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MADDOW NEVER STOPS! Maddow runs us rubes again, this time about filibusters: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, APRIL 12, 2010

Alexander’s raggedy band: For our money, Andrew Alexander has been a bit disappointing as ombudsman at the Washington Post. That said, we thought he did a good job in Sunday’s column, reviewing the paper’s coverage of the spitting/racial epithet incidents from those health reform protests. We thought his assessment of the story to date seemed fair and sensible in all respects—including the way he rolled his eyes at the conduct of Andrew Breitbart, the mega-fool who is now driving much pseudo-conservative messaging.

In Alexander’s view, the Post should do more reporting on these incidents—the spitting incident; the slurs aimed at Rep. Frank; the slurs aimed at Reps. Carson and Lewis. Given the way these incidents have been played by the Noise Machine, we agree that newspapers like the Post should make the facts more clear. We have begged and pleaded, for years: When millions of people are being misled about matters like these, big newspapers should step in and clarify facts. It’s a basic journalistic function.

That said: One day earlier, Colbert King had offered his second deeply unfortunate column on this subject (click here). Two weeks earlier, King had built an entire column around a deeply ridiculous premise—the faces of the people at the health care protests reminded him of the faces of racist protestors during the civil rights era (click this). It’s hard to think of a more ridiculous premise. But King tried hard to outdo himself in Saturday’s follow-up column. In King’s latest formulation, it seems that anyone who complains about “big government” thereby allies himself with the overt and hidden racism of the George Wallace of the 1950s and 1960s.

King included text of five e-mails he got last week (out of one thousand total). Several of these e-mailers call King a bigot. (Luckily, one of his mailers committed two typos, a point King was careful to note.) Sorry, but when people like King slime large numbers of people in such baldly ridiculous ways, it isn’t hard to see how the word might come to mind.

King is an African-American man of a certain age. It may be understandable when African-Americans who lived through the civil rights era react in such remarkable ways today. But that doesn’t make King’s columns fair or right, or even dimly defensible. Alexander is right to challenge the Post to do more reporting on the health protest incidents. The time has come for him to explain why King continues in this remarkable way.

One last thought: King’s work is gruesome on the merits—but it’s impossibly bad on the politics. As Obama’s numbers continue to slide, people like King—and Frank Rich; and Rep. Steve Cohen; and Joan Walsh; and Chris Matthews, a repurposed race-baiter from the pseudo-left—seem determined to engineer a very bad November. A certain type of pseudo-liberal has always performed this function, of course. This is especially true when white pseudo-liberals parade about pretending to be morally great about race.

Also this: In his own reporting, Alexander found that no reporters were present to see or hear the racial slurs aimed at Reps. Carson and Lewis. At Washington Monthly, Steve Benen has said the opposite on several occasions in the past few weeks. Our question: What is gained when liberal bloggers keep disinforming their readers? Second question: Are we just dittoheads now too? What makes us accept this trend?

MADDOW NEVER STOPS (permalink): Have Republicans pledged that they will filibuster Obama’s Supreme Court nominee? Actually no, they haven’t—unless you’re watching MSNBC. On Friday night, Rachel Maddow did her second segment on the topic, following a segment from April 5. This time, she ratcheted up her rather obvious dissembling:

MADDOW (4/9/10): The Republican Party [is] now threatening to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee who doesn’t yet exist.

The Supreme Court nomination battles have brought with them a little bit of everything over the past 100 years or so, but Republicans are ratcheting up for a fight for the sake of a fight, one that’s basically never been seen before—in the absence of President Obama even picking someone for the job yet. And that is worth remembering when they declare inevitably that the nominee is the worst communist, fringy, ideological pick ever!

It’s not about the nominee. It’s not about the nominee. They’re already pledging to filibuster before there is a nominee. They are just licking their chops for a fight for the sake of the fight.

We’ll be right back to talk potential nominees with Dahlia Lithwick.

They’re already “pledging to filibuster?” Maddow had played tape of two senators, Alexander and Kyl. Neither man had done any such thing, even after Maddow “edited” the tape of what Kyl had said. Indeed, in the passage posted above, Maddow jumps from a Republican “threat” to a Republican “pledge,” in just a few moments time. But so it frequently goes on this deeply disingenuous program.

Before we continue, take note of Maddow’s nugget statement: Republicans are ratcheting up for a fight for the sake of a fight, one that’s basically never been seen before. That exciting claim is just baldly untrue. Almost surely, Maddow knows it.

On Friday night, Maddow ran back through a presentation she had made the previous Monday. In this, her basic spiel from Friday’s program, she was misleading her viewers again. We will highlight the weasel word that lets you know you are most likely being played:

MADDOW (4/9/10): For all of the drama and passion and raw emotion that comes out of the Supreme Court nomination process, you know what doesn’t happen? Supreme Court nominees don’t get filibustered. For as partisan as these nomination fights can get, filibustering really just isn’t part of it.

In the entire history throughout the years, exactly one judge has ever been successfully filibustered. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson wanted to elevate Abe Fortas from being an associate justice on the court to being the chief justice of the court. Mr. Fortas was filibustered. He was not allowed to become chief justice. And the very next year, he resigned from the court under threat of impeachment for having done stuff like accepting thousands of dollars on outside payments on top of his Supreme Court salary.

In other words, Abe Fortas was really not your typical case.

Aside from Abe Fortas in 1968, nobody ever gets filibustered. Sometimes nominees don’t get confirmed by the Senate. Sometimes nominees do get confirmed but only after undergoing a brutal confirmation process. Sometimes nominees withdraw before making it to the Senate Judiciary Committee so the brutal nomination process can begin.

But by and large, Supreme Court nominees are given the deference of an up-or-down vote on their nomination. They are not filibustered.

As much as this seems like a process that can’t possibly get any more polarized, it can’t get any more exploited, it can’t be any more partisan, it is now, in 2010, officially more polarized, more exploited and more partisan than it has ever been before. And you can tell that because Republican members of the Senate are already threatening to filibuster the nominee to replace Justice Stevens—even though there isn’t even a nominee yet.

Sadly, that’s pure garbage. Just for the record, these were Maddow’s two basic points, on Friday as on Monday:

Supreme Court nominees don’t get filibustered. Abe Fortas is the only nominee who was ever “successfully” filibustered, Maddow says, using a weasel word she had also used on Monday.

Republicans are exploiting this process as never before. Despite the history Maddow has sketched, Republicans are threatening to filibuster Obama’s choice. They are making this threat, “even though there isn’t a nominee yet.”

(We liberals are supposed to be struck by the sheer absurdity of that final point. The GOP is threatening to filibuster even though there isn’t a nominee!)

How big a hack is Maddow? Her careful use of the word “successfully” lets us see that she almost surely understands the points which follow:

First: The last time President Bush faced a Supreme Court vacancy, Democrats refused to rule out the possible use of a filibuster—even though there wasn’t a nominee yet! On Sunday talk shows, Democrats said precisely the same sorts of things Republicans are saying now.

Second: In that case, Democrats actually did try to filibuster the eventual nominee, Samuel Alito. The filibuster failed, but 25 Democrats voted for it, including Senator Obama. Compare this basic fact to Maddow’s representations above, in which she tries to get us rubes all riled, giving us the false impression that this just never happens.

In short, Republican senators are saying the exact same things Democratic senators said at this stage in 2006. And in that case, Democrats didn’t just reserve the right to filibuster. Once Bush actually made a choice, twenty-five Democratic senators went ahead and tried to do it!

There was nothing wrong with what the Democrats said and did. There is nothing wrong with what Republican senators have said in the past week. But there’s something badly wrong with Madddow, one of the most disingenuous cable players we have ever seen. Madddow is in the business of running rubes. This is now how hustlers like Maddow earn millions of dollars—at the nation’s expense.