Rachel Maddow at Most Eel-Like Emerges During Interview With Jon Stewart

Think that liberals are slippery when disagreeing with a conservative? They're just as bad during an exchange with another liberal. One didn't have to wait long for examples of this during Rachel Maddow's interview with Jon Stewart on her MSNBC show Nov. 11.

Here's Maddow in the first segment of the interview attempting to draw a distinction between "direct-action activists" such as members of Code Pink and the tea party members who disrupted town hall meetings on health care in August 2009 (video below page break) --

MADDOW: I mean, the people interrupting  meetings and interrupting rallies are direct-action activists who are doing stuff to be purposely disruptive and a pain in order to sort of throw a wrench in the works. And then on the other side ...

STEWART: So you're saying that it's really nothing?

MADDOW: Well, it's not that it's nothing, it's just not being done with the same level of authority as it is on the right. Like the Second Amendment remedies thing, that's people running for Senate.
 

STEWART: But how did you handle town hall meetings when tea partiers interrupted the town hall meetings? With the same level of dismissiveness? Or did you handle it with the sense that, what's going on here, these angry people? Who are these angry people?

MADDOW: Well, my coverage of that was about it being organized.

STEWART: OK.

MADDOW: Yeah.

STEWART: But again, that is, your coverage of it was to delegitimize it. That is was actually not real, it was astroturf.

MADDOW: No, actually not. It was, I think my approach to that was to say this is being used as a widespread political tactic by people with a lot of money and a lot of stake in the policy issues, and they're sort of deploying direct-action activists in a way that we haven't seen before.

In other words, "astroturf" -- just as Stewart had characterized Maddow's take on it. And for Maddow to claim she did not try to "delegitimize it" runs into the awkward problem of being refuted by every Maddow utterance on the subject. And no,  Ms. Maddow, the "Second Amendment remedies thing" did not come from "people running for Senate," it came from a person, Sharron Angle, who went on to lose her bid to unseat Harry Reid, thereby giving Angle little in the way of "authority."

More from the same exchange (1:03 in video) --

STEWART: Would you say that the general spirit of the block of coverage on MSNBC was as dismissive of the woman who stands up and says Bush is a war criminal or the people at the town hall? Do you think that they were viewed through the same prism?

MADDOW: I think that they were viewed through an appropriately proportional prism because I think Code Pink is like 12 ladies and I think that, literally, half of Indiana says they identify with the tea party.

All the more reason for MSNBC hosts to denigrate tea partiers as racist, violence-prone xenophobes. Heck, these zealots represent only half the residents in one of the most representative states in the country.

Another exchange, on whether MSNBC swung left in response to Fox (1:36 in video) --

STEWART: How did Fox delegitimize media? By just relentlessly ...

MADDOW (crosstalk): ... biased.

STEWART: That's right. And so the answer to that is, well, why don't we form just a more ideological network?! That's fighting fire with fire to some extent.

MADDOW: I don't know that that was the answer, though. I mean, I don't think that we ...

STEWART: Do you think that MSNBC has changed over the last five years? You know, there is a genetic linkage between Keith, Keith was the first and it was a voice, like, in the wilderness. People were like, what?! Oh my God, you can say that?! You know, and then you came on and Ed and again, now I'm talking about climate as opposed to weather. But it does create a linkage that I think it would be hard for you to say, like, geez, I don't know if we're really doing that. Then what are you doing?

MADDOW: No, I think that what happens is, I think the media, having have been derided for so long as being liberal and biased and being very afraid of that charge, when Keith spoke out the way he did, he essentially came out of the closet as a liberal. And it didn't, nothing bad happened. It was OK, he still, he grew his audience if anything. And so I think it gave network executives some courage to say, OK, people who are liberals can be on TV as long as they call themselves liberals. And then they hired the rest of us.

People working in the media, Maddow says, were "derided for so long as being liberal" and became "very afraid of that charge" -- thereby confirming its legitimacy. Followed by Olbermann, one of the most conspicuous figures on cable, coming "out of the closet as a liberal" -- and promptly denying that he was, a la Michael Dukakis in the '88 campaign. Four years after Olbermann's laughable denial, it's become too absurd to parrot, even for a protege like Maddow.

More from this specific exchange between Maddow and Stewart (2:46 in video) --

STEWART: See, I think that the idea that network executives work on courage is, I think what they did is, they went, why is Fox News kicking our asses? We need to fight this with a similar or sensational, you know, this is an arms race.

MADDOW: But you know, it's not, I mean, being here and talking, having those conversations, that never happens. What happens is, look! Keith's making money! How can we do more of that? I mean, that's more the conversation than ...

STEWART: That's what I just said.

MADDOW: But no, you said that Fox is beating us, how can we be more like Fox?

STEWART: Well no no no, how do we, Keith is making money and it seems like, I don't think you can separate the atmosphere at Fox and think that network executives don't look at, nothing succeeds like excess, or whatever it, nothing exceeds like excess.

I think what Stewart meant to say here is that nothing succeeds like success -- as shown by Fox consistently beating MSNBC in the ratings, before and after Olbermann came out of a closet no one was surprised he inhabited. Once again, Maddow claims to disagree with Stewart, followed by her mouthing a variation of what he had just said. "Why is Fox News kicking our asses?" Stewart asks in the manner of MSNBC execs, worried about lost revenue from such a pounding and hence the need for something "similar or sensational." No, Maddow disingenuously counters, MSNBC execs let Olbermann cut loose and, voila!, "Keith's making a lot of money."

You too have had plenty of conversations like this with liberals, having you?

Next example, Maddow chiding Stewart for what she considers unfair criticism of left wingers (3:32 in video) --

MADDOW: I do feel like the left gets, including from you, gets criticized for stuff that we don't deserve, because it is more institutional on the right than it is on the left and that the examples that are called, you know, whether it's Alan Grayson yelling on the floor of the House or it's Code Pink interrupting a rally, are not equivalent to Sharron Angle saying if conservatives don't get what they want they are going to use guns to get what they want and she's a US Senate candidate.

Angle as candidate for Congress is more "institutional" than Grayson as member of Congress? How about cartoonist Ted Rall telling MSNBC soulmate Dylan Ratigan that left-wingers have been "very peaceful" since the Kent State shootings in 1970 and "what has it gotten us? Would this be "institutional" or "structural" in the Maddow lexicon?

A minute later, Maddow said this (3:55 in video) --

MADDOW: I sort of feel like we're doing the same thing, that you make, that essentially you exaggerate in order to be funny or in order to make a point and everybody understands there's a little exaggeration.

STEWART: That's true.

MADDOW: But there's a commitment, I think we both have a commitment to not (clears throat), to not lying, to telling, to telling the truth even when we are making a point.

STEWART: As we see it, as we see it.

MADDOW: Yeah.

"Even as we are making a point" -- as opposed to "especially when we are making a point." As to be expected from a star pupil at the Olbermann School of Polemics.

After the interview, Maddow told viewers (4:18 in video)  that "it was really nice of Stewart" to be interviewed, despite reeling from stomach flu. "I am as much a fan as I ever was," Maddow proclaimed. "The full, untrimmed, too-long-for-TV discussion will be posted at maddowblog.msnbc tomorrow morning." And there, in the second segment of the Stewart interview on Maddow's website, as shown at 4:43 in the embedded video here, is the interview getting, ah, trimmed.

Funny thing about actual commitments to telling the truth. They extend to minor stuff too.

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