Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the “grass roots” organizations that travels around the country opposing healthcare reform. I found the interview so deeply troubling that I had to watch it again today. There are several things that bothered me about it. One is that Phillips blithely dismissed some rather nasty accusations about his past, saying, one hopes incorrectly, that everyone has at some point been associated with something so vile as the forced prostitution of sweatshop workers. He didn’t deny that it happened; he just accuses Maddow of cherrypicking.

By the end of the interview, Phillips is still on message, which is to say, completely superficial and unresponsive, while Rachel is being ruthlessly honest about what she thinks of him and his work. The contrast was profoundly disturbing, almost horrifying. Phillips just sat there smiling with a vein popping out of his temple and essentially accused Rachel of being hysterical and, of course, hating Americans. Rachel, meanwhile, gave us the rarest of all things—a moment of sincerity on cable news.

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