MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell and New Republic journalist Julia Ioffe had it out last night in a most entertaining fashion over Russia’s handling of the Edward Snowden case, ending in a withering blog post in which the writer called the talking head an “angry grandpa” and accused him of “O’Reilly”-ing her. First, Ioffe, a Moscow-based “expert” (her word) on Russia, appeared on the show. It went poorly.
She argued that Snowden was a “headache” for Russia, but that the country could not let him go once the Bolivian plane thought to be holding him was downed in Austria. “There was really nothing the Russians could do,” said Ioffe, which really set O’Donnell off. Russia had “complete, total, absolute control over that outcome,” he said. “They had and still have complete power over his every breath,” especially Putin. Not exactly, she tried to explain …
“Now they do,” she admitted. “But I think you do overestimate the Russians. In general, people who haven’t been to Russia tend to overestimate their abilities.” Ioffe added, “We really overestimate Putin’s abilities.” O’Donnell, voiced raised Newsroom style, stressed Putin’s all-consuming power and exclaimed, “Let’s not be ridiculous about this!” and “We’re getting absurd now!” To which Ioffe asked, “Have you reported out of Russia?”
The segment, mercifully, ended, but the fight did not. In a post for the New Republic, Ioffe insisted, “god damn it, I know my shit.” Obama’s decision to not meet with Putin one-on-one, she wrote, was a good one, but it was larger than Snowden. She proceeded to make a simple, bullet-pointed list of arguments that would never be allowed on cable television because they reveal an ability to think outside a black or white, good or bad, America or Russia dichotomy. It’s not a college lecture, sure, but maybe at least let the expert get a word in? “Otherwise,” Ioffe wrote, “don’t waste my fucking evening.” O’Donnell, at least, played the good sport on Twitter, linking to Ioffe’s original article on the matter, calling it the “best thing” he read on the subject, and adding, “Thanks for joining us.”