By Ayaz Hyder
Earlier today I attended "A conversation with Rachel Maddow" at Rutgers University. It was an event organized by the "Eagleton Institute of Politics" at Rutgers University as part of their "It's all Politics" series. It was a fun event event that last roughly 90 minutes.
It was done in a Q&A format with the Director of the Eagleton Institute, Ruth Mandel serving as the moderator. The first of it involved the moderator asking Rachel Maddow questions and letting her run with it. For the second half of selected students and the general audience got to do the same. Format wise it reminded me a lot of a "West Wing" episode called "Celestian Navigation" where Josh Lyman is at a similar Q&A session.
It was an interesting look into the behind the scenes aspects of the Rachel Maddow Show. I have long said that it is the best researched news show on TV so it was definitely interesting to see listen to her point out how unorganized they are at times. She mentioned that multiple times they have had a guest sitting in studio for the next segment and decided to call an audible and do something different. She made a point to mention that everyone on her staff from top to bottom pitches stories, does research for them and writes them. She was asked if she pictured a certain audience sitting on the other side listening to her. She said she didn't. She explained her job as being able to explain things going on in the world with the added benefit that someone willingly would watch the show. When asked to talk about the MSNBC and Fox being similar she made sure to point out that it is in her contract that MSNBC executives will not tell her what to cover and what not to cover. She also emphasized that no one from MSNBC has ever told her how to cover a story either and she pointed out her reporting of General Electric related stories. She was asked if she had an agenda and her response to that was great.
I have a point of view and an opinion, but not an agenda.
I think that was a pretty honest response. I have never seen her let her view or opinion get int the way of reporting something objectively. The moderator mentioned what is visible to anyone who watches the show on a regular basis and that being that Rachel Maddow legitimately looks like she has fun doing her job. Her response?
The truth is, I'm a grump! I'm a grump and a depressive.
Somehow I have a hard time picturing that. She didn't take many direct shots at Fox and gracefully sidestepped question on the issue by saying the only TV she watched were British cop shows. She mentioned that she doesn't like to do live shows because the energy from the crowd ends up taking too much out of her and it is difficult to pace the week. She was still extended an invitation to come back and do her show live from Rutgers.
There was something I disagreed with her on though. She mentioned Pakistan as a threat and how Pakistan "wants nuclear war with India." I grew in Pakistan and that couldn't be farther from the truth. Pakistan and India having nuclear weapons is probably the only thing that has the two from having gone to war at some point in the last 15 years when tensions have been quiet high at time. It is fairly easy to mention that most Pakistanis don't like the US without looking into the situation deeper and what caused that sentiment in the first place. Pakistan has paid a heavy toll for what has gone on in Afghanistan in the last three decades. Pakistani military has faced heavy casualties. Violence and crime within Pakistan has gone up thanks to the influx of weapons into the region that began when the US armed the "Mujahedeens" in the 1980s. It is easy to say Pakistan is a "police state" from afar but even with Pakistan's less then spectacular history with Democracy that is quiet a stretch. It is easy to point out military rule in Pakistan but doing so without mentioning US backed military rulers is dishonest. Mentioning a lack of a history of democracy in Pakistan while ignoring American support for Zia-ul-Haq who overthrew and hung Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto is being dishonest. Yes, privately owned media outlets are a new phenomenon in Pakistan but the way they question everything done by the Pakistani government is not something that we regularly see here in the US when we need to. I respect Rachel Maddow and what she does but her views on Pakistan are just a little bit off base.
As part of the series the Eagleton Institute will welcome White House advisor Valerie Jarrett on May 2nd at 5 PM. Former Bush 43 White House and John McCain campaign Communications Director, Nicolle Wallace was on campus two weeks ago. Her appearance is available on YouTube.