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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mark Halperin's obsession with genitals -- our political discourse

In 2008 Mark Halperin had to apologize for claiming disgraced politician John Edwards called Barack Obama a “pussy” (he didn’t, it was Mark’s own character association) and today he’s apologizing for calling the President a “dick” live on MSNBC’s three hour brain drain, Morning Joe.

Halperin, political analyst for Time and Drudge-worshiping Morning Joe troglodyte, apologized on air only after Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski giggles died down and they all realized the hyperbolic comment would not be edited out.

Halperin also apologized on Twitter and MSNBC later suspended him indefinitely:

Why did Halperin call the President a dick? Because the President used his bully pulpit to call out Congressional republicans for their debt ceiling demagoguing.

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent missies the point of the suspension. Halperin wasn’t suspended for calling the president a dick, he was suspended for saying dick on live TV which may very well result in an FCC fine. But Sargent does make some good points on our political discourse, what’s acceptable and who makes these unwritten rules:

I care less about Halperin’s use of the word “dick” than I do about the argument he and Joe Scarborough were making — that Obama somehow stepped over some kind of line in aggressively calling out the GOP for refusing to allow any revenues in a debt ceiling deal. This notion that Obama’s tone was somehow over the top — when politics is supposed to be a rough clash of visions — is rooted in a deeply ingrained set of unwritten rules about what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable political discourse that really deserve more scrutiny.

This set of rules has it that it should be treated as a matter of polite, legitimate disagreement when Michele Bachmann says deeply insane things about us not needing to raise the debt limit, but it should be seen as an enormously newsworthy gaffe when she commits a relatively minor error about regional trivia. This set of rules has it that it should be treated as a matter of polite, legitimate disagreement when Republicans continually claim that Dems cut $500 billion in Medicare in a way that will directly impact seniors, even though fact checkers have pronounced it misleading, but it should be seen as “demagoguery” when Dems argue that the Paul Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it.

Halperin has certainly done his part to encourage these unwritten rules, and so maybe there’s a certain poetic justice in the fact that he’s now been suspended indefinitely for violating them, but still, this is over the top. I care that Halperin uncritically claims that Drudge rules the media world, and acts accordingly. I care that Halperin published a book that accused public officials of using explosive, racially charged quotes that were paraphrased, without guaranteeing their accuracy, in order to gin up media controvery. I care that Halperin does dumb things like parroting GOP predictions of a big victory when all available evidence is pointing the other way, as he famously did in the runup to the 2006 elections. I don’t care as much that he used the word “dick.” Suspending Halperin indefinitely for this only reinforces the bogus idea that a crass and dumb slip into foul language is worse than all this other stuff we see on a regular basis.

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