Was it? Actually, let me rephrase: Notwithstanding the fact that it was bad, should it have been better? I’m not sold, although Michael Moynihan does a nifty job of capturing the badness:
Watching MSNBC’s nauseating, petty, smug election coverage was like watching a live stream of a Park Slope dinner party. And it made it official. The network, which has adopted a piecemeal strategy of partisanship—the evening schedule seems to add a liberal firebrand every six months—has now completed its transformation into the left-wing version of Fox News. Prior to the election, one could hear Chris Matthews comparing the brief and isolated outbreak of violence at a Rand Paul event to—you guess it!—Germany in the 1930s. Not to be outdone, Ed Schultz popped up an hour later declaring that it reminded him too of Nazi violence. A few days later, Matthews would praise Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity, which called for the media to tone down the hyperbole, as “a positive thing.” Last night he was to be found making dick jokes on television as his party was being driven off a cliff.
Two things. One: At this point, is it fair to Fox to call what happened last night a lefty version of FNC? In fact, Fox’s election night coverage was more balanced than MSNBC’s was, from the ideological diversity on the panels to the overall more reserved tone. See this round-up at Mediaite of TV critics who felt obliged to admit that today, however grudgingly or not. Two: Would it have somehow been better for Olby and Matthews and Maddow to grit their teeth and pretend to be objective-ish as the Democratic bloodbath wore on? Replacing them with hard news anchors, a la Shep or Bret Baier, really isn’t an option; there’s no one on the news side of MSNBC with that kind of heft. (Transmitting NBC’s coverage of the election was an option, I suppose, but NBC has reportedly been looking to separate the two news divisions’ brands, not further entwine them.) Their only shot at ratings was to lard up the evening with left-wing robots and let them snark away as the returns rolled in, hoping that progressive viewers would at least enjoy the catharsis to soothe their pain from the results. It didn’t quite work — MSNBC finished third overall, just behind CNN and waaaaay behind Fox — but it was their best bet. Can’t say I’d have done differently if I was the programming director. Although I can say I’d have tried to hire a marquee anchor by now precisely for situations like this.
It’s hard to choose a single clip the best encapsulates the nuttery last night, especially since Ed’s already posted the Matthews/Bachmann showdown, but this one of Lawrence O’Donnell warning of Rand Paul’s ability to usher in a global economic apocalypse is fun. If you’re underwhelmed by it, no worries: The Daily Beast has several more to choose from.