I have to say, I've always wondered what it might take for high-profile political pundit Mark Halperin to, say, get "indefinitely suspended from MSNBC" or otherwise find himself on the outs with the people who mass-produce political punditry. There's no doubt that he's long been permitted to suck steadily from the udder of conventional wisdom and expectorate the backwash all over the media landscape. And there's never been any consequences meted out for all those times he's been hysterically bad at his job. It matters to no one in the media that he is a misogynist hypocrite, a Matt Drudge tongue-bather -- or that the clearest evidence of his bankruptcy is the fact that ABC's "The Note" was never better than when Halperin took his obsequious, insidery wink-nudgery elsewhere.
But Halperin was caught on a live microphone saying the Obama was "kind of a dick," and now people at MSNBC are mad at him. But why? As Alex Pareene points out, everyone at MSNBC's "Morning Joe" was basically goading Halperin into saying something outre Thursday morning:
When you have a wacky "cocktail party" morning show where "anything can happen," sometimes what will happen -- especially if your guestlist features a lot of useless tools like Mark Halperin -- is that someone will call the president a "dick" because he thinks it's endearingly naughty. There was even a big, smirky build-up to Halperin calling the president a "dick." It didn't just slip out. Everyone got really excited that Halperin was about to use a bad word, because these people are children, and Halperin looked very pleased with himself after he said the bad word on the TV. Chuckle chuckle chuckle! Faux-outrage! Fun and hijinks! High-quality political analysis, everyone.
Why isn't everyone at the "Morning Joe" roundtable suspended? At the very least, Scarborough should lose all of his No Labels-themed civility badges.
Over at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent says that this indefinite suspension is "way over the top."
I'm sorry, but this is crazy. Halperin's crack was crude and dumb, but it doesn't deserve indefinite suspension. Halperin's use of an expletive is trival when compared with the degradation of our political discourse we witness on a regular basis from Halperin and many others -- degradation that is seen as perfectly acceptable because no curse words are employed. Suspending Halperin only reinforces a phony definition of "civility" in our discourse, in which it's unacceptable to use foul language and be "uncivil," but it's perfectly acceptable for reporters and commentators to allow outright falsehoods to pass unrebutted; to traffic endlessly in false equivalences in the name of some bogus notion of objectivity; and to make confident assertions about public opinion without referring to polls which show them to be completely wrong.
Greg Sargent is right! And he makes numerous other trenchant points -- too many to blockquote -- so please go read his whole thing.
I have no idea what MSNBC plans to do at this point. Earlier this year, the network suspended Ed Schultz for a week after he called Laura Ingraham a "slut." That utterance was supremely worthy of punishment, if only because Schultz casts himself as a dedicated progressive, and that being the case, he's supposed to act like it and not spit scattershot misogynist barbs at other people. I'm not convinced that Halperin calling Obama a "dick" rises to the same level, for three reasons: 1) I'm pretty sure that Obama is not going to care about this, 2) Halperin, unlike Schultz, makes no attempt to assert that he has a value system of any kind (his point of view is what Jay Rosen calls the "View From Nowhere") and 3) everyone on the planet thinks that somebody is "kind of a dick." What are we going to do? Suspend the human race indefinitely?