I’ve been watching the McLaughlin Group for many years, at least as far back as 1989, that year of tremendous upheaval, with the end of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe and the student uprising in Tiananmen Square. Politics was interesting then, or I was more interested in politics, and McLaughlin’s Group was a lively bunch, interrupting each other, shouting out their views. It was both educational and entertaining.
Sometimes the interrupting would get a bit much, though; sometimes you couldn’t even hear what people were saying; and sometimes, especially in recent years, the panelists themselves would get frustrated. The most frustrated of them all in recent years is Eleanor Clift. Or I shouldn’t really say frustrated, perhaps rather faux frustrated. It’s the others who are truly frustrated, for Eleanor keeps saying, “Let me finish, let me finish,” as if the others are bullying her, when of course the truth is the other way around.
Maybe it’s because for a long while she was the only woman on the panel and had to fight against the dominant males, but in fact the men tend to be rather gentlemanly. They almost always back down when Eleanor complains, and when she herself does what she complains of, they usually say nothing – at least until this week.
For Eleanor perpetually interrupts others and normally they say nothing. But let someone interrupt her, and, Wow, she has at them. Until this week. Mort Zuckerman, one of the courtly gentlemen on the panel, who actually tends to be on Eleanor’s side, on the Democrats’ side, against the neo- and paleo- conservatives – Mort was criticizing the Democrats for not reaching out to the Republicans in this time of deadlock. This raised Eleanor’s ire, for she is nothing if not pro-Democrat, pro-Obama, pro-party line. She interrupted him, rudely, as she often does, but this time Mort did not give way. He said, “Wait a minute!” Loudly. Angrily. And finished his thought while Eleanor laughed nervously.
The camera pulled away as if embarrassed. It was as if some unwritten rule had been broken: don’t shout at the lady. Later when Eleanor interrupted him again, Mort much more mildly said, “Excuse me a second.” First a minute, then just a second. First a blast from the bellows, like a bear, then the polite gentleman again.
But that’s what happens when you give way to bullies over and over. Eventually one day you snap and become a bear and people are astonished. It will be interesting to see if the dynamics of the show change as a result. Will Eleanor interrupt as much? Will she still complain if others interrupt her? Will Mort or others complain about Eleanor? Will everything just go back to the way it was? Will the moderator finally step in and moderate, as he did a little more than usual after Mort’s outburst?
Tune in next week and see.