There are many reasons why, years ago, I stopped watching Rachel Maddow: her forced, exaggerated on-air laughter; her unprofessional, hey kids, Howdy-Doody-show hand-clapping; her interrogations of the enemy camp that were so theatrically subtle, they were, with no little irony, immensely unsubtle; and not least of all, the fact that her airtime conflicts, on Thursday nights, with the authentically humorous, transatlantically subtle "Doc Martin." I do not deny that Ms. Maddow has, now and then, produced some network hours of journalistic depth and topical importance. I've only read about them, though, for I cannot endure the countervailing, overwhelming agony of her giggling, hand-clapping, und so weiter.
Moreover, perhaps the highest reason I stopped watching Rachel Maddow was that for the first 65 minutes of her one-hour program, she invariably, painfully meandered through the rambling art of induction. She would begin by innocently telling us, say, about a water spot she had noticed on her medicine cabinet that morning; it occurred that others had noticed water spots on their medicine cabinets; from there, somehow, and what seemed like hours later, she would circuitously conclude about the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Or some such dot-to-dot, to-dot, storytelling. It was all rather exhausting, so years ago I gave it — her — up.
This week, however, MSNBC's convention coverage has been held hostage by Maddow, who, as I understand it, is the network's #1 ratings pull. There is, as they say, no accounting for popular taste. At any rate, I made a pact with myself: I would re-endure, I would overcome. In short, I've been watching Rachel Maddow again. Rather noble of me, I'd say. I would also say that Ms. Maddow hasn't been all that bad — or rather she hadn't been all that bad, until last night, post-Bill. For with these remarks, Maddow reintroduced me to my dogmatic anti-Rachel slumber: "I think the beginning of the speech was a controversial way to start, honestly. Talking about 'the girl,' 'a girl.' Leading with this long story about him being attracted to an unnamed girl…. Unless there were worries that this was going to be too feminist a convention, that was not a feminist way to start."
Soon after that, I dozed off in a kind of shocked amusement. Rachel complaining about Bill Clinton leading with a "long story"? Rachel Maddow? Yet, as was evident, it wasn't so much the story's longishness that troubled Ms. Maddow as it was its references to a "girl." This was, of course, merely Bill's rhetorically earthy way of introducing his youthful romance with Hillary — a downhome humanizing touch strategically meant to appeal to "politically incorrect" white males. Rachel's reaction, on the other hand, was what English writer Martin Amis, in his uproarious novel Money, calls a "scrotum-tightener from the feminist front."
Maddow also heard Bill's speech as an item of self-centeredness, adding that as the former president talked she kept waiting for him to say, "But enough about me." I can only assume that Rachel was so upset by "the girl," "a girl," she had stopped listening. For Christ's sake, this morning even renowned Bill Clinton-slanderer Maureen Dowd concedes: "In an act of amazing self-restraint, the man who relishes the word 'I' managed to make the talk, as he prefers to call his folksy speeches, all about her. He was positively uxorious."
Indeed he was. His speech was brilliantly conceived, smartly crafted, masterfully executed, and, above all, politically necessary. Mr. Clinton meant to show that Mrs. Clinton was no cold-hearted, untrustworthy, scheming, "change"-averse status-quoer; he needed to show that she is warm, caring, and possesses a trust in people that should be reciprocated. One is free to dispute the wholesale accuracy of Bill's portrayal of his wife — but of its pragmatic, human intent, one is not so free in dispute.
Even Rachel Maddow, I trust, would agree with that.