Huffington Post's Howard Fineman veered into left-wing heresy on the Rachel Maddow show the other night. Fortunately, another leftist was on hand to point out Fineman's apostasy, which he duly renounced.
You see, over in MSNBC land, nothing is worse than the tea party -- or "teabaggers" as more unhinged guests such as ambulance chaser Mike Papantonio still like calling them. To MSNBCers, the tea party represents all that's bad in America -- racism, greed, xenophobia, bad fashion, poor spelling, the works.
So it was a bit of a shock to hear Fineman on Friday comparing tea partiers to previously venerated -- at least on the left -- protesters who occupied campus administration buildings way back in the swinging '60s, man. (video after page break)
In fact, Fineman's analogy was preceded by not one but two seldom heard acknowledgements on MSNBC -- first, that the national debt "really is pretty big right now, almost as large as the whole economy itself and it hasn't been that way since the end of World War II."
Followed by Fineman saying that "people" have used the debt ceiling vote in the past "as a political weapon" -- people including then-Senator Barack Obama.
Then came even worse heresy --
FINEMAN: But when the tea party arrived, they used this vote as an excuse for a kind of building takeover. I'm of the '60s generation, this feels to me like occupying the administration building, OK? That's who the tea party people are.
And thanks to them we just might end that damn war in Vietnam.
Maddow guest host Melissa Harris-Perry, who chuckled after Fineman cited Obama's erstwhile opposition to raising the debt ceiling, decided more was needed by way of a response this time. An academic herself who teaches at Tulane, Harris-Perry defended the rights of students to seize campus buildings as they saw fit --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, look, I'm not even against sit-ins in administration buildings on college campuses. (laughter all around) I can see where they can be useful, but part of why they are useful is because students often don't have much power relative to their administrations.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think what I find so surprising here is that these are, after all, elected officials and they're elected to the House of Representatives whose main job it is, after all, to spend money. I mean, that's really what the House of Representatives does, right? It spends our money, our budget collectively on our collective good. So is there something broken either ideologically or structurally? I mean, is there something that's simply not working beyond just this question of, like, a kind of freshman desire to take over the administration building?
"Is there something broken?" Harris-Perry asks. That there is -- government spending far more than it takes in, year after year, abetted by apologists in the media and academia who view Congress as nothing more than a cash cow obligated to spend other people's money without restraint.
A chastened Fineman hastened to add --
FINEMAN: Yeah, there is, and I don't mean to diminish them or building takeovers.
I take it all back ... chaos is groovy!
Harris-Perry revisited campus takeovers in thanking Fineman at the end of the interview, at which point Fineman half-heartedly vowed to target a building for seizure.
HARRIS-PERRY: I'd take over an administration building with you any time, Howard.
FINEMAN (laughs): OK, I'll find one.
Provided it's not to protest the dearth of conservative professors or something similar that actually matters. In which case, Harris-Perry and Fineman would describe the protesters as violent racists.