Let’s get ready to rumble

Watching MSNBC this morning, it was clear that the Morning Joe show has dropped the last pretenses of any balance in the presidential contest.

It sank this low: Larry Kudlow came on, not as a partisan (he does support McCain), but as a financial expert, to give his take on the ongoing financial crisis. He advised against panic and said that the markets will heal themselves. He advised against comprehensive new regulation and recommended “smart” regulation that would fix bad financial practices, most specifically over-leveraging (borrowing and lending money way beyond assets or reserves).

The team on Morning Joe, including the wisecracking Joe himself, who rarely does more than make it up as he goes along, did not like it that Kudlow wasn’t throwing, either subtly or excitedly, more amphetamine onto the hysteria.

At one point, someone in the control booth decided that Kudlow’s calming advice required some rock music to drown it out. Yes, this is how the booth indicates a break is coming, but when Kudlow began to trace the roots of the sub-prime mortgage crisis back to changes made in the Community Reinvestment Act in the mid-90s, the on-air crew, including Scarborough, began to talk over him and, along with the music, it was nearly impossible to hear what he was saying and just as difficult for him to continue to make his point.

“You’re not going to blame the poor are you, Larry,” is what Joe had to say. The rest of the crew picked up on that theme, although, to be fair to Mika, she seemed to be agreeing with him in part, based on her own experience in getting a loan.

Kudlow’s point, of course, was that the Community Reinvestment Act coerced lenders to make mortgage loans to people who could not afford to repay them, so the loans were made in ways that required no money down, low interest rates, and interest-only payments. These were then shuffled over to Fannie Mae, which exploded with rotten mortgages all over the place. Hence, one of the most significant causes of the sub-prime mortgage crisis that set off the current financial crisis.

Kudlow’s point, which I’ve fortunately heard him make before so that I could fill in the blanks caused by the increasingly louder music and interruptions that drowned him out, was not that “poor people” were to blame, but that Congress was the first culprit in the chain of events leading up to the crisis because it forced and enabled the accumulations of rotten mortgage loan portfolios.

As Kudlow struggled to make this inconvenient point, he was hooted and music-blasted down, and then Mika got up and literally dragged him off the set.

If they had kept their mouths shut for all of 45 seconds Kudlow, who knows better than they do how to make his point succinctly, could have finished what he was saying. Instead, they yakked over him and then gave him a bum’s rush.

Just another day at that Stalinist encampment known as MSNBC. No such treatment was applied to the next guests, one of whom (whose name I didn’t retain) continued to hoot at Kudlow for “blaming the poor.” The other guest was the preposterous Richard Stengel, editor of the vanity publication still called Time magazine, hawking some already out-of-date reportage about the campaign, etc.

I’m rendering but a snapshot of what I saw during the half-hour or so that I watched, but the rest of that time was just egregiously out of whack with any sort of objectivity whatsoever. It’s always like that now, but there was something a bit more in the air today that suggested the show’s producers are prodding the on-air people to pump it up close to Ubermann levels.

My favorite this morning, after the drowning out of Kudlow, was Willie Geist, if I’ve got the name right, getting so excited about Obama’s crack yesterday about how the “old boy network” was called a “staff meeting” inside the McCain campaign. Perhaps the news hasn’t reached MSNBC yet that Obama retains former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines as a senior advisor. Raines pocketed $90 million from Fannie Mae before he was shown the exit.

No mention, either, that Obama, after only three years in the Senate was the number two person in Congress in receipt of contributions from Fannie Mae, exceeded only by Chris Dodd, who now chairs (and was previously the ranking member of) the Senate committee responsible for overseeing Fannie Mae.

This stuff is apparently too hard for Morning Joe, inclusive of Joe himself, much less all of MSNBC. They simply refuse to touch it, even when Obama’s comments beg for it.

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