WHEN RACHEL ATTACKED! You really have to watch the tape to appreciate the depth of last Thursdays clowning: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2, 2011
Direct from Madison, Davey reports: Were a nation of 300 million soulsand we live in an idiocracy.
What other conclusion can we draw from Monica Daveys report?
Davey writes for the New York Times, our most famous and smartest newspaper. This morning, she reports direct from Wisconsin about that states budget fight.
At present, this is our nations biggest domestic issue. And yet, what happened when Davey reported? The analysts laughed, groaned, howled and cried when they read this deathless passage, in which Davey helps us understand the extent of Wisconsins travail:
Lets spend a moment on that.
According to Davey, everyone agrees that Wisconsins problem is serious. There is, however, wide disagreement about how severe it is.
To help put that puzzle into perspective, Davey reports that Wisconsin isnt the worst off among the (many) deficit-troubled statesnor is it the most fortunate. Of course, that useless description would apply to all but two of these states.
Theres more. According to Walker, the two-year shortfall is $3.6 billionbut Davey then says that others contend the woes have been exaggerated. Does that mean that some people dispute that budget projection? It isnt clear from what Davey writesand then, we move to this:
Davey said no one disputes the idea that the budget problem is serious. In the very next paragraph, she quoted a union leaderand it seems clear that he does.
Good God, what a worthless attempt at reporting! And yet, this passage typifies the work weve seen in the past several weeks. Have you seen anyone try to define the size of Wisconsins shortfall as compared to the shortfalls in other states? We have not. Have you seen anyone compare Wisconsins tax rates to those in other states? In the first paragraph we quoted, Davey makes a rare, glancing reference; she seems to say that some Wisconsinites are proposing higher taxes! But she doesnt say who those people areand she, like others, provides no way to evaluate such a proposal.
One more key point:
Early in her report, Davey says Wisconsin Democrats are appalled by Walkers proposed budget cuts:
Walkers cuts are devastating, inhumane; they will annihilate education. By the way: What would these Democrats do instead?
Theres no sign that Davey asked.
Big Eddie does the same thing: No, it isnt Davey alonealthough she writes for our most famous, smartest national paper. Similar efforts have been widespread on Our One True Liberal Channel. Last night, on the Ed Show, Ed Schultz spoke with all fourteen of Wisconsins Democratic state senators, direct from an undisclosed location in a state whose name he disclosed. For undisclosed reasons, Schultz held this segment until his programs last five minutes. The segment started like this (all fourteen were there):
Taylor seems like a very competent person, as do many of these state senators. How would they address the shortfall?
In the course of a full segment, Schultz forgot to ask.
Were a nation of 300 million souls. Can you explain the puzzling work you encounter each day, each night?
Not that theres anything wrong with it: Weve become intrigued by Big Eds political history. He became a Dem in the year 2000. Not long before that, there was this:
In 2004, Chuck Haga profiled the emerging now-liberal talker for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Back in his sneeringly conservative days, he called the state's three Democrats in CongressSens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroythe Three Stooges, Haga wrote. One year later, Howard Kurtz told the heart-warming tale in the Washington Post:
Theres nothing wrong with true evolution, of course. We applaud when the knuckles come up off the ground! That said, we were struck by that quote:
"I always wanted to make as much money as I possibly could. Nagging question: How much has that outlook evolved?
PART 3WHEN RACHEL ATTACKED (permalink): Rachel Maddow made some flat-out mistakes in her first report on Wisconsinas people often do.
Maddow aired that first report on Thursday evening, February 17. But uh-oh! Consider the following highlighted claim, which came near the start of her effort:
The agency to which Maddow referred is Wisconsins Legislative Fiscal Bureau. More precisely, she referred to a January 31 memo prepared by Robert Lang, the bureaus director. One day before Maddow aired her report, an editorial in the Madison Capital Times asserted that Langs report determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.
That evening, Ed Schultz attributed this editorial to his guest, Maddows friend, John Nichols. Based in part on this editorial, Schultz and Nichols told the world that Governor Walker was cooking the booksthat Walkers new tax cuts had turned that projected surplus into a budget shortfall (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/1/11).
But uh-oh! On February 18, Politifact began to fact-check Maddows confusing report. In the process, they spoke to Lang himself; they concluded that Maddow, like several others, had gotten this matter wrong. This wasnt the primary focus of Politifacts review of Maddow. But in this passage, Politifact asserted that Maddow got this wrongas people sometimes do:
To appearances, Politifact didnt include that $58.7 billion when it did its math; nor did it explain that decision. (Elsewhere, the site explained that different news orgs had calculated different figures for the size of the shortfall.) But simply put, there never was a $121 million surplus projection; Nichols failed to consider Langs fine print when he wrote that. But after Nichols editorial appeared, this error had bounced aroundto Schultz, to Maddow, to Ezra Klein.
This error was made by a range of people. Maddow made it too.
On Friday, February 18, Salons Andrew Leonard corrected himself on this point, and on one or two more (click here). The next day, Klein published a full self-correction (click this); he linked to a good editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal which made this same point about that misunderstood, phantom surplus.
Please note: The fact that Maddow seems to have made this mistake isnt a hanging offense. Nichols made the error first, and several others followed. But other people corrected themselves, and Maddow simply didnt. Politifact challenged her report on February 18and all was silent for almost a week. But all hell broke loose last Thursday night, with Maddow saying that she had been slandered when Politifact called her a liar.
Politifact didnt call Maddow a liar, of course; it simply said she had made some mistakes. But Rachel Maddow is rarely wrong if you let Rachel Maddow tell it. Last Thursday, she issued a blistering, 12-minute rant in which she hotly denied all error. Her rant was grossly unfair, and highly deceptivebut it had a very long list of highly comical elements too.
To fully appreciate the clownishness of Maddows rant, you really should watch the tape (click here). At any rate, just consider the comical way Maddow began her attack.
Maddows full rampage/report would run well over twelve minutes (12:32 total). But in fact, she spent amazingly little time reviewing what she or Politifact had said about Wisconsin. Instead, she considered a long list of highly irrelevant matters, killing time, building sympathy and directing attention away from her bungled report. Prepare to laugh as you see the way Maddow started her attack on the demons who slandered her staff.
No, we really arent making this up. Maddow began with a thoughtful rumination about how amazingly responsible she herself really is:
Isnt she wonderful? First, Rachel endeavored to make us love her, playing her silly cartoon train games. Then, she let us admire the way she and her staff use their adorable choo-choo segment to debunk claims which simply arent true. Again, you really have to watch this report to appreciate how clownish the self-pleading is. But as Maddow continued, she burned up more time describing her high moral fiber:
Isnt she great? By her own admission, shes a great deal better than most TV folk! But the comedy lies in the gross deception. By now, Klein and others had corrected their own mistakes on the budget matter. By contrast, Maddow was gearing up for an attack on Politifactan attack in which she would hotly deny the claim that she had erred at all.
By now, Maddow had burned a minute ten off her twelve-minute report. But she still had a long way to go. So she praised herself more:
Translation: Even when idiots write to complain, Maddow quadruple-checks their complaints! And now, Maddow threw a new cloud of gorilla dust, distracting us from the serious question she would barely discuss. She let us shake our heads at some of the people whose claims shes forced to multiply check. In this long segment, Maddow built sympathy, letting us cringe at the types of people with whom she is forced to interact.
What kinds of people seek corrections? Rather than turn to Politifacts claims, she served this cringeworthy example:
Can we talk? In the taxonomy of Maddows show, nothing could build viewer sympathy more than the claim that someone from this group had telephoned Maddows office while being very, very, very, very angry. There was of course no way to know how accurate Maddows claim might be during the rest of this lengthy passage. But much later, after these stories were done, Maddow laid down the law to all such correction-seekers:
Except there was no sign that Kansans for Life had publicly said that Maddow was wrong when she wasnt. In fact, a complaint had been posted on the groups blog about a recent Maddow broadcast (click here)but that public complaint had nothing to do with the alleged complaint Maddow now described, a complaint that had of course been made in a private telephone call. Nor was there any sign that John Boehners office had publicly said that Maddow was wronghad slandered her when she was telling the truthbut Maddow also killed beaucoup time with a set of rambling tales about all the erroneous complaints that office had recently lodged. Along the way, Maddow helped us understand how amazingly patient she and her wonderful staffers are. One of our producers spoke with that representative from Kansans for Life again tonight for more than a half hour, she self-admiringly said. She was very nice but she was unable to refute any of our reporting. We did not get it wrong.
After reciting all those tales about Boehners office and Kansans for Life, Maddow had ratcheted viewer sympathy quite near the breaking point. Even better: By now, almost seven minutes was gone from her segment (more precisely, 6:32). At this point, Maddow began an extremely short attempt to speak to the actual matter which lay behind this long, dull, pointless, evasive, self-glorifying, denial-driven report.
What was driving this long, dull report, in which Maddow rejected all claims of error? (Comically, she rejected all claims while perched beneath a large sign. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, it said.) As would become abundantly clear, this long report had been occasioned by the Politifact reportthe week-old post which said that Maddow had bungled her report about the Wisconsin budget.
Incredibly, Maddow would spend less than 90 seconds responding to what had been said. But after that very brief faux-defense, Maddow would build more viewer sympathy, complaining about the right-wing sites that trash her because shes gay or because they say she looks like a man. Beyond that, she would burn an additional 80 seconds hammering Politifact for two unrelated errors she said they had made in 2009. Different people will judge those allegations differently; in our view, Maddow went very far afield in search of stones to throw back at the site. That said: Even if Politifact did make two errors two years ago, what could that possibly have to do with what Maddow had said about the Wisconsin budget?
Absolutely nothing at all. But Maddow was playing her viewers for rubes as she pretended to fact-check her own statements. Sitting beneath that DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS sign, she essentially never told viewers what she had said that Politifact judged to be false.
Rachels viewers heard all about Kansans for Life. They heard about John Boehners office. They heard about right-wing sites which engage in rank homophobia. They heard about two niggling errors Politifact may or may not have made, two years ago. And as always, they heard a pile of effusive self-praise about Rachel and her fine staff.
But good lord! In 12 minutes and 32 seconds, Maddow spent less than 90 seconds discussing her own Wisconsin report! Viewers were left with little idea why that report had been challenged.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS? Apparently, the sign referred to what Maddow directs at everybody else! Were often stunned by Maddows conduct. Tomorrow, well look at her short, embarrassing faux self-defenseand at a rain of mega-dittos which poured in from the provinces.
Tomorrowpart 4: Huzzahs from our own ditto-heads