If you’re going to hurl insults petulantly at someone with whom you disagree, it helps if (1) you have some evidence to support your insinuations, and (2) the descriptors you use can’t be easily turned back on you.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell failed on both counts on Thursday’s “The Last Word.” The hot-tempered O’Donnell, who famously challenged Mitt Romney’s son to a fist fight on air, went off on a tangent on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who shook up Washington on Wednesday with his 13-hour filibuster. Seemingly oblivious to the praise Paul’s old-school performance earned from hard-left opponents such as erstwhile Obama green energy czar Van Jones and the protest group Code Pink, O’Donnell tossed out words like “infantile” and “empty-headed” to characterize the senator.
In the process of throwing a tantrum, O’Donnell engaged in some wishful thinking. He told his viewers that Paul was seeking an answer to a question “the Obama administration had already answered … very clearly” but that, to mollify him, “answered again” on Thursday. As Exhibit A, O’Donnell read aloud a letter to Paul from Attorney General Eric Holder. Here is the text in its entirety.
It has come to my attention that you have asked an additional question. ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.’ The answer to that question is no. [Emphasis added]
Evidently, in O’Donnell’s non-infantile, non-empty-headed world, the phrase additional question means same question.
But O’Donnell wasn’t finished. He had on a pair of left-leaning guests in columnists E.J. Dionne and Ryan Grim to bear witness to how “stark-raving mad” Paul had been. Though both agreed that Paul was wrong on occasion, neither was buying wholesale what O’Donnell was selling. Here’s Dionne:
I find this whole episode more heartening than you do because for the first time in a long time we have a debate where everybody isn’t falling on some predictable side….
And here’s Grim:
Frankly, if there is a classified kill list that includes American citizens, if you don’t want conspiracy theories to start circulating, then publish that list…. As long as there is a secret list of people the president believes he can kill, then you’re going to have people concocting all sorts of theories. There’s no way beyond transparency that you can challenge that.