I admit that as a political junkie I still wake up at 6 AM to watch Morning Joe on MSNBC. The show is hosted by Joe Scarborough, the network's Bill O'Reilly in that he is an obvious conservative shill masquerading as a moderate. I watch to gain critical insight into the thought patterns shown by the far right. You cannot get that on FOX because there is no real thinking going on there. FOX is in the business of regurgitating Roger Ailes' talking points all day long not actually formulating coherent thought. Unfortunately for MSNBC however, Morning Joe has devolved into nothing more than an exercise in denial providing ample opportunities to shout at the television in utter disbelief.
One could see this process developing over the past year as Scarborough increasingly shouts down anyone who has the temerity to merely offer a different opinion than his. Sam Stein, a regular contributor and infinitely more astute, always seems afraid to offer his opinion anymore for fear of the reprisal that is sure to come. One issue this morning that was highlighted was a commencement speech given by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Harvard University where he chided the would be graduates about not being accepting of different points of view. Citing a study that concluded that 96% of Ivy Leaguers who made political contributions donated to Obama as his proof. What ensued was a narcissistic conservative rant that left the actual facts lying in pieces in the dust.
As is the format, Scarborough goes on a rant and then "asks" his cast for their "opinions" knowing full well there will generally be widespread agreement and propping up of his talking points with maybe some weak and tepid counter opinion that can quickly be brushed aside. For this issue Scarborough of course agreed with the former Mayor and lambasted "liberals" who do not want to "hear different opinions", such as Condoleezza Rice who recently withdrew from speaking at Rutgers after protests were offered. In the course of soliciting agreement it was revealed by another guest that the reason Bloomberg was so upset is that his former top cop, Ray Kelly, was shouted down while giving a speech at Brown University back in November. The segment ended with another rant from Scarborough as Sam Stein tried to at least point out the obvious - that 96% of Ivy Leaguers who donated giving to Obama does not mean they all have the same opinion on everything. The panel quickly realized they just needed to nod in assent so they could cut to commercial. As the late Senator Patrick Moynihan once quipped; you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.
The first two obvious omissions stem from the 96% quote used by Bloomberg. What does that statistic actually mean? Instead of it somehow being an indictment against liberals being unwilling to listen to counter views how about looking at how far the intellectual position of conservatism has fallen over the past few years? If you are an Ivy League educated person it is not that you are unwilling to listen to someone talk about how climate change is not real or the legitimacy of legitimate rape, it's that they are wrong. Period. It is not a matter of one perspective or another. The truth of the matter is because of the Tea Party forcing the entire GOP off a right wing cliff, the party no longer has any sense of intellectual gravitas. They had a candidate recently who had to run a political ad assuring voters that she wasn't a witch! The other obvious omission from this statistic is that you cannot use it to define the entire 96% as Bloomberg did - which was the point Sten tried to make. Within that 96% were moderates and probably conservatives as well. Conservatives who did not like the chameleon known as Mitt Romney. Either way, to use that statistic to decry the intellectual state of a graduating class at their own commencement because you are pissy that a friend of yours got shouted down is in and of itself intellectually dishonest. Those of us who live in NY and had to live under the rule of King Michael are quite used to this.
More to the point however - why wasn't that the focus of the segment? The actual news in this story is that a Mayor invited to give a commencement speech at Harvard used that time to criticize the very people he was supposed to inspire. It was supposed to be their day, not Blommberg's. Not only that but it is apparent that he did this as retribution for a perceived slight from a totally different university to a former colleague of his. How unbelievably petty is that? While we are on the subject, why was Ray Kelly shouted down at Brown University? As it turns out there was a sizable protest prior to the day of his speech and a petition demanding he not speak and his generous honorarium be donated to charities helping end racial discrimination was signed by over 500 people. The university in its own arrogance simply refused. So when Ray Kelly showed up, the students, whose school it is I might add, exercised their freedom of speech and booed until he left. Once again is this liberalism run amok or simply smart kids not wanting to lend legitimacy to a man who was responsible for the NYC stop and frisk program which profiled people of color? Kelly defends stop frisk to this day even though 9 out of every 10 stopped are completely innocent and in 99.9% no weapon is ever found. So in the mind of Ray Kelly it is OK to trample on the constitutional rights of 90% of people to catch 10% who might be doing something wrong, albeit not serious. I don't look at that position as conservative or liberal. I view it is vacuous and unsustainable in a free society. And then to apply this absurd system unfairly against one ethnic group or race is simply reprehensible. This is not a matter of intellectual liberalism "not wanting to hear other views." They know his views. They correctly dismiss them as not being acceptable and therefore do not want to justify him - or pay him with their tuition money.
Which brings us to Rice. Certainly an accomplished woman in our history. Certainly with a diverse background spanning decades of great change in this country. She would make for the perfect commencement speaker if it weren't for the fact that she is covered in the blood of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and several thousand Americans. This is the point that Joe Scarborough and many on the right never understand. Watching FOX is not news. It is propaganda. It is not a viable "opinion" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That has been proven now to be a lie. It is not a viable opinion that the Iraq War was just about "spreading freedom." That is what is known as a lie. Who did all this lying? Who lied the American people into a war that lasted over a decade and slaughtered so many completely innocent people? Who lied by saying the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud? Who lied by falsely claiming that Hussein had sought yellowcake from the Niger? Who was it that condoned the institution of torture as national policy? Oh that's right - the answer to all of these questions is Condi Rice.
Yet to hear Scarborough rant about it the true issue is the elitist ivy leaguers who don't want to hear any other opinions than their own. Which is patently absurd. Perhaps if Rice were willing to engage in a debate about the merits of the Iraq War with proper opposition, you would see a different response because that would be an ACADEMIC undertaking. This was the commencement speech. That is free reign to say what you want without having to answer one tough question. The students, who provide the money for Rutgers to exist, said no. Bravo to them for standing up for the dead who can no longer speak for themselves.
As for Kelly, his was a speech on policing in big cities, not a commencement. Again however it was a speech, not a debate, where people could counter his positions. I am confident that if it were an academic exercise where people could question Kelly and offer counter points, that the result would have been different. But providing a forum for a speech is essentially agreeing and condoning what his policies were and the students at Brown said they disagreed. They tried to do it through proper channels but were shut down. So they took their legal rights and protested. Once again, bravo for standing up to what is wrong.
I know some will think this is just a silly point because there is no real news anymore. Maybe my expectations are too high and I am too naive. If I want to wake up and watch pre-fabricated outrage and talking points that deny reality I would tune into Fox and Friends. I don't expect Joe Scarborough to be anything less than what he is - a true shill for the right. But they have to stop padding the panel with pretty blond conservatives and women with English accents and start generating a real conversation. Michael Bloomberg made real news yesterday. It was a real story. But to twist it into an indictment against liberal thought required the flexibility of a contortionist and the guile of someone who knows full well he is full of it. Oh well, maybe I can sleep in from now on.