Now More Than Ever You Need Rachel Maddow

By James M. Wall

Rachel Maddow is quite simply the best thing to happen to American political journalism in my lifetime.  And that covers at least seven decades.

Maddow has just been given her own hour-long show in MSNBC-TV’s evening lineup, Monday-Friday at 9 p.m. EST.

She is funny and passionate about life. She started her career as an AIDs activist. She is also attractive and charming, a good recommendation for either a female broadcaster or a political candidate, as we discovered when Sarah Palin burst on the scene at the Republican convention.

Unlike Palin, however, Maddow possesses street smarts and is a deep thinker who can summarize complex political issues with a deprecating smile.

The Rachel Maddow Show is available only on cable television (remember, 9 p.m. EST, with repeats on some nights). What that means is that if you don’t have cable, you have just enough time to order a cable connection before the Second Presidential Debate Tuesday night. If you still need convincing, read this lengthly and admiring profile.

I have been a guest on enough radio and television news programs to know when the interviewer is listening to what I say or just waiting for me to shut up. Maddow pays attention and respects divergent opinions.

Maddow has found a home on cable with its niche targeted audiences. Fox started it all by becoming the right wing house organ, led by a bombastic Bill O’Reilly. For a recent O’Reilly attack on Congressman Barney Frank, you don’t want to miss this Huffington Post posting.  CNN does not use that Foxian bombastic style; it tries to find a journalist balance between right and left, though its loyalty to the reigning powers is always evident.

Maddow brings just the right tone to MSNBC to with her progressive views (also available on Air America radio.). Progressives are sceptics; no political party can meets their high degree of certainty. As a progressive, Maddow is not as partial to the Democratic ticket as Keith Olberman, a fellow MSNBC colleague, whose “Countdown” first introduced Maddow to a television audience.

She is also not as caustic or rabid as her other MSNBC colleague, Chris Matthews. She does not try and match Olberman’s use of humorous Republican failures, though she does like to report them with her wry grin.

Maddow is not as experienced in gut-level politics as Matthews, who may one day run for the US Senate in his native Pennsylvania.  Nor can she match Olberman’s decade-long development as a sports reporter, nor his encyclopedic knowledge of history and culture. And yes, we are talking about that same Keith Olberman who is part of the studio team on NBC’s Sunday Night football shows.

But for all those reasons, Maddow is a God-send to American political journalism. She burst into the MSNBC nightly lineup during the 2008 primary season, bringing a leaven to the partisan harshness in which her male counterparts specialize.

If you pray nightly for an Obama-Biden victory you will, of course, embrace Matthews and Olberman, along with Maddow.  But no matter your persuasion, or if you are one those political watchers with an earnest need to see “both sides”, you must watch Rachel Maddow every week day night.

For me, because I like them both, Rachel (“can I call you Rachel?”) is at her best sharing the screen with Pat Buchanan, a frequent guest on her program.  Maddow first noticed Buchanan when he ran for the White House in 1992.  She was 19 and an avowed Lesbian. She recalls perking up when Buchanan did the anti-gay thing of his Republican hard core conservative base.

Here was this fellow saying, she recalls, that we were a nation fighting a culture war and she was on the “wrong side”. (It was Buchanan who introduced “culture war” to the political dialogue.  Still, Rachel felt there was something about Buchanan’s style of dogmatic certainty and wit that she admired. You will too, after you see the two of them together on the Rachel Maddow show.

Forget about Buchanan’s role on the stale “both sides” panel John McLaughin fronts for PBS.  McLaughn uses Buchanan as a foil to bolster his own conservative views while Rachel respects her friend Pat as a worthy opponent.

PAUSE: Have you made the call to add cable to your home?  Good, now lets get ready for the final 30 days of a campaign that will make Swift Boating pale in comparison as a lesson in how dangerous losers become winners because they know how to slip toxic and absurd charges into the sacred mix of choosing a president.

The McCain campaign, led by its own personal Pit Bull, has begun to haul out Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright to tap into the phony patriotism and endemic racism that revs up its base and touches the doubt nerves of the undecided voters.

McCain said earlier in the campaign that he did not want Wright to be an issue.  He must have had his mind changed by his handlers. The Pit Bull was given the go ahead to strike first on both Ayers and Wright.  In a campaign stop, Palin admitted she had, just that very morning,  read a newspaper, the New York Times,m gosh darn it, and she learned about this fellow named Ayers. She may think she is being funny but she sounds like she has been hiding in an igloo during the Democratic primaries.

Bill Ayers was tossed into the mix by Hillary Clinton during the primaries and quickly refuted with the obvious rejoinder that the radicalism of Ayers was 40 years ago.  Makes me think of Arlo Guthrie singing “Alice’s Restaurant”, in which, at a crucial moment in the song’s long narrative, the police officer asks Guthrie, “Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?”

Well, yes, Ayers, who now teaches at the University of Illinois, Chicago campus, and is respected enough to serve on prestigious non profit boards (where fellow board member Obama met him for the first time), is no longer the radical he was 40 years ago.  He has, indeed,  been “rehabilitated”.

Judging from John McCain’s ham-handed handling of the financial meltdown, a crisis helped along by the absence of restraints on the banking system, the Senator from Arizona has not been rehabilitated from his dark days as a member of the Keating Five.

The Obama campaign sent out emails Monday morning to its supporter network with a link to a 13-minute video tracing the Keating Five history.  The McCain campaign held a conference call after the video was released to “refute” its findings.

Keating is not a name McCain needed to hear at this stage in the campaign.  Perhaps the Pit Bull may not have known about the Keating Five. If she had would she have grasped the impact of her Ayers attack on Obama?  The smear team that gave George W. Bush a second term with its Swift Boat lies, may have hoped Obama would try and ignore their smears.  He will not.

Surely Palin’s Kovian handlers, who hover in the background of every interview she is allowed to give to even friendly conservative journalists, knew what they where doing.  It was in a telephone interview with the New York Times house neo-conservative columnist, Bill Kristol, that she tossed out the first Jeremiah Wright salvo. In case you cannot connect with the Times link (they sometimes block non subscribers), Kristol admits he knew she was under tight handler control:

I asked her whether she’d like to take this opportunity to challenge Joe Biden to another one. There was a pause, and I thought I heard some staff murmuring in the background (we were on speaker phones). She passed on the notion of a challenge. But she did say she was more than willing to accept an invitation to debate with Biden again, and even expressed a preference for a town hall meeting-type format.

If you still think you can survive the next 30 days without cable in your home, I will try one last time. Read the entire essay Sam Boyd wrote for the American Spectator, referred to above. He sums up Rachel Maddow’s intellect and wide-ranging curiosity in this pertinent paragraph:

Her whip-smart retorts as a member of MSNBC’s commentary panel during the 2008 presidential primaries first brought her to the attention of many liberal political junkies who hadn’t heard her on Air America. And while her first exclusive gig at MSNBC may have been talking horse-race politics on Race for the White House, she’s actually most interested in foreign policy and national security. In addition to her daily radio show and nightly MSNBC appearances, Maddow has been spending several hours a day writing a book about the role of the American military in foreign policy.

The author of this post has no connection to the cable industry.  He thinks they charge too much and have too strong a monopoly. But right now, there are other battles to fight.

Picture above is by Virginia Sherwood/NBC Newswire via AP Images

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in -Archive 2008, Media, Politics and Elections. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Now More Than Ever You Need Rachel Maddow

  1. Joyce says:

    Jim, I had noticed this reporter and didn’t know anything about her. Her reporting may make the next month of election coverage a bit more fun. Thank you! And. . . I already have basic cable, so I’m set.

  2. spudsie says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write all of this. I love watching Rachel on MSNBC and was delighted when she was given her own show!

    Watching Rachel and Pat debate is priceless!!!! They fight like cats and dogs–but have a genuine respect for each other that’s easy to see.

  3. Cynthia says:

    If this is a religious website as advertised, i can’t see how you can support Rachael Maddow so glowingly. She is so full of nastiness and shows no fairness to her targets.

  4. Claire says:

    “Rachel Maddow is quite simply the best thing to happen to American political journalism in my lifetime.”

    Surely you jest. Maddow is better than Tim Russert, who famously said in 2000 that it would all come down to Florida before others were saying it? Better than Tom Brokaw? I think you need some fresh air.

    “CNN does not use that Foxian bombastic style; it tries to find a journalist balance between right and left, though its loyalty to the reigning powers is always evident.”

    Many, many Clinton supporters tend to disagree. Including prominent Democratic strategists. CNN has, for the most part, been the left’s equivalent of Fox News.

    “Maddow brings just the right tone to MSNBC to with her progressive views (also available on Air America radio.).”

    Yes. Thank God there’s finally a progressive at MSNBC. I was getting sick and tired of all of those Evangelical Conservatives hanging around there.

    “McCain said earlier in the campaign that he did not want Wright to be an issue. ”

    And Obama said he’d enter into talks on public financing. Guess they both don’t keep their word.

    “Well, yes, Ayers, who now teaches at the University of Illinois, Chicago campus, and is respected enough to serve on prestigious non profit boards (where fellow board member Obama met him for the first time), is no longer the radical he was 40 years ago. He has, indeed, been “rehabilitated”.”

    That’s funny, because he said in 2001 that he wished he’d bombed more buildings, called again for the downfall of capitalism in 2006, and was pictured standing on a flag just a few years ago. He’s never served time for his crimes, has never repented for them, and only regrets that he didn’t do more.

    “respected enough to serve on prestigious non profit boards”? Hello; This is Chicago. Home of Chicago corruption and radicalism.

    “Bill Ayers was tossed into the mix by Hillary Clinton during the primaries and quickly refuted with the obvious rejoinder that the radicalism of Ayers was 40 years ago. ”

    No. The bombings he got away with were 40 years ago. Calling for the downfall of capitalism (2006) and saying you wish you’d bombed more buildings (2001) is still radicalism.

    “The smear team that gave George W. Bush a second term with its Swift Boat lies, may have hoped Obama would try and ignore their smears. ”

    None of which John Kerry has ever disproven. Oh, and please don’t mind those pesky, you know, tapes of Kerry saying what he was accused of.

  5. MichaelG says:

    preaching to the choir…she’s wonderful!

  6. Just found this site and bookmarked it, Great job!

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