It has been said that politics ain’t tiddlywinks, but every now and then, the discourse on cable news very clearly and blatantly crosses a line that should not be crossed. On Thursday night’s edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, panelist and Now host Alex Wagner crossed such a line when she compared the continuing Republican efforts at regrouping to a gathering of fictitious cartoon super-villains who converge on “Mount Baddie” to “concoct their plot for the next episode, or whatever it is.”
The segment was pegged to Sen. Marco Rubio‘s (R-FL) CPAC speech, in which he claimed that Republicans “don’t need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America, and it still works!”
After mocking Rubio’s heartfelt-esque patriollectualism, Alex Wagner started in on the broader conservative movement, noting that CPAC correspondent Anamarie Cox “is there, and says there is new blood in the conservative movement. It would be awesome to see that.”
“Right now,” Alex continued, “all I can think of when I see the Rand Pauls and Marco Rubios and the Rick Perrys and Mitt Romneys (author’s note: Mitt Romney was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee) is that moment in those cartoons where all of the superhero evil guys converge on Mount Baddie and concoct their plot for the next episode or whatever it is. And they get defeated every single time. But they keep going back up into that mountain, and looking down on the earth below, and sort of rubbing their hands together. They are not going to win with that conclave, pardon the use of the word this week, but that group of tired, old guys pushing the same old rhetoric.”
Host Lawrence O’Donnell then told his guests that he “going to be over here, just saying America over and over, and see if it works. I want to see what problems it solves in my life.”
Panelist Ari Melber chimed in that “That’s how mantras work, though. A mantra works, Lawrence, by repeating it. You repeat it and repeat it, and then eventually, the mantra is drained of meaning, and then takes on a new meaning to the person saying it.”
This is wrong on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, I’m pretty sure there is no place called “Mount Baddie” in any existing superhero canon, and for good reason. Holding your evil conclave in such a location would be a dead giveaway, as the residents of formerly prosperous Underground Lair, Wisconsin can attest. If memory (and Google) serves me right, the first meeting of the Legion of Doom (the group of “superhero evil guys” that Alex was likely referring to; also known as “super-villains”) occurred in what appears to have been a swamp in the Florida Everglades.
Cartoon nitpicking aside, though, this talk of evil conclaves and tired old guys is a prime example of just how nasty the discourse on cable news has become. I used to work alongside Alex Wagner at the White House, and we’re still on friendly terms, but I hope she reads this, and asks herself this question: What did the Legion of Doom ever do to deserve this?
Alex’s comparison may have its superficial merits, but comparing the Legion of Doom to the Republicans is so unfair that it overshadows those merits. If the Legion of Doom threatens to crash the global economy, nothing actually happens, no real people are harmed. Even within their fictional construct, the Legion of Doom never tried to gut Medicare, or disenfranchise certain groups of voters, or probe anyone’s vagina, and as far as I know, Lex Luthor never whined that Superman (who was the only illegal alien they were hostile toward) wasn’t inviting them over for drinks, even though he was.
The other important distinction here is that the Legion of Doom was clearly-labeled; they knew they were evil. Republicans sincerely believe that if government just got out of the way, everyone could live like entitled white males. They believe that if you take away assistance that people desperately need, they will find some other way to get by, because that’s how Republicans do it, except when they don’t, which is totally different. They truly believe that only some Americans are dependent on government, those other people. They don’t understand that Mitt Romney is only worth $250 million-$11 jillion because the government says he is; without the government, all he has are stacks of poorly-designed Post-It Notes, and a house full of well-armed squatters. They truly believe that gay people are not entitled to equality, until they find out they gave birth to one, and then, only maybe. Republicans aren’t evil, they’re just blind to whatever isn’t directly in the line of sight between them and their own “prosperity.”
The Legion of Doom can’t help themselves. To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit, they’re not evil, they’re just drawn that way. Republicans have a choice, and they continue to make the wrong one. For failing to make that distinction, among others, Alex Wagner owes the Legion of Doom an apology.
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