"1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" host David Shuster on Monday worried that "conservative fear mongering" about President Barack Obama could be "seriously dangerous." A graphic for the segment hyperbolically read, "Stoking Hatred?" Shuster brought on Republican strategist Brad Blakeman and Democratic counterpart Chris Kofinis to discuss the topic. [audio available here]
In a tease for the piece, Shuster played clips of former Vice President Dick Cheney asserting that Obama has made America less safe and of Fox News host Glenn Beck. The MSNBC anchor asked, "The inflammatory rhetoric from the wing nuts, is it merely entertaining or seriously dangerous?" With a complete lack of irony, Shuster spoke of FNC's Beck and wondered, "Shouldn't there be some standards at some of these other networks? I mean, that's a problem, isn't it? There's no standards." Keep in mind, on May 14, 2008, Shuster's colleague Keith Olbermann accused then-President Bush of "murderous deceit" and told him to "shut the hell up!" Would that be an example of the "standards" that Mr. Shuster would like to see?
The cable host repeatedly lectured conservatives and Republicans for vociferously attacking President Obama. He solemnly intoned, "So, how far is too far? Isn't there a danger when the rhetoric goes off the charts?" (Again, he's on the same network as Keith Olbermann.)
This is a topic that Shuster has been obsessively focusing on for weeks. On March 5, he suggested that Republicans who don't distance themselves from Rush Limbaugh "appear unpatriotic"
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired at 6:31pm on March 16, follows:
DAVID SHUSTER : Later, the conservative fear mongering over President Obama.
MSNBC GRAPHIC: Stoking Hatred?
DICK CHENEY: He's making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.
GLENN BECK: We are a country that‘s headed toward socialism, totalitarianism, beyond your wildest imagination.
MIKE OZANIAN (Forbes): Madoff's scam is about $20 billion. Barack Obama's Ponzi scheme is $2 trillion.
SHUSTER: The inflammatory rhetoric from the wing nuts, is it merely entertaining or seriously dangerous?
DAVID SHUSTER: President Obama's approval rating stands at a healthy 61 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll. However, some conservatives have decided to ratchet up their personal attacks on the President, and the rhetoric is increasingly harsh. Here's Vice President Cheney yesterday.
JOHN KING: Do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?
CHENEY: I do. He's making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.
SHUSTER: As controversial as Cheney‘s statement was, that rhetoric was soft and cuddly compared to what was spewed out over the weekend on Fox News. On that network, President Obama was compared to Bernie Madoff, Wall Street's most hated criminal.
MIKE OZANIAN (Forbes): Madoff scam is about 20 billion. Barack Obama's Ponzi scheme is two trillion. And if you look at how they work the schemes, they're very similar. Both falsify their returns. And to pay for that, he's got to bring in a lot of other scamsters, Obama does, which in this case really are taxpayers.
SHUSTER: So, how far is too far? Isn't there a danger when the rhetoric goes off the charts? Joining us now, Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, former communications director for John Edwards, and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman, former deputy assistant to President Bush. Welcome to you both. Brad, comparing President Obama to Bernie Madoff, you don't support that, do you?
BRAD BLAKEMAN (GOP strategist): I do not, no. I think some of these attacks have gone too far on the President. You‘re right. These are personal attacks. These are not attacks on his policy and principles. That's what we should be attacking, and we should be offering alternatives and not just attacks to be obstructionist.
SHUSTER: Chris Kofinis?
CHRIS KOFINIS (Democratic strategist): I mean, these Republican attacks by some in the party, folks like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, and others, I mean, this is just a recipe to further dig a deeper hole for this party. I mean, listen, their ideas, their policies, their positions on the issues are not selling to the American people. So, the only thing they have left is to go on the attack and make it personal. What they don't understand, that is the worst strategy. It's going to make things worse for the party. It's going to further alienate the very voters they need to win over.
SHUSTER: But it‘s good for them. I mean, Rush Limbaugh, it appears his ratings are up. Glenn Beck's ratings are through the roof. Glenn Beck was suggesting that the Obama administration is heading toward concentration camps, with those FEMA camps, and he accuses the Obama administration of embracing totalitarianism. Watch this.
GLENN BECK: We are a country that is headed toward socialism, totalitarianism, beyond your wildest imagination. I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps. I'm tired of hearing about them. You know about them. I'm tired of hearing about them. I wanted to debunk them. We've now for several days done research on them. I can't debunk them.
SHUSTER: I mean, it's crazy, isn't it?
BLAKEMAN: It is. It's crazy as Jon Stewart is crazy or Bill Maher is crazy on the left.
KOFINIS: No, no.
BLAKEMAN: These guys- you have a massive deception because you want to take people away from your horrid policy. Jon Stewart started attacking Rush Limbaugh.
KOFINIS: Jon Stewart is a comedian.
BLAKEMAN: And so is Rush Limbaugh. He's an entertainer. He's an entertainer.
KOFINIS: No. Rush Limbaugh got invited to CPAC to speak in front of conservative and Republican leaders. You know, Mr. Beck is another-
BLAKEMAN: He closed the show.
KOFINIS: Mr. Beck is another voice in the Republican Party.
BLAKEMAN: Glenn Beck is not a member of the Republican Party, nor is Rush Limbaugh.
KOFINIS: He is a voice in the Republican Party. Why Republicans do not come out and condemn these individuals. Aside from you, no one else is willing to do it, because they're all terrified they‘re going to be on the next morning show.
BLAKEMAN: Why aren't you out there condemning Bill Maher-
KOFINIS: For what? For being funny?
BLAKEMAN: Well, he's not funny. He's not funny when he attacked President Bush personally. You guys didn't do that. When Jon Stewart goes on television every night and attacked-
KOFINIS: You have had Democrats come out and speak out against MoveOn and other groups.
BLAKEMAN: You guys are joined at the hip with MoveOn. General Betray Us?
KOFINIS: No, that's not true. You've had Democrats come out and criticize when they felt-
BLAKEMAN: Very few.
KOFINIS: No. You had leaders in the Democratic Party come out and willingly say this went too far. There is no one in the Republican Party at a leadership role who is willing to do that. Not Michael Steele, not Representative Cantor, not Senator Boehner- I'm sorry, Senator McConnell, not Representative Boehner, no one. They're not willing to do it. And the reason why-
BLAKEMAN: Why should we give the guys the type of credibility that you're trying to give them?
KOFINIS: It's not giving them credibility, it's speaking the truth.
SHUSTER: Brad, why is it so difficult for people to say, as you just did, that this is wrong? When Glenn Beck is out there suggesting that there's going to be totalitarianism and concentration camps, when others are make these, sort of, crazy claims, why is it so difficult for Republicans to say, let's not make it personal? Let's keep it on the policy?
BLAKEMAN: Because these people are not members of our party. They're not the leaders of our party. What, are we going to spend every day trying to apologize for entertainers?
SHUSTER: Shouldn't there be some standards at some of these other networks? I mean, that's a problem, isn't it? There's no standards.
BLAKEMAN: There should be standards at all networks. But, that's not for Mitch McConnell or Boehner to be out there policing everything that entertainers say.
KOFINIS: It's disputing, it's disagreeing. The reality is Rush Limbaugh is-
BLAKEMAN: Actions speak louder than words.