Rachel Maddow should never be put in charge of crowd control. Not until she learns to count.
Maddow is clearly flummoxed by what actually constitutes a crowd, as can be seen in her commentary on audiences at Republican presidential debates. (video after page break)
On her show Friday, for example, Maddow gamely tried to make the case that audience reactions at GOP debates have been unintentionally damning, starting with the response that followed Chris Wallace of Fox News putting a question to Ron Paul about drug legalization --
WALLACE: You say marijuana, cocaine, even heroin should be legal if states want to permit it.
PAUL: What you're inferring (sic) is, you know what, if we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody's going to use heroin. How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I put nobody would put the, oh yeah (sarcastically) I need the government to take care of me! I don't want to use heroin so I need these laws ... (enthusiastic applause and cheering from audience)
WALLACE: I never thought heroin would get applause here in South Carolina.
MADDOW: Me neither, Chris Wallace! It was such a strange moment, the crowd cheering the idea of legalizing heroin and Ron Paul's sort of ad libby caricature of a person who might want that. It was great.
Which is Maddow's hooked-on-irony way of saying it wasn't really great, rather it was "strange," which is Maddow code for bizarre. And she gets it wrong about Paul's"sort of ad libby caricature" -- it was not of a person who wants drugs legalized, but of someone who wants government to protect him from that. The heavy-handed sarcasm was apparently too subtle for Maddow to decipher.
Still, Maddow's take on this was at least partially accurate -- the audience, hardly devoid of Paul partisans, was reacting to him, much as they would had Paul begun lip-synching "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." More specifically, the audience was reacting to Paul's flattery that heroin need not be illegal to prevent them from ingesting it. Alcohol is legal, for example, yet those attending the debate somehow managed to do so without getting falling down drunk.
This was minor, however, compared to the deceit to come from Maddow. She then showed a clip from the NBC debate and Brian Williams pointing out to Texas Gov. Rick Perry that his state leads the nation in executions, followed by the audience clapping in response (and considerably more subdued than the reaction to Ron Paul on drug legalization) --
MADDOW: That was the NBC News debate at the Reagan Library earlier this month, cheering for executions, cheering that was loud enough to be remarked upon by the moderator. The cheering was ultimately praised as a patriotic response by the candidate who was asked the question about it.
It was at this point that Maddow attempted to conflate two examples of audience reaction at GOP debates with two more involving what can accurately be described as heckling --
MADDOW: The next time the crowd became a factor, though, in a Republican debate, it was a little bit harder to defend the crowd.
A clip was then shown of the CNN/Tea Party Express debate and Wolf Blitzer asking Ron Paul about a hypothetical, uninsured 30-year-old man facing a medical emergency --
BLITZER: A healthy, 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living but decides, you know what, I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance 'cause I'm healthy, I don't need it. But you know, something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. Who's going to pay for it if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?
PAUL: My advice to him would have a major medical policy but not be forced ...
BLITZER: But he doesn't have that, hedoesn't have it and he needs, he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?
PAUL: That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea (enthusiastic applause and cheers from audience) that you have to prepare and take care of everybody.
BLITZER: But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die? (Catcalls of "yeah!" heard from audience)
MADDOW (mimicking catcalls): Yeah. Yeah. (while lifting her hands in mock enthusiasm) That was the CNN/Tea Party Express debate. I still can't really believe there was a CNN/Tea Party Express debate, but there was and those were members of the audience cheering the proposal that sick Americans should be left to die without receiving needed medical care if they are uninsured.
Notice how after Maddow showed the clip, she referred to "members of the audience" (and mimicked all of two of them). Yet before showing the clip, Maddow claimed it would be difficult to again defend "the crowd" at a GOP debate. Two or three hecklers in an audience numbering hundreds constitutes a "crowd"?
Maddow did this again on her show Sept. 23, this time in talking about videos submitted to Republican candidates for the Fox News/Google debate --
MEGYN KELLY: Sen. Santorum, this question stirred up a whole lot of controversy online and it comes from Stephen Hill, who is a soldier serving in Iraq.
HILL: In 2010 when I was deployed to Iraq I had to lie about who I was because I'm a gay soldier and I didn't want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military. (scattered booing heard)
MADDOW (imitating boos): Boo. The Republican debate crowd booing the deployed American soldier in Iraq.
Two's company but three's definitely a crowd when it comes to Maddow's take on hecklers at a GOP debate.
This isn't the first time that ideology has rendered Maddow incapable of the observational capacity of a pre-schooler. Back on Sept. 13, right after the CNN/Tea Party Express debate, Maddow said this about reaction from "the audience" to Wolf Blitzer's question about the uninsured man --
MADDOW: If you watched the debate, it is of course your call as to who won this thing. But there's really no debate over who lost last night's debate. The clear loser of last night's Republican candidates' debate was a 30-year-old man who has a good job but who does not have health insurance. He is the clear loser of last night's debate for the stark reason that the audience at the debate wants him dead.
An "audience" consisting of the yahoos in the back row.
More still from Maddow on Sept. 13 --
America should handle the problem of people who get sick and don't have health insurance by letting them die, says the audience, exclamation point.
As if punctuation will swell the paltry numbers.
If you are an aspiring comic who isn't funny, Maddow might be the best friend you'd ever have. Because even though your jokes rarely draw more than chuckles wherever you perform, Maddow will reassure you that, man, you keep bringing down the house.