With 18 days to go in the presidential race, Friday’s Today show lurched to the far left and actually devoted five minutes (and space on MSNBC.com) to leftist author Naomi Wolf and her theory that under President Bush, America is undergoing a "fascist shift."
Co-host Meredith Vieira treated Wolf with skepticism, questioning her assertions that we’re in danger of a "police state," or a standing army overlooking American citizens, suggesting she might be "fear-mongering" to get Barack Obama elected with theories of a McCain-Palin police state, just as the McCain campaign has been accused of exploiting fear. But if years ago, an author suggested President Clinton was leading us into dictatorship, would NBC offered them five minutes, or simply ignored it as undignified? Vieira offered Wolf a free pass to offer long passages of her argument, and the word "fascist" wasn’t used by either party, as Wolf presented herself as a nonpartisan and non-ideological defender of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.
Conservative authors are rarely publicized on NBC. One conservative author the Today show has repeatedly featured is Ann Coulter, and like Coulter, Wolf was promoted as "controversial." But there were no angry words from conservatives thrown in Wolf’s face, and certainly no one in the Bush White House offering the mildest protest to the notion that they’re crushing American democracy under their boots.
The book is titled Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Throughout the segment, NBC’s screen offered the promotional message: "‘Give Me Liberty’, What Would The Founding Fathers Do."
In an excerpt of her argument on the MSNBC website, Wolf argued for her theory of the ten-step "fascist shift" under Bush and asserted "The last step of the ten steps to a closed society is the subversion of the rule of law. That is happening now. What critics have called a ‘paper coup’ has already taken place." Here's a transcript from MRC's Geoff Dickens:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Author Naomi Wolf is often controversial and she says the country is taking a dangerous turn today. Now in her new book, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook For American Revolutionaries, she urges Americans to quote, "take over the battle by protesting, running for office and asking themselves what would the Founders do?" Naomi Wolf, good morning to you.
NAOMI WOLF: Good morning, Meredith.
VIEIRA: Let's get right to this. You talk about this battle, that you're calling for. Who are Americans supposed to be fighting and why?
WOLF: Well they're supposed to be fighting for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. And why, because we have something very precious in this country that is under threat and people all over the world envy America because we have this beautiful system of checks and balances and beautiful respect for the law. It is being systematically undermined. So what I'm calling for people to do is to stand up as the Founders intended them to, to defend the Constitution.
VIEIRA: So what do you want them to do precisely?
WOLF: Well first they have to recognize what's under threat. I've argued what we're seeing today is ten clear signs of a closing society. Everything from warrantless wiretapping, to the state legalizing torture, to you know very disturbing deployments like the First Brigade being deployed in the United States, which overturns 200 years of our being protected by the Founding generation.
VIEIRA: But can I stop you right there?
VIEIRA: Because we actually did talk to the people at North Com, which is what you're talking about, this brigade that you say is gonna be used against the American public. And they denied that. The spokesperson said, "This response force will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control, it will be used to support lead agencies involved in saving lives, relieving suffering and meeting the needs of communities affected by weapons of mass destruction." So they're saying, what you're claiming is just not true.
WOLF: Well again, Meredith, I didn't say that the First Brigade would be used against American citizens. What I do know is that history shows that it's very dangerous for there to be a standing army not answerable to the people. And this is why the Founders made sure that the National Guard are answerable to the governors. Now the 2007 Defense Authorization Act made it possible for the President to declare a state of emergency and to deploy the National Guard himself and tell Congress about it after the fact or now to deploy the First Brigade. And what I'm saying is that the Founders understood that this is very dangerous. They knew from experiencing George the Third's mercenaries in their midst that it's very important for the people doing the policing to be members of the local community, responsive to the local community. But these are just some examples. I mean the people I have met across the country are really feeling worried. They think it's un-American for our brave servicemen and women to have their personal phone calls wiretapped. They often feel like, you know, they, they reach out to Congress, they call Congress but they feel that Congress is no longer able to respond to them because of the stranglehold of special interests. They feel like the media often doesn't pay attention to concerns they think are urgent. Among other things, neither of the presidential candidates is addressing the shredding of the Constitution. So the Founders really called on us, at a time like this, to ask each and every one of us to stand up to restore the Constitution and make sure.
VIEIRA: But where, when is it standing up and when is it fear-mongering? When you say something like, "The coming American police state. That, that's what's gonna happen to America if John McCain and Sarah Palin are elected." That is a very strong statement. The Republicans have been accused of using scare tactics to make sure that Obama is not elected. You're a supporter of Obama. It sounds like you're doing the same thing to make sure he is elected.
WOLF: Well Meredith, respectfully, I urge people watching and listening to go to the article that I wrote. Because this is not a partisan issue. These concerns about subverting checks and balances, they are as dangerous if Barack Obama has these powers or Hillary Clinton as John McCain. What I said and this is, you know, I've been saying to audiences across the country that even if McCain is elected we need a citizens movement, a bipartisan movement to restore the Constitution and, and take back these horrible laws, giving the President so much power. Because what I'm, the point I'm making is with a surveillance society, Meredith, you know it's just literally the case that, from now on, who's ever in power -- John McCain or Barack Obama -- they'll be able to read the strategy memos of the challenger, you know while it's still in the computer. And that is not a real democracy. Our Founders intended there to be a real democracy with transparent accountable elections, in which every vote is counted. And which, you know, there isn't a gang of people on either side who's able to wiretap the opposition, torture prisoners, strip people of habeas corpus and these are core American values.
VIEIRA: Alright Naomi before I let you go, I know that you feel that you, your privacy has been invaded because of saying this stuff. So, I don't know, I guess some people might say that you're paranoid but just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're watching you, doesn't mean they're not watching you.
WOLF: Well you know my own, what I'm experiencing in terms of mail tampering and the police report I filed, you know, these are trivial compared with other, other citizens are experiencing across the country. And again it's not a left, right thing. Conservatives, libertarians. I just heard last night from a brave young man, I'm sorry, Morgan, 24 who was an Iraq vet. And Iraq veterans were protesting at the debates just this week and the police rode a horse into the crowd and trampled this young man's face and you know didn't get a medical care. I'm hearing from activists across the country that people, you know, two nuns were put on the Maryland terror list. And we could go on and on.
VIEIRA: We could, we could continue talking, absolutely Naomi. I've run out of time, I apologize.
WOLF: I'm sorry, yeah.
VIEIRA: Naomi Wolf, thank you. The book is called Give Me Liberty. Very controversial book.
For more on Wolf, listen to her interview with left-wing radio host Stephanie Miller, or see The Progressive on how liberals like Patrick Leahy don't like any troops being assigned to Northern Command.