CBS’s Greenfield: Is Right-Wing ‘Militancy’ A Dilemma for GOP?

Reporting for CBS’s Sunday Morning, political analyst Jeff Greenfield wondered about the impact of nationwide ant-Obama protests: "Does this new militancy on the Right pose an opportunity for the Republican Party or create a dilemma?" He fretted over the tone: "Some of it is aimed specifically and virulently at Obama....At his background, at his race, at his agenda."

Greenfield began the segment by highlighting the source of all the "militancy": "Discontent is in the air. You can see it in the signs they carry. Hear it from the most prominent voices on talk radio. All from the Right....And most notably from Glenn Beck, whose radio program and Fox News telecasts draw millions with his apocalyptic visions of where the President is going."Greenfield went on to include South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, whom he mistakenly labeled as being from Louisiana: "You even heard it from the floor of the House...In an unprecedented outburst from Louisiana Congressman Joe Wilson."

Later, Greenfield worried about "signs here that show like pictures of Hitler, Stalin, and Obama." One sign showed President Obama as Adolf Hitler, but as NewsBusters earlier reported, that particular sign has been traced back to followers of left-wing radical Lyndon LaRouche. In response to some of the other signs, Protestor Carol Fessler explained to Greenfield: "That comes from a fear...the fear is, you know, if the media’s not doing its job, if government is just taking over every single thing it can and we now have an unfettered liberal – the radical left has gotten control of the process. That’s the fear." Greenfield concluded: "Indeed, that fear has been fed not by politicians but by Fox News pundits."

The story featured several clips of Glenn Beck criticizing media coverage of the protests: "It can’t be called the mainstream media anymore, because it’s not...it can’t be called the mainstream media anymore, because it’s not...They’re in bed with those in Washington and the special interests and they’re lunatics. Some of them are absolute lunatics." Greenfield’s only response to those charges was to criticize a recent Fox News ad placed in major newspapers: "Indeed, Fox News claimed in full page ads this week that the other networks simply did not cover the protests. In fact, all of them did."

Near the end of the segment, Greenfield got reaction from a reliable source on civility, liberal Democratic Congressman Barney Frank: "I think the really extreme nature of this, the virulence of it, makes it less politically effective...The very anger of it. The racist elements. The irrational elements, the embrace of fiction. The threats. I think that makes it less politically useful." Greenfield added: "Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank has spent nearly 30 years in the House as a stalwart liberal. He sees real danger for the Republicans in the rise of this ‘mad as hell’ sentiment."

In order to provide balance, Greenfield spoke with Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina: "I don’t like the – what I’m seeing in many circles. I don’t like this – this resentment. I mean, the way I look at this, Mr. Obama is our president. I want him to do well. I’m an American citizen first." Greenfield explained: "For some Republicans, like 15-year veteran Walter Jones of North Carolina, the intensity on the Right poses a dilemma. Indeed, he was one of only seven Republicans in the House who voted to admonish Joe Wilson for his outburst."

Greenfield then asked Jones: "So if some of your constituents, good solid conservatives, call you up and say you know, Rush is – Rush Limbaugh says you’re wimping out on the Party, or on the cause?" Jones replied: "Well, I serve God not Rush Limbaugh."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

9:33AM

CHARLES OSGOOD: What to make of all the thunder on the Right of late, on the streets, on the air waves and even in the halls of Congress? Our senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield has filed this ‘Sunday Journal.’

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [PROTESTOR, TAX DAY RALLY]: Stop saddling our children with unnecessary debt!

JEFF GREENFIELD: From the tea parties on tax day last April.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [ATTENDEE, TOWN HALL MEETING]: Where are the people protecting us in government?

GREENFIELD: To the rancorous town halls on health care in August. To the gathering last weekend at the Capitol, discontent is in the air. You can see it in the signs they carry. Hear it from the most prominent voices on talk radio. All from the Right.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama-

GREENFIELD: From Rush Limbaugh.

LIMBAUGH: -is destroying the United States’ economy.

GLENN BECK: Look at this. What do all of these names say?

GREENFIELD: And most notably from Glenn Beck, whose radio program and Fox News telecasts draw millions with his apocalyptic visions of where the President is going.

BECK: Does sacred honor even exist in Washington anymore?

GREENFIELD: You even heard it from the floor of the House.

BARACK OBAMA: The reforms would not apply to those who are here illegally.

JOE WILSON: You lie!

GREENFIELD: In an unprecedented outburst from Louisiana [South Carolina] Congressman Joe Wilson. An outburst that made him an instant hero to some.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [PROTESTOR, 9/12 RALLY]: We love Joe.

GREENFIELD: What’s brought these folks to nation’s capital? What’s put them in the streets of dozens of American cities? What’s swelling the ratings for conservative media? And maybe more significant, does this new militancy on the Right pose an opportunity for the Republican Party or create a dilemma? Some of it seems very traditional. An outcry against the government that critics say has grown too big. When this protestor from Memphis, Tennessee declares ‘We Don’t Trust You,’ that’s what she means.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B [PROTESTOR, 9/12 RALLY]: I think the extreme liberals have taken over.

GREENFIELD: Some of it is aimed specifically and virulently at Obama.

[Signs shows MLK picture next to Obama picture and reads: ‘We Had A Dream, We Got a Nightmare’]

GREENFIELD: At his background, at his race, at his agenda.

[Signs shows Obama as Joker and reads: ‘Stop Lying; I Don’t Want Your Debt; Obama Bin Laden’]

GREENFIELD: Fascist, Communist, both. Those present and former politicians who spoke to the rally, all Republican, assert that this is an insignificant fringe. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

JIM DEMINT: Well this is not really political and it’s certainly not a Republican rally. This is mainstream, the heart of America right now, that’s standing up and speaking out about some things they’re very concerned about.

GREENFIELD: Protester Carol Fessler from Memphis, Tennessee explains it this way. There have been some signs here that show like pictures of Hitler, Stalin, and Obama. [Shows Sign]

CAROL FESSLER [PROTESTOR, 9/12 RALLY]: That comes from a fear. Now, I appreciate that. And fear engenders anger, so. But the fear is, you know, if the media’s not doing its job, if government is just taking over every single thing it can and we now have an unfettered liberal – the radical left has gotten control of the process. That’s the fear.

BECK: You know, I used to call it the mainstream media, and I’ve been thinking for the last few days it can’t be called the mainstream media anymore, because it’s not.

GREENFIELD: Indeed, that fear has been fed not by politicians but by Fox News pundits.

BECK: That’s why I believe it can’t be called the mainstream media anymore, because it’s not.. Because that’s exactly what it is. It is on the fringe. They’re in bed with those in Washington and the special interests and they’re lunatics. Some of them are absolute lunatics.

WOMAN B: Glenn Beck is the one that we want to thank for a lot of this. I listen to Fox News, which gives you both sides. And I think if you turn on some of the other stations that you only get a slanted side, which is the liberal side.

GREENFIELD: Indeed, Fox News claimed in full page ads this week that the other networks simply did not cover the protests. In fact, all of them did.

JOE GAYLORD: The interesting thing about the political culture right now is that while people have access to more and more information, they also can isolate themselves more and more, and get only information that they want to see, and that they want to hear, that reinforces the opinions that they already have.

GREENFIELD: Joe Gaylord has been Newt Gingrich’s key political strategist since Gingrich’s days in the House. He remembers how populist anger in 1994 helped turn the Congress over to the Republicans. Right now he says this anger is not strictly a partisan party matter.

GAYLORD: I wouldn’t confuse the conservative movement and the Republican Party because they’re two different things. The Republican Party is sometimes a vehicle for the conservative movement. But I think what you saw actually on the Mall, and what you saw at the town hall meetings, is a genuine conservative uprising. Sometimes involving Republicans, sometimes not.

BARNEY FRANK: I think the really extreme nature of this, the virulence of it, makes it less politically effective.

GREENFIELD: Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank has spent nearly 30 years in the House as a stalwart liberal. He sees real danger for the Republicans in the rise of this ‘mad as hell’ sentiment.

FRANK: The very anger of it. The racist elements. The irrational elements, the embrace of fiction. The threats. I think that makes it less politically useful.

GREENFIELD: For some Republicans, like 15-year veteran Walter Jones of North Carolina, the intensity on the Right poses a dilemma. Indeed, he was one of only seven Republicans in the House who voted to admonish Joe Wilson for his outburst.

WALTER JONES: I don’t like the – what I’m seeing in many circles. I don’t like this – this resentment. I mean, the way I look at this, Mr. Obama is our president. I want him to do well. I’m an American citizen first.

GREENFIELD: So if some of your constituents, good solid conservatives, call you up and say you know, Rush is – Rush Limbaugh says you’re wimping out on the Party, or on the cause?

JONES: Well, I serve God not Rush Limbaugh.

GREENFIELD: With midterm elections more than a year away, it’s highly possible that the passions of the summer will have been overtaken by more fundamental factors, the strength or weakness of the economy, the war in Afghanistan. But intensity can itself be a powerful force in politics and the intensity right now seems to be on the Right.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC