One of the rituals of politically-oriented talk shows is the occasional appearance of someone from the other side, either to explore another dimension of an important issue, or to present the illusion of impartiality. One such appearance tonight was that of former Bush speechwriter David Frum on Rachel Maddow's show, ostensibly to talk about Republican reaction to the current state of the McCain campaign.
Yet, right out of the gate, Frum took off on the subject of the hate speech wafting off the campaign to attack Maddow for being part of the problem, alleging that there has been an "intensification of some of the ugliness that has been a feature of American politics in the last 8 years, and this show, itself, is unfortunately an example of that problem with its levity and sarcasm and seeming disregard for a lot of the substantive issues that really are important."
While taken aback at the unexpected attack on her personally and on her show, Maddow handled herself with class, trying to get at the substance of Frum's attack, asking if he somehow equated sarcasm and the occasional smile with the vitriol coming from recent GOP rallies. However, and this is one difference between the parties that even goes to way this election is shaping up, she didn't tell him to "shut up." She didn't scream for a producer to "cut off his mike." Both in style, and in substance, she negated his argument by her civil, substantive reaction. She did not name-call. She calmly stated her strong disagreement with his assertion while asking for clarification.
Going on to ask him about the Ayers attacks and the resulting fury from the crowd, Frum retorted: "If John McCain were making threats of violence that would be really bad" -- a statement that is either idiotic in its naivete or naïve in its idiocy. McCain and Palin have set the table for these outbursts with their attacks and then committed the sin of omission by not truly quelling them. Sort of like standing outside the Reichstag holding a gas can, and calmly suggesting that someone might want to call the fire department. And Maddow made this point, though without the Reichstag reference. She did it without lowering herself to name-calling, nor did she comment on his pissy, snide, and patronizing attitude.
Eventually, the discussion veered back to the election, with Frum admitting, not necessarily in these terms, that his party was about to get reamed, steamed, and dry cleaned. The problem, for Frum, was that because of the ineptitude of the McCain campaign, not only the party, but the country will pay the price with a Democratic president and Congress, which will lead to some "very destructive changes." As opposed to what's actually happened over the last 8 years? So he's not really upset with the sorry state of the world. He's upset that his party is losing and that the Democrats could gain control and really fuck things up because they don't seem to understand the threats we face.
It was a contradiction apparently lost on Frum that taking a snide tone while calling out someone for not engaging in a more adult debate is a bit of a contradiction. As well, someone who worked as a Bush speechwriter has a small credibility problem when it comes to calling for more honesty and integrity in public debate. And, fyi to Frum: one of the reasons Maddow's show has been such a success is that she doe s talk substance. She's intelligent. She's fair. And she's gracious. And, as for the sarcasm, the reason it lands is that is an expression of the righteous indignation felt by most Americans because of the outrageous mendacity that has been SOP for the GOP over the last 8 years. At some point, it's your only weapon. It's either laugh or cry. And as for your fear that if Maddow's type of lethal sarcasm were to proliferate the Republicans would have to take a reactive approach and return it in kind? Holy shit, man. Have you never seen Fox News? All they're missing are armbands.
Much like your current, wounded President and Presidential nominee, even in defeat, you people just can't show any class. You want to raise the level of the debate as you claim to be doing in your own small way? Then go on a show and call out your nominee and his laughingstock of a running mate for the Hail Mary hate bombs they're throwing and do it more civilly, instead of being such a dick. It might go a long way toward making your case.
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