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Print view: More and more, Maddow apes Fox. Here's why we find it offensive
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WHAT DO HER STANFORD PROFESSORS THINK! More and more, Maddow apes Fox. Here’s why we find it offensive: // link // print // previous // next //

The exit polls, Greenwald/O’Donnell—and also, the lunacy spreads: Why did Democrats do poorly last week? Various people have offered their thoughts. A few reactions:

Drum’s along the exits: Many people have visited exit polls, looking for explanations. Kevin Drum did so in this recent post, much of which we found confusing, unlike with most Drum posts. Exit polls are hard to interpret in these matters, because people aren’t required to vote—and because oodles of people people don’t vote, especially in off-year elections. Exit polls can tell you how many people in various groups turned out to vote this year, as opposed to 2006 or 2008; exit polls can also tell you who those people voted for. But exit polls can’t really tell you who stayed home and who turned out within each group. For example, why did the white vote switch so much from 2006 to 2010? To what extent did white voters switch their party preference—and to what extent did different groups of white voters turn out? It’s very hard to say.

We’ll only offer these thoughts:

White voters made up 78 percent of the vote last week—and we liberals spent the bulk of the past two years calling everyone who isn’t just like us “racists.” Meanwhile, 79 percent of the electorate said they were Protestant or Catholic. To read Steve Benen’s latest post about “The God Machine,” you can just click here.

Snark is fun—when you’re in high school. If you care about outcomes, snark forms a very shaky basis for building a winning politics. This is especially true if you decide to aim your snark at the largest groups of voters.

Final point from the exit polls: Republicans won among two major groups —women voters, and men (click here). Someone should probably try to explain that. Democrats won both groups in 2006 (click this).

Greenwald v. O’Donnell: Glenn Greenwald and Lawrence O’Donnell put up their dukes on Friday’s Morning Joe, arguing over the best explanation for last week’s defeats (or something). For Glenn’s side of the scrap, with access to tape, just click here.

On balance, we would tend to take O’Donnell’s side, but only because he seemed to be saying less than Glenn. Example: What happened in Wisconsin? Here’s some of what O’Donnell said on election night, as posted and bolded by Glenn:

MADDOW (11/3/10): The situation is that Russ Feingold never earned the loyalty of his party because he was so iconoclastic, he went his own way, he made principled votes on things like the Patriot Act . . . he never earned any national favor from anyone but progressives . . . . . he's against someone who has a ton of outside help and a ton of money. He just didn't have anyone supporting him because the national party just never backed him up.

O'DONNELL: What does this have to do with the argument that's going on inside the Democratic Party between progressives and others about how Democrats should run? Did Russ Feingold lose because he wasn't liberal enough? . . . . When we talk about money in races, we have to face the fact that it's not the full explainer that everyone thinks it is. If money beat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, why isn't it beating Jerry Brown in California? . . . ..

This is about real candidates, this is about real positions they've taken, especially if they're incumbents, like Russ Feingold, and to pretend that voting on Russ Feingold has nothing to do with his voting as an incumbent I think is to ignore the reality of life on the ballot as a Democrat in Wisconsin.. . . .

MADDOW: If you really believe he could have campaigned his way out of this race, I'd love to hear how he could have campaigned differently in a more effective way, but I just don't see it.

O'DONNELL: A liberal was defeated by a Republican—by voters who had information about this one being a liberal, this one being a Republican. We have to then assume the voters are completely irrational and don't know what they are doing, or we assume that they do know the difference between a liberal and a Republican and they made that choice, based on his being a liberal and him being a Republican, money being whatever it was in that situation.

According to Glenn, those remarks represent “Lawrence O’Donnell trying to blame ‘the Left’ and ‘liberalism’ for the Democrats' political woes…Russ Feingold's defeat proved that voters reject liberalism in favor of conservatism, etc. etc.”

“What I wrote was completely accurate,” Glenn insisted in his post. “His meaning could not have been clearer.”

Sorry, we think that just isn’t right; it seems to us that Glenn is going beyond what O’Donnell said. It isn’t clear that O’Donnell was “blaming” anyone or anything for Feingold’s defeat. He was simply noting the obvious; Wisconsin voters knew that Feingold was a liberal and that his opponent was a crackpot conservative. Knowing those things, they voted for the crackpot conservative. Since Feingold has always been quite liberal by Americans norms, and since his opponent was quite conservative, it’s hard to believe that Feingold lost because he wasn’t liberal enough. It isn’t like Wisconsin voters didn’t know that Feingold is a liberal. Would you have stayed home in Wisconsin this year? Would you have voted for Feingold’s opponent? When so many voters vote the way they did, it may simply mean that, this year at least, many voters in Wisconsin weren’t going to vote the same way you would have voted.

In our political analyses, we liberals often fail to grasp a basic fact: The pre-existing views of the voters is a major part of the system. If you read what O’Donnell said, he didn’t “blame” or criticize Feingold for his liberal views. He simply made an obvious point: A statewide electorate understood Feingold’s general views—and they picked the other guy. Note to liberals: Other people actually exist. They cast the same vote you do.

Sensible people try to find out why people voted the way they did, the better to persuade them they’re wrong. Tribal pseudo-liberals often take a different approach. We start by calling the voters names, then we suggest that they somehow got fooled. It seemed to us that O’Donnell was simply saying that this impulse is drastically wrong.

The lunacy spreads: For decades, a lunacy spread from pseudo-conservative spin tanks—and then, from the mainstream press corps. Increasingly, this lunacy came to define the basic outlines of American political discourse. This lunacy was strongly in place by the early 1990s, but the liberal world still napped in the woods. As Will Bunch amazingly noted last week, many liberals didn’t notice that something was wrong with our political/journalistic systems until the war in Iraq.

If you country will ever get sane, the impetus will have to come from the left. But as we liberals have gotten more involved, the lunacy has started to spread through our ranks. On cable, liberal leaders increasingly ape Fox News, as we’ll note in today’s major post (see below). And on-line, just check this recent Digby post. Then, read through the comments.

The background: Last summer, two male college students (in suits and ties!) politely asked Rep. Etheridge if he supports the Obama agenda. When they did, Etheridge flipped out, in a very unfortunate way; this may have cost him his seat in the House. We think it’s silly to judge a pol on the basis of one stupid moment. But plainly, that’s what we liberals do whenever some pol on the other side says or does something stupid, no matter how trivial the conduct in question may be.

The tape of this unfortunate event is available as part of Digby’s post. So is Digby’s peculiar account of what it represents.

Our suggestion: Watch the tape of what occurred, then read Digby and her readers. According to Digby, you’re watching a “Republican dirty trick.” More Digby: “This is just a useful reminder for anyone who forgets how the Republican dirty tricksters operate.”

Digby offers additional heated language about this event. Her sentences are hard to parse, so intense is her disgust with the “rat-fucking” involved. An encouraging number of Digby’s readers noted that the crackpot behavior in this incident actually came from Rep. Etheridge, as any sane person can quite plainly see. But quite a few of Digby’s readers melted down even farther than she did. By the end of the thread, you will have waded through various comments about the Nazis and Martin Boorman. “No one savvy enough to understand the depth of the GOP's depravity will ever need reminding,” one reader hysterically said.

Quite a few commenters seem to say this was all the press corps’ fault. We have no idea what that means.

Watch the tape; observe what happened. Two students politely ask a rather innocuous question of a sitting member of Congress. To Digby, this conduct seems to represent the war of the all against the all. For her factual context, she links to a typically underfed effort at the hapless site, Gawker. For its part, Gawker links to an old, outdated post by Dave Weigel.

Pseudo-conservatives have waged a crackpot tribal war for several decades now. If liberals agree to go crazy too, can your nation survive?

WHAT DO HER STANFORD PROFESSORS THINK (permalink): We often wonder: What do her Stanford professors think when they watch Rachel Maddow?

How about the Serious People who picked her as a Rhodes Scholar?

More specifically, what did these pillars think when they watched Maddow last Friday evening? On that evening’s program, the cable host presented one of her trademark segments. In it, she denounced a media narrative from the past campaign—a pro-Republican media narrative which has clearly turned out to be wrong. Here’s Maddow, dumbing the liberal world down—and doing her best to ape Fox. To watch the whole segment, click here:

MADDOW (11/5/10): Year of the woman! Year of the Republican woman! Year of the conservative Republican woman!

This was one of the favored and exciting memes in political coverage this year—before the elections. Then the elections actually happened and now you’re not hearing quite so much breathless coverage, are you, about that whole conservative women surge thing? Because this upcoming Congress, the one we just elected, the 112th Congress scheduled to meet on January 3, 2011, it will be the first Congress in 30 years to not have more women in it than the one that came before—the first in 30 years. Depending on how the Senate race in Alaska turns out and a few still-to-be decided races in House, there will be as many or fewer women in Congress next year than there were this year. That has not been the case in a generation.

Already, a sensible person could see some of the logical problems with Maddow’s thesis. Here’s one of the obvious problems: Even if the incoming Congress has “as many or fewer women” than the outgoing Congress, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t a good year for Republican women. But with that said, let’s put first things first:

Who in the media ever established that “exciting meme” in “the political coverage?” Who in the media ever said that this was “the year of the conservative Republican woman?” According to Maddow, this was “one of the favored and exciting memes in political coverage this year.” Surely, then, the famous Rhodes Scholar had many examples to offer.

Sorry. Apparently, no one actually said such a thing, except the voices in Maddow’s head or in the heads of her staff. What follows are the “examples” with which Maddow opened this pitiful segment—a segment in which she (and/or her staff) played liberals for fools once again:

MADDOW SHOW (11/5/10):

(Return from commercial break, video clips)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You know, in Tuesday’s election, ten women will appear on the ballot for governor. And almost 150 are running for seats in the U.S. Congress.

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Don’t forget, you’ve got mama grizzlies. You have Democratic and Republican women who are absolutely disgusted with Washington politics, and a lot of these people like Sarah Palin and they like her ilk.


GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Well, it seems to be the year of the woman in politics.

(End video clips)

MADDOW: Year of the woman! Year of the Republican woman! Year of the conservative Republican woman!

This was one of the favored and exciting memes in political coverage this year—before the elections.

No, we’re not making that up. Those were the “examples” used to demonstrate Maddow’s thesis—offered in support of the claim that “the political coverage” was driven by the claim that this was “the year of the conservative Republican woman.” In fact, in none of Maddow’s “examples” did anyone say any such thing; Maddow is slandering Lemon, Bernard and Carlson when she accuses them of engaging in this alleged misconduct. Just for the record, this is the actual exchange from which Maddow (or her staff) got those quotes from Carlson and Fiorina. Here’s what was actually said:

CARLSON (11/1/10): Two women fighting for the Senate seat in California and this race could be key to the balance of power. Incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer facing a tough race against Carly Fiorina. Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina joins me now. We reached out to Barbara Boxer and we're still waiting for a reply from her camp. Good morning to you, Carly.

FIORINA: Good morning, Gretchen. How are you?

CARLSON: I'm doing just fine. A lot of people want to know how you are feeling. You were sidelined from the campaign trail last week due to an infection. I assume you're feeling much better.

FIORINA: I feel fantastic. I was out for about 24 hours and back on the campaign trail, and that wave is going to reach all the way to the Pacific Ocean this time. It's very exciting.

CARLSON: Well, it seems to be the year of the woman in politics, and in your case, whether you win or whether Barbara Boxer win, it's going to be a woman going to Washington. But what makes you different? Why should you be the woman that Californians pick?

Carlson never said a word about this being the year of the Republican woman. Fiorina wasn’t even discussing gender when she made her own remark. Meanwhile, Lemon in no way favored Republican women in his own segment on CNN (link below). And here’s what Bernard said on Hardball just after the clip presented by Maddow:

BERNARD (11/1/10): Don’t forget, you’ve got mama grizzlies. You have Democratic and Republican women who are absolutely disgusted with Washington politics, and a lot of these women like Sarah Palin and they like her ilk. And Mitt Romney and the entire boys club is going to want the women’s vote. The Democratic gender gap, it shrank in 2004. You know, we saw it come up in 2008.


BERNARD: A lot of women are trending Republican right now. And those boys want to be part of the women’s club. Times have changed.

MATTHEWS: You introduced the word. I’ll ask you about it. Do you like her ilk?

BERNARD: Not particularly.


MATTHEWS: I thought by your choice of vocabulary you might not.

Quite accurately, Bernard said that a lot of women were trending Republican in 2010. (Republicans won the female vote in last week’s House elections—for the first time in thirty years!) But she didn’t say anything like, “This is the year of the conservative Republican woman.” And she specifically said that she herself didn’t like Palin’s ilk.

None of these media people voiced the “meme” Maddow stuck in their mouths. But so what? To Maddow and her staff, you are increasingly rubes, nothing more—and you will swallow the gruel you’re served. A few weeks ago, we noted Maddow doing something very similar—simply announcing that the press had pushed a pro-Republican theme, in the absence of any serious evidence (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/20/10). As noted before, we often wonder: What do her Stanford professors think when they see her behave like that?

Last Friday, Maddow played her viewers for fools, serving them more of her rank, bogus gruel. But hold on! The segment got worse! As Maddow continued her thoughtful report, her dissembling became more clownish:

MADDOW: Depending on how the Senate race in Alaska turns out and a few still-to-be decided races in House, there will be as many or fewer women in Congress next year than there were this year. That has not been the case in a generation.

It is true that there were a ton of high-profile Republican women in particular running for Congress and governor this year. They got a lot of media attention. And, um, all of—all of them lost. Meg Whitman in California, Carly Fiorina in California, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Linda McMahon in Connecticut.

Yes, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Nikki Haley in South Carolina won in their respective races but [long pause] that’s sort of it! What in the name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton happened here? How did this—the year of the woman, after all!—how did this end up being one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office?

Joining us now is Amanda Marcotte. She’s a contributor writer for Slate’s Double X. Amanda, thanks very much for your time.

MARCOTTE: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So what happened? How did this end up being one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office?

In a non-partisan vein, the idea that this was “one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office” is completely absurd. As Maddow noted, the new Congress may yet match the previous Congress for the largest number of women members in history. If not, it will fall short by one or two members. It’s ludicrous—the work of a child—to describe that situation in the way Maddow did.

But Maddow really jumped the shark when she seemed to say that Ayotte and Haley were the only major Republican women who won elections this year. It’s true—the word “high-profile” was stuck in the script in an apparent attempt to keep Maddow’s words “technically accurate.” But you were being baldly misled, once again, in that part of her segment.

What did Maddow forget to say about the horrible year for GOP women? Ayotte won the New Hampshire senate seat; Haley won as governor in South Carolina, becoming the first woman ever elected to that post. But were those the only Republican women who won high-profile campaigns? In fact, four women were elected governors this year; this was only the second year that has ever happened. (The previous year was 2002.) And all four women were Republicans! As she filled your head full of crap about press corps misconduct and this horrible year, Maddow simply erased this history. She erased the victory by Susana Martinez, governor-elect of New Mexico—the first woman ever elected to that post. She erased the victory by Mary Fallin, governor-elect of Oklahoma—the first woman ever elected to that post.

And of course, Maddow erased the election of Jan Brewer, elected (for the first time) as governor of Arizona. Brewer was about as high-profile a candidate as our politics had this year. But so what? On Friday night, we liberals were told that these victories simply didn’t occur! We were then sent off to bed with warm milk in our stomachs, armed with a set of silly claims about the perfidious press.

Ayotte and Haley won, Rachel admitted. “But [long pause] that’s sort of it.”

Until this year, 27 states had never elected a woman governor. The count is now down to 24—unless you watch Maddow’s program. Marcotte went on to offer silly ideas about how this “ended up being one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office.” (Marcotte: “I actually think that this mama grizzly narrative hurt them in a way because it was about creating an idea where you could both be anti-feminist in your views and your policies and your ideas and even your demeanor, but somehow still feminist in having ambition. And I think that that kind of contradiction didn`t sit well with some segments of the public.”) But in her defense, Marcotte was only being foolish. It was Maddow (and/or her staff) who deceived you, start to end.

Sorry: Lemon, Bernard and Carlson didn’t call this “the year of the Republican woman.” And this wasn’t “one of the worst elections in a generation for women running for office.” And Ayotte and Haley weren’t the only high-profile Republican women who won last week. This is Maddow as rather-typical worst, doing a rather strong imitation of Fox.

Why do we find this conduct offensive? We’ll keep it short:

Here at THE HOWLER, we were raised by unsophisticated people, the kind of people the swells can deceive. For decades, we’ve been offended when we see the Limbaughs and the Hannitys work to deceive such people. This loathsome practice remains offensive when self-adoring “liberals” do it. What must Maddow’s professors think, we wonder, when they see her behave this way?

By the way, could it be that Maddow is anti-Hispanic? Is that why the historic win by Martinez was disappeared?

A liberal can get very dumb watching Our Own Rhodes Scholar in action. We often wonder what her professors must think when they see her performing this way.

How the program ended: For a bit of comic relief, consider where Maddow ended this particular program. Discussing the suspension of Keith Olbermann, she offered a high-minded speech, in which she loftily explained that MSNBC ain’t like Fox:

MADDOW: Yes, Keith is a liberal, and so am I. And there are other people on this network whose political views are shared openly with you, our beloved viewers, but we are not a political operation. Fox is. We are a news operation, and the rules around here are a part of how you know that.

In fact, Maddow’s earlier segment was a virtual copy of Fox. She did what hosts on Fox routinely do: She made an utterly silly claim about the press corps’ alleged misconduct. She offered a couple of bogus “examples,” in which the journalists in question had actually done nothing like what she alleged. She then dragged a pundit onto the air to offer silly affirmation of her utterly bogus thesis. And she simply disappeared facts which don’t play well for her party.

This has always the practice on Fox. Now, it’s being done to liberals on Our Own Cable Channel. How hard the gods on Olympus must laugh when they watch this brilliant Rhodes Scholar perform! How hard they must laugh when they turn their gaze to her silent professors.

Where the segment came from: Just a guess: Maddow’s staff seem to have lifted the heart of this segment from this Christian Science Monitor report, written by Linda Feldmann. If you want to know where your “news” comes from, just compare what Feldmann wrote that morning with the pile of pluperfect crap Maddow later performed.

For the record: We’ll assume this segment was written by Maddow’s staff. Did Maddow know how bogus it was? Given her cosmic mediocrity, we truly have no idea.

What Lemon actually said: Quite casually, Maddow slandered Lemon, just as she has done with others in the past. In fact, Lemon said nothing that dimly resembled the “meme” Maddow stuck in her mouth. Just click here to read the full segment from which that Lemon statement was cadged. It’s stunning to see how casually Maddow will lie to us liberals, hoping it will make us adore her. It’s stunning to see how casually she will lie about decent broadcasters like Lemon.

This has always been the pattern on Fox. Now, it’s the pattern with Maddow. Can your nation survive?