Howard Fineman Has to Reach Back to the 1930s to Play the False Equivalency Game
Apparently I was not the only one extremely aggravated at Howard Fineman for playing the false equivalency game of "all sides do it" on Hardball this Friday. Digby had the same reaction as well. I tell you what, Howard -- if you want to find some examples of the left wing behaving badly maybe we can compare some of what the anarchists or the PETA crowd have been doing out there that might come close to what we've seen out of these "Tea Party" wingnuts, but there is no equivalent to the militia movement, these white supremacists and to the leadership and politicians on the right drumming up the crazies this election cycle with their fear mongering and hatred.
It simply does not exist from any of the Democratic leadership, and there is no equivalent for Fox News and the right wing hate radio machine on the left. Thank you to Chris Matthews and Joan Walsh for pointing that out to Howard Fineman.
MATTHEWS: Now let`s get physical, as we said in the old song. The Huffington Post`s Howard Fineman -- there`s the -- he`s an NBC analyst, as well as a Huffington Post reporter, and Joan Walsh is the editor-in-chief of Salon.com.
Well, that`s an old song, and it`s almost -- it`s funny but it`s not funny. Here we have this crazy stuff. Let`s start with the video from outside the Kentucky debate this week. Let`s watch and listen and judge if we were on the jury -- and there`s going to be jury trial here, a criminal case, it looks like -- what kind of punishment would you assign this perp? Let`s listen and watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the police!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no. Come on!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that head stomper -- his name is Tim Profitt, P-R-O- F-I-T-T -- told the local radio station out there, WKYT, that he feared for Rand Paul`s safety. I want to let you start with this, Joan, because I know you`ll find this outrageous. It just seems to me that that guy`s instinct was a bit storm-trooperish, to put it lightly.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: It was to hurt. You know, there`s been a lot of defense of him, saying he just was trying to bring her down, he was just trying to hold her down there, Chris. He put his foot -- a lot of people were saying the foot was on the shoulder. The foot went straight, you saw it, from the shoulder to the head.
Can you imagine being that poor woman? Now, maybe she got a little close to Rand Paul`s car. I don`t know all those details. But she did not look like a threat and she did not deserve to have her head stomped by a Rand Paul volunteer. And I just don`t think -- I don`t think enough attention has been paid to this. I think it`s very dangerous, very sobering, and people should be denouncing this.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to have a commentary on this at the end of the show, Howard, because I think there`s a certain whiff of something here I don`t like, which is this evidence of going operational. These are supposed to be just supporters. They go into this fighting mode, this street tough mode here.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And they did it against a woman who was engaging in some street theater there --
MATTHEWS: With a wig on.
FINEMAN: -- with a wig on, who, you know, is no physical threat to Rand Paul. You know, having worked in Kentucky and known that place and know a lot of people there, it`s nothing special about Kentucky. But you know, it`s a hard fought battle with a lot of nasty stuff -- and this is true all over the country -- very nasty things said. Don`t forget, Chris, that virtually every ad that`s been on television, every message from every candidate all year this year has been negative.
FINEMAN: There`s been little positive advertising on anything. So one reason that --
MATTHEWS: Oh! He`s crunching her there.
FINEMAN: OK. Well, it`s a short hop, skip, step and a jump from calling somebody evil or unpatriotic or basically inhuman --
MATTHEWS: The sanctions are already there.
FINEMAN: The sanctions are there verbally in these ads.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this.
FINEMAN: On both sides.
MATTHEWS: Here`s Miller up there, Joe Miller, who may not even get in first or second place up there for Alaska. He hires these military guys. They`re apparently some of the guys who were actually in our country`s service at the time. He has something to do with the militia group up there. He apparently posts regularly on this group up there -- with this group. Here he is with his guards.
This does again remind me of the 1930s! These guys -- let`s take a look at this. These guys have a video of -- and we`re going to show it to you -- of these guys -- I`ve never heard of politicians hiring a bunch of military guys to be their supposedly, you know, group of Hell`s Angels, whatever, defenders. Look at them all! They`re guarding the -- look at -- it is an amazing group of things. I`ve never seen so much of this. And then we`re going to see more of this.
Joan, your thoughts. You`ve covered campaigns. I`ve never seen teams of paramilitary being hired to work in a political campaign.
WALSH: I`ve never seen anything like it. You know, I`ve never -- I`ve never -- I don`t -- I haven`t seen reporters handcuffed for asking questions, Chris. You know, Lisa Murkowski is trying to make something of this, and as well she should. This isn`t -- this doesn`t happen in America. You do not detain reporters for asking questions. In that case, there wasn`t even a remote threat to the candidate --
WALSH: -- unless the threat would be maybe asking questions --
MATTHEWS: OK --
WALSH: -- obviously.
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the Murkowski ad taking advantage of this. Maybe she`s going to make some headway out of this. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Miller`s answer to freedom of the press? Arrest the journalists. Joe Miller`s answer to illegal immigration? Use East Germany as an example. Exactly what kind of America does Joe Miller live in? It`s time for a return to common sense, time to return Lisa Murkowski to Washington.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I`m Lisa Murkowski, and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, throwing in that some East Coast action from Paladino, the Tea Party running for governor of New York, telling a reporter he`s going to "take him out," in a sort of a gangland message -- I`m going to knock you out in a gang -- you`re going to wake up Saturday morning in the river somewhere. I`m going to take you out.
FINEMAN: OK. Well, that`s just New York.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on! Don`t --
MATTHEWS: There`s not a person who saw that didn`t see that as a physical threat!
FINEMAN: I know. I know. I know.
WALSH: Come on, Howard.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to talk to Rupert Murdoch about the guy`s job?
FINEMAN: No, no. I agree. First of all, the other thing that`s going on here is that especially on the Republican side, everybody`s running against the press. I mean, and --
FINEMAN: -- it started out as a benign tactic, but it`s not benign anymore. And for a lot of the hard-core supporters of Republicans candidates, verbal attack after verbal attack after verbal attack on the press is part of their thing and --
MATTHEWS: How about Angle saying she`s not going to do any interviews with --
FINEMAN: Proudly so, she`s saying that, because this is an emblem of her thinking. And so you put those together with --
FINEMAN: -- with a -- with --
MATTHEWS: She`s never done this yet. She hadn`t done what Paladino did up in New York. Let`s take a look at --
WALSH: Not yet.
MATTHEWS: -- what he threatened there. Let`s take a look at that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED DICKER, "NEW YORK POST: Do you have any evidence for the charge you made?
CARL PALADINO (R-NY), CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: At the appropriate time, you`ll get it!
DICKER: This guy`s the attorney general of New York --
PALADINO: You`re his stalking horse!
DICKER: Where`s the evidence?
PALADINO: You`re his bird dog!
DICKER: You made the charge.
PALADINO: You send another goon to my daughter`s house, and I`ll take you out, buddy!
DICKER: You`re going to take me out.
DICKER: How`re you going to do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: OK. How do you not laugh?
FINEMAN: Come on!
MATTHEWS: I`m laughing, but here`s Sharron Angle with the radio host, Lars Larson. He`s a bit of a conservative. Let`s see what she had to say to him. This is back in January. Let`s listen to her theories about the Constitution, how it works its way through our democracy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You know, our founding fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, you know, Thomas Jefferson said it`s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.
I hope that`s not where we`re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?
And I will tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Just a thought here. Suppose she wins -- and could easily win next Tuesday -- and she`s going to the United States Senate, which she has openly threatened with armed attack by her people if they don`t vote the right way.
Listen to her. There is no other meaning to the people are looking to those Second Amendment remedies if this Congress keeps going the way it`s going, Joan. Those are the words.
You know, we have made a mistake in the past. I don`t want to compare her to Hitler, but we have made a mistake in the past of not reading and listening to people when they`re seeking public power before they get there. She`s pretty open about her attitudes.
WALSH: She`s open about it. And you had a Republican candidate for Congress in Dallas, Texas, last week say something similar about revolution. These people -- what I don`t really understand, Chris, is, look, I may not like it, but some of them are doing very well at the polls.
They`re using our great American system. They`re making their case. Some of them will be elected. And yet they`re at the same time discrediting our great American system and threatening if they don`t get their way that we might Second Amendment remedies and we might need a revolution because we have this president elected that they apparently despise.
It is disturbing.
FINEMAN: What amazes me is that Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, may lose to that person.
MATTHEWS: Who`s talking gunplay.
FINEMAN: Who`s talking gunplay, essentially.
MATTHEWS: Well, here we go again. I don`t know if this is fair. You can decide if this is fair. Here`s the Ohio congressional candidate Rich Iott in his uniforms.
MATTHEWS: Now, of course he likes to dance around in a Nazi uniform. I don`t know anybody that does that. I know people that love Civil War reenactments. My son did know. My brother loves this stuff. They`re Civil War nuts.
But I don`t know anybody who`s a Nazi nut. And there`s John Boehner apparently campaigning for him this weekend, joining hands with this guy, saluting him, if you will, although I don`t think he knows the right salute, thank God.
WALSH: Yes, really.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Boehner going out there and holding hands with this character? These people -- you can do anything you want on the weekends. You can play tiddlywinks. You can go bowling. He chooses to put on a Nazi uniform on weekends. That`s a choice.
WALSH: And tells us that it`s not really about admiring the Nazi Party, but it`s about admiring what they did militarily, which is ridiculous.
It`s reminded me of when Louis Farrakhan called Hitler wickedly great, Chris. Can you imagine?
WALSH: Can you imagine somebody saying that about Nazism on the Democratic side? It`s just mind-boggling.
And John Boehner ought to know better. He just really, really wants to be speaker very badly and he is not going to let a little bit of Nazism stand in his way.
MATTHEWS: I`m trying to think of politics as symmetric. And I don`t think it is.
I can`t imagine -- if you had, for example, a pro-life protester -- and they`re pretty graphic. They`re pretty good at it. They show teddy bears the kid will never hug. And I`m very sympathetic to that point of view, if not the politics.
And if anybody ever grabbed one of those nice, nicely-turned-out pro- lifers who was getting in the face of a liberal candidate, and stomped them, it would be the biggest story in the world.
WALSH: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: There`s a difference in the two sides.
WALSH: There`s a double standard.
MATTHEWS: When a right-winger does it, oh, that`s -- I guess he had a hard day or he thought that this person was a threat to his candidate.
We`re beginning to ignore the fact they`re wearing Nazi uniforms, they`re arresting people, they`re threatening to take them out and stomping them, and all this stuff seems to be going on and everybody doesn`t put it together.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. There`s a pattern here.
FINEMAN: Well, I think there are different categories of offenses here. I`m not sure and I haven`t heard --
MATTHEWS: You don`t see a theme here?
FINEMAN: No. What I see a theme is -- what I see as the theme is the rough edge of American politics right now, which has been dragged very hard to the right.
MATTHEWS: How about the fringe has always been there, but because of a bad time, people are actually nominating these people?
FINEMAN: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: There`s always been a Sharron Angle. There`s always been a Carl Paladino.
FINEMAN: By the way, and I think, if you look at history, I`m sure there have been times over the last 75, 80 years when sometimes on the left, there was some rough stuff over the years, in the past, if you want to go back to the `30s, if you want to go back to various parts of what was going on during the Great Depression, OK?
MATTHEWS: But they were clashing with the Pinkertons.
MATTHEWS: They were --
FINEMAN: -- machines and so forth.
WALSH: There was labor strikes.
FINEMAN: There were some things -- not-nice things that happened on Election Day on the other side.
MATTHEWS: I sense it`s asymmetric this year. Maybe the anger is all on one side.
FINEMAN: This year. I`m not saying it isn`t this year. But if you look at history --
MATTHEWS: Last thought, Joan. I think it`s peculiar to one side this year, certainly.
WALSH: I think it`s extremely unbalanced and it`s on the one side.
I can`t think of another example of a Democratic congressional or Senate candidate at this point using any kind of these tactics. So, I`m not totally comfortable with this kind of they -- both sides do it, Howard.
FINEMAN: Well, I`m just saying look at history for examples.
MATTHEWS: Yes, we don`t know all the way back, do we?
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.
You`re right. You`re right, but not now.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh.
Thank you, Howard Fineman.