How do you know when Rachel Maddow isn't telling the truth? If any sentence she utters includes the words "Michigan" and "Republican."
This habit of hers has become so ingrained that Maddow runs the risk of caricature, as in -- there she goes again, pulling a Maddow. (video and audio clips after page break)
Think I'm exaggerating? Allow me to cite examples from her MSNBC show in the last week.
Back on April 5, Maddow breathlessly began a segment with the Ted Baxteresque claim, "OK, we think we've got a scoop here, a story that nobody else has figured out." What she discovered was so "astounding," Maddow exclaimed, "I almost can't believe it ... my mind almost cannot compute what I am about to tell you." Not to worry, Maddow assured, "we reported this out carefully so we could tell you this with confidence."
What is so "astounding" in Michigan that it's nearly beyond professional brainiac Maddow's awesome powers to compute? Turns out she was referring to -- are you ready? -- voting procedures in the legislature. What little it takes to astound her.
Shortly after Republicans gained control of the Michigan legislature and governor's office in the 2010 midterms, GOP lawmakers passed a slew of bills signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder. As required by the state constitution, a new bill doesn't become law until 90 days after the end of the legislative session. The constitution includes an immediate effect clause for new laws, for which a two-thirds' majority in each chamber is required.
Of 566 laws enacted in the current session, 546 were passed through immediate effect, Maddow was told by Michigan Democrats ("and the Republicans are not contesting it," she claimed). Here's where the wheels of her reporting started getting wobbly (audio) --
This is new in Michigan governance. This is not the way that Michigan was set up. This is not the way that it was supposed to be. This is like if a cop once waved you around a traffic accident by directing you to drive on the shoulder to get around the crash and the next day on your commute and every day thereafter, you just drove the whole way to work on the shoulder 'cause you think that's your lane now. Michigan Republicans are using what's supposed to be an emergency provision for everything, even for the most contentious and partisan and divisive things they want to do.
Not only that, Maddow warned, one of the laws passed by immediate effect, an amended financial manager law that allows the governor to appoint emergency managers to insolvent municipalities and school districts, has turned them into ... "dictatorships" (audio) --
It's the law that lets the state take over your town, overrule anything or anyone you voted for in your local elections. It's the law that says Michigan Republicans, Gov. Rick Snyder, can strip democracy from your town if they want to. ... Under this emergency manager law, the state installs a single, unelected manager who's free to fire all the elected officials, sell off the town's assets, move to dissolve the town, cancel contracts, almost anything the manager wants to do. This emergency manager person just has unilateral control. In Michigan now, a long list of cities and school boards are being run this way. They're not being run as democracies anymore. They are being run as something much closer to dictatorships. And I realize that's a very inflammatory word, but frankly that's what it is when you have somebody in charge who has unilateral authority to do whatever he or she wants. That is autocracy. That is dictatorship.
Turns out this is "bullpucky," to cite one of Maddow's more annoying coinages. Passing laws by immediate effect without a specific vote count in the Michigan legislature isn't unprecedented at all. In fact, it was common practice -- when Democrats ran the legislature. Maddow's hyperventilating about this on April 5 was so far off the mark that she's been slammed -- twice -- by blogger "Eric B." over at MichiganLiberal.com. (One of his headlines read, "Thanks, Rachel, for your sh***y reporting and all.") And did mention how Mother Jones also scoffed at her claims?
Maddow tried to set the record straight on her show April 9, though she was more intent on saving face than getting it right. After quoting Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger's criticism of her -- "It would seem the liberal sour grapes have resulted in an overflowing dose of whine" -- Maddow was forced to admit that what she claimed was oh so new in Michigan politics is actually old hat (video here) --
And as impressed as I am by the sounds-alike, wine-related insult the Republican Speaker of the Michigan House has thrown my way, I should also note that I concede his point, which I should have made clear in our initial reporting, that both Democrats and Republicans in Michigan have passed lots of legislation by immediate effect. Republicans are not doing this more frequently than Democrats did when the legislature was under Democratic control. Both sides have done this.
But what's different now is this (photo shown of Michigan Democrat state lawmakers raising arms as if to vote) -- This is Democrats trying to get an actual count and Republicans not letting them. It's one thing to glance around the room, assume you've got your supermajority and bang, gavel it through! It's another thing to refuse to check your count when the minority side calls you out for the fact that you seem to be lying about that count. Republicans say they used to get ignored too when they were in the minority, but they say they didn't think it was any big deal, they didn't much care about it.
The state's Democrats have now gone so far as to sue in state court to try to get that count, to try to get the immediate effect of several new laws overturned because they say they were passed without a real count, they were passed illegally.
Message from Michigan Democrats to Michigan Republicans -- do as we say, not as we did. Conduct once embraced is clearly intolerable now that someone else is doing it.
Maddow was back at it last night, making another ludicrous claim about Michigan's emergency manager law (see embedded video) --
This week Gov. Snyder is getting ready to appoint yet another emergency manager, this time to bypass the officials elected locally and instead just unilaterally take over a school board in Muskegon Heights, which is right there on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. (map shown)
So now the state will take over and appoint a single, unelected overseer with the power to do just about anything, from canceling union contracts to canceling any other kind of contracts to stripping power from the elected school board, to maybe dissolving the whole district if he or she wants to. They can do whatever they want.
No mention from Maddow, seeing how it would demolish her premise, that it was the Muskegon Heights school board itself that requested the emergency manager.
The "long list" of Michigan cities, towns and school districts that Maddow claims have devolved into "dictatorships" by order of those goose-stepping Republicans in Lansing -- turns out this list numbers all of six: the cities of Pontiac, Flint, Benton Harbor and Ecorse, plus the school districts in Detroit and Highland Park. Add Muskegon Heights to the mix and the number leaps to seven. This in a state that counts 3,607 "populated places," according to MI HomeTownLocator. Of these, roughly half are municipalities.
Liberals love spouting their notions of what democracy "looks like." If this is what dictatorship looks like, Michigan Republicans aren't very good at it.