Last night on his MSNBC program Countdown, Keith Olbermann spent almost 12 minutes of his show criticizing President Obama and his administration for compromising on the Bush tax cuts. This was followed up by Rachel Maddow doing the same with her 9 PM program. This is why MSNBC is once again not the, “liberal Fox News.” FNC would never allow their hosts to criticize the GOP that way.
Here is the video of Olbermann’s special comment last night:
Olbermann pulled no punches with his criticism, “Mr. President, for these meager crumbs, you have given up costly, insulting, divisive, destructive tax cuts for the rich and you have given in to Republican blackmail which will be followed by more Republican blackmail. Of course, it’s not just tax cuts for the rich that you’ve given up… This President negotiates down from a position of strength better than any politician in our recent history. It is too late now to go back and ask why the President, why the wobbly Democratic leadership, whiffed on its chance to force John Boehner to put his money where his mouth was. In September Boehner said if he had no other option, of course he would vote to extend tax breaks only for the middle class.”
Olbermann also took on the administration’s mentality of blaming the base, “Yesterday I had an exchange with a very Senior member of this Administration who wanted to sell me on this deal. I pointed out that that was fine, except that — as I phrased it to him — “frankly the base has just vanished.” “Well,” he replied, “then they must not have read the details.” There, in a nutshell, is this Administration. They didn’t make a bad deal — we just don’t understand it.”
Rachel Maddow followed Olbermann with her own criticism:
Maddow spoke about the risk to the Obama presidency that this deal making is presenting, “What is happening now is that this presidency is at risk of becoming a punch line, It’s not that he has lost a fight or two or three or four. It’s that the very idea that he knows how to win or even wants to win has become a joke. . . . When this president starts to be ignored, when what he wants, his political vision becomes irrelevant. . . . If the president cannot win when his party is the majority in Congress, if no one can even conceive of the president winning fights when his party is in the majority, let alone the minority in Washington, then the presidency itself starts to atrophy. It starts to disappear.”
Can you imagine for one second Bill O’Reilly devoting about a quarter of his show to criticizing a Republican president? Can you imagine Sean Hannity following O’Reilly on the same evening and doing the same? You can’t because it would never happen on Fox News. Although MSNBC’s opinion programming targets the left, those hosts are free to voice opinions that run contrary to the party line, so can we please stop with the MSNBC is just like Fox News nonsense?
This false equivalency is something that was put out there by the right, and later picked up by Jon Stewart at his Rally to Restore Sanity, as justification for the methodology and bias of Fox News. It is a simplistic argument that ignores the fact that every MSNBC host from Chris Mathews and Ed Schulz to the prime time line up of Olbermann, Maddow, and O’Donnell has at one time or another been critical of Obama and his administration. This is not a behavioral characteristic of a propaganda network.
The mission of Fox News is to help the Republican Party, while MSNBC still functions as a news organization with a progressive tilt. The difference is night and day. The hosts on Fox News would never say anything to jeopardize the Republican cause, while those at MSNBC aren’t working for Obama despite what many on the right choose to believe. The difference between the two networks has never been clearer than it was last night, but as Eric Boehlert at Media Matters pointed out, it doesn’t matter what MSNBC does, the idea that they are Fox News for the left won’t die, and despite my hopes, I doubt last night changed this inaccurate perception.