Home Media Two-Fer: Spreading the Gangrene to Pence and Ryan, and Supporting Lawrence O’Donnell

Two-Fer: Spreading the Gangrene to Pence and Ryan, and Supporting Lawrence O’Donnell


Never Forget: It’s Bigger than Trump

Although the Trump problem is urgent, Trump is also a symptom of a much deeper problem that permeates today’s Republican Party. So any strategy to protect the nation should take that into account.

Even if Trump goes down, the next people in line for the presidency are morally bankrupt as well. In case either Mike Pence or Paul Ryan ever becomes president, a good strategy should be making sure even now  that the dirt they’ve earned by their conduct during the age of Trump is visible to the public. And even if Trump remains president, a good strategy should make sure that the rot of this Trump presidency is understood by Americans to infect also the GOP’s other leaders.

Going After Pence and Ryan for Their Sins

When it comes to spreading the gangrene, hats off to two hosts on MSNBC’s evening line-up.

It was Rachel Maddow who repeatedly stressed — starting back in March — how Mike Pence’s story regarding Mike Flynn did not make sense. She pointed out how Pence went so far out of his way (“methinks he doth protest too much”) to say how he was only just then learning about Michael Flynn’s being an agent of a foreign power. And she showed how implausible that claim was, in view of various messages being sent to the Trump transition team of which Pence was in charge.

Nowadays, such apparent lies from Pence are getting more media attention. But, to the best of my knowledge, it was Maddow who flagged Pence’s apparent complicity in the campaign by Trumpworld to deceive and cover-up.

A good Democratic strategy would keep Pence’s involvement in the spotlight, and keep alive the question, what did Pence know and when did he know it?

It was Lawrence O’Donnell who recognized that the story of the Kevin Nunes affair appears to implicate Paul Ryan. O’Donnell has tried repeatedly — but it seems unsuccessfully — to direct media attention to investigate what scraps of evidence clearly pointed to: that Paul Ryan seems to have played an untold role in that Nunes affair in which Devin Nunes disgraced himself by colluding with the White House he was supposed to be investigating.

Back at that time, O’Donnell pointed out

  • that Nunes said — let it slip, O’Donnell would say — that the first thing he did (in his bizarre odyssey of collusion with the White House that led to his having to withdraw from his leadership of the investigation by the House Intelligence Committee) was to go talk to the Speaker of the House;
  • it was only after that meeting with Paul Ryan that Nunes made his farcical and ill-fated trip to the White House;
  • that whatever a person in Nunes’s position would do, after such a meeting with the Speaker of the House, would invariably be either with the approval or at the instigation of the Speaker.

(Despite O’Donnell’s efforts, Ryan has not been pressed much on this. A writer on Daily Kos did pick up on it in the latter half of March:

This means that Ryan instructed his House Intelligence Chairman to brief the very person his committee is investigating on confidential information germane to that investigation… before he’d shared it with any of the other members of the committee.

This could be classic Obstruction of Justice.)

A good Democratic strategy will press that issue with Ryan, repeatedly, questioning Ryan’s denial that he played any role in the Nunes’ fiasco, which is surely part of the effort by the Republicans, as well as Trump, to obstruct justice.

That last point of O’Donnell’s — about what the relationship between the Speaker of the House, and a Committee chairman whose power and status depend completely on that Speaker — is indicative of what O’Donnell consistently brings to our understanding of these fraught times.

O’Donnell spent years as a Senate staffer, and he knows a great deal about how the place works. Such knowledge is important in these times, and O’Donnell offer frequent insights not readily gained elsewhere. (Most recently, he conjectured helpfully about why James Comey would have accepted the invitation for his public testimoy from the Senate Intelligence Committee but did not accept the invitation from the Senate Judiciary Committee.)

Rally to Save O’Donnell

Yet it has recently been disclosed that MSNBC will not be renewing O’Donnell’s contract, which expires next month. This is not about ratings, as O’Donnell’s Last Word is the second most highly rated show in the MSNBC line-up.

So why would NBC/MSNBC fire an excellent host of a highly rated show? Reports lay the responsibility at the door of Andrew Lack, NBC News and MSNBC Chairman. Lack is said to be “no fan” of the show. But beyond that, it is said that another factor is that Donald Trump is also no fan. Indeed, Trump has in the past gone out of his way to express his animus against O’Donnell.

Why a network should be intimidated by the hostility of a president who is on the ropes is unclear. But then there’s the other thing that’s said about the network’s refusal to renew O’Donnell’s show: that Andrew Lack wants to remake the progressive MSNBC into a Fox News Jr.

Whatever the reasons why O’Donnell seems likely soon to lose the platform from which he has lately been performing at the top of his game, the question arises: Can anything now be done to save O’Donnell’s show? (And save MSNBC from being pushed to the right?)

The Daily Kos evidently thinks so. It has launched a petition drive to accomplish this.

If all that’s at stake here is O’Donnell and his show, that’s reason enough to fight this battle, if there’s any chance of success.

But if it is the whole progressive tilt of MSNBC that is at stake, then it is imperative that this battle be joined.

If the O’Donnell case is just a piece of a larger drive to silence the highly intelligent, well-informed, morally courageous voices of people like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, etc., and replace them with people like the refugees from Fox News that the Network has lately been hiring, we should know by now that the stakes are very high.

We have witnessed how the dominance of the airwaves by Rush Limbaugh on the radio and Fox on cable news has degraded the nation. As Fox News is falling apart because of its own corruptions, and people like Hayes/Maddow/O’Donnell are doing yeoman work to uncover the truth about these times, our forces should rally to block Andrew Lack’s apparent intentions to silence the truth-tellers and fortify the right.

Does anyone here know if that can be done, and if so, how?





  • Andy Schmookler

    Just ran into this: “Lawrence O’Donnell Update: MSNBC is Finally Negotiating Due to Intense Fan Pressure”

    The story contains these paragraphs:

    “So here’s the good news. Friedman just published a new article
    that contradicts his prior exclusive. Apparently the outcry from
    viewers was so powerful that it pushed MSNBC to the negotiating table.
    Indeed, there has been a flood of angry viewers swarming Facebook and
    Twitter in defense of O’Donnell. The result appears to be the first
    serious talks between the network and its star.

    “It’s too soon, however, to declare victory. Until there’s a signed
    contract that locks O’Donnell into his current time slot, fans need to
    keep the pressure on. But they can do so with the knowledge that such
    tactics are working. You can call them at 212-664-4444 and email them at letters@msnbc.com.”

    • Regardless, MSNBC is already a really bad network that’s getting worse and worse. More broadly, “cable news” is an oxymoron, mostly trash or right-wing propaganda. There are much, much, much better sources for news, to put it mildly…

      • Andy Schmookler

        I respectfully disagree with that judgment. I find the level of discussion to be found on Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell to be highly worthwhile. Their version of “cable news” makes an important contribution.

        All three of those hosts are very bright, and well-informed, and care about the same things that you and I do.

        As for the “much, much, much better sources for news,” how many of them are on television? I gave up on the PBS News Hour long ago. Gave up on the main network News shows even longer ago than that. Is there something better on TV, or are the places you have in mind all on a different medium?

        If the better sources are all on different media, wouldn’t giving up on MSNBC mean giving up on television altogether? I understand that a lot of people are “pulling the plug,” but we are still talking about audiences that number in the seven digits at least.

        I don’t think we can afford to reject as irrelevant the best reporting that we have on what remains an essential medium of communication.

        • You disagree with what, that MSNBC is a bad network getting worse, that “cable news’ is generally an oxymoron, or what? Yes, Hayes/Maddow/O’Donnell are generally good, but that doesn’t change the retched – or at best mediocre – nature of “Morning Joke,” Chuck(les) Todd, Great Van Susteren, Chris Matthews, Brian Williams, George Will (GACK!!!), Nicole Wallace (former Dubya advisor), Hugh Hewitt (also GACK!!!), etc. etc.

          • Andy Schmookler

            So the disagreement seems much reduced, but there still may remain an important point at issue.

            You agree with me that Hayes/Maddow/O’Donnell are “generally good.” And I agree with you that most of these other characters are nothing to cheer about, or worse.

            But I read your original comment as saying, in effect, “I don’t support your call for us to rescue Lawrence O’Donnell, nor to fight against taking MSNBC in the direction Andrew Luck seems to want to take it. I don’t support it because the network stinks, we’ve got better sources, and ‘cable news’ is an oxymoron.”

            If your ultimate point was to say that there’s nothing here worth fighting for, then we still do have a disagreement. If your critique of MSNBC still leaves room to support trying to preserve what’s goo there, then all the differences that first appeared would seem to be ironed out.

            For me, personally, losing O’Donnell and the other two shows would be a major loss. I like discussion, if the discussants are smart, honest, and knowledgeable. And those three conduct discussions with many people I want to hear from.

            Reporting in the usual journalistic sense is important. But I get a great deal from those discussions that I would not get from a set of reports.

          • No, I was just slamming MSNBC, other than the three (O’Donnell, Maddow, Hayes) mentioned as worth watching and/or fighting for. Other than that, it’s dreck, as is the vast majority of cable (or network) “news.”

          • pa2vadem

            You forgot Joy Reid

          • Yes, Joy Reid is excellent!