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Tilting at Windmills

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October 23, 2009

THE INVITATION IS THE PROBLEM.... Right-wing pundit Frank Gaffney was on MSNBC's "Hardball" yesterday, debating U.S. policy in Afghanistan with Ron Reagan. It didn't go well, but the heated exchange was really only part of the problem. (thanks to reader W.B. for the tip)

After Reagan rejected the neocon approach to the conflict, Gaffney made things personal. "Your father would be ashamed of you," Gaffney told Reagan. The former president's son replied, "You better watch your mouth about that, Frank."

Now, Gaffney probably knows he crossed a line of decency; in fact that probably why he said what he said. Gaffney's a right-wing nutjob whose job it is to say ridiculous things.

And that's really what matters here. Gaffney's insane rhetoric isn't the problem; the fact that he was invited onto national television (again) to share his insane rhetoric is the problem.

Gaffney probably isn't a household name, but inside the media establishment, he's a pretty well known figure, as evidenced by his joint appearance with Dick Cheney on Wednesday night. And when offered a major media platform, Gaffney takes full advantage.

In April, for example, Gaffney appeared on MSNBC to argue that whenever President Obama uses the word "respect" in foreign policy, the word is "code for those who adhere to Sharia that we will submit to Sharia." He wasn't kidding.

In June, Gaffney wrote a column insisting that President Obama might really be a Muslim. In March, Gaffney argued that "evidence" exists connecting Saddam Hussein to 9/11, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Last September, Gaffney argued that Sarah Palin has learned foreign policy through "osmosis," by living in Alaska. He's argued that U.S. forces really did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but the media covered it up. He's used made-up quotes and recommended "hanging" Democratic officials critical of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. He even believes there's "evidence" to support the "Birthers," and once recommended a military strike on Al Jazeera headquarters.

So why is it, exactly, that MSNBC's "Hardball" invited Gaffney on to talk about foreign policy? What is it the viewing public can learn from listening to his unhinged perspective?

To be sure, Gaffney is certainly entitled to believe obvious lunacy, but that doesn't mean he deserves a microphone or the opportunity to convince a national television audience that his lunacy is legitimate.

Honestly, is there nothing conservatives can say that would force them from polite company? Just how nutty must far-right activists be before they're no longer invited to share their ridiculous ideas?

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Honestly, is there nothing conservatives can say that would force them from polite company?

Sure -- they can reject the fantasies of the neocons and movement conservatism. Other than that, no.

SASQ.

Posted by: Gregory on October 23, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Gaffney: "Your father would be ashamed of you".
Ron: "There you go again".

Posted by: Chopin on October 23, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't NBC be accused of having a liberal bias if they did not have people like Gaffney on? They know they have to engage in a certain percentage of ass kissing.

Posted by: CarlP on October 23, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Well, look at it this way. Having Gaffney on once in a while simply makes Pat Buchanan look sane, making it more acceptable to have him on every fricking show on MSNBC.

Posted by: Sandlapper on October 23, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Even for Gaffney that was a dickish thing to say.

The man is nuts but because he was part of a former administration he's given street cred and treated as a credible voice. Sort of like Dick Cheney.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on October 23, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

gaffney is such a slimy operator. what cracks me up about him is that arched eyebrow -- that you just know he practiced for hours ...

Posted by: linda on October 23, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

One fine day he is going to need to answer Ron Reagan without the filter of restraint that obfuscates reasonable responses to his provocations .

Posted by: FRP on October 23, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

MSNBC, for all its faults, doesn't want to take away Gaffney's First Amendment right to free speech, unlike certain liberals on this blog.

Posted by: Al on October 23, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

I have a suggestion. Instead of inviting ass holes like GAFFney to debate left/right nuance suits like Matthews should invite Republican s who aren't as far right and might have some ideas, other than hate and fear, to counter the cleaer thinkers like Reagan.

That Matthews is more interested in ratings than truth, is a fact but diminishes his programs viability by doing so. I was added to the growing list of people who don't watch his program anymore for this exact type of coupling. I used to think Matthews did it to spark legitimate debate but it ALWAYS ends up with the wingnuts shouting the clear thinker down utilizing lies, innuendo, and fear mongering that Matthews and his ilk hardly ever counter with fact.

I have a better idea. ALL "newsy" programs should be held to the same level of accountability as Saturday Night Live and be fact checked by Wolf Blitzer and his ilk.

Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on October 23, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

The problem isn't just he was invited on Hardball. The problem is that our national dialog is distilled through these people. Why Limbaugh's and Beck's schtick is considered newsworthy is beyond me. Gaffney was invited on because his point of view drives the national discussion, at least as far as the media goes.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 23, 2009 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Frank Gaffney is Pat Robertson's favorite foreign affairs advisor, which is all that really needs to be said.

And not that I have anything against Ron, Jr, who the hell cares what he has to say? I don't remember when it started, maybe it was with Rush, but why should talk show host with no expertise in anything be on what are supposed to be news shows? Washington is chock full of experts from all sides who can manipulate facts as well as a DJ, why give the DJ the air time?

end of pet peeve rant.

Posted by: martin on October 23, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Al, if a private business entity refuses to book an asshole like Gaffney, it is not "taking away his 1st amendment rights". Only the government can be accused of that. Moron.

Posted by: bikelib on October 23, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone in the village taken note of the fact that only 20% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans? That maybe 15% would go along with the likes of Gaffney, who presumably is employed by some think tank funded by the defense industry or Likudnik billionaires.

Posted by: bob h on October 23, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

I knew as soon as I saw the two of them that it was rapidly going to deteriorate to a screaming match, with each of them simultaneously trying to shout the other one down and Tweety smirking as he watched. Why MSNBC thinks this is something that anyone would want to watch escapes me. Tweety wants the sensationalism.

Posted by: Bill H on October 23, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Did anybody else notice?

"Watch your mouth, Frank."

"Talk to you later, Frank."

RR was actually promising to kick Gaffney's ass if he didn't STFU. Gaffney noticed, believed him, and STFU. He was scared. Watch it again.

I don't generally advocate violence against someone expressing a contrary opinion. Gaffney went over the line, he lied, and I'd have promised to slap that weasel down myself. Good for Ron!

Posted by: UnEasyOne on October 23, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

This is just further evidence of the "U-tubification" of TeeVee.

The 21st Century version of, "If it bleeds, it leads"

"Is the head dead yet? Get the widow on the set. The boys in the newsroom got a running bet."

Posted by: DAY on October 23, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

That Gaffney, and his ilk, have been utterly wrong at every turn over the last 20 years, but are still given a voice on national television speaks volumes about the insulated lives of cable bookers (producers) and the limited goals of cable "news." After all Gaffney is articulate. He truly believes his neo-con lunacy and speaks it with conviction. He can be counted on to make an ass of himself while sounding "educated."

Cable "news' and professional wrestling have a lot in common, except professional wrestlers work a lot harder. In the final analysis it is all carnival sideshow business and we are all rubes for watching.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 23, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

And yet you keep talking about him. The business of a TV news network, like the business of all TV products, is to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. Anyone who can go on national TV and reliably generate controversy and attention will always be highly sought-after.

I don't know if ignoring people will make them go away but lavishing outrage on them will surely make them stay.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on October 23, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

"why should talk show host with no expertise in anything be on what are supposed to be news shows? "

I've been saying that for years. No matter which of these shows you turn on they all trot out the same "experts" to comment on everything. None of them seem to be experts on anything besides self-promotion. Name the topic, their contracted "expert" can tell you all about it.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 23, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

The protege of a hoax

Top left column of Steve's blog.
There is a link for True Lies a book review by Joshua Green.

It's very good. And contains this quote:

He is lazy, sexist, opportunistic, and disloyal. He’s mean to his staff and always poised to dump his current candidate if a better one comes along. The only thing he desires more than a rich foreign client to bankroll his lifestyle by enlisting his “professional services” is the singular glory of cable-news prominence.

After you read the whole thing, you will be happy you don't live anywhere near the Beltway and its cocktail party circus. Because Martin Eisenstadt is a hoax/distillation of people just like Gaffney.

Posted by: koreyel on October 23, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Gaffney is dead on. And as a student of wingnut history, might I remind everyone that it was most certainly Jimmy Carter who in retreated from Lebanon following the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks?

Posted by: Bill on October 23, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

It's time to drop neocon and move on to what these guys are, neoanarchists.

Posted by: Himself on October 23, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't NBC be accused of having a liberal bias if they did not have people like Gaffney on? -CarlP

MSNBC is held up as the defacto foil to FOX News by wingnuts already, so Gaffney's and his like minded ilks' recurring appearances have had no affect. They also haven't improved ratings, so it begs the question, why they would continue to book them?

Even for Gaffney that was a dickish thing to say. -zoe kentucky

I listen to Ron on Air America every day, and he is consistently a calm, even, thoughtful person. The only thing I've ever seen him come really unglued about is when a guest presumes to speak for his father.

I can't imagine what it must be like for Ron to have had such a high profile father and to watch his image and history twisted into the apocryphal rightwing hero that fools like Gaffney worship today.

Posted by: doubtful on October 23, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK
Just how nutty must far-right activists be before they're no longer invited to share their ridiculous ideas?

Nutty enough to lose more advertisers than Glenn Beck. In other words, there is considerable room to ramp up the nuttiness. It's a ratings game. People want to see blood on the floor.

Posted by: idlemind on October 23, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Er, bill, Carter left office in 1981.

Posted by: vhh on October 23, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

vhh I think bill's sarcasm indicator light was on.

Posted by: g on October 23, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

The commentary here isn't really about Gaffney; it is really about Tweety and the rest of the media treating these fascists/theocrats as if they had a valid opinion to express.

Some opinions are justifiably and routinely excluded from the national debate. It is rare to see a member of the KKK or American Nazi party invited to provide "balance" when Al Sharpton or Alan Derschowitz (probably spelled that wrong) are called on to express an opinion.

Instead they have Hitler apologist Pat Buchanan (without the rough edges of the Klan or skinheads, but essentially the same worldview) or a Gaffney, and their ilk, whose only claim to fame is their astounding record of idiocy and general fascist viewpoint. They establish records for being completely outside the mainstream; the more articulately they can spout forth provable nonsense, the more air they get.

This while progressives with a track record as being consistently right on the issues are relegated to left-wing low-viewership programs like "Democracy now" because their views are "too extreme" for the MSM.

No putdown of Deocracy NOW!" intended there, of course. It is one of the most informative programs around.

Posted by: UnEasyOne on October 23, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

The commentary here isn't really about Gaffney; it is really about Tweety and the rest of the media treating these fascists/theocrats as if they had a valid opinion to express.

Some opinions are justifiably and routinely excluded from the national debate. It is rare to see a member of the KKK or American Nazi party invited to provide "balance" when Al Sharpton or Alan Derschowitz (probably spelled that wrong) are called on to express an opinion.

Instead they have Hitler apologist Pat Buchanan (without the rough edges of the Klan or skinheads, but essentially the same worldview) or a Gaffney, and their ilk, whose only claim to fame is their astounding record of idiocy and general fascist viewpoint. They establish records for being completely outside the mainstream; the more articulately they can spout forth provable nonsense, the more air they get.

This while progressives with a track record as being consistently right on the issues are relegated to left-wing low-viewership programs like "Democracy now" because their views are "too extreme" for the MSM.

No putdown of Deocracy NOW!" intended there, of course. It is one of the most informative programs around.

Posted by: UnEasyOne on October 23, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Sure, I agree, but why the hell was Ron invited? Maybe Chris is having a hard time getting guests?

Posted by: Scott F. on October 23, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

>"Cable "news' and professional wrestling have a lot in common, except professional wrestlers work a lot harder."

Astute observation. In the OLD days, TV newstime was 'sold' by quality of coverage. (Think Walter Cronkite, Huntley & Brinkley etc).

Now news is sold as entertainment. The old WWF (world wrestling federation) formula became the model for programming. A bit of a sad commentary on humans in general and Americans in particular.

Posted by: Buford on October 23, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry about the double post. When I first tried to post that comment, I got an error that said it had been refused because I had already posted too many comments too soon. It told me to wait and post again. I tried a minute later and apparently the first one had gone through too.

WTF?

Posted by: UnEasyOne on October 23, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Sure, I agree, but why the hell was Ron invited? -Scott F.

Why wouldn't he be invited?

Posted by: doubtful on October 23, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

All of you complaining about the crap on cable "news" should follow my lead: turn the channel, surf the net, watch PBS' "NewsHour" or God forbid, read a book. Methinks that while you all complain about it, you secretly enjoy the meanness.

Posted by: Drew on October 23, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

He's also the president of the Center for Security Policy, which just gave Dick Cheney a big award (Cheney's speech accepting the award is the speech you've been hearing about this week, the one in which he accuses Barack Obama of "dithering" on Afghanistan.

Posted by: Steve M. on October 23, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Gaffeny was invited on to talk about the awards his organization handed out to Cheney and a convicted felon and if that was the right thing to do. Also to talk about Cheney's comments. He of course took advantage of that and never answered Chris' questions on that topic and went off onhis usual rant. As with most of his ilk, he then went to over talk and loud talk to try and drown out anyone else just to get their point across. Of course, he really doesn't have a point that makes any sense.

Posted by: poetdel on October 23, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Later in the same show, Alan Grayson was asked his opinion of Dick Cheney. He said, along with other things that, "he trouble understanding Cheney because of the blood dripping from his teeth" that "he was just mad because Obama hadn't shot an old man in the face" and "did he turn into a bat and fly away" after the speech.

To say Tweety was taken aback is an understatement. He didn't know what to say in response. Grayson is a very smart guy, and I think he was trying to make the point that Cheney is not a serious figure and should not be discussed seriously on TV.

Somehow I doubt the talking heads will make the same conclusion.

Posted by: Capri on October 23, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

It is obvious after watching Gaffney talking about blame for "losing Afghanistan" that what he, Cheney and all the other neo-conservatives are doing by attacking Obama now over his "dithering" is making sure that when the history of Afghanistan is written that they are able to escape blame for taking their eye off the ball for the past eight years as they pursued what Cheney so famously once called his "other priorities."

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 23, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

The world would be a better place if someone took out Frank Gaffney.

Posted by: Liddy on October 23, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

To your point -- this morning, there's George Stephanapolous giving Ann Coulter a national forum on GMA to spout whatever idiotic ramblings she had to say (I didn't stop to listen). The template for this kind of TV is Jerry Springer....the difference is that Gaffney and Coulter use better grammar and still have all their teeth.

Posted by: mike on October 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

One thing's for sure, it takes a lot more to get a Republican banished from the media than it did for the Dixie Chicks.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 23, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

A rather obvious retort:

Your mother should be ashamed of you.

Cheney's grandchildren will be ashamed of him. That's why he and his daughter go around revising history. To burnish his blood-stained "legacy."

Posted by: Winkandanod on October 23, 2009 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you so much for raising these points, Steve. I appreciate your consistently high quality work and your dedication.

Yes, Gaffney is a loon.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on October 23, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Heh! Concerning Gaffney's "osmosis" argument, beck when I was in the Navy, my department and another department decided "Hey! Let's move some Yeomen into the Personnelman's office and vice-versa. That way, the YNs and the PNs can learn each others' jobs."
Nope. No learning took place. The YNs continued to do their jobs and the PNs did theirs. To learn the other guy's job would have meant taking time away from doing our own job.
Supervisor: "How come you didn't get Seaman Schmuckatelli's pay problem squared away?" PN "I was trying to understand the distinction between a commendation and a commemoration."
Nuh uh. Wasn't gonna happen.

Posted by: Rich2506 on October 23, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

What Reagan should have said is, "As if you knew my father".

Posted by: BongoBob on October 23, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

The other night I had one eye on a CSPAN rebroadcast of the Center for Security Policy event at which Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, & Gaffney spoke. The point being that, although (or because) Gaffney is as unhinged as you say, he's well-ensconced in the elite of the Republican Party. That's why the press continues to invite him to speak. It's also a fact that the Republican elite knows his views, & yet is perfectly happy w/ him. So the problem is a bit wider than just one unhinged man.

Posted by: K on October 23, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Grayson / Reagan
.. in 2012

Posted by: cwolf on October 23, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK
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