He might deny it, using a lace doily of a fig leaf that would embarrass even Rush Limbaugh, but Countdown host Keith Olbermann‘s “Special Comment” Tuesday night heavily featured that most Godwinian of rhetorical devices: the Nazi comparison. Angrily responding to President Obama‘s compromise on the Bush Tax Cuts, Olbermann quoted Winston Churchill extensively, ran down a laundry list of missed opportunities and broken promises, and even lent support to a primary challenge to the President. While Godwin’s Law states that Olbermann lost the argument, the defection of Obama’s base could portend a different result.
Hours after President Obama defended his compromising ways against criticism from the left, Olbermann responded by highlighting the missed opportunities, most squandered as the President held obstruction-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress: (transcript via MSNBC)
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.
Just as it was our fault, Mr President, for not understanding your refusal of even the most perfunctory of investigations of rendition or domestic spying or the other crimes of the Bush Administration, or why you have now established for those future Administrations who want to repeat those crimes, that the punishment for them will be nothing.
Just as it was our fault, Mr. President, for not understanding Afghanistan. Just as we didn’t correctly perceive, Sir, the necessity for the continuation of Gitmo. Or how we failed to intuit, President Obama, your preemptive abandonment of Single Payer and the Public Option. Or how we couldn’t have foreseen your foot-dragging on “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Just as we shouldn’t have gotten you angry at your news conference today and made all the moderate Democrats wonder why in the hell you get publicly angry so often at the liberals who campaigned for you and whether you might save just a touch of that sarcasm and that self-martyrdom for the Republicans.
The President is right to point to accomplishments such as Health Care Reform, but the progressive base who elected him is even righter to point out that they handed him a blank check in a Congressional majority that George W. Bush never had, and all they got was a gallon of milk and some eggs.
In case anyone missed the significance of the Churchill quotes peppered throughout, Olbermann hangs a lantern on it: (transcript via MSNBC)
The Churchill quotation — as opposed to the quotation from the very Senior member of your Administration, Mr. President — is from October 5th, 1938.
I don’t want to make any true comparison to the historical event to which it related; the viewer can go ahead and look it up if they wish; I will confess I won’t fight if anybody wants to draw a comparison between what you’ve done with our domestic politics of our day, to what Neville Chamberlain did with the international politics of his.
Translation: “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.”
Godwin’s Law notwithstanding, if someone with Olbermann’s influence is seriously considering support for a primary challenge, that’s very bad news for Democrats. Until now, I’ve been unable to conjure a set of circumstances that could realistically lead to a Sarah Palin presidency, but this could be it. It would be incredibly tough for a challenger to unseat President Obama as the Democratic nominee, but such a challenge could present a candidate with enough support (and narcissism) to mount a third-party challenge in the general election. Split the Democratic vote, and it’s “Hello, President Palin.”
If that thought frightens you, that’s probably the point. The President’s base is hunting around for a stick big enough to make the President listen to them.
Here’s the full Special Comment, from MSNBC:
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