Like most people, I never paid much attention to Ed Schultz. A loud, bullying, meaty man in the even meatier middle of the distribution when it comes to smarts, Schultz was your classic “lunch-pail populist” as host of MSNBC’s The Ed Show.
During his six-year run on the network, I don’t think anyone ever asked, “Did you hear what Ed Schultz said?” except when he uttered something ridiculous enough to make smart or decent liberals wince.
It’s clear now I thought too highly of him.
Politico’s Michael Crowley has a fascinating story about how Vladimir Putin supports Donald Trump. This isn’t all that shocking for anybody who has been attacked by the Twitter division of Putin’s Ministry of Propaganda. But there’s more significant evidence, including the much reported “bromance” between Putin and Trump and the fact that one of Trump’s top consiglieres, Paul Manafort, was previously a one-man brain-trust for Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin stooge and kelptocrat who until recently ran Ukraine.
At MSNBC, there was no praise of Hillary Clinton too effusive and no slander of Republicans that was too extreme. Schultz often spent his days spewing out such statements as: “This is what the Republican party stands for, though: racism. I think Donald Trump is a racist.”
Some people need to be on TV or in some other public arena. As with Trump himself, the money comes second to celebrity.
In 2011, when Trump was reportedly thinking of running for president (again), Schultz wrote in the Huffington Post: “When it comes down to the devil in the detail of dealing with the issues . . . and making real change, Trump, you don’t have it. You’ve never had it. Money is not a measure of a man’s character or success in the arena of public service.”
Now, I happen to agree with that second bit. The interesting thing is, Schultz doesn’t — anymore. The man who once mocked Putin, now cashes his checks, as a pundit on his network, lending aid and comfort to the Kremlin’s pro-Trump PR campaign.
Schultz recently told Larry King, his RT colleague, that Trump was like Ronald Reagan (he meant it in a good way). Trump, Schultz explained, “certainly has shaken up the Republican Establishment, and I think he’s done it by talking about things that people care about.” Schultz now says Trump is a great and decisive decision-maker.
Russia Today was probably the only broadcaster offering to keep Schultz on TV — and perhaps that offer came with strings attached.
I don’t know Schultz personally, so maybe none or all of these explanations apply. But I do know that some people get addicted to being recognized at airports and speaking into a TV or microphone. I’ve seen it for more than 20 years.Heck, poor Larry King is a bit like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman: He’s got nowhere else to go. But King is different from Schultz and other pundits on the left and the right. King’s job is to ask questions, not opine on what is right and wrong, politically, analytically, or even morally. That’s the life Ed Schultz chose for himself, and in the era of Trump, it is interesting and dismaying to see who thinks the limelight — by which I mean ratings, popularity, celebrity, and relevance — is more important than long-held principles, or basic truth-telling.
Schultz’s case is interesting because of the Russia connection. Sadly, if I’m right about his motives, Schultz’s case is not unique.