MSNBC host Ed Schultz (MSNBC )
There’s something laughably inventive about how the cable TV political machines take the barest thread of evidence to weave elaborate tapestries of conspiracy and umbrage.
Case study: The histrionics by a couple of MSNBC hosts and their guests over a rash comment by one of Mitt Romney’s sons. Tagg Romney, 42, told a talk-radio host this week that hearing his father described as a liar at the latest debate (though that never happened) made him want to "take a swing at" President Obama.
Romney’s oldest son made the comment to a conservative host in North Carolina. What might have seemed to most people like a loyal son blowing off a little steam was constructed into something more, much more, by MSNBC hosts Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton.
Before they got through their Wednesday night commentaries, with a little assistance from their guests, what seemed like another in a series of campaign piffles had become evidence of, well, let’s see ... Romney campaign bullying. And Romney family entitlement. And even racism -- the latter also reflected in Republican voter-suppression efforts.
The sputtering and recriminations went on for a good part of two evening talk shows on the cable network that sometimes acts just like Fox News for the left. All the allegations seemed silly and overblown at best, and counterproductive at worst, in trying to conflate a 10-second rant with something truly important -- the 10-decade-plus history of political thuggery that blocked some U.S. citizens, including many African Americans, from voting.
The mischief had begun even before MSNBC got its hands on the topic.
Radio host Bill LuMaye, who did the Tagg Romney interview, asked: "What is it like for you to hear the president of the United States call your dad a liar?"
Obama certainly said his opponent had bent the truth, as Romney has said of him. But the president never called Romney a liar.
In whipping up his fury about the episode, Schultz teased the story by playing only the first part of Tagg's response: “Well, jump out of your seat, you want to rush down the debate stage and take a swing at him.”
Only on the second playing did the audience hear the rest of his statement: "But you know you can't do that, first, because there's a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because this is the nature of the process."
"The nature of the process" indeed.
Oh, surely this could not be some innocent misstep, Schultz fumed. "Tagg Romney, you know, he's not just some misbehaving kid out there who's speaking out of turn," the host said. "Tagg Romney is reportedly the driving force behind the Romney campaign these days."
So the "threat" advanced the Romney campaign just how? But we digress.
"His comments are indicative of a larger pattern from the Romney family," Schultz insisted. "They represent the entitlement society. You see, they can say anything, they can do anything, disrespect anyone. They can get away with it. They're the Romneys."
Schultz then welcomed frequent guest Michael Eric Dyson to pump up the volume. "Extreme disrespect," Dyson said, revealing a family that feels it's "exempt from the rules."
"This is not only a class-based elitist conception, that I don't have to ... play by those rules, it's a race-based one as well as you indicated there at the end, because this is white male privilege run amok," said Dyson, who is African American.
If Obama had a son and if that son had done something similar, Dyson asserted, "surely they'd try to portray him as Lil Wayne with a bullhorn."
Hmmm. It's unclear who "they" are. But from comments earlier by Schultz, it might include the foghorn commentators over at Fox News.
Indeed, Fox hosts think nothing of sowing outrage and division. So now that becomes the industry standard? Unfortunately, yes.
Schultz was merely following on a theme already set up by Sharpton. He claimed that "you put the whole country in danger" when "you're so unwilling to give him and confer to him the most basic respect."
MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry joined Sharpton's pile-on.
"When you are worried that you can't actually use your ideas to win voters, then you start trying to win in this kind of, you know, playground brawl situations," she said. "So, what we're seeing is voter suppression, for example, in the key swing states. If we can't win this election, then we'll steal this election."
So, to review: Tagg Romney has a momentary fantasy about trying to take a poke at the president. And that's why GOP trolls find ways to keep the good folks of Akron from getting to the polls. Got it.
The problem with this blather is that it distracts from what is real: Responsible journalists, who have reported on real problems with voter suppression. Real reporters, who have dug out biographical snippets that reveal Mitt Romney’s true worldview. True examples, which spring forth every day on the Internet, of defamation against the president.
But why wait for something substantive? When Tagg swings, just take a cheap swing back.