In a recent video segment on the Rachel Maddow Show (featured below) currently circulating on the Internet in various forms, well-known MSNBC host Maddow makes her case, not with the kind of self-propelled rant now common for pundits on both Left and Right, but rather by using actual statements by Republican officials in an attempt to prove her point.
The assembled quotes do seem to support the notion of Republican enthusiasm for a planned shutdown, but the idea that the current stalemate was a plan by the GOP all along is likely to be controversial among Conservatives, coming as it does while both parties are maneuvering to place responsibility for the shutdown on the other.
While this may seem like a smoking gun, proving that the shutdown was a tactic the Republicans were actively planning to use does not mean they are in the wrong or right in the larger current situation. Though they have threatened to shut down the government or allow a default on America’s debt seven times since the Republicans claimed a majority in the House, each time they have cited grievances shared by many of their constituents as a reason for doing so. The only issue raised by the MSNBC’s host’s allegations is whether it is dishonest when GOP members claim the shutdown is not something they wanted to happen.
Supporting her contention that since 2010 the shutdown was the Republican plan all along, Maddow quotes Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, just before the 2010 elections, telling his audience “We’re listening to the American people, this is what we’re going to do. If government shuts down, we want you with us.” Other examples include Dick Morris (“Now there’s gonna be, there’s going to be a government shutdown, just like in ’95 and ’96 but we’re going to win it this time!”) Erick Erickson (“ I am almost giddy thinking about a government shutdown next year. I cannot wait!”), and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann discussing the current shutdown (”“We are very excited…it is exactly what we wanted.”) and among a large number of other quotes that, taken together, do seem both convincing and conclusive.
Later in the segment, Ms. Maddow makes reference to how House Republicans, only weeks after their election in 2010, gave then-new Speaker of the House John Boehner a standing ovation when he mentioned plans for a government shutdown in their caucus meeting, which fulfilled campaign promises made by many House Republican candidates. But, the MSNBC host notes, “They weren’t promising any specific result. They were just promising to use this tactic. And I think this is crucial: The tactic itself is the point. The shutdown may or may not accomplish anything; it is the shutdown itself that is the point.” The shutdown is desirable because, as Ms.Maddow puts it, “shows a decisive lack of respect to what government is.”
For those on the Left, or those with a disdain for both parties, it may be tempting to believe the video’s claims offhand. But the evidence cited in the video may only be reflective of the intentions of a number of extreme conservative or Tea Party candidates, and there is certainly no proof of any formal plan by Republican leadership.
Whether you agree with her or not, and whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent, it is hard to deny that this particular MSNBC pundit is good at using evidence to build a case. In this particular instance, Maddow and her staff have structured an argument that is difficult to debate. In quote after quote, various Republican candidates and elected officials, generally affiliated with the more extreme Tea Party, seem to be not only anticipating the current shutdown, but expressing hope and optimism that one will occur.
While the video is presented as journalism, much like other political commentary shows, and also displays a command of the facts, Maddow’s bias is undoubtedly liberal. Since August 2008, she has hosted her show on MSNBC, a politically focused news channel considered to be for the political Left in America what Fox News for the country’s Right. Both networks are partisan information sources, with neither having any legitimate claim to impartiality. Maddow herself, a self-proclaimed progressive and openly gay American, cannot be considered “fair and balanced” in her opinions of the two political parties.
However, while clearly tending to favor Democrats over Republicans in most elections, the host has never proclaimed support for a presidential candidate, and was quoted as saying she does not consider herself a supporter of President Obama “either professionally or actually.”
Unlike many other pundits on MSNBC, Fox, or similarly one-sided sources of political commentary—such as Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly—Maddow tends to avoid visible anger or direct insults, preferring to make her politically charged observations with an observational and often clever tone. A Time magazine profile noted how well Maddow got along with Pat Buchanan when the two were often paired by news shows to represent Left and Right, and called her “cheerful, careful and civil” adding that Maddow’s style “could offer an oasis of civility in the armed conflict of guys tearing one another apart.”
Maddow seems civil, polite, and reasonable, and has clear grasp of the statements GOP leaders have made on this matter in the last few years. However, when it comes to her assertion that Republicans have planned the current shutdown since 2010, do her methods make the idea more credible, or just more palatable?
Written By: Jeremy Forbing