Our current political media's largest failure has been their well-practiced ability to not only excuse Republicans' bad behavior, but to conveniently forget about it, too. This is why we have midterms where everyone is shrugging and exclaiming that they've never seen an election like this where everything is so...tied.
Here's why that happens. Chris Christie goes out and bullies a constituent, making the fatuous claim that Christie, and Christie alone, was taking care of Sandy victims after the cameras left, unlike that rude man with the sign who just wants to heckle him.
We now know from Chris Hayes that the gentleman holding the sign took a month off work without pay to go and help with the Sandy cleanup. And yet Andrea pronounces the entire episode some "great TV." Cillizza nods and agrees wisely, as if he knows exactly what she means while both of them gabble about whether it's "presidential."
The other side of that coin
Now I want you to imagine a different episode of this particular show. In this one, Obama is giving a speech somewhere and gets heckled, as has been the case at most of his events this year. Instead of tossing his "Don't get mad, vote!" line at the hecklers, he goes off. Loses his temper, tells the hecklers to shut up and sit down because no one -- NO ONE -- has worked harder to (fill in the blank here) than he has, and that person heckling him has no damn idea so they should just shut the hell up and sit their asses down.
Yes, yes, he'd love to discuss the issue with them if they were possibly the last person on earth, but for now they should just go with their 15 minutes of fame and then move on so Obama can do the important work set before him.
Media on steroids
What do you suppose would happen next? Within moments there would be a "Breaking News" banner on every channel. Fox News would bring on Karl Rove and Sarah Palin to be outraged at how horrible Obama was to that person, and how it just proves what a bully he is when he's not being lazy or arrogant.
Keith Ablow would come on to analyze Obama's daddy issues. BillO would do a Talking Points Memo about angry black guys and their black privilege. Hannity would bring Cliven Bundy and a couple of Bundy's black friends on the show to talk about how what a racist dog our President is. Meanwhile, Megyn Kelly would have the heckler on as her special guest to discuss how awful it was to be bullied by the President.
Coulter, Malkin and Ingraham would make the rounds too, and then head out to their right wing radio stations to join Rush Limbaugh & Co in round condemnation. Over, and over and over.
So you switch channels, because Fox News is all too predictable. You switch to MSNBC, thinking they're probably going to be less hysterical. But no, there's Tweety, with a couple of guests who aren't allowed a word edgewise, going on about how Obama has just blown it for every candidate running for office this year.
David Axelrod would appear on Morning Joe to shake his finger at the President while simultaneously apologizing for him. Howard Dean would firmly, but politely, tell them all to shove it, but no one would listen because Scarborough would be shouting over him about what a pig Obama is.
Andrea Mitchell and Chris Cillizza take the stage, huffing and puffing about how terrible it is that any person in power would treat a constituent this way. Andrea wonders aloud whether Obama has just handed power for the next decade over to Republicans.
Meanwhile over at Americans for Prosperity...
The petitions go up, the fundraisers kick in, and the game is ON.
Demands are made for Obama's resignation; Congressmen prepare impeachment articles. Within in a couple of days it's a full-blown SCANDAL with its own header on every cable network.
Next thing you know, every Democrat in every state has ads running against them showing Obama ripping the head off the heckler and they're being painted as big bullies because Obama yelled at someone.
Reality bites, too
But it wasn't Obama; it was Chris Christie who berated a constituent who had taken a month away from his job to help Sandy victims. There's no mention of the $800 million in federal assistance Christie hasn't released. None whatsoever.
Instead, after Mitchell calls it "classic Chris Christie", Cillizza admits he watched the video 15 times earlier in the day. Because it's hilarious or something. Or 'great TV.'
There are no signs of outrage. There is no indication that as members of the press there is a responsibility to hold Christie to account for treating anyone that way, much less someone who actually had the moral authority to challenge Christie. There is no discussion of why Mr. Keady felt led to appear at that event. There is no discussion of Christie's unrepentance.
It's just great TV. Here's a bit of the transcript (thanks, Heather!):
MITCHELL: Classic Chris Christie taking on a protester complaining about the slow release of federal funds for Hurricane Sandy repairs. […] First you Chris Cillizza... well, Chris Christie certainly grabbed headlines. It's great television. Is it presidential?
CILLIZZA: Right. It's great television. I'm not sure it's presidential. Look, I feel like that we have this daily installment now of “Chris Christie yells at random person” you know Andrea, and I'm not sure that that's ultimately what you want to do. Yes it plays I think to what he thinks is his greatest political strength, which is that he's a straight shooter, he is sort of willing to face people down, but too much of a good thing is not always wonderful.
I think we're entering into the “too much of a good thing” territory right now for Christie.
Golly, Andrea! Is it human? Is it governor-like? Is it even within the realm of how an elected official who is on the public payroll should behave toward those who elected him? And Cillizza, well...for a dude who watched that thing 15 times, maybe you should moderate your bully boy consumption.
As long as Republicans can do whatever they want without a challenge, they will continue to be as outrageous and bullying as they please. As long as Andrea Mitchell and the rest of them enable that behavior, it will continue to occur. For Chris Christie, all press is good press, whether it's him behaving like a bully or giving Obama a hug.
Thus ends this episode of Why Republicans Will Never Be Accountable For Anything.
Extra credit: How would the GOP react to Luther? (Caution: NSFW)