Forced Bonhomie Between Rachel Maddow and NBC Colleague Richard Engel Results in Cringe-Inducing TV

Alas, it wasn't supposed to end this way, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow lamented to NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Baghdad last week after the departure of the last American combat brigade from Iraq.

Engel recounted his experiences covering the war, getting into Iraq on false pretenses just before the US-led invasion in 2003 and spending considerable time in the country thereafter (first part of embedded video) --

MADDOW: So you were here throughout for the first five, six years of the war?

ENGEL: Yes. I took little breaks but, straight, I was here 10, 11 months a year.

MADDOW: So when you, thinking now in August 2010, this is ending. I mean, Operation Iraqi Freedom ends now and did you have any idea this is the way that it would end?

ENGEL: It's ending with a little bit of a whisper.

MADDOW (plaintively): Yeah.

... and not with that Saigon-style rout I so anticipated ...

ENGEL: I mean, if you remember back, the huge media coverage, there were cameras everywhere, there were hundreds of embeds. Well, look at the media circus now? (turns around, arms raised for emphasis) This is it. There's nobody here. (turning to face Maddow directly) I mean, we're on a big base. When the war began there were cameras and cameras (repeating himself) and embeds and hundreds of reporters (ditto) fighting with each other to be part of this.

... unlike those who parachute in long after the dust has settled ...

MADDOW: Hmm hmm.

ENGEL (apologetically, arms extended to Maddow, damage control instinct kicking in): I'm really glad that you came ...

... why would you think otherwise ...?

ENGEL: ... and I'm glad we're covering it, but there's nobody here.

MADDOW (wanly): Yeah.

ENGEL: So it's ending so quietly. So I didn't expect that it would end like that.

At the start of the next segment of her show on Aug. 19, Maddow lobbed a shot back across Engel's bow (second part of clip) --

MADDOW: We're at the Palestine Hotel with (gesturing toward Engel) some jerk who we picked up on the street ...

 .... "nobody" here, huh ...?

The following night, on Aug. 20, Engel walked with Maddow through a Baghdad marketplace and stressed once more how he was really, really happy she was there (third part of clip) --

MADDOW: Can we walk?

ENGEL: Yeah, please do.

... whatever ...

MADDOW: So when you, when you're out in Baghdad, making this decision to take me here and do these things today ...

ENGEL (interrupting): I'm delighted that you are here ...

... again, why on earth would you think otherwise ...?

ENGEL: ... I really am, we haven't done this and we don't do this enough ...

... Let's mark our calendars and do it again, same time next decade ...

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts