appointed leader, who excessively controls its members, requiring unwavering devotion to a set of beliefs and practices which are considered deviant (outside the norms of society)."

    According to this, Trump's supporters fit that definition (except for being a small group) but MSNBC does not. So, Somerby is basically just calling names when he pretends Morning Joe is a cult while ignoring the most important parts of the definition, as it would apply to Trump and his followers.

    Perhaps Somerby thinks it is cute to insult liberals this way, but it is just mean-spirited and somewhat vindictive. No one on the left made Trump form a cult. We can't help it if his followers will believe anything he says, to the point of breaking laws on his behalf (not just in the insurrection but also the continuing death threats), donations to his legal defense or his personal coffers as they buy junk, and their belief that Hunter is the antichrist and Biden is a reptilian.

  11. "An Ohio attorney who donated to Donald Trump's presidential campaign was convicted of election fraud for voting twice in the past two general elections.

    James Saunders cast ballots in both Ohio and Florida in the 2020 presidential election lost by Trump and the 2022 midterm election, according to a ruling by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge Andrew Santoli, who ordered sheriff's deputies to take the lawyer straight to jail, reported

    “It appears [Saunders] felt he was smarter than the system,” said Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael O’Malley. “He was wrong.”

    1. No Trump-supporting jury member to hang his jury?

  12. As Weissman has pointed out. an “intent” defense will only sway people utterly predisposed to accept it, like Bob. If you keep asking dozens of experts something until you find someone who agrees with you and your sordid intentions, you are shopping for an answer and only a fool, like Bob, is going to accept you were acting in good faith.

  13. Bill Maher went with the “cult” defense of Trump’s miserable followers years ago, and many others have kicked it around since then. Stubborn meanness and ignorance strike me as far more credible, though Bob would insist these things only exist on the left.

  14. 1. Trump is not pleading insanity.
    2. Trump is almost 100% certain not to take the stand to testify to his “belief.” (Wonder why?) That leaves his lawyers to argue the point, not a very effective “defense”, when the question is what did the defendant believe.
    3. The prosecution has plenty of evidence to show Trump knew the truth but chose to disregard it.

    Weissman is giving us a hypothetical statement that Trump would make on the stand. But he won’t be doing that, more than likely.

    Lawrence’s point stands.

  15. Though you have to scrape off a great deal of bullshit, Bob does get a thing or two correct here. I’d like to see Trump supporters step up and explain themselves too, particularly articulate, well educated ones. A show with a legitimate debate format, with sound fact checking, is desperately needed. Such a show could be huge hit if well executed.
    The problem: Trump supporters just don’t have much of a defense for the indefensible. They will tell you it’s the lying liberal commie media and it’s all lies. It’s basically like being told by a Clinton fan like me that Monica Lewinsky never actually existed and She was made up by the Trump Crime Family. That might be entertaining once but would get tiresome very fast.

  16. Perhaps Bob is correct, and it really is long past time we de-fund the police.