On Wednesday’s Countdown show, the duo of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and new CNBC contributor Howard Dean delivered a gem of both double standard and apparent amnesia as both generalized about the inappropriateness of calling any President a "fascist." As Dean was interviewed by Olbermann, who famously called President Bush a "fascist" in a "Special Comment" rant last year which was even picked up by Iranian television, the former DNC chairman bluntly stated his view that even President Bush did not deserve to be called by such a name.
And just as Olbermann seemed to be trying to defend his own history of applying the "fascist" label to Bush, which he did not directly acknowledge, even he stopped short of proclaiming outright that such name-calling could sometimes be rational, as he contended that a person doing so "may be crazy" and "may be wrong." Olbermann: "If you have a case to call somebody a ‘fascist,’ lay it out. Define your terms and say where you, I mean, you may be crazy and you may be wrong, but at least put some meat on the bones."
Dean's response: "Even in the darkest days of the Bush-Cheney administration, I don't think there was any reason to call George Bush a fascist."
The two were responding to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s failure to disagree with a C-SPAN caller who recently expressed fear that the government is moving toward becoming "fascist," which the MSNBC show notably misspelled as "facist" on-screen during the Countdown show’s tease. Dean lectured Cantor: "The right thing to have said, which is what I would have said if somebody had called President Bush really dreadful names like that, I would have said, ‘Look, we disagree with President Bush strongly ... but he is the President, and we're going to be respectful of him.’"
Olbermann soon responded: "Or if you have a case to call somebody a ‘fascist,’ lay it out. Define your terms and say where you, I mean, you may be crazy and you may be wrong, but at least put some meat on the bones. Just don't throw the word out, right?"
For the fourth time in the interview, Dean expressed his disapproval of using the "fascist" label: "Well, look, I mean, even in the darkest days of the Bush-Cheney administration, I don't think there was any reason to call George Bush a fascist."
But in a February 14, 2008, "Special Comment," addressing President Bush, Olbermann charged: "If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You're a fascist! Get them to print you a T-shirt with fascist on it! What else is this but fascism?"
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Wednesday, March 25, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? How far will the GOP go to sink the recovery in hopes of damaging the President? The caller to C-SPAN says we’re heading into "fascism," House Whip Cantor responds:
ERIC CANTOR, HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: I think what the public is doing, they’re finally waking up and everybody’s realizing that checks and balances are part of the system.
OLBERMANN: During an appearance on C-SPAN, a caller first thanking the House Republican Whip and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, – R, Mars – for doing such a great job before expounding on the, quote, "insanity of the Kool-aid drinkers" who, quote, "seem to think that there is a magical tree of money in Washington." The caller then talked about what’s really scaring her, the "fascism" that is one-party control of our government.
AUDIO OF FEMALE C-SPAN CALLER: But what really is scaring the rest of us, the other half of us, is the fascism – I mean the true fascism – that is happening in this country today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE C-SPAN HOST: What do you mean by that, caller?
FEMALE CALLER: The belligerent takeover of a one-party system.
CANTOR, AFTER EDIT: Now, as far as the one-party government in here, I think what the public is doing, they’re finally waking up and everybody’s realizing that checks and balances are part of the system, and divided government is something that is beneficial to a balanced debate and something that can produce a better outcome, which is exactly why Republicans in the House have said, "Look, we want to work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. We want to try and bring this President back into the mainstream."
OLBERMANN: For more on this, let’s turn to Governor Howard Dean, of course most recently chairman, former chairman for the Democratic National Committee, now a contributor to CNBC. Thank you for your time, Governor, and welcome back to TV.
HOWARD DEAN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Keith, thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: The Republicans slapped anybody who questioned President Bush with – if not using the word "treason," essentially the elements that make up treason – for the better part of his administration. And yet, we’re now seeing this, I don’t know, the "sky-is-falling" reaction to everything that President Obama does. Is there something of a double standard here? Or am I being a little oversensitive.
HOWARD DEAN: Well, I think the Republicans have a huge problem. They’re trying to re-orient themselves after three consecutive elections that were pretty disastrous for them – two consecutive elections that were pretty disastrous for them – and they’re having a huge internal battle, and you’re seeing the leadership continue to play to the hard right because that is their base. The trouble is, the hard right is not nearly enough to win an election, so every time they do that, as Jonathan [Alter] pointed out, the people in the middle, moderates, even moderate Republicans, are sort of going "What? What are these people talking about?" And that helps Obama. So, you know, the Republicans are gonna have a long way to go here if they, if this is their first tack. They’ve got to figure out how to reach the moderate middle, and you don’t do it by calling people "fascists" and all this other kind of business.
OLBERMANN: So is Jon Alter right? Every time something like this happens, you and the other leaders of the Democratic party sit back and try to stifle a loud, braying laugh?
DEAN: Well, I don’t laugh at the Republicans because they were pretty effective in winning elections for a long time, but I just scratch my head and think you know, what are they – obviously, polling does not tell you to call the President of the United States a fascist, so they must be doing something very peculiar in there at the RNC, and I’m not sure what it is, but I think their problem is that they’re just in disarray. The other thing is they don’t dare offer their own solutions, their own budget, because they know these are very tough times and no matter what you do, it’s not going to be good medicine to swallow. So they criticize President Obama, but they have nothing to say for themselves. And until they do, they really have no message, and that’s a big problem, and they’ve got to fight through this in order to get back to being a competitive party again, and right now, they’re not.
OLBERMANN: Instead of – when that call took place on C-SPAN today with the Minority Whip, Mr. Cantor, listening as this caller attempted to demonize President Obama and his agenda, and throw every "ism" she could think of – except Nazism I suppose – the Congressman, certainly by proxy, embraced her attack-
DEAN: That’s the problem that they have. It’s the same as Michael Steele apologizing to Rush Limbaugh. If you are willing to – look – the right thing to have said, which is what I would have said if somebody had called President Bush really dreadful names like that, I would have said, "Look, we disagree with President Bush strongly, and he’s wrong about the war in Iraq, for example, or the huge deficits that he ran up, but he is the President, and we’re going to be respectful of him." And that, you know, Eric Cantor would have grown dramatically in his view or his eyes, simply by saying that. You don’t have to insult your base, but when your base goes too far, you need to remind people that that is not where you stand.
OLBERMANN: Or if you have a case to call somebody a "fascist," lay it out. Define your terms and say where you, I mean, you may be crazy and you may be wrong, but at least put some meat on the bones. Just don’t throw the word out, right?
DEAN: Well, look, I mean, even in the darkest days of the Bush-Cheney administration, I don’t think there was any reason to call George Bush a fascist. Nor do I, I think it’s patently ridiculous to call President Obama a fascist, and I, you know, ordinary people get mad, and they use that kind of language, and okay, fine, they’re not in politics. But if you are in-
DEAN: -politics and you aspire to be the leader of your party, you can’t let that kind of stuff pass because it diminishes you and it diminishes the Republican party when you don’t correct it.
OLBERMANN: Howard Dean, former head of the DNC, former governor of Vermont, and now a contributor to CNBC. Congratulations on that, sir, thanks for you time.
Update 14:35 | Stephen Gutowski. Olbermann Watch has put together an awesome video on Olbermann's hypocrisy: