Ron Fournier, Chuck Todd, and Andrea Mitchell got together in a room in front of a camera so they could whine about political discourse in this country and how off the rails it is. Todd is very worried that our politics cannot survive such horrible rhetoric.
So far, so good, because it is worthy of a conversation, particularly when you have Fuhrer-to-be Trump out there celebrating the notion that his poll numbers will rise as a result of the possibility the San Bernardino shootings were motivated by radical ideology.
After some back-and-forth about how people seem to need to push pieces of the story into their own narratives, the entire discussion went off the rails.
Fournier launched the "both sides" salvo. Democrats, he says, play the Planned Parenthood shootings as a radical white Christian, while Republicans play the San Bernardino shootings as a "radical Islamist attack." This remark followed the observation by Andrea Mitchell at the top that no Democrat has stood up and called yesterday's attack an act of terrorism or otherwise mentioned Islam, suggesting that they are taking the course this group recommends -- silence until facts emerge.
Here is the dialogue they had following:
Fournier: We're at a time now where we're at a confluence of events. War, fear, anxiety about everything that's going on in society. Distrust in all of our institutions. I'm really worried that we're going to unravel. What's going to happen when we get hit in a big way. Are we going to be going to our partisan boxes and playing in these narratives? Or is there a leader capable, in this time of social media?
Todd: I actually think in some ways, it's a good test. We're in the middle of a Presidential campaign. We're going to find out.
Fournier: We're failing the test. And we have Donald Trump and candidates like him who are basically trying, it seems to me, to make anti-Muslim rhetoric, demonizing and profiling Muslims part of the mainstream conversation in politics. That's a very scary thing when because of the democratization of media, every bigot is a publisher.
Todd: For Mr. and Mrs. America out there, this is an uncomfortable situation. This was a middle class guy, and the way this story is going about, there's going to be a lot of fear out there.
Fournier: It's going to be one of two scenarios. Either the FBI missed something, or there's no way we can catch somebody like this, to your point.
Mitchell: I think that Donald Trump and Ben Carson and some of the other candidates have done this cycle has so radicalized the conversation about Muslim Americans, that even in instances like this, if it does prove to be true, it's going to have an exaggerated response. It's made it so toxic. And incredibly, frankly, Trump's response to be so poll-driven and to talk about the polls and whether he's up or he's down.
He actually came out today from that event and he said, "Every single time there's a tragedy, my poll numbers go up." He said that twice.
Fournier: He knows that Bill Clinton was right when he said in a time of insecurity the American public would rather have somebody who is strong and wrong, and Donald Trump is strong.
Mitchell: Ron, the fact that he interprets a tragedy like this as "it's good for me" is just -- there's a creepiness going on here on both sides. The fact that there was prayer shaming going on...
Todd: The way the left was going on that one...and it wasn't. It was some people and liberals were saying "What are you guys doing here? There's nothing wrong with offering prayer."
Mitchell: The other big takeaway today about leadership is that the President as recently as October 1st came out after Umpqua Community College. "We can't tolerate this!"
Today he was beaten down and he said you've got to get to your legislature, not the Congress.
Fournier: He knows where this is headed and he knows his party's heading in the wrong direction.
In another time, in the same political environment, if you have one party doing prayer shaming and another party demonizing and profiling Muslims, they'd be laughed out of politics. They would be marginalized. We wouldn't write about them --
We have two very dysfunctional parties and a media now that doesn't --
Mitchell: This is not a serious political debate.
Todd: No, and it's --
Fournier: It's dangerous.
No, you twits. What's dangerous is that you all sit around twiddling your thumbs pretending that demands for ACTION over meaningless "thoughts and prayers" are somehow exactly like Republicans demonizing millions of people for cynical political gain.
What's dangerous is that you cannot bring yourselves to actually identify the causes of the deep systemic problems we have in this country, which go far beyond "prayer-shaming" and "demonization" and relate to billionaires financing hatred in this country for decades on end in order to get their guys elected.
What's dangerous is that you are constantly driven to blame both sides instead of simply calling it what it is. Conservatives and the Republican Party have declared war on behalf of their billionaires. War on Islam, war on women, war on behalf of persecuted Christians -- pick your war, they all apply. They bought themselves a "news" channel with scantily-clad women so the men will glue themselves to the teevee machine no matter how stupid the words are coming out of it and they're spewing forth hate 24/7 to a country full of people too stupid to think for themselves or bother to read anything.
And when reality checks fail, they can always turn to Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, and Ron Fournier to be reassured, that yes, they're really right because both sides do it!
I do believe this is one Driftglass might enjoy ranting about for the Professional Left podcast this week. I've only touched the tip of how stupid this entire exchange was. But for now, can we agree that BOTH SIDES DON'T?