I seldom watch "The Rachel Maddow Show," but last night's episode became a must-see when I heard Sen. James Inhofe was to be a guest. By either teleological design or merely the artificial order of things, most primetime MSNBC programs are a trifle light on direct enemy contact. Some hosts are manifestly incapable of tangling with right-wing spin, while others are simply content to feed their audience nothing but comfort food, while yet others protest that it's the enemy who refuses to engage. At any rate, and for whatever reason, the dialectic is as AWOL on MSNBC as it is on Fox.
So what a treat, I thought, when the specter of a Maddow-Inhofe summit arose. Empirical facts clashing with pure ideology, virtuous reason against remorseless spin, or, in the plainest words, right against wrong -- but from it all, some semblance of a resultant something, something less imbalanced and more enlightened than what we began with. Absolutely. A must-see.
Regrettably, though, the Maddow-Inhofe meet-up quickly assumed the one-sided horror of the disastrous Kennedy-Khrushchev summit.
Inhofe left Maddow blinking in bewilderment. He talked, and talked, and then he talked some more; he dodged and weaved and bobbed and filled the segment with "you people" and "you liberals" as his friends; he perched himself atop a small mountain of agreeable press clippings, the reading of which he found irresistible; at times he was perfectly mortified by what he portrayed as Maddow's dastardly insinuations -- the old, "Have you no decency, Ma'am?" -- but mostly he feigned intellectual offense at what he characterized as the left's ideological entrenchment.
Although Inhofe is demonstrably the most dimwitted of United States senators, he once again proved the titanic invincibility of ideological absolutism and intransigence. In short, one cannot successfully argue with a stubborn idiot, and he knows it. Maddow's righteousness was left in a puddle of uncomprehending Say what?, while Inhofe sat and impishly enjoyed his Khrushchev-like victory of rhetorical humbug over reason.
I felt a bit sorry for Maddow. Inhofe pulled the senatorial trick of bringing a butterknife to a gunfight, with which he dulled her into a befuddled exasperation. Firing Line, it wasn't. On that show, though, host Bill Buckley understood that the most devastating strikes were often the subtlest ones -- but perhaps that tactic just won't work on rootin'-tootin' cable. Its audiences demand blood.