On Friday’s Need to Know on PBS, co-host Jon Meacham – also of Newsweek – devoted the show’s regular "In Perspective" segment to highlighting "anger" and "hate" felt by some conservatives toward President Barack Obama, and included examples of protesters and anger expressed toward liberals. He began the segment by raising the possibility of violence resulting from "extremism": "Perhaps we should not be much surprised anymore about the language of extremism. But we can't let the prevalence of far-out rhetoric dull us to its pernicious and possibly violent effects."
He asserted that most of the "hatred" is coming from conservatives: "For the most part, the fury is on the right, and it started with the rise of Barack Obama. Change and rage. It's a curious thing. Obama – hardly a radical figure – provokes hatred among some who feel alienated by the times."
The PBS host soon revisited the possibility that anti-Obama "hate" could result in violence: "But there have been times when the force that perennially divides us is not anger as much as its more violent and more disturbing cousin: hate. These are the times when men with weapons have emerged from the shadows, and changed history." Clips of Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh, and wreckage from the Oklahoma City Bombing were then shown.
Meacham used an over the top line from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s latest book asserting that President Obama represents a greater threat to America than did Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, to introduce the piece in which clips of profanity-laced phone messages directed against Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak were played, as well as a clip of a male protester shouting hysterically against President Obama.
The Need to Know co-host did not recount any recent examples of anger from the left directed at conservatives – such as the man arrested for threatening House Minority Whip Eric Cantor or the vitriol leveled against President George W. Bush. In fact, Meacham instead used a soundbite of a left-leaning public figure as an example of how Americans normally accept political defeat peacefully, as he showed a clip of former Vice President Al Gore conceding the 2000 presidential election:
JON MEACHAM: By and large, from George Washington to George W. Bush, we work within the system and accept the outcome.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE, CONCEDING THE 2000 ELECTION: The partisan rancor must now be put aside.
Below is a complete transcript of the "In Perspective" segment from the Friday, May 21, Need to Know on PBS:
JON MEACHAM: Perhaps we should not be much surprised anymore about the language of extremism. But we can't let the prevalence of far-out rhetoric dull us to its pernicious and possibly violent effects. In a new book, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote this of President Obama: "His secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did." That's right. President Obama is as great a risk to the American way of life as Adolf Hitler was. Gingrich is clearly trying to take advantage of the atmosphere of discontent in America right now. His language, however, comes at a time when political anger is dangerously veering toward something worse: hate.
It's true that anger is perhaps America's oldest collective national emotion. You might say that starting with the American Revolution, then the Whiskey Rebellion, Federalist plots to secede from Jefferson's America, that political anger has always driven American attitudes kept driving them and never stopped.
CLIP OF CIVIL RIGHTS DEMONSTRATION FROM 1960s: Ain't gonna let no jailhouse turn me ‘round-MEACHAM: In fact, to be angry about the country's direction is an intrinsic part of our democracy. We get mad as hell, we say we're not going to take it anymore, but, by and large, from George Washington to George W. Bush, we work within the system and accept the outcome.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: The partisan rancor must now be put aside.
MEACHAM: But there have been times when the force that perennially divides us is not anger as much as its more violent and more disturbing cousin: hate. These are the times when men with weapons have emerged from the shadows, and changed history.
(SHOWS CLIPS OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD AND TIMOTHY MCVEIGH)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE AS A CLIP OF DAMAGE FROM THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING IS SHOWN: You can't help but be overwhelmed by the incredible carnage.
MEACHAM: The passage not long ago of the health care reform bill has offered all too many new examples of hate.
CLIP OF MAN WHO LEFT VOICE MAIL ON PHONE OF REP. BART STUPAK (D-MI): You mother [BLEEP] piece of [BLEEP], bastard, mother [BLEEP], I hope you die!
CLIP OF WOMAN WHO LEFT VOICE MAIL ON PHONE OF REP. BART STUPAK (D-MI): Go to hell, you piece of [BLEEP]!
MEACHAM: Those are phone messages Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak received after he voted in favor of the health care bill.
REP. BART STUPAK (D-MI): We stand for the American people! We stand up for life!
MEACHAM: When he later announced he would not run for re-election, Stupak said the decision had nothing to do with those ugly messages. In California, Gregory Lee Giusti has been charged with making threatening calls to the Speaker of the House.
CLIP OF ANSWERING MACHINE FOR HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: You've reached the office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
MEACHAM: In one, he recited her home address and said if she wanted to see that home again, she'd better not support that bill. For the most part, the fury is on the right, and it started with the rise of Barack Obama.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Change has come to America!
MEACHAM: Change and rage.
CLIP OF PROTESTERS: Kill the bill! Kill the bill!
MEACHAM: It's a curious thing. Obama – hardly a radical figure – provokes hatred among some who feel alienated by the times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER: Afro-Leninism coming to you on a silver platter! Barack Hussein Obama! He ain't my President, people!
MEACHAM: So where do remarks like Gingrich's fall? The Speaker was just trying to sell books, you might say, or position himself to run for President. But words have consequences, and implicitly linking the President of the United States to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao creates a climate in which the fantasies of the paranoid can find concrete and often violent expression in reality. At such times, old-fashioned political anger seems almost quaint.