Mark Halperin Claims Conservative Pundits Are Hoping Obama Fails In His Tucson Speech – But Where Is the Evidence?
Time magazine's Mark Halperin scolded "media voices on the Right" on MSNBC Wednesday, for hoping President Obama fails in his Wednesday night speech in Tucson, Arizona. He railed against conservative media pundits for wishing such a thing during a national tragedy.
"It should be about the victims, and...it shouldn't be about the media," said Halperin on "Morning Joe" Wednesday. "There are media voices on the Right who are cheering for the President to fail in his speech tonight. They're hoping he does a bad job. And that is the problem."
There's just one problem – who exactly has been saying that? Liberal media watchdog Media Matters has not yet documented an instance of such rhetoric. Internet searches reveal no stories of conservative media wishing for the President to fail in his speech.
The conversation on "Morning Joe" at the beginning of the 6 a.m. EST hour focused on the need for civility in political rhetoric. "This is a national crisis. People talk about Oklahoma City, think about President Reagan and the Challenger. This is a moment where people should be praying that the President does a great job of unifying the country," Halperin preached.
Co-host Joe Scarborough reiterated what has become a mantra for him – "Keep Calm and Carry On." Scarborough scolded conservatives for moving away from a debate on civil discourse, even though the shooting was not caused by violent political rhetoric, as some on the Left would believe.
"I think the Right's trying to move too quickly away from this conversation, to say 'Oh, look, okay so you can't blame this all directly on Sarah Palin, because this guy's crazy. He's crazy!' So now we're not going to have any conversation about how hate speech over the past two decades may have contributed to a coarsened culture that indirectly could have had an impact."
Co-host Mika Brzezinski referenced a CBS News poll showing 57 percent of Americans believing harsh political rhetoric did not cause the shooting. "So Americans feel like it's just a crazy person, for the most part, looking at this poll. Having said that, what do we talk about every day?" she asked. Since "Morning Joe" continually pleads for civil political discourse, one can wonder if Brzezinski was dismayed at the findings and wishes more Americans got their take on current events from the pundit panel on "Morning Joe."
Scarborough, once again, self-righteously trumpeted his "conservative" record, and thus used it to enhance his image as a critic of the Right. "Conservatives are saying move along. Again, people that I dare say stack my voting record up over four terms to their voting records, and I will come out much more conservative, but because I'm saying 'Let's have a rational discussion about where we've – what we've become as a country', suddenly I'm a Left-wing whatever?" Scarborough constantly trumpets his "conservative" record, but recent instances might show otherwise: here, here, here, and here.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on January 12 at 6:10 a.m. EST, is as follows:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mark Halperin, The Arizona Republic is not a conservative newspaper anymore. Most Republicans I know that serve out there see it as a pretty staunch ally of Democrats in that state.
MARK HALPERIN: I think it is pretty clear that it is appropriate and good to have a debate about the rhetoric in this country, irrespective of why the violence occurred. It's just a good time to have that important debate. The modus operandi of all political combat has been the only way you can combat angry speech is to come back and be angry yourself. And that's in effect what the sheriff did, and I think the paper's right. We need to find a way to speak out against unnecessarily angry and partisan speech, unnecessarily angry and partisan, without being angry and partisan.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Andrew Sullivan actually took your side yesterday about the Brooks column, and said that he thought David Brooks was trying to whitewash this event too quickly, and thought we needed to talk about civil discourse. And while we were all offended – and Willie, we've talked about it – we were offended about how two minutes after the shooting went public, the Left was immediately trying to blame the Right – I think the Right's trying to move too quickly away from this conversation, to say "Oh, look, okay so you can't blame this all directly on Sarah Palin, because this guy's crazy. He's crazy! So now we're not going to have any conversation about how hate speech over the past two decades may have contributed to a coarsened culture that indirectly could have had an impact.
WILLIE GEIST: It's a great time for the conversation, I would echo –
SCARBOROUGH: But they don't want to have it.
GEIST: They don't want to have it. Echoes something that Barnicle said yesterday, the most offensive thing to me is how (unintelligible) this has become, which is David Brooks writing about the rhetoric, and then Andrew Sullivan writing about David Brooks writing about the rhetoric, and it's become all about the press, and how important it is, our jobs are important. There are – six people were murdered, and a congresswoman is laying in a hospital with a hole in her head. It's just – I would suggest we stop talking about ourselves.
SCARBOROUGH: A little nine year-old girl, while she was being rushed to the hospital where she eventually died – there were people already online, trying to make political points with this.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But there's a really important, constructive, calm conversation that we can have about this that we should have. Look at this poll, we're not the only ones. This isn't about us, this is about exactly what the tone and the culture is out there right now. This is a CBS News poll that finds the majority of Americans – 57 percent believe that harsh political tone in the U.S. had nothing to do with the shooting compared to 32 percent who felt it did.
So Americans feel like it's just a crazy person, for the most part, looking at this poll. Having said that, what do we talk about every day? What do we talk about every day here?
JOHN HEILEMANN: Well I think the defensiveness on the Right has been very telling. You know, the way they've climbed on top of their battle stations in this way. But look, there are some facts, as Willie's pointing out – there are some facts that are true over the course of the last couple of years. There's been an extraordinary increase in the last two years in threats on government officials across the board. We've had this crazy period of very intense rhetoric, especially since President Obama came in. In the Congress, there have been more threats. In the White House, there have been more threats. There are White House officials that did not have Secret Service details that now have Secret Service details after the health care vote, because the Secret Service was concerned about their lives. There have been more assaults on Congressional offices around the country. This is a moment where, it's not just about – the questions that we're trying to talk about civil discourse. This particular incident may or may not be directly related to the increase in the heatedness of the rhetoric. But there is this climate, especially in the last two years – it goes back further, but especially in the last two years – is leading to actual tangible threats. This stuff is going up empirically, and that's why we need to be discussing it, because it's a real problem.
SCARBOROUGH: John, how can we not discuss it when a congresswoman is shot through her head in a district that had a bullet target on it, when she ran against an opponent that had an ad in the newspaper that said "Come shoot an M-16 with whatever the guy's name was," and he had some pretty inflammatory language – how can we not have that conversation? I say this – and this is the sickness of our political culture – I say this as a small-government conservative with a 100 percent NRA voting record, a 100 percent right-to-life voting record, I voted to abolish cabinet agencies left and right. I have been the conservatives' conservative, but because I say we need to step back from the abyss, well I'm not a true conservative anymore. Joe, what happened to you? What I hear all the time – what happened to me? I mean, if somebody thought they ever voted for me because I was going to do a nod and wink to violent acts, well they voted in ignorance. Well that's how sick our culture is, it's become clannish. You choose your side, right?
So a Muslim shooter kills people on an army base, and as Robert Reich says this morning, immediately the Left tries to make this guy look insane, the Right makes him try to look sane. A Democratic congresswoman is shot at, and immediately the Right tries to make him insane, and the Left tries to make him, well – it's just, it is so sickening. It is clannish.
BRZEZINSKI: I think the word you just used, which is the most important one, is "immediately." You know when this happened, we all got on the phone. We were on the phone with out families, and watching the coverage. We worried about exactly what we thought might be behind this, just like everybody else did. We thought about it, we talked about going on the air the next day. You know what? We decided against it, because we wanted to think about it, write about it, and then calmly talk about it. Because that would be moving forward. Jumping to the airwaves and jumping to the internet and throwing blame and acting, quite frankly, exactly in a way that we worried about, which might have caused this –
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, if we don't talk about this now – I want to get back to this, because conservatives are saying move along. Again, people that I dare say stack my voting record up over four terms to their voting records, and I will come out much more conservative, but because I'm saying "Let's have a rational discussion about where we've – what we've become as a country, suddenly I'm a Left-wing whatever?
BRZEZINSKI: That's not fair.
SCARBOROUGH: A traitor to the conser – I mean, I don't give a damn what they say, because they're wrong. I know who I am. But how do we move past this discussion at this point? How do we not talk about where –
HALPERIN: It has not all been negative. I think most elected officials – most – have behaved surprisingly good, well in instances since Saturday. They have been heartfelt, they have been soul-searching, they have been dignified. It should be about the victims, and it should be about – it shouldn't be about the media, but I will say, there are media voices on the Right who are cheering for the President to fail in his speech tonight. They're hoping he does a bad job. And that is the problem. That is the conversation we've had – this is a national crisis. People talk about Oklahoma City, think about President Reagan and the Challenger. This is a moment where people should be praying that the President does a great job of unifying the country.
SCARBOROUGH: To that point, Willie, I got e-mails yesterday from people saying "Oh God, Barack Obama's going to use this for political gain now, and he's going to come across looking compassionate.
HALPERIN: Hope so.
SCARBOROUGH: I hope so. I hope so. I hope the President succeeds.
HEILEMANN: There's one conservative, one conservative, Joe, who wrote this phrase. David Frum wrote this phrase. He said this talk, this kind of talk, this talk did not cause this crime. But this crime should summon us to some reflection on this talk.
HEILEMANN: Very rare from a conservative in the last few days, and I think exactly right.
SCARBOROUGH: And Robert Reich, again in the Times, and we're going to read about this, talks about how yes, in this incident, this harsh rhetoric did not cause this event most likely. But look at the event where the guy was pulled over going up to San Francisco going up to kill people in a non-profit organization that had been vilified as socialists who were trying to destroy America? C'mon, let's stop fooling ourselves. It's – I agree, we've got to have a discussion.