It isn't often that one can see two decades of history re-written in under ten minutes. But such was the occasion on this morning's episode of Morning Joe. Max Blumenthal, author of "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party," spent his time on the show demonstrating the combined power of cognitive dissonance, wanton ignorance, and a willingness to re-write historical fact.
Let's take it in chronological order, shall we?
First, Blumenthal is asked to present the major thesis of his book:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: So Max, remind us. What's the thesis of “Republican Gomorrah?”
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well there are different ideas packaged in the book, but one -
SCARBOROUGH: What's the one big idea?
BLUMENTHAL: One of them is that a radical movement has taken over the party and driven it outside the mainstream.
SCARBOROUGH: What radical movements is that?
BLUMENTHAL: Primarily the Christian right but also radical anti-government groups like the groups we saw on the National Mall on 9/12. Comparing Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin at the same time.
Several of us here in the NewsBusters office were at that rally. There are literally thousands of pictures, and many videos of that event. If you get them from CNN.com or some other major media outlet, you'll see the few signs referring to Hitler and Stalin. If you get them from Michelle Malkin, you'll see many hundreds of signs that were witty, pointed and rational critiques of liberal policies.
Blumenthal is engaging in the same smear-tactics used by other media outlets (among them MSNBC), of guilt-by-association. This is not, however, the standard applied to Code Pink rallies over the last six to eight years.
Scarborough asks a question of liberal tolerance of evangelical Christians:
SCARBOROUGH: That's, yeah, kind of confusing. And disturbing. So, Max, it seems to me - and I have noticed this through the years as I've been in public service, that a lot of progressives who talk about being open minded and diverse seem to embrace diversity. But seem to - begin getting a bit more intolerant whenever evangelical Christians decide they want to engage in the political process. Why is that? What is it about evangelical Christians being involved in politics that's so enraged so many progressives?
BLUMENTHAL: Well I can't speak for so many progressives. But that's - that's your critique. My critique is in my book, “Republican Gomorrah,” which is that right-wing evangelical Christians who do not respect separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution have substantially taken over the Republican party.
SCARBOROUGH: But they have a different interpretation of that. Does that mean that an evangelical Christian who is concerned by the radicalism of the 1960s so they got engaged in the '70s and 80s, does that mean they don't respect the Constitution because they want their federal government to reflect their values as much as the progressives who marched in the '60s wants the federal government to reflect their values?
BLUMENTHAL: We were there together, Joe, at "The Daily Beast's" inaugural party. I remember you gave a talk about how the battles of the '60s and cultural war were over, and we were now entering a post-partisan era. I think if Barack Obama made one mistake, it was to think if he were elected President, that he would be allowed to govern. We now see a movement that has taken over a party represented by people like representative Trent Franks who recently called Barack Obama an enemy of humanity. That's language reserved for, like, Hitler during wartime -
SCARBOROUGH: Jerry Nadler who -
BLUMENTHAL: They refuse to allow him to govern, they are seeking nothing short of the de-legitimization of his administration.
You’ll notice Blumenthal never made an attempt to answer Scarborough's question. Ignoring it completely left Blumenthal free to attack conservatives with a Hitler-relation smear - mere seconds after bemoaning the idea that those associated with the right would use such a smear. And that's only the first instance of a double standard in his statement.
One wonders if Blumenthal remembers the inauguration in January of 2001, at which Al Gore supporters passed out pre-printed signs that read "Hail To The Thief?" What about:
BLUMENTHAL: Oh, pick them out. Please pick them out.
SCARBOROUGH: Jerry Nadler using fascist references to people that were going to town hall meetings. Harry Reid who runs the damned United States Senate calling Americans, quote, evil-mongers. Nancy Pelosi writing - would you like me to continue? Nancy Pelosi runs the House. Hold on a second. Using the term un-American. This is - we can pick out the extremes from both sides.
BLUMENTHAL: Right, we can pick out Michelle Bachmann warning about Census workers collecting private information on Americans to put them in concentration camps -
SCARBOROUGH: Max -
BLUMENTHAL: - and a Fed worker in Kentucky winding up lynched with the word "Fed" on his chest. These are the consequences of this rhetoric.
Michelle Bachmann did not kill a Census worker, any more than the progenitors of the free-love movement caused Roman Polanski to rape a thirteen-year-old girl. By that logic, one might safely assume that Blumenthal believes Hannibal Lecter movies will turn adults into serial killers or that the ability to read books makes one a Pulitzer Prize winner.
This level of argument-construction is outstripped by high school debate clubs on a weekly basis. Take the following exchange, for example:
BLUMENTHAL: But [Obama] made this mistake in believing that he would be allowed to govern.
SCARBOROUGH: He can govern. But that doesn't mean that -
BLUMENTHAL: He can't govern the Republican party. They refuse to compromise. They're totally intransigent -
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Why in the hell would I as a conservative that believes in small government vote for stimulus package, not put together by Barack Obama, but by Nancy Pelosi? A stimulus package that left out the type of tax incentives that economists, this morning, are telling "The New York Times" should have been in that stimulus package, the things we conservatives were for in January now nine months later, economists are saying to "The New York Times" should have been in that package. Why would I vote for that?
First, the leader of the opposition party is not now, nor has it ever been in the past, the leader of the ruling party. Second, as Scarborough accurately points out, conservatives are not being asked to compromise - they're being asked to roll. As unthinkable as it is for liberals, conservatives (not necessarily Republicans, but conservatives) care about what they believe. Speaking of liberals not understanding conservative principle:
BLUMENTHAL: We had a Republican experiment for eight years that left us with these problems, that completely deregulated government allowing the economy to collapse and allowing the banks to have free rein and Sarah Palin, the de-facto leader of the Republican party -
SCARBOROUGH: You know what, Max, you are being intolerant here. I believe in small government. [Blumenthal laughs] No, you are. You were not even -
BLUMENTHAL: I respect your beliefs, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Okay. Then respect me when I tell you that there's no way that a small government conservative like myself would support the stimulus package that was put up - no way. There's no way a small government conservative - let me finish - like myself would support a cap and trade program put together by Henry Waxman. There's no way a small -
BLUMENTHAL: Why, because it was put together by Henry Waxman? That's sort of, um, juvenile, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: No, because it was a horrible bill. That's why.
Max Blumenthal calling Joe Scarborough “juvenile” is a bit like the pot calling the kettle....well, you get the picture. Now Scarborough’s explanation seems fairly straightforward. Combine that with this mind-bending instance of cognitive dissonance:
BLUMENTHAL: Well we had small government conservatives in power for eight years, and you guys failed. We had an economic collapse as a result of your policies.
SCARBOROUGH: The problem is they weren't small government conservatives. The problem is that when I left Congress, small government conservative, we had a $155 billion surplus. When George Bush left office -
BLUMENTHAL: That was under President Bill Clinton.
SCARBOROUGH: - we had a $1.5 trillion deficit.
BLUMENTHAL: That was after the Republican Congress of Tom Delay. Two-step Tommy.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, great. Also, the $155 billion surplus and reporters that were there -
BLUMENTHAL: But you guys -
SCARBOROUGH: - let me finish.
BLUMENTHAL: Hello, you don't let me finish! I'm not going to let you just take over the airwaves. I'm a guest. You should welcome guests.
First, as has been well-documented by The National Review, the housing crisis (the first domino to fall) was precipitated by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). The policies he forced through were the primary cause of the economic meltdown. Furthermore, if deregulation is the problem, shouldn't the blame for that be placed on President Clinton for not vetoing the initial deregulation wave? So now, according to Max Blumenthal the economic expert, we're left with the Republican Congress getting stuck with the blame for the economic collapse and the $1.5 trillion deficit; and Bill Clinton and Barney Frank get credit for the good done by deregulation ($155 billion surplus and booming economy), which would not have happened without Republicans forcing it through.
Scarborough makes a last-ditch attempt to have an adult conversation:
SCARBOROUGH: Well you keep interrupting me here. [Interrupted again, says disgustedly] Okay. You know what, go ahead.
BLUMENTHAL: You guys went and had you a war in Iraq, [crosstalking with Scarborough] and reversed the surplus under Bill Clinton that should have been paid into Social Security, and instead you wanted to privatize Social Security, which was totally unpopular with the American public. Barack Obama's approval rating is up six points because he bailed out the banks.
SCARBOROUGH: No, no, no. You know what, that's just not the case. The bottom line is, Max - the bottom line is, Max, that [Blumenthal interrupts again] - Okay, Mika. I'm done.
There is apparently a disease in the MSNBC studios that will not allow liberals to either listen or cease talking. Today, even the unnaturally calm Joe Scarborough couldn't take it.