MSNBC's Richard Wolffe: Margaret Thatcher's Actions Were the 'Antithesis of Freedom'

MSNBC continued the bashing of Margaret Thatcher on Monday. Richard Wolffe, a British journalist and editor of the network's website, smeared the late prime minister as "the antithesis of freedom" when it came to how she dealt with her domestic enemies. The liberal reporter sneered that the Conservative politician "hurt working families and working people." Now host Alex Wagner even went so far as to quote arch-socialist Ken Livingstone while attacking Thatcher.

Speaking of the woman who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the totalitarian threat of Soviet Communism, Wolffe, a former correspondent for Newsweek, excoriated, "She had an attitude to her domestic enemies that frankly was the antithesis of freedom." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] The journalist summarized Thatcher as "someone who was a pioneer for women, who actually also hurt working families and working people and that includes teachers and women across the board."

Wagner lectured viewers that the pioneering female "left a lot of wreckage around her." She then chose to cite the criticism of a strident socialist:

ALEX WAGNER: You know, Ken Livingstone, the former Labor leader, minced no words, writing "Thatcher created today's housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefits crisis. She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry, that she could live with two or three million unemployed and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we're struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong."

Livingstone has been accused of anti-Semitism and associated himself with radical Islamic leaders. Apparently, that's of little concern for Wagner. She simply described him as a "Labour leader." Wolffe called her Thatcher's "foe."

Wolffe dismissed the economic revival the Conservative brought to Britain, insisting, "Would the economy have taken off in the '80s without her? Probably. Would it have been restructured? Probably. Could it have been done in a more humane way? Absolutely."

Earlier in the day, MSNBC's Martin Bashir trashed the "divisive," "selfish" Thatcher.

A partial transcript of the April 8 Now With Alex Wagner segment follows:


12:17 ET

ALEX WAGNER: Let's talk about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. I think those on the progressive perspective have praised her championing women, women in the workplace, women's right although there is a distinct sort of feeling around Thatcher's legacy, that it was not necessarily all that great for Britain. What is your take, my friend?

RICHARD WOLFFE: It's interesting, on this day, people are attaching themselves to her as an advocate for women's rights, because she was certainly a pioneer. There's no question that in the Britain of the late '70s, she smashed through the old boys' club. You know, she was– she emerged without any other women peers around her in terms of senior leadership in politics and in Westminster. But it's also true that she left no trail of women to succeed her. She did not promote women into senior positions in her cabinet. And the Conservative Party has only just so many decades later got a woman in a senior position, that's home secretary, which is like the attorney general. Only now is the Labor Party seriously considering maybe in the next round having a woman as its leader. So there has been no one like her before or since. So, the women's rights legacy is an interesting one. In terms of being controversial, in terms of being divisive. That exists to this day. In domestic politics, in international politics, she found enemies in her own cabinet, in her own party. Around the world, she often beat them, but she left a lot of wreckage around her.

WAGNER: You know, Ken Livingstone, the former Labour leader, minced no words, writing "Thatcher created today's housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. And she created the benefits crisis. She decided when she wrote off our manufacturing industry, that she could live with two or three million unemployed and the benefits bill, the legacy of that, we're struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong." What do you make of that Richard?

WOLFFE: Well Ken Livingstone was a foe of hers at the time. In fact, she thought of him as such a terrible foe that she shut down his entire branch of government because she hated him so much. That's just how aggressive she was. You know, the bigger question is not whether she was do blame for all of our problems, but would Britain have got better without her? And I think that's where the sort of historians have to look at her. She most certainly punished communities. She punished branches of government. She punished industries, she took a brutal, brutal look at what industries were working and just said, "We're going to close it down." The miners, for instance, the mining strike which became the subject of that movie Billy Elliott. If anyone is familiar with that, she just said, this isn't viable, they're my political enemies and we're going to introduce extreme measures, including police surveillance of domestic, my enemies domestically, unthinkable in American terms, she just went ahead and did that. Was Britain in a terrible state economically in the '70s? You bet. The labor unions were too strong. That's something you can actually justify. Because the trash wasn't being picked up, bodies were going unburied. But would it have got better without her? Would the economy have taken off in the '80s without her? Probably. Would it have been restructured? Probably. Could it have been done in a more humane way? Absolutely. Still, she's part and parcel for that period how much she was responsible for that recovery and how much she made it much more aggressive and rapid in the sense that people couldn't recover from that economic shot. You know, she, the historians are going to be debating it for a long, long time to come.

...

WAGNER: Certainly, the jury is still out about the Reagan legacy and I think this sort of complicates that and churns the waters even more.

WOLFFE: Oh, no question about that. They were partners in a sense of their ideological project. Let's just remember, though in some of the rewriting, while they championed free markets, they also championed monetary policy, because they wanted to kill inflation. Was measuring the scale of money, the number of coins and notes in circulation the important thing? Or was it what Paul Folcker did at the Fed in terms of killing inflation? We have a tendency at this point to make it all rosy and make it look as if it was just the legacy of a couple of people. But the impact of what they did, Margaret Thatcher, no question, she stood up to communism. She– As I said before though, she had an attitude to her domestic enemies that, frankly, was the antithesis of freedom. And, you know, you have to reconcile these two things: Someone who was a pioneer for women, who actually also hurt working families and working people and that includes teachers and women across the board. So, this is not, this is not a clean story for anyone to tell on either side of the divide.

WAGNER: Definitely worth further debate and discussion. Political soul mates, a term frequently used to describe our relationship, Richard.

WOLFFE: Ahh, thank you, Alex.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org