Is Lawrence O’Donnell the world's dumbest person?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2012

Think hard before you respond: Donald Trump is one of this country’s absolute biggest buffoons. His continued pimping of Obama’s birth certificate is a master example of The Big Stupid which now defines our failing political culture.

That said, The Big Stupid took shape, then took hold, a long time ago. (Bill Clinton murdered a whole lot of people!) For that reason, we were struck by the spectacle on last night’s Hardball, as Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman lamented the way this nonsense infests our elections.

Sorry. Starting in 1999, Matthews and Fineman helped invent the culture of The Big Stupid. In those days, Matthews was in service to his corporate owner, Jack Welch, who went on to make this loud shameless person a multimillionaire.

Today, Trump's a star player within The Big Stupid. But in all honesty, his current pose isn’t any dumber than the pose adopted by Matthews for twenty straight months during Campaign 2000, with Fineman cast as his sidekick.

The stupidity of our political culture was largely invented during the 1990s. Matthews and Fineman were among its key architects. And, to a lesser extent, so was Lawrence O’Donnell.

Good old Lawrence! He slandered Candidate Gore right to the end—and he did this on The McLaughlin Group, a program widely viewed in Florida.

In October 2000, it was hard to be dumber and live. But last night, O'Donnell topped even himself, staging one of the stupidest segments we’ve ever seen on cable.

Can we talk? If you aren’t embarrassed by MSNBC, then you’re a large part of our problem.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to review O’Donnell's segment. But to watch an extremely dumb person at work, go ahead—just click here.

Mitt Romney is a horrible candidate. Is it possible Romney could win? We'll only say this: If anyone can get Romney elected, it may be Lawrence O’Donnell!

Is Lawrence O’Donnell the world's dumbest human? Think hard before you respond.

59 comments:

  1. * Mentioning the olden-day origins of our stupid culture is bad form Bob.

    * Saying MSNBC is an embarrassment, though correct, is bad form.

    As Orwell would have told you, there are things it simply doesn't do to speak of.

    These, two, to which you return often, are some of the most unmentionable. You will be excoriated by the usual group of idiots.

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  2. If President Obama does not win reelection, he can blame MSNBC, in my opinion.

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    1. Does MSNBC have to cost Obama the election for it be an ugly joke of journalism?

      Is that your straw-man high hurdle?

      If it doesn't result in lost elections, it's not worthy of critique?

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  3. Re: "The stupidity of our political culture was largely invented during the 1990s."

    I believe that H.L. Menken would have said that it was invented in the 1920s.

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    1. Yes, but that was a different stupidity.

      Ours is quite special in its own way. Bob may not be far from the mark in timing it.

      But paying too much attention to the how press coverage of the Clinton era and especially the 2000 campaign departed from prior norms is anathema to some commenters here...

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    2. Did Bob fall off the turnip truck yesterday? Does he really think saying mean and false things about presidential candidates began in the 1990s?

      To give you a bit of history, Grover Cleveland was a proponent of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" while his opponent James G. Blaine was "the monumental liar from the state of Maine."

      And the media, particularly newspapers, were far more openly partisan on each side than today, even with all the mean things Bob remembers the New York Times and Washington Post saying about his buddy, Al Gore. Actually, falsely accusing him of saying he invented the Internet is mild compared to some of the things said and written about candidates going back as far as you want.

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    3. Re: "A different stupidity"

      The equivalent in the 1920s of Sheriff Joe can be seen easily in the politicians satirized in "The Front Page."

      The equivalent of Trump was Henry Ford:

      "Ford in the early 1920s sponsored a weekly newspaper that published (among many non-controversial articles) strongly anti-Semitic views. At the same time Ford had a reputation as one of the few major corporations actively hiring black workers; he was not accused of discrimination against Jewish workers or suppliers.[54]

      In 1918, Ford's closest aide and private secretary, Ernest G. Liebold, purchased an obscure weekly newspaper for Ford, The Dearborn Independent. The Independent ran for eight years, from 1920 until 1927, during which Liebold was editor. Every Ford franchise nation-wide had to carry the paper and distribute it to its customers.

      The newspaper published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was discredited by The Times of London as a forgery during the Independent's publishing run. The American Jewish Historical Society described the ideas presented in the magazine as "anti-immigrant, anti-labor, anti-liquor, and anti-Semitic." In February 1921, the New York World published an interview with Ford, in which he said: "The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on." During this period, Ford emerged as "a respected spokesman for right-wing extremism and religious prejudice," reaching around 700,000 readers through his newspaper.[55] The 2010 documentary film Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ira Berkow) noted that Ford wrote on May 22, 1920: “If fans wish to know the trouble with American baseball they have it in three words—too much Jew.”[56][57][58][59][60][61]"

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_ford

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    4. Bob used the word 'stupidity' and not partisanship.

      Also, he's never pretended to be a historian, so it's reasonable to understand him to be comparing the 90s and after to the earlier decades when he was politically aware and reading/watching the media -- roughly the the 60s through the 80s.

      Maybe that stretch was an anomaly, and that might -- no, it probably wouldn't -- be the basis of an interesting critique of Daily Howler.

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  4. wearingthejacketMay 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    "Sorry. Starting in 1999, Matthews and Fineman helped invent the culture of The Big Stupid. In those days, Matthews was in service to his corporate owner, Jack Welch, who went on to make this loud shameless person a multimillionaire." -b.somerby

    . . .

    "Matthews and Fineman were among its key architects. And, to a lesser extent, so was Lawrence O’Donnell." - b. somerby


    >>> real meaning: just as dowd is responsible for all the superficiality in print media, after retiring 12 years ago, welch is still responsible for everything bad in broadcasting. darlings dont you know they both had ancestors who came from ireland and heavans were catholic!


    "Is Lawrence O’Donnell the world's dumbest person?"

    >>> p-r-o-j-e-c-t-i-o-n

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  5. Would that be a straitjacket you are wearing?

    Horace Feathers

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  6. The Lawrence O'Donnell segment that Somerby linked to is one of the most bizarre I have seen on cable news. I guess Mitt Romney is evil because he wasn't involved in the Civil Right movement when he was in high school, and for taking a Missionary trip for the LDS Church to Paris during the Vietnam Era? Where does this stuff come from?

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    1. I'm sorry, I watched that O'Donnell segment and I loved it. I thought it was an effective piece of progressive rhetoric. Mitt actively protested against the anti-draft protesters while at Berkley, and then took his deferment so he could ride his bike around France for his church. The perfect chicken-hawk.

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    2. When Obama was a 17 year old, he was taking "interceptions" and "roof hits" with the Choom Gang. Now he presides over a prison system that includes 650,000 Choom Gang members. The perfect chicken.

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    3. That's because he was elected to the Presidency of the United States. By a pretty good margin, I might add. What exactly is your point?

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    4. His point is false moral equivalency. In other words, "Don't speak the truth about my guy, or I'll make up some lies about your guy."

      And I agree with m&amp . . . I saw the segment as well, and it was in the context of Romney calling education the "Civil Rights issue of our time," which O'Donnell conceded might be true for those born in 1990 or so. But for people born in 1947, like Romney, the civil rights issue of "our time" was indeed, as O'Donnell said, civil rights -- getting the right to vote, getting the right to attend state-funded universities, even getting the right to get served at a downtown lunch counter.

      And as O'Donnell pointed out, this new champion of civil rights as he defines them was nowhere to be found during the actual civil rights movement, while other well-off white college kids his age were dying.

      I also found it ironic though hardly surprising that Mitt is trying to use education the same way Bush did to portray himself as a not-so-batshit-crazy right-winger, just days after he said larger classroom sizes and teacher-student ratios might be a good idea.

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    5. You really don't get it? The O'Donnell argument is that Romney committed a grave offense against the civil rights movement because 'old people', when they say 'our time', are of course talking about, uh, when they were teenagers. So only folks who were born since 1990 are allowed to say 'education is the civil rights issue of our time.' Anyone older is insulting and disappearing the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Bizarre.

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    6. You really don't get it? If Romney is going to claim to be a champion of civil rights, isn't it fair game to ask him where he was during the Civil Rights movement?

      Guess not. That would be rude. And heavens to Betsy, Bob clutches his pearls and swoons every time a "liberal" is rude!

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    7. straw man anon, in the sentence O'Donnell bases his entire 'critique' on, Romney is not claiming to be a champion of civil rights. Reading what he said, he is stating that education is the civil rights issue of our time. I assume you're not as stupid as what you are writing, so then what's the point of employing a grindingly obvious straw man just to 'bash' Somerby?

      And, where were you, 65 year old guy, when you were 16, 17, and 18 years old? I suppose, yeah, sure, that looks fair to you, huh? ;->

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  7. I don't watch cable, so can't be embarrassed by it, but it's still strange to learn that O'Donnell and MSNBC are "the problem". Silly me! I had always thought *this* was the problem:

    "Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations.

    "That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit." {via firedog via Politico}

    DiC and Braintree, et al., please note here that nobody's endorsing plutocratic Dem spending either, though it isn't quite fair to call George Soros a Nazi or a danger to the republic simply because he had the temerity to do, for one campaign cycle, and in a very limited manner, what the right-wing trust billionaires have been doing for generations now. Besides, you should love the guy -- he's your ideal self-made man, unlike Romney, Murdoch, Kochs, Trump, Forbes, etc.

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    1. Can't there be more than one problem? I think the rightwing propaganda machine (and I'm old enough to have seen it at work 30 years ago with Friedman's "Free To Choose" series on PBS laying the foundations for all the "government is the problem" rhetoric that followed) is a huge problem, but I don't think the rightwing propaganda campaign would have made as much headway as it has if we weren't also plagued by idiots in the press and pundit class. And unfortunately that includes the evening lineup on MSNBC. (The only talking head on that network who seems to have a brain is Chris Hayes and after his recent Memorial Day "gaffe" I wonder how long he will be there.)

      Donald

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    2. Here we go again, with supposed liberals and actual Democrats expressing shock, shock, that campaign finance may allow Republicans to roll over the Democrats in an upcoming election.

      Where were those supposed liberals and actual Democrats when Obama refused to honor his promise in the 2008 election to stick to public financing for his campaign? Somehow, that broken promise meant nothing to these hacks, because, of course, Obama would be better off financially than McCain if he skipped public financing, and indeed spent over twice as much as McCain on advertising.

      Now that the calculation goes in the other direction, of course one hears nothing but howls of outrage from the same parties cheering Obama's broken promise, and decrying the lack of campaign finance controls.

      Another day, another disgusting "liberal" hypocrisy.

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    3. @highly_adequate

      First of all, I'm neither a liberal nor a Democrat. And I didn't applaud Obama for refusing public financing, though it would also be hard to reproach him or any Democrat (as the historically underfunded party) for doing so. Money, after all, determines the course of American elections; one candidate, and only one candidate, can hardly be expected to forgo an advantage in that respect, absent meaningful campaign finance reform which gives politicians not promoted by the top .01% a chance of winning an American election.

      So no, there's no liberal hypocrisy at all. On the other hand, I'm not suicidal: *anything* which stops the Republican juggernaut has got to be welcome at this point, even when the opposition candidate -- Obama -- is of the far right in many respects, and center-right in all the others.

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    4. Braintree here from a public computer: Exactly when did I complain about Soros?

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  8. Who has more influence and a wider reach on American political culture, Lawrence O'Donnell or Nancy Grace? The O'Donnell segment was blisteringly stupid, but I don't see how it could possibly be of any significance.

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    1. Yes, O'Donnell is awful, Bob.

      But please stop mentioning it. It doesn't matter.
      [/actual dumb]

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    2. flipyr, don't you know that Mitt Romney will bring up every mean thing every MSNBC host ever said about him during his nomination acceptance speech?

      And once the 99.9 percent of America that didn't see it get wind of the terrible things Lawrence O'Donnell said about the Mittster last night, that will turn the tide and he will be elected in a landslide.

      And it will be all Lawrence O'Donnell's fault.

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    3. Bob can chronicle the worst offenses of MSNBC all he likes. But when he says things like "If anyone can get Romney elected, it may be Lawrence O’Donnell!" that seems an eentsy weentsy bit of a stretch, no? Would Bob say that Nancy Grace's prosecutorial railing at various high-profile court cases has the ability to turn people against the American justice system? Or would he say simply that she's horrible? It's Bob's sense of the _stakes_ in what he discusses vis-a-vis cable news personalities that seems very far out of whack. If everyday working-class people think liberals hold them in contempt, they surely didn't get that idea because of what they were told Lawrence O'Donnell or Rachel Maddow said on a news program.

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    4. Isn't the point of O'Donnell supposed to be that he has signifigance? Limbaugh and those people have it, and now you're actually relieved that O'Donnell doesn't? Can you see where that's a problem?

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    5. Limbaugh has a much bigger audience than Lawrence O'Donnell. Do you ever hear this much angst about things Michael Medved or Mark Levin say on the air and how they might cost Republicans on election day?

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  9. Just watched the clip. If this is the liberal answer to right-wing cable, we need to blow it up and start over.

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  10. I'm not really sure which clip is being talked about. There is a rather dumb montage of MSNBC hyping the Trump connection to Romney. And I agree, it is dumb, because most conservatives have no problem with the birther hoax, with all it's racist implications. I would suggest that if I turned on Fox News any day, any time, it would talk, oh, about a half hour to easily match anything in the dumb dept. that appears on MSNBC. Oh yes, liberals pimping the "we're as bad or worse then them" line might want to have a listen to this.... just to make sure you know what you are talking about... http://www.dennismillerradio.com/b/The-Awkwardness-of-Obamas-Genius/-994173206355645726.html

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    1. The "Trump connection" was "hyped" in the context that on the very day Romney clinched the GOP nomination and had the media spotlight solely on him, he chose to share it not only kissing Donald Trump's keister, but also the generously proportioned backside of Newt Gingrich's billionaire.

      In other words, the plutocrat candidate spent his big day with plutocrats.

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    2. I agree that Trump is relevant, the MSNBC montage of Trump inspired outrage is silly. And I would agree with Bob here, they do a very bad job of explaining WHY birtherism is idiotic.

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  11. Wow, dumb. But Peter Schiff is also very dumb, so it's a difficult question.

    And, Peter, it's clear Bob is referring to the 'Civil Rights' clip, since it's what comes up when you click on the link at the bottom of Bob's post, and since it's one of the dumbest 'attacks on Romney' you'll ever see.

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    1. Oops, Peter Schiff on the brain. The second paragraph should start, "And, Greg, ..."

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    2. I seem to get something else, thanks. But I'll wait till tomorrow's post to see if he tops Dennis Miller...

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  12. Larry O D.... he's gots to put food on his family...

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  13. What a terrible piece. Even if "the Civil Rights issue of Mitt Romney's (youthful?) time" **was** "civil rights" - what Romney said doesn't even contradict that. He said the "civil rights issue **of our time**" is unequal public education. I don't know if Romney's depiction is exactly right (probably not) but unequal access to good education is certainly a societal problem that may be amenable to fixing. Romney is talking about now and O'Donnell is talking about the 60s. it made my head hurt.

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    1. I agree, it was hopelessly incoherent and bizarre. And this is the best liberals can do in the battle against Romney?

      And, btw, neither Obama nor Romney have (or have had) any intention of fixing unequal education. Their goals are defunding public education and redirecting it toward privatization and charters, and they receive the appropriate campaign contributions for pushing toward those goals.

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  14. After viewing the linked segment, the only actual bad act on Romney's part it shows is that he staged a mild counter-protest in favor of the draft while a college student 45 years ago. Admittedly hypocritical since he knew he had no chance himself of being drafted.

    But Laurence O'Donnell wants to tar him as a racist for some reason. This is a great example of the laziness and incompetence of our "progressive" leaders. We will surely triumph over evil now!

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    1. Whoops, Lawrence O'Donnell, heh. Laziness and incompetence indeed ...

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    2. I didn't get that O'Donnell called Romney a racist, but I am certain Somerby is going to do his darndest to spin it that way.

      What O'Donnell was doing was advancing the narrative that Romney is a hypocrite and totally out of touch with nothing at all in common with the people who actually changed America forever during the real Civil Rights movement.

      Really, folks, have you not tumbled on yet, after George H.W. did it some 24 years ago, how Republicans glom onto education to show how much they care about kids?

      Then once elected, they get busy passing unfunded mandates on public schools, while making them fight like cats and dogs for every dime they get?

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    3. If you don't think O'Donnell was also "advancing the narrative" that Romney is a racist I don't know what else to say.

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    4. I think O'Donnell's point was that using a phrase like "the civil rights issue of our time" relies on a sense that everyone agrees that civil rights issues are vital -- but Romney has no previous record of caring about, or battling for, civil rights issues. So, O'Donnell wanted to say, "Don't lecture us about civil rights when you have never demonstrated any interest in civil rights before."

      Still, it was dumb, because he proceeded as though Romney had discounted the original civil rights struggle, which he hadn't, and as though Romney had said "the civil rights issue of my lifetime," which he hadn't either. And I was saying so while watching it last night -- even though my wife hates it when I talk back to the TV. :P

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    5. And how many times has Lawrence O'Donnell marched in civil rights protests?

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    6. majneb, where does this "Romney is a racist" narrative occur?

      The prevailing narrative about him is that he is a complete elitist, completely lacking in empathy for the middle class, and that he is an "etch a sketch" candidate who thinks voters don't have a memory. Whatever he says right now, that's been his position all along even when his position was the opposite.

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  15. O'Donnell was portraying his generation as the "Great Generation" for fighting on two battlefronts: Against racism and against the Vietnam war.

    I was part of it, but I never felt then, nor do I now, that I was some kind of cultural warrior.
    I was just another body to be counted, to support those on the front lines.

    The worst danger I encountered was when a smiling Nazi in full uniform offered me a gallon of gas and free matches.

    I'm certain O'Donnell overstates his historical role, just as Romney exaggerates his attack on the liberal elite and their abominable teacher's unions, which we all know are keeping our kids from gting a gd jb w mo pa.

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  16. As a progressive (and just as a random person) I found O'Donnell's piece hugely embarrassing. Do you ever win recruits when you're up on your high horse like that, practically spitting with disgust? Do you possibly lose people who were on your side? His points were idiotic.

    Just because some people were way more mature and compassionate and politically involved than others, when they were SIXTEEN or 18 or 22 - doesn't make the others moral midgets. Let's keep the focus on what people were/are like as adults, not as teenagers....as if failing to participate in a civil rights march even says anything about Romney's moral fiber. Maybe he had exams to take during all the marches. Who the f*** knows?

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  17. Pursuant to the big stupid, according to my potentially fallible memory, it all really got started during the Clinton administration when we were told that Clinton killed dozens of people apparently for "knowing too much" about the Whitewater "scandal" in which the Clintons supposedly fleeced co-investors by losing thousands of dollars along with all the others who got bilked. Hillary Clinton, we were told, was a closet lesbian who only married Bill out of love for political power which then naturally translated into having to murder Vincent Foster in order to cover up an illicit affair. Oh, and the Clintons were also said to have run Mexican drugs out of an airport in Mena, AK.

    The difference is that all of this crap was run through legitimate news organizations (it was the NYT for example that originally "broke" the Whitewater "scandal") instead of being peculiar to the likes of Glenn Beck and other righty screwballs. Maureen Dowd, to name one mainstream pundit, spent years viciously sliming the Clintons and then was, humorously quite surprised when she realized just how many people hated her for it.

    When people who are unfortunate enough to be in my age bracket say that Obama is being treated so badly because he's black I really have to wonder just how bad most people's memories are.

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  18. After Watergate, the right wing of the Media couldn't wait to get it's hooks into Jimmy Carter. Jack Anderson, who missed the scoop on Watergate, printed and broadcasted much utter anti-Carter nonsense. I think a study of his coverage would find some big lapses in fair play, approaching what was done in the Clinton years.

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  19. I don't get the vitriol. Mr O'Donnell has a fairly simple thesis:

    Romney states that education reform is the "Civil Rights Issue of our time". Apparently, it is a big enough deal - on the scale of Civil Rights protests from the 50's and 60's that Romney HAS to fight for the cause of Education. So if Romney is going to fight for THIS cause would it be reasonable to assume he could have fought for the cause of Civil Rights back in the 60's? And if it is reasonable to think that he COULD have fought for that cause DID he fight for that cause?

    Romney didn't HAVE to compare the state of education as the "Civil Rights issue of our time" that was the analogy HE was making. However, as Mr O'Donnell points out it seems that Romney didn't give 2 shits about the actual civil rights issue at all. Although I think it is a bit of a stretch to think that Romney should have marched in Birmingham - I think the fact that Romney did not come out with public statements about his church's discrimination of black people becoming ministers is very damning. I also think it is particularly damning that Romney does not have a history of advocating for the rights of minorities. Maybe I missed that Op-Ed? I would be happy if people could point me to the opinion pieces where Romney has demonstrated his solidarity with the plight of black people in this country.

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  20. Is there a Perl script that writes these things for Bob now?

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  21. Our Dear Leader might well put an end to these pointless and everlasting disputes, by simply explaining, once and for, what his object or strategy is. We're talking, after all, about a commercial network owned by GE and Comcast -- not usually regarded as progressive interests.

    Does he want his fans to write to MSNBC and demand it become The One True Liberal Network, According to the Lights of Our Dear Leader, however improbable the notion of a True Liberal Network is, for a company owned by GE and Comcast? To get O'Donnell and Maddow fired? To reform corporate media generally, beginning with the one cable channel which isn't actively promoting Romney? To prove that even though he's a liberal on some issue -- anyway, he's for Al Gore -- he has sufficient intellectual honesty to criticize the network he apparently hates more than any other?

    So Bob, enlighten your dwindling fan base: reveal, once and for all, what you want of MSNBC, and how, given its ownership, you expect to achieve that goal? Or are you determined to shoot fish in a barrel, for the rest of your days?

    Yeah, Bob, MSNBC is wretched. But so is all corporate media. So is PBS. O'Donnell? Maddow? Really? Day after day? This is what media criticism has come to? Or have you just run out of ideas and curiosity?

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  22. Having seen the traffic figures, I suddenly realized it. The dog-like taint-licking posts attacking his few readers are by Bob himself.

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