I was right there with you, watching that disaster unfold on the Rachel Maddow show last night. Not to brag, but I had a sneaking suspicion it wasn’t going to live up to the hype even before the show started:

In general, if something is truly-earth shattering news, they will tell you about it right away, not tease it out with a countdown clock. That’s why election night coverage isn’t: “You’ll be shocked when you see who won the Presidency! Details at 11.”

David Cay Johnston, the journalist who says he received the tax forms in the mail, allowed that it was possible that Trump himself might have leaked them. However, the fact that Trump has tweeted angrily about it afterwards has led people to think that he probably didn’t leak them after all:

People, in my opinion, are way too gullible.  The wording of Trump’s tweet is highly suspicious. For one thing, he phrases it in the form of a question–he doesn’t say it didn’t happen; he just asks if people believe it.

Now, I admit: I myself am a bit skeptical of Johnston’s story. He says he got a package in the mail that contained these tax returns.  Apparently, he doesn’t know who sent it to him or how they obtained it.  Which would raise questions as to its veracity, except that the White House almost immediately verified it last night!

Either Johnston is an idiot who didn’t think it was worth looking into why he got the President’s tax returns in the mail–very unlikely, since he’s a Pulitzer-winning journalist–or he’s lying to protect a source.

So, Trump (a) knew immediately that it really was his 2005 1040 form and (b) questioned Johnston’s story as to how he got it. This strongly suggests that Trump knows perfectly well how Johnston got it–which in turn suggests that some agent acting on orders from Trump gave it to him.

As Johnston himself admitted, the tax forms are actually favorable to Trump. They prove he did pay taxes for at least that one year, and show little evidence of nefarious dealings.

The end result is that Rachel Maddow got humiliated. (I’m sorry; I usually like Maddow’s work a lot, but she really screwed up here.) More importantly, though, Trump can now use this episode as an excuse to brush off all further questions about his taxes. Journalists won’t ask about it because they don’t want to screw up like Maddow did.

And what’s worse is that if anyone does somehow get hold of more of his taxes, people will be less inclined to pay attention to it. “It’s another publicity stunt,” they’ll say.

It’s true: I’ve always found the whole Trump-won’t-release-his-taxes story to be a bit overhyped. Yes, it was bad and a violation of historical precedent that he didn’t release them. But, on the list of “things that are bad and violate historical precedent” that Trump has done, it’s far from the worst.

And then there’s fact that there can’t be anything that damning in them.  They are taxes. They go to the Federal government. Logically, Trump is not going to put down anything illegal that he might be doing in his taxes.

As a thought experiment, let’s say the absolute worst conspiracy theories about Trump are true, and he’s actually colluding with the Russian government.  He’s not going to put that in his taxes.  There is no box that asks “Are you a spy for Russia?” on tax forms.

Furthermore, any circumstantial evidence that would suggest illegal activity by Trump, he would also not put in his taxes. If someone is already willing to commit crimes, he’s not going to hesitate to commit tax fraud to cover them up.

I’m not saying Trump has done any of this, but even if he has, there won’t be hard evidence of it in his taxes. At best, there might be circumstantial evidence, which Trump can dismiss with a simple “FAKE NEWS. Sad!” tweet.

I’ve always liked Bill O’Reilly–which is weird, because I don’t agree with the majority of his political views at all.  His bombastic style is definitely not “real journalism”, but I’ve always found it entertaining–a lot like John McLaughlin.  People say he’s a bully, and I can’t really disagree, but his manner reminds me of my Irish family members–they’ll yell and swear and browbeat somebody in an argument, and then afterwards shake hands and say “great to see you”.

Yeah, I guess I’m probably in a tiny minority as a liberal who likes O’Reilly and can’t stand Olbermann.  I like to be different.  I once read that Robert Frost said “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”

Anyway, so O’Reilly has been caught misrepresenting his role in various events–saying he was present in “a war zone” during the Falklands conflict, when in fact he was not; saying he was knocking at George de Mohrenschildt‘s door as de Mohrenschildt committed suicide, when O’Reilly was not even in the state at the time.  Coming so soon on the heels of the Brian Williams scandal, people are calling on Fox News to suspend him, just as NBC suspended Williams. Of course, Fox has not done that.

The reason for this discrepancy is that O’Reilly is an entertainer, whereas Brian Williams is a news reporter.  People who watched Williams expected to get factual information, and when he didn’t deliver, they got mad.  People who watch O’Reilly just want to be entertained.  Some love him, some hate him, but they all just want to see what he’s going to do next.  Whether any of it resembles truth is not relevant. This was proven quite conclusively when O’Reilly totally screwed up the history of the Malmedy massacre, saying the Americans committed the atrocity against the German SS prisoners, when actually it was the Germans committing it against the Americans. That’s a pretty pathetic error to  make.

But who cares if O’Reilly doesn’t know history?  He’s an entertainer.  Hence the comparison to McLaughlin–no one knows what he’s talking about half the time, even the other panelists, but it’s fun to watch, by golly!

That’s why NBC had to punish Williams, but Fox doesn’t need to punish O’Reilly: they’re not really in the same business.  In NBC’s business, credibility matters.

I have a confession to make, my fellow liberals: I have never liked Keith Olbermann.

I agree with most of his political opinions, of course. But for some reason, he always seemed like a jerk to me. I feel bad saying that about a guy I never met, but he just does. I could never stand to watch his show Countdown on MSNBC or Current TV for very long; I mean, sure, he was very witty and clever in mocking various Republicans, which of course is something I am quite in favor of, but the guy just annoyed me. He has a way of speaking always slightly too loudly. (A trait he shares with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, although Olbermann does at least have a better speaking voice) Everything Olbermann said and did on his show seemed so overly theatrical, it was hard to take him seriously at all.

I also thought he was incredibly obnoxious on NBC’s Football Night in America. It seemed like he only had three or four jokes that he used every Sunday night during the highlights. I always dreaded when anybody fumbled the ball just because I knew Olbermann was going to say “so-and-so is stripped–fortunately only of the football.” It was funny the first ten times, man.

I suspect he actually is a jerk; at least, that would explain why he keeps getting fired from every network he goes to.

But at least he is partially responsible for Rachel Maddow getting her altogether superior liberal talk-show. That’s something to his credit.

According to Politico:

“Both Media Matters for America and Color of Change are petitioning MSNBC this week to either fire or sanction former GOP presidential candidate and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan for what the two organizations characterize as the use of his platform to espouse bigotry and white supremacy.”

Well, I realize that Buchanan probably is a racist. He says a lot of offensive stuff, no question. But I think he’s very valuable as an analyst nonetheless.

This clip of him on the show Hardball embedded at Little Green Footballs illustrates why. In that clip, while discussing something pro-“Birther” that Sarah Palin said, Buchanan says:

“Look, I’ve got the ‘Black Helicopter’ folks, used to ask me ‘are you going to abolish the Fed’?… You say ‘Well, look, I basically don’t agree with you… but I’d like your support.‘” (Emphasis added, and I had to transcribe it myself, so it might be a little off.)

This is the sort of thing politicians and strategists think, but aren’t supposed to say. But Buchanan says it. In this way, he is capable of revealing what all the amoral strategists are thinking. Perhaps unintentionally, his instinct for Nixonian tactics enables him to spot them a mile away, and he’s not shy about speaking up about it. And that’s a valuable service.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

 “The benefits of drilling accrue to a private company, but the risks of that drilling accrue to we the American people.” says Maddow.

I like Maddow, but she’s waaayy oversimplifying here: the benefits do not accrue just to private companies. They also accrue to… wait for it… the American people, at least the ones who use oil-fueled transportation, or in some way benefit from the activities of the people who do. I think that’s everybody.

Progressives like Maddow prefer to ignore this fact, and act as if companies are mindlessly drilling oil to magically make money for themselves at the expense of others. But that’s not the case, and acting like it is and ruthlessly punishing BP will not get the job done.

Look, I agree BP needs to pay a price. But there’s a certain unthinking vindictiveness in the liberals’ rhetoric that disturbs me. They really seem to view oil companies as 100% pure evil, that provide no service, but merely enrich themselves.

Mock me if you like, but I’m one of the few people who thinks Obama is handling this situation in precisely the right way. He’s taking a measured and considered approach to the situation, and properly recognizing the complexities involved.

NewsBusters gives their analysis of The Chris Matthews show’s analysis of why that is. NewsBusters probably thinks it’s because Obama is an idiot, and Chris Matthews’ crew… well, they don’t really know why, but they sure like to speculate randomly about it. They generally feel it’s because he’s uncomfortable because of the time constraints.

Well, each explanation might be correct. But I have an alternate theory: I suspect Obama may be finally starting to figure this charisma thing out. He knows that it’s the best weapon in his–and his party’s–arsenal, and that by using it sparingly it only becomes more effective. Last year, as Helene Cooper rightly says, Obama was basically overexposed. (Of course, she then wanders off onto the idea that the press conference was boring–more on that below.) Not that charisma wears out, of course; but it’s still best to hold your most powerful asset in reserve for when you really need it–which for Obama will be in 2012.

If I were in his shoes, I’d keep a low profile for a while–let everyone forget about him.

Now, as for the Matthews gang, what the hell is this: “It was a lot of econ, it was a lot of just in the weeds stuff. It got really boring. I thought.” It’s only boring if you’re a shallow person, with no interest in policy matters. The President’s job is not to entertain you. Part of the reason charisma is such a big factor in Presidential elections is that people forget this fact.

Also, Chris Matthews, well… I stand by my previous statement regarding Matthews.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that businesses and unions can spend their own money on political ads endorsing or opposing a candidate. This raises a question I have long wondered about: how effective are political ads?

Do you really base who you are going to vote for on what ads on TV say? If  there are a lot of people who are that gullible, the Nation is doomed no matter what the Supreme Court rules on this issue. Seriously, I can barely remember any ads from the last Presidential campaign. And I’m fairly confident that my decision was not swayed by them one way or another.

I can’t speak for most people on this issue. And let’s face it; if you’ve brainwashed someone correctly, they’ll swear up and down they were not brainwashed. So I can’t be sure the ads didn’t affect me. 

A friend of mine was telling me that the real danger here is that corporations will disguise the ads to look like authentic news broadcasts–like is sometimes done in infomercials. This will confuse people into believing they’re watching a unbiased newscast that’s saying “Candidate X eats babies.”

I don’t buy it. The only people stupid enough to fall for that are probably already watching their favorite propaganda network (Fox news or MSNBC) anyway. Their votes are locked in. The swing voters aren’t, for the most part, dumb enough to be tricked like that.