Birchers at CPAC Get Better of Smug, Grasping Rachel Maddow

Next time Rachel Maddow debates members of the John Birch Society, she ought to come armed with more than attitude.

On her MSNBC show Friday night, Maddow showed a minute-long snippet of her exchange with two Birchers at CPAC 2010. The subject? You guessed it -- the Birch Society's opposition to fluoridation of water. Here's how it went --

JBS PRESIDENT JOHN F. McMANUS: The reason we opposed fluoridation is that it's mass medication. Right after we opposed it, a professor from Tufts University, you know where that is, he came out and he said, I think the population's growing so high and so fast that we gotta put birth control substances in the water supply and we can use as a precedent putting fluoridation in the water.

MADDOW: A lot of people say crazy s***, it's true. (profanity bleeped, followed by Maddow laughing at own joke)

McMANUS: Well, all right. Now, are we wrong to be opposed to mass fluoridation ...?

MADDOW (interrupting): You know what I always wondered? What did you guys think about putting iodine in salt?

WILLIAM F. JASPER (editor of Bircher publication The New American): Well, people can buy iodized- or non-iodized salt. When you put it in the public water supply ...

MADDOW (interrupting again): Well, you can buy private water, you can get, you can get well water.

Right, and surely it's not a problem for elderly widows on fixed incomes to stock up on Poland Spring, any more than it is for urban families to obtain well water. After all, this sort of thing hardly flusters liberal media types like Maddow who divides her time between residences in Manhattan and the Berkshires. Nor should it be a problem for anyone else, especially those whom progressives profess to Care So Deeply About. 

And, hey, if you don't like what's on television, get cable or satellite. Angered by leftist indoctrination in the classroom? Send your kids to private school. That's not expensive, right?

What I love most about this exchange is Maddow resorting to a false analogy and getting called on it. If iodine in salt is such an indisputably good thing, why not mandate that all salt is iodized? How about adding iodine to public water? It's a nutrient essential to good health, right? Come to think of it, is everyone getting enough vitamins and minerals? And don't get me started on the virtues of fiber.

All these many months of contentious debate over health reform and we've missed the obvious -- the answer is in the water.

A bit of background here. Maddow took a poke at Birchers back in December after learning they'd be one of numerous sponsors for this year's CPAC. The Birch Society responded in The New American with an article titled, "Rachel Maddow Recycles Falsehoods Against the John Birch Society," followed by Maddow lobbing another shot across their bow.

But in an actual exchange, Maddow comes out on the losing end. Notice, for example, how quickly she resorts to vulgarity, a cheap tactic borrowed from Jon Stewart by way of Abbie Hoffman, and the sign of a weak argument. This from a media figure so often praised by other liberals for her civility. Along the same lines, Maddow couldn't be bothered identifying the Birch Society members for her viewers (I learned their names from a video segment of the conversation at the JBS Web site, which can be seen in its entirety here).

"Turns out those guys don't drink the water anyway. I asked," Maddow says of McManus and Jasper. Turns out lots of us don't, at least not straight from the tap. That's why bottled water has burgeoned into a huge industry while filtration systems have become commonplace.

My curiosity piqued about iodized salt, I went to a local supermarket yesterday to check on what they sell. Turns out most of the salt on the shelves is iodized. But not a vast majority -- more like a 60-40 split. Perhaps more significantly, there was no difference in price between iodized and non-iodized salt. All three brands I saw that sold both -- Morton, Diamond Crystal and Shaw's store brand -- offered each at the same price.

This is not the case, however, when a person decides against drinking public water or paying for additional filtration, for whatever reason. The costs for both eventually add up.

Maddow isn't the only liberal trying to paint all conservatives with the Bircher brush. So is lefty loose-cannon Randi Rhodes, who said this on her radio show Friday (click here for audio) --

RHODES: So, you know, these are always crazy kind (sic) of conventions (CPAC), but this one is the sickest, craziest one I've ever seen, and maybe it has something to do with that fact that this one is brought to you by the John Birch Society. And who is the John Birch Society these days? Well, it's the Koch family. Again, it's this oil and gas Koch family industry's thing! This is why they tell you all the crap that they tell you about, get out there and scream that there is no sense in, you know, building new technology for better ways to deliver energy to your house or to your town or to your community. It will create millions of jobs and feh!, who needs jobs? We need oil and gas. We need oil. We need fossil fuels! Because it's the people who bring you the fossil fuels that are telling you this stuff! There ought to be disclaimers under every single person that talks to you.

As far as Maddow and Rhodes are concerned, all conservatives are indistinguishable from those they consider most extreme, in this case the John Birch Society. If that's the way they want it -- by this same logic all Democrats are violence-fomenting racists for elevating one-time Ku Klux Klansman Robert Byrd to elder statesman.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts