Video: Olbermann: Divisive politics is anti-American

By Keith Olbermann Anchor, 'Countdown'
msnbc.com
updated 10/20/2008 9:20:21 PM ET 2008-10-21T01:20:21
CAMPAIGN COMMENT

I have frequently insisted I would never turn the platform of the Special Comment into a regular feature. But as these last two weeks of this extraordinary, and extraordinarily disturbing, presidential campaign project out in front of us, I fear I may have to temporarily amend that presumption.

I hope it will be otherwise, but I suspect this will be the first of nightly pieces, most shorter than this until further notice. And thus a Special Comment tonight about the last five days of the divisive, ugly, paranoid bleatings of this Presidential race, culminating in the sliming of Colin Powell for his endorsement of Sen. Obama.

There was once a very prominent sportswriter named Dick Young whose work, with ever-increasing frequency, became peppered with references to "my America."

"I can't believe this is happening in My America;" "We do not tolerate these people in My America;" "This man does not belong in my America."  His America gradually revealed itself.

Insular. Isolationist. Backwards-looking. Mindlessly flag-waving. Racist. No second chances. A million rules, but only for the other guy. Dick Young died in 1987, but he has been re-born in the presidential campaign as it has unfolded since last Thursday night.

In that time, Gov. Sarah Palin, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer, and Rush Limbaugh, have revealed that there is a measurable portion of this country that is not interested in that which the vast majority view as democracy or equality or opportunity. They want only control and they want the rest of us, symbolically, perhaps physically out.

Gov. Palin:

"We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington D.C.," you told a fund-raiser in North Carolina last Thursday, to kick off this orgy of condescending elitism.

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

Governor, your prejudice is overwhelming. It is not just "pockets" of this country that are "pro-America" Governor. America is "pro-America. "And the "Real America" of yours, Governor, is where people at your rallies shout threats of violence, against other Americans, and you say  nothing about them or to them.

What you are seeing is not patriotism, Governor. What has surrounded you since your nomination, has been the echoing shout of mob rule. Indeed, that shout has echoed to Minnesota, where the next day an unstable Congresswoman named Michele Bachmann added to the ugly cry.

"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think people would love to see an expose' like that."

For nearly two years, Ms. Bachmann, who made her first political bones by keeping the movie "Aladdin" from being shown at a Minnesota Charter School because she thought it promoted paganism and witchcraft, has had a seat in the government of this nation, a seat from which she has spewed the most implausible, hateful, narrow-minded garbage imaginable.

Well, Congresswoman, you have gotten that "expose'" you wanted, have you not? Though not perhaps in the way you imagined.

Since giving voice to your remarkable delusion that there are members of Congress who are "anti-America," and the extraordinary tap-dance of sleaze and innuendo about Sen. Obama which followed, the challenger for your house Seat, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has been inundated by donations – $7,000 in the three days after you spoke.

Because the America you perceive, Congresswoman with its goblins and ghosts and vast unseen hordes of traitors and fellow travelers and Senators who won't ban "Aladdin" exists only in your head, and in the heads of the others who must rationalize the failures in their own lives and of their own policies as somebody else's fault as a conspiracy to deny them an America of exclusionism and religious orthodoxy and prejudice, about which they must accuse, and murmur, and shout threats, and cleave the nation into pro-America and anti-America."

And back it comes to the McCain campaign.

And Sen. McCain's talking head, Ms. Pfotenhauer, who on this very network Saturday, and seemingly without the slightest idea that dismissive prejudice dripped from every word, analyzed the race in Virginia.

"I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia," she said. "But the rest of the state, ‘real Virginia,' if you will, I think will be very responsive to Sen. McCain's message."

Again, a toxic message. The parts of the country that agree with Nancy Pfotenhauer are real; the others, not. Ms. Pfotenhauer, why not go the distance on this one? It was Sen. McCain's own  brother who called that part of Virginia nearest Washington "communist country."

Cut to the chase, Madam. No matter the intended comic hyperbole of Joe McCain. This is the point—isn't it? Leave out the real meaning of "Communism," Madam, Joe McCain reduced it to a buzz-word; it has no more true definition right now than does "Socialism," or the phrase "a man who sees America like you and I see America."

It's about us and them. The pro and the anti. Never mind, Madam, that the bi-secting of this country you would happily inspire, means taking a tiny crack in a dam and not repairing it but burrowing into it.

It is not enough that Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama might differ. One must be real and the other false. One must be pro-America and the other anti. Go back and, as your boss Rick Davis said today, "re-think," Mr. McCain's insistence not to drag the sorry bones of Jeremiah Wright into this campaign. And whatever you do, Ms. Pfotenhauer, allow no one enough time to think about the widening crack in the dam.

And now all of this comes together to attack Colin Powell. "Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race," writes Rush Limbaugh, the grand wizard of this school of reactionary non-thought.

"OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with." It is not conceivable that Powell might reject McCain for the politics of hate and character assassination, or just for policy.

In the closed, sweaty world of the blind allegiances of Limbaugh, one of "us" who endorses one of "them," must be doing so for some other blind allegiance, like the color of skin.

The answer to this primordial muck, must be addressed to one man only. Sen. McCain, where are you? I disagree with you on virtually every major point of policy and practice.  And yet I do not think you "anti-America." I would not hesitate to join you in time of crisis in defense of this country. Fortunately you did not echo this chorus of base hatred. But neither have you repudiated it.

What is "pro-America", Senator? Is it pro-America to call a man a racist because he endorses a different candidate? Senator, you have based your campaign on many premises, but the foremost (and the most nearly admirable) of all of them, have been the pitches about "reaching across the aisle," and putting, as your ubiquitous banners reed, "country first."

So when Colin Powell endorses your opponent, you say nothing as your supporters and proxies paint him in this "Anti-America" frame and place him in Gov. Palin's un-real America. Sen. McCain, did not Gen. Powell just "reach across the aisle?" Did he not, in his own mind at least, "put country first?" Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to, if not applaud, then at least quiet those in your half of our fractured political equation?

Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to say "enough" to Republican smears without end? Is it not your responsibility, Senator, to insist that, win or lose, you will not be party to a campaign that devolves into hatred and prejudice and divisiveness? And Sen. McCain, if it is not your responsibility, whose is it?

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