MEMBERS ONLY: Is Donald Trump Afraid Of Rachel Maddow?

by Bob Cesca

You know how I know Rachel Maddow’s narrative on Trump-Russia is really damn accurate? Donald Trump hasn’t mentioned her once. Not at all. We’ll circle back to this presently.

Prior to and during my podcast on Tuesday, I was feeling beaten down by the brain-scattering impact of the frenetic avalanche of news that’s accompanied both the 2016 presidential campaign and, naturally, the Trump presidency. It’s been a harrowing time to be a political writer and podcaster. I believed early on that the constant tennis-ball-machine bludgeoning of the news cycle would make for a convenient silver lining — a consolation amid the harrowing chaos linked to the daily activities of the Mad King. If we’re forced to endure a Trump presidency, I thought, at least I’d have plenty of material to cover.

For now, at least, it’s simply too much. Tuesday morning, I was faced with absorbing several monster stories about Trump’s alleged money-laundering activities through the former Soviet bloc nations of Kazakhstan and Georgia. Each one involved a variety of Russian names I’d have to memorize and pronounce, and a series of connections linking back to Trump SoHo and the Trump Organization. Somehow, I had to memorize the stories well enough to spontaneously discuss them on my show while also keeping track of a pair of dueling Steve Bannon stories in which he may or may not have invoked executive privilege somehow, with an additional subpoena being adding on the fly by the House Intelligence Committee. 

Meanwhile, the White House was scheduled to host Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, who would present the results of Trump’s physical exam — a kabuki act that would surely be tainted by Trump’s input. And, of course, it was predictably confounding. My co-host, Buzz Burbank, and I would have to cover the breaking details while we recorded the show. The timing just worked out that we’d have to coherently cover all of these overlapping stories on-the-fly. 

On top of all that, there was the Hawaii false alarm; the continued fall-out from Michael Wolff’s “Fire And Fury” book; the ramifications of Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks; Trump’s hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels; the growing potential for a Net Neutrality vote in the Senate; the ongoing DACA shenanigans; a looming government shutdown; Trump’s latest tweet, and so forth.

Ultimately, it’s not so much a matter of too much news, it’s a matter of digesting and repeating all of it without sounding like a moron. And I haven’t even mentioned finding a rhythm in terms of writing about all of this without simply repeating the word “fuck” over and over. 

Rachel Maddow’s nightly show on MSNBC has been invaluable on so many levels. 

Selfishly, Maddow has expertly dovetailed so many of the angles on Russia in a way that forms a cohesive and easily-memorable whole, allowing me to better absorb so many of the connect-the-dots links, along with the conga-line of Russian players, specifically because of her show. More than ever before, Maddow’s telecast has added further depth to what I’ve been frantically reading about every day. And she’s especially helpful when it comes to the aforementioned pronunciations.

More importantly, though, no one on television has been able to capture the details of the ongoing Russian cyber-attack and the subsequent Trump-Russia investigation quite like Maddow and her staff. While her recursiveness is potentially dangerous, given that we’re only aware of what’s been reported and links could fall apart with the addition of new details, none of her dots-connecting has seemed thin or far-fetched.

And maybe that’s why Maddow remains perhaps the only high-profile cable news anchor who Trump hasn’t attacked yet. For the record, Lawrence O’Donnell has been on the receiving end of Trump’s cartoony wrath, and Chris Hayes hasn’t enjoyed Rachel’s visibility and ratings success. Regarding Maddow’s ratings, by the way, she continues to host the number one cable news show on television, despite a very brief glitch when Hannity was moved into the 9 p.m. slot in an obvious stunt to compete. The closest Trump came to mentioning Maddow, in fact, was to congratulate Hannity on his early and very narrow ratings victories over Maddow, but those days are long gone and Maddow is securely back on top. Nevertheless, Trump has never mentioned her by name or by wheeling out his favorite “fake news” catch-all.

You’d think, though, that with the amount of time Maddow has spent on the “fake” Russia story, Trump might’ve lashed out at some point. Russia has been Maddow’s lead story for well over a year now, and there’s no sign she’s backing away. Indeed, as the news inches closer and closer to the Oval Office and, simultaneously, the potential for an emerging constitutional crisis, it’d be impossible for her to stop. Thank goodness she hasn’t.

Even though I’ve been privy to most of the Russia stories she ‘s covered, I’ve found myself exclaiming, “What?!” at least once every night, blown away by her Paul-Harvey-ish “rest of the story” reveals. And if I’m amazed by what I’m hearing and seeing, how do you think Trump reacts when he inevitably stumbles onto her show, only to hear thoroughly detailed accounts of what he’s been secretly up to for the last decade, be it money-laundering, conspiring with the Kremlin or flagrantly obstructing justice. Maddow is not unlike the most stubborn rodeo rider in the history of television news, relentlessly grappled to a shock of Trump’s fucked-up mane and refusing to fall, even when she’s deliberately trolled with fake leads. 

Maddow doesn’t blink, and she never appears to be exhausted by the onslaught. This alone is inspiring, say nothing of her often revelatory content. The very fact that Maddow continues to plow forward like a juggernaut by way of a gosh-golly-girl-next-door has frequently recharged my enthusiasm for covering the Trump presidency. If Maddow can be this good and this thorough, especially with the granular details, why can’t I gab and joke about these topics for 70 minutes thrice-per-week on my show?

I believe it’s Maddow’s accuracy coupled with her relentlessness that frightens Trump. Calling attention to her show would only expose Trump to further jeopardy through new viewers who might actually tune-in and be convinced. Perhaps not the Trump loyalists, but any attention paid to Maddow is positive, given what she’s up to. I’d wager Trump is too terrified to watch, believing the “out of sight, out of mind” maxim. But no matter what Trump decides to attack, Maddow will always be there, pushing the story forward to its logical conclusion. 

Maddow is the Cronkite of our time, and Trump is powerless to stop her. This should make those of us in the Resistance exceedingly happy despite the often soul-crushing nature of this existential Trump crisis.