Here's why I ask. Maddow devotes many minutes on MSNBC stirring up hatred of Russia in order to establish that there is a vague possibility that President Donald Trump might be corrupted by a foreign government.
But that's already established beyond any doubt. China's state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower. It is also a major lender to Trump. Its rent payments and its loans put Trump in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Every building approval, extension of credit, tax break, subsidy, or waiver of normal rules that Trump's businesses get from numerous foreign governments, state governments, and the U.S. government define him as quintessentially impeachable.
So, if the point is just to document corruption by Trump, why reach and stretch for a speculative possibility, when you've got a solid case sitting in your lap?
Maddow opened her rant on Thursday by making clear that what was coming was baseless speculation that might conceivably turn out to be right. She then began by describing Mikhail Gorbachev as a man who "lost the Cold War" but got a Nobel Peace Prize as a "consolation." Then she praised a newspaper he started. But he himself wrote on Thursday in Time Magazine the polar opposite of what Maddow would go on to say. He proposed peace and disarmament. She launched into an attack on Putin as an "intense little man," whom she implied had a habit of murdering his critics.
In Russia, she said, there's no notion of an aggressive accountable press. And yet, she said, the Russian press has reported on the dramatic arrest and charging with treason of a top cyber official. Leaving the question of what that proves about Maddow's ostensible topic (Trump) completely vague, Maddow turns to denouncing Trump's Mexican wall plans as vague and rejecting his "unsupported contention" regarding voter fraud. Then she leaps into a series of unsupported contentions:
1. the pee-pee story
2. the evidence-free "intelligence community" report
3. an evidence-free October statement from DHS
4. an evidence-free September statement from the FBI
Worse than all those vague possibilities, Maddow says, is this: Rex Tillerson got a friendship award from Russia. Think about that. Here's a guy setting about rendering the earth's climate uninhabitable for his short-term greed, and Maddow wants to demonize him for getting a "friendship award." Then she attacks the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia and suggests the only possible explanation for that would have to be that Russia stole the election for Trump. As if lifting the sanctions were not needed in order for Tillerson's corporation to plunder Russia's oil and render the earth unlivable for our species and many others! The sanctions are needed, Maddow claims, because Russia "unilaterally annexed part of another country and took their land." As if Crimea didn't vote. As if a non-unilateral annexation would be one where the people do not get to vote?!
Maddow goes on and on demonizing Russia and Putin. She airs for free and in its entirety a television ad that refers to as fact "Putin's attacks on our democracy." Then she credits the ad, which asked no questions, with raising legitimate questions. Then Maddow declares that there will be an investigation into "Russia's efforts to influence our election on Trump's behalf," which assumes as fact all the evidence-free claims and then piles on the claim to know Russia's motivation. Yet, later Maddow's theory devolves into just the possibility that some little fragment within all these evidence-free accusations could be true -- and it would be over that fragment that a Russian was arrested for treason. Maddow struggles at this point to make the chronology work, since the arrest was in early December. Yet she asserts as simple fact that the treason arrest was in fact a response to U.S. election tampering.
Maddow, meanwhile, makes clear that she believes actual evidence of Russian hacking, supplying WikiLeaks, etc., exists somewhere in the U.S. government. Yet people are leaking torture prison plans and embarrassing accounts right out of the White House, and we're to believe that nobody in any of the sainted 17 "intelligence" agencies would leak evidence if it existed?
What if by some bizarre series of coincidences Maddow were right? How, even then, would you justify stirring up a cold war with a nuclear government over that government revealing to your public that one of your political parties had rigged its primary? Wouldn't some of the blame go to that party? Wouldn't a little restraint in name-calling and demonizing be in order? Wouldn't the outrages that Trump openly commits deserve a bit of condemnation as well?
We're facing open corruption, militarism, advocacy for torture, discrimination, xenophobic immigration bans, attacks on basic necessary services, actual attacks on voting rights and election integrity -- and rather than taking these problems on, Maddow prefers to find one problem that originates in an evil foreign land. I suppose that's a more comfortable place to lay blame. But even a country that would elect a fascist clown because another country had made public that an election was flawed would be a deeply deficient country in need of self-improvement in a major way.
I asked observant media critic Norman Solomon (with whom I work at RootsAction.org) what he thought of Maddow's performance, and he replied:
"Maddow's 25-minute soliloquy was a liberal version of Glenn Beck at the whiteboard. Her plot line was the current Democratic party line -- free-associating facts, possible facts, dubious assertions and pure speculation to arrive at conclusions that were based on little more than her zeal to portray Trump as a tool of the Kremlin. Even when sober, Joe McCarthy never did it better.
"We might dismiss her performance as just another bit of stagecraft on 'MSDNC,' but Maddow is in sync with widespread fear-mongering by pundits and Democratic Party loyalists who think they're picking some low-hanging fruit to throw at Trump. But what they're doing is poisonous -- and extremely dangerous. Escalate a new Cold War? Push the U.S. government into evermore assertive brinkmanship? Push the world to the precipice of nuclear holocaust and maybe over it? Humanity deserves better than mega-propaganda that could lead to the world blowing up."