My what a difference a midterm can make.
In my vast, lamentable experience cringing through MSNBC broadcasts, I can't recall a single instance of a left-wing anchor, host or guest talking about tea partiers without denigrating them as racist rubes acting unwittingly on behalf of their corporate masters.
All that changed this past Monday when former DNC chair Howard Dean appeared on "The Rachel Maddow Show" to discuss issues before the lame-duck Congress, specifically the looming expiration of the Bush tax rates (video below page break) --
MADDOW: A lot of these fights right now are happening among Republicans. One of the things we're going to talk about later on in the show is some of the campaigning by the Republicans for committee chairmanships. Obviously John Boehner is the Speaker, there was no contest there, but there is some fighting among Republicans about who gets to be in charge of the various committees. Joe Barton is one of these guys who wants to be in charge of one of the House committees under the Republicans. He's campaigning, overtly campaigning, he sent out his PowerPoint presentation saying, I am a fiscal conservative. Guy who voted for both Bush tax cuts that weren't paid for and Medicare Part D which wasn't paid for, which was disastrous for the deficit.
DEAN: Right. Look, we know the Republicans aren't fiscally conservative and most American people don't believe they're fiscally conservative. Look at Bush's record.
DEAN: He ran up a huge deficit by not paying for things and not paying the bills.
MADDOW: But now in 2010, even after that, there are Republicans speaking to other Republican congressmen who know they'll get away with it.
DEAN: Because they have the same problem that the White House had in a sense, they're locked into Washington-speak. If Republicans are talking like that, they haven't heard the tea party yet. I think the tea party is serious about real fiscal conservatism. I think those people know that you can't get a tax cut for nothing. You gotta cut something in order to give a tax cut. And I don't think most of the tea party people want their Medicare and Social Security cut in order to give people who make a million dollars a year a tax cut.
MADDOW: Do you think that they are powerful enough and that they are serious enough about that message that we could see things on the chopping block that are usually protected, things like defense?
DEAN: You could if everybody's willing to give something. If we were to raise taxes on the people who can well afford it, which is people who make over a quarter million dollars a year, if we were to then look at cutting defense and cutting Social Security growth and cutting Medicare growth in a serious way, then you have the formula for dealing with the deficit. But if you leave one of those things out, none of this is going to work and everybody better get that message.
It wasn't just Dean avoiding unkind things to say about the tea party. He was also critical of Obama throughout the interview, which can be seen in its entirety here, though Deean was careful not to cite Obama by name. "We need a strong White House that's going to stand up and tell the truth and we need to stick it to the Republicans if they don't tell the truth," Dean said (6:08 in linked segment). In other words, Obama is weakened liar.
More along the same lines from Dean at 9:13 in linked segment -- "We need strength. What we need to do here, Rachel, is be strong. Bill Clinton, who I still think is the best political mind in America, once said, people will always vote for somebody who's strong and wrong, i.e., the Republicans, rather than someone who's weak and right. And if we can show some strength, people see what Mitch McConnell's about. They know Mitch McConnell doesn't give a damn about unemployed people, he only cares about getting rid of Obama. They know that Mitch McConnell doesn't give a damn about the START treaty and better relationships with Russia, they only care about getting rid of Barack Obama. That's not, they know that's not going to serve them well. But we have to be strong. We have to stand up for some principles once in a while. Once we start standing up for our principles, believe me, we're going to start winning elections again."
And here, at 10:16 -- "I think the Democrats have got to start to get their act together. That's how the Republicans, you know, the Republicans are really good in opposition 'cause they make things up and they're great propaganda artists. They're terrible at governing 'cause they don't care what the facts are. We don't mind having six different positions but it's terrible for messaging and somebody better get to work in Washington and start messaging 'cause if we don't we're going to have an even smaller, we're going to have minorities in both the House and the Senate and we may not have the presidency after 2012."
"Somebody" in Washington needs to "start messaging" -- namely, Obama, that allegedly eloquent exemplar. Or else.
Could it be that Dean, in his post-midterm respect for tea partiers and criticism of Obama -- and the phenomenon of a politician's hair getting darker as he ages -- is mulling a primary challenge against Obama?