Newsbusters highlights this debate from yesterday’s Reliable Sources on CNN, hosted by Howard Kurtz, in which Rush Limbaugh gets some unusual defenders against Bill Clinton. Salon’s Joan Walsh reliably regurgitates Bill Clinton’s slam against Rush and talk radio, but she finds herself rather lonely. Amy Holmes, CNN’s political reporter, and Reuters editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland object to Clinton’s characterization of impassioned political debate as a dog whistle for violence:
Noel Sheppard has the entire transcript, but here are a couple of the highlights:
HOLMES: There are kooks and there are nuts. And I think with Bill Clinton, it reminds us what we don’t like about him, and that was the demagoguery. And I don’t believe that Rush Limbaugh or any right- wing talk radio person is responsible for this any more than an environmentalist is responsible for the Unabomber.
KURTZ: Chrystia Freeland, there’s a certain surreal quality to this argument, because no major act of violence, other than that nut job who flew the plane into the IRS office in Austin, has taken place yet. It’s almost like a preemptive debate.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REUTERS: Yes, I agree. And I have to say, on this one I’m on Rush Limbaugh’s side as well.
I think that it’s incredibly easy for politicians, for businesspeople to criticize the media. In those Goldman e-mails I was telling you about that I enjoyed so much on Saturday there’s a great line where Lucas van Praag, the Goldman spokesman, is sending an e- mail to his bosses, and he says, “This story will have balance.” And then he puts in brackets, “i.e., something we don’t like.”
I’m not accusing Rush Limbaugh of being guilty of too much balance, but I do think blaming the media is a very weak thing for politicians and businesspeople to do. And I think we in the media should really be pretty, pretty careful before we agree with the criticism.
Obviously, to call — openly call for violence openly is illegal. People shouldn’t be doing that. But to just use heated language, I think you hear that on both sides of the debate. And on the left you’re hearing that a lot directed towards Goldman Sachs right now. …
WALSH: Look, you guys, I went up trying to have a civil debate with Bill O’Reilly almost a year ago, where he told me I personally had blood on my hands. I got thousands, thousands — literally thousands of e- mails from people wishing that my mother had aborted me, that I had aborted my daughter. I have personally experienced the demonization of the right, and I think it’s just of an order of magnitude different.
You can go on comment boards on Salon or “The Huffington Post.” People love to do that. There’s somebody anonymous saying something awful. But the fact is, the right makes a business out of incendiary rhetoric that personally demonizes Democratic lawmakers and pundits. And it doesn’t happen that way on the left.
KURTZ: A brief response from Amy and I need to move on.
HOLMES: I would say that it does happen that way on the left. I read plenty of it about myself, about other people in public life. And unfortunately, when people get to be anonymous they get to say very ugly things.
Perhaps Walsh took an eight-year vacation during the Bush administration, when the Left demonized the President and most of his administration in terms at least as ugly as anything said in the last fifteen months. No one seemed to worry about violence then, even when protests actually resulted in violence, such as at the 2008 Republican convention or at the WTO talks over the years. Clinton himself must have pulled a Rip Van Winkle over that time, too, which all of the national media giving him a platform for this ridiculous meme have passed on mentioning as part of their coverage.