September 15, 2009

As Media Matters has noted, despite CNN's president Jon Klein sending a memo out stating that the network wanted to "avoid booking talk radio hosts" because "[c]omplex issues require world class reporting", they continue to make exceptions for the likes of Tea Bag Party organizer Mark Williams.

Tonight's AC360 was another example of the network giving a hate mongering Tea Bagger with a radio show a format, but they're worried about sullying their image if they might let someone like say, Stephanie Miller back on, who's been pretty vocal about being blacked out from the network on her radio show.

If they wanted to actually give some context to complex issues, they'd allow talk radio show host Thom Hartmann on as a commenter and collectively raise the average IQ of the people who regularly appear on their programming by a few percentage points rather than let this Know Nothing hate monger on there.

Transcript below the fold.

COOPER: Digging deeper now into the anger against President Obama and his policies. Tens of thousands turning in -- turning out in Washington this weekend, a lot of folks agreeing with Joe Wilson, who called President Obama a liar.


WILLIAM GREEN, RIGHTMARCH.COM: It's time for us to be able to stand up. I thank God for Congressman Wilson that had that courage to say, "You lie!"


COOPER: More now of my conversation with David Gergen, James Carville and protest organizer Mark Williams.


COOPER: James, do Democrats run the risk of underestimating this opposition? There's plenty of people -- we're seeing the pictures now -- who are protesting for the first times in their -- first time in their lives. They're coming forward in a way they haven't before.

And a lot Democrats, it seems, a lot of liberals are kind of dismissing all of these people with painting them with a very broad brush.

CARVILLE: Yes, look, I mean, a lot of people out there, there's a lot of people in this country that feel a lot of things.

What these people had, though, was very low class. Let me show you something they were all carrying here. It says "Bury Barack Obama with Kennedy." Now, a senior CNN executive told there were thousands of these signs out there.

Now I'm a little -- that makes me a little queased (ph) out. I think these people are ugly, without class. Can you imagine a man dying with a wife and a family and kids and having thousands of those signs out?

WILLIAMS: James, I -- I saw exactly three offensive signs all the way across country in 35 cities.

CARVILLE: According to -- according to a senior CNN executive, who told me two hours ago there were thousands of them. Other people have confirmed that. They were printed; they were passed out. And there's something that is wrong with this. There's utterly something that is wrong with this.

People want to protest, that's the idea. Celebrating a man's death, a man who is a great patriot, is wrong, wrong, wrong. You ought to chastise your people.

WILLIAMS: ... James. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) appreciate it. You might want to cross over the 495 beltway and get out and see America. You'll find out...

COOPER: Mark, just on the sign, in particular, do you see anything offensive about that? And you know, there are a lot of critics of this who say, look, protests is one thing. The level of sort of personal vitriol against the president is another.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I did see some of that out there. I saw far less than I've seen in the streets of San Francisco, Washington, and New York back during the so-called "antiwar peace demonstrations," where George Bush was portrayed as a monkey, where he was first portrayed as the Joker, where soldiers were hung in effigy, as they -- they're still being hung from a house here in Sacramento, and where flags were burned.

Now, are they representative of the Democrats and the American liberals? I don't know. Maybe they are.

But as much as I appreciate James' over-the-top hyperbole, the simple fact of the matter is, what you saw was a broad cross-section of America. You saw democracy in action. The people who pay the bills, who are not Nazis, who are not mobs. They pay the bills, and they're being dissed and not listened to by their government.

And yes, they're being dismissed, but at the peril of the people who hold office now, because 2010 is around the corner. And there's going to be blow back.

COOPER: David, you've seen a lot of protests. As I said, the numbers this weekend were bigger than some Democrats or liberals expected. Not as big, perhaps, as some of -- as an immigration rally or something against the war, even, we saw under the Bush administration. But large and significant.

Is there something happening here? Or is this just part of normal dissent?

GERGEN: I think that, Anderson, we are -- we're going off the rails here in some of these demonstrations. I think we went off the rails against George W. Bush. And now they're clearly going off the rails against Barack Obama.

Healthy dissent is a good thing. It's healthy for the country. This country has often had a raucous politics. But it's becoming increasingly -- I think the important question is, are we governable as a people? Or are we getting to a point again where we -- we're not sure whether we can pull together on the big things that face us as a people?

I think all of us thought polarization had reached its limits under George W. Bush. I worry a lot we're going even beyond what we saw with George W. Bush. I think it's -- I think it's unfair to the president. I think it's unfair to the country. If we can't sort of pull together and have -- have conversations without these "Nazi" stuff and bury -- buy him like Kennedy. Of course that's deeply offensive and disturbing.

WILLIAMS: It's amazing how our memories are failing us. I'm old enough to remember American cities in flames in the 1960s.

GERGEN: And we condemned that. If you remember, that -- we condemned that back in the 1960s.

WILLIAMS: You're talking about working stiffs showing up to object to a policy being crammed down their throats, going off the rails? What you saw was representative democracy. Are we so far from that now in this country that we can't accept it.

COOPER: James, what about the argument that, you know, under the Bush administration you saw pictures of protests, there were plenty of people calling President Bush a Nazi on signs, plenty of signs which would be offensive to many people.

CARVILLE: Look, again, you had a neo-confederate that was shouting out "You lie" in the middle of a presidential address. That's pretty much the mainstream Republican story.

Again, I pointed out there were thousands of these out there. And I think it's very important, and Americans need to know about the quality of the people that were out there demonstrating.

WILLIAMS: You mean like Bobby Byrd, the Klansman, in the U.S. Senate there, right, James?

CARVILLE: Again -- again, I think it's very important.

WILLIAMS: You mean like George Wallace in the 1960s. Right, James?

CARVILLE: More people know what's going on. I think they're seeing this from this gentlemen here now. And if you want to align yourself with these neo-confederates and these people that hold up the signs, this is America. You can do that. I choose to just point out the obvious.

COOPER: Mark, Maureen Dowd in "The New York Times" over the weekend, I'm sure you read her column religiously. She -- she said...

WILLIAMS: Actually, I do.

COOPER: Yes, I'm sure. No, but she said that some -- and I quote, "Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it."

There is, increasingly you hear from some liberals, some Democrats, particularly African-American Democrats in Congress, who say that they -- they believe there is an undercurrent of racism in some of the criticism of the president, in some of the vitriol that is being expressed. When you hear that, it's got to anger you. What do you -- how do you respond to Maureen Dowd's...?

WILLIAMS: I dismiss extremists of all color, especially Maureen Dowd.

I saw exactly three of those "witch doctor" signs in 35 cities, 16 states, over 16 days. And as for the people around the fringes of this, they -- they are no more part of then mainstream America than are the hippies who wear nipple clips and feather boas in San Francisco's streets during so-called peace demonstrations.

You saw working-class Americans in the streets, many of whom there with their families. And as we saw across the country, we are a traveling 4th of July celebration in the Tea Party Express. People had picnics. Their kids were out. It was a celebration of America and our rights. We weren't protesting anything. We were celebrating this country and vowing to protect its Constitution.

COOPER: But I mean, Mark, what you're saying makes sense to me here when I'm hearing what you're saying. But then I read on your blog, you say -- you call the president an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.


COOPER: Is that the kind of...

WILLIAMS: That's the way he's behaving.

COOPER: But I mean...

WILLIAMS: I mean, if he cares to be...


COOPER: Do you believe he's a Muslim? Do you really believe he's a welfare thug?

WILLIAMS: He's certainly acting like it.

GERGEN: You think he's a racist in chief? Racist in chief? Is that what you called him? That's unbelievable.

WILLIAMS: Until he embraces the whole country -- what else can I conclude? He and guys like James are totally, totally isolating the rest of this country. If you're a working-class American, then you know, that's it.

CARVILLE: I tell you, if you're an American, and you like what you're hearing from this guy, if you like celebrating a man's death, go over there with the people.

WILLIAMS: Whose death am I celebrating, James? How did you get on this Kennedy thing?

CARVILLE: There were 1,000 signs, over 1,000 signs being held up.


COOPER: David Gergen, I want to read you something that David Frum, who is hardly an Obama supporter, said. He was obviously a speech writer for President Bush. And he said that some of what we're seeing out there, and I quote, some of the wild accusations and paranoid fantasies.

Is this -- I mean, is this, though, any different than things we've seen in past years?

GERGEN: I think it's different in kind from what we've seen over a lot of -- domestic fights. We're shouting past each other in a way now that I think makes governance extremely difficult. And for a great nation to be engaged in these sort of -- circuses kind of thing, I think, you know, is -- has real dangers to it.

WILLIAMS: It's not about...

COOPER: Mark, is this just the beginning?

WILLIAMS: Well, the beginning was in the Bush administration with TARP. And this is nothing at all to do with health care, other than health care has become the metaphor for all the different socialist policies that are being rammed down our throats by this president, or that he's trying to ram down our throats.

It's about TARP. It's about taking money from the working stiffs and giving it to the big corporations. It's about the corporate takeover of Washington, D.C. It's about the representatives of the people representing everybody but the people. It's about this nation deviating from -- or this government, more accurately, deviating from this nation's legacy and destiny.

If you think this is about health care, then you're missing the entire point. This is Americans being attacked by their own government and rising to the defense...

COOPER: James, this is the final question to you. Do you think what President Obama is doing is anything different than what he promised to do during the election? Mark was saying that some people are upset that this is not the change they voted for. Aren't -- on health care, isn't this what the president kind of promised?

CARVILLE: Talked about it a zillion times. Came out with this, pretty much the entire thing. No one should be surprised that he's moving aggressively on health care at all. It was much discussed in the primaries, much discussed in the general election.

And I think what they're going to end up with, is something fairly close to what he talked about.

But look, it doesn't -- it doesn't matter because you have, and people have a right to come out there. And I can't say that everybody was the same. I was shocked -- I was shocked by how utterly classless the crowd -- classless the crowd was.

You know, but no. And I think David is right to be worried about this. But when you're calling the guy a welfare Indonesia Muslim or something like that, there's not much...

GERGEN: A thug.

CARVILLE: A thug. I'll tell you -- or a Nazi. There's not much room to negotiate there.

WILLIAMS: James, thank you for firing up my case.

CARVILLE: I think they're fired up. You got them; they're yours.

WILLIAMS: I'll tell you, the American people are not classless. They're the working stiffs who keep money in your pocket.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there.

CARVILLE: I won't celebrate anybody's death.

COOPER: I'm not sure we shed light or heat, but I appreciate the discussion.

Mark Williams, it's good to have you on.

As always, James Carville, David Gergen, as well. Thank you all.

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