On Monday’s Rick’s List program on CNN, Slate’s Fred Kaplan attacked Republicans for politicizing national security, accused the GOP of being in an alternate reality, and blasted Sarah Palin for “talking...complete and utter nonsense.” Kaplan also wrote off the tea parties as not a “mass movement,” and, along with anchor Rick Sanchez, accused Palin of forwarding “anti-intellectualism.”
The Slate national security columnist, who is also a former correspondent for the Boston Globe, appeared as a guest during the last ten minutes of Sanchez’s program, just before the top of the 5 pm Eastern hour. Before introducing Kaplan, the CNN anchor set up the discussion by referencing the political debate over the granting of Miranda rights to attempted airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab after his Christmastime arrest. Sanchez first asked the Slate writer, “Who’s doing the politicizing here?”
Kaplan squarely placed the entire blame on Republicans:
KAPLAN: I think completely the Republicans. You know, Rick, when Richard Reid was arrested, the shoe bomber, he was read his Miranda rights. Nobody made a fuss about that....you have Sarah Palin, you have the House minority leader saying Obama acts more like a law professor than a commander- in-chief. You know, this is a guy who has tripled the troop deployment in Afghanistan, tripled the number of bombs dropped on militants in Pakistan, sending military trainers and advisers to Yemen. Everybody seems to have forgotten authorizing- having SEAL sharpshooters kill those three pirates off the coast of Somalia. You know, what are they talking about?
Even as Sanchez tried to summarize the criticisms of the Obama administration’s national security policy, the former Boston Globe correspondent stepped up his criticism of the GOP:
SANCHEZ: Well, I’ll tell you what, though- there is a difference given that the argument has shifted. Ever since the argument about Gitmo, for example, we’ve started to see a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle, by the way, who are saying- you know, given the fact that we’ve seen some of these guys return to Yemen and become terrorists again, maybe we should think twice about being too constitutional with these people.
KAPLAN: You know, it was Bush who sent them back to Yemen. What Obama talked about (unintelligible) putting them in maximum-
SANCHEZ: It’s both administrations.
KAPLAN: No. When- he was talking about putting them in maximum security prisons in the United States. You know how many terrorists are in maximum security federal prisons in the United States now? Three hundred and fifty-five. Most of them were tried in federal courts without incident. Nobody has broken out. No- in no city has- you know, fellow travelers come to try to break- a lot of these guys just watch too many bad movies.
Actually, Sanchez is correct. Prior to Abdulmutallab’s bombing attempt, The Washington Post reported on December 19, 2009 that the Obama administration planned to return six detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to Yemen. But that detail didn’t seem to matter to Kaplan, who changed the subject to the debate over placing terrorists in federal prisons on the American mainland.
Sanchez then focused his attention on Sarah Palin’s criticisms of the Obama administration on national security. The Slate columnist didn’t let up in his attacks, and made his first insinuation that Republicans were living in an alternate reality. The CNN anchor also raised his accusation of “non-intellectualism” against Palin (which Kaplan changed to “anti-intellectualism”).
FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (from the Tea Party Convention): Treating this like a mere law enforcement matter places our country at grave risk, because that’s not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this. They know we’re at war, and to win that war, we need a commander-in-chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.
SANCHEZ: Well, you know-
KAPLAN: Again, I don’t know what she’s talking about. You know, professors of law don’t send troops to Afghanistan, drop bombs on Pakistan. You know, you can agree or disagree with what he’s done, but to say that he’s some kind of passive guy who’s too concerned with legal rights- you know, Rick, it would be like somebody from a competing news network would say- you know, CNN, they’re trapped in the 20th century. They don’t high definition. They film in black and white. They’ve got no global correspondents, and you say, what are you talking about? We’re in high definition. We have correspondents all over the world-
SANCHEZ: But you know-
KAPLAN: It’s that preposterous.
SANCHEZ: I’ll tell you what people will complain about when they hear that statement. It’s the sense that there is a push among certain people in our country for almost non-intellectualism. In other words, the smarter you are, the less we’re interested in what you have to say.
KAPLAN: Anti-intellectualism- yeah.
SANCHEZ: Right, anti-intellectualism.
KAPLAN: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. Look, there are two things going on here. One- I mean, Sarah Palin is obviously, to some people, a very appealing person. She’s very good at reading a prepared speech. She has marketable appeal. There are people advising her who have no such appeal. They’re treating her like a useful idiot, feeding her stuff, and because she’s saying it, some people are going to go for it, whereas other people saying it, they might not.
After this answer, Sanchez followed up by asking about Palin’s Tea Party Convention booking: “Then how do you explain all the people who admire her and back her, and paid, by the way, $350 or $300, or whatever it was, to listen to her speak?” Kaplan replied by bashing the tea party movement: “I don’t know, we’re talking 1,100 people? I don’t know, what kind of mass movement is this, really?”
The anchor raised the “anti-intellectualism” charge against Palin with his colleague Wolf Blitzer later in the segment. Kaplan interjected after Blitzer answered, and continued his assault on Republicans:
SANCHEZ: Do you- you know Fred, and Fred was making the point that there seems to be a push toward anti-intellectualism. I mean, to be upset or to complain, which seems to be- I think it's fair to say- there’s almost a complaint out there that this president is too smart. That, after all, he's a law professor, a constitutional law professor. We don’t need one of those. It’s an interesting argument, isn't it?
BLITZER: Well, if you’re asking me, I think you want a president of the United States who’s a very, very intelligent, smart person who knows what he or she is talking about. So, can a president of the United States be too intellectual, too smart? Maybe, if that person doesn’t have any common sense. If you’re just an intellectual or an academic, but have no common sense- you’re trying to find somebody who’s smart and intelligent, but also balances that off with some good common sense.
SANCHEZ: Wolf Blitzer, what have you got today?
KAPLAN: Listen, Rick, I have a question.
SANCHEZ: Go ahead.
KAPLAN: You know, I’m waiting for a Republican leader to come forth and disassociate him or herself from some of the blatant lies that these people are talking about. I mean, to say- you know, that Obama is weak or- you know, when is this going to happen? I mean, you’re in Washington, Wolf. I’m in New York. I don’t know what’s going on.
SANCHEZ: Wolf, I know you’ve got to go- There have been some Republicans who have stood up. John McCain, for example, on several occasions has stood up and criticized some of these moves, has he not, Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. Lindsey Graham, too, for that matter.
KAPLAN: Not really-
BLITZER: There are some Republicans who aren’t afraid to go against other Republicans when they deem it appropriate.
Just as he did near the beginning of the segment, Kaplan all but absolved Democrats of being partisan on the national security issue near the end of the segment, and didn’t let up in his attacks on Republicans and on Palin specifically. Sanchez even thanked him for his “bold opinions.”
SANCHEZ (to Kaplan): Let me get back to you. You know, Fred, as you look at this, do you worry? For example, do you worry that we’re so entrenched on either one side or the other that in the end- you know, because I sense, when I talk to you, that you’re really angry at some of these Republicans for what they’ve said, for their misrepresentations. I mean, going too far on the other end is just as bad, right? I mean, do you worry that we’re so polarized-
KAPLAN: Well, absolutely, but who is going- who, in a position of power, is going too far on the other end? I do worry about the state of the discourse. If you have to spend- you know, 80 percent of your time saying that the sky is blue, not red, that there’s very little time to talk about serious things. When- I believe in a two-party system. When is the other party going to say- okay, we’re ready to talk about serious things now?
SANCHEZ: Uh-huh. You know, it’s a situation when you hear Sarah Palin speak that you almost get a sense that she knows which buttons she needs to push. Are there not Democrats who do the same thing? They use the political buzzwords that they think will help them either- A, raise money, B, get elected?
KAPLAN: Well, sure- and I’m not going to defend everybody in the Democratic Party, either- but there is a requirement if you’re thinking about running for president- and she is, as we now know- I think you have a basic obligation to stick- you know, let’s say the laws of gravity, just basic-
SANCHEZ: Down to 10 seconds, Fred.
KAPLAN: Factual accuracy. She’s just talking nonsense- complete and utter nonsense.
SANCHEZ: All right. My thanks to you, Fred Kaplan, for your bold opinions.
KAPLAN: Thank you.