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MSNBC Uses William F. Buckley to Bash Health Care Reform Opponents

On MSNBC Friday, anchor John Harwood spoke with New York Times Week in Review editor Sam Tanenhaus about the health care debate, wondering: "...you know an awful lot about the patron saint of modern conservatism William F. Buckley. What do you suppose Bill Buckley would think of the nature of the arguments that are being made against the Obama health care plan right now, death panels and all the rest?"

Harwood, hosting the 2:00PM ET weekly New York Times Edition broadcast, was asking about Tanenhaus's upcoming book, 'The Death of Conservatism.' Tanenhaus argued: "Well, you know, one of the great contributions Bill Buckley made to conservatism was to move it toward the center. And one way he did that was to repudiate in a very forceful way what was then called the lunatic fringe."

At that time, Harwood interjected: "The John Birch Society." Tanenhaus continued: "And they weren't necessarily a dangerous group, but what they did was discredit serious conservative arguments." He then made the comparison to the current health care debate: "...and we may see in the days ahead where serious responsible Republicans and conservative thinkers say if they're going to make a forceful argument the country can accept, they'll have to cut themselves off from this more extreme view."

Harwood concluded: "Well, it's an interesting point. It's - I don't see right now anybody cutting off that extreme view all that much."

Here is a full transcript of the exchange:

2:38PM SEGMENT:

JOHN HARWOOD: You're watching live coverage on MSNBC. Air Force One has just landed in Belgrade, Montana for a town hall event on health care set to begin in just a short time. Now joining us live now is Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Week in Review and Book Review for the New York Times. Sam, you've got a big piece on health care coming out this week. Talk a little about that. I understand it's about the view from England about what's going on in the United States.

SAM TANENHAUS: Hi, John. That's right. Sara Lyall, great correspondent placed in England, is looking at how the British are assessing our health care debate. Some will remember the notorious assertion made in the American media that if the great physicist Stephen Hawking were subjected to British national health service, he would not be alive today. The fact is, he lives in England and has been saved by that health service for a long time. So the Brits-

HARWOOD: And showed up at the White House this week for a Medal of Freedom ceremony.

TANENHAUS: Well that's it, you know. And part of the idea here is that the British grumble about the system they've got until somebody else attacks it, you know. So now, they're looking at it again and we'll show how our debate looks to them.

HARWOOD: Well, Sam, I want to switch gears and get a little different perspective. I know you've got a book coming out in September, 'The Death of Conservatism,' you know an awful lot about the patron saint of modern conservatism William F. Buckley. What do you suppose Bill Buckley would think of the nature of the arguments that are being made against the Obama health care plan right now, death panels and all the rest?

TANENHAUS: Well, you know, one of the great contributions Bill Buckley made to conservatism was to move it toward the center. And one way he did that was to repudiate in a very forceful way what was then called the lunatic fringe, people who made-

HARWOOD: The John Birch Society-

TANENHAUS: The John Birch Society was a very powerful organization in the early 1960s and its leader Robert Welch had called Dwight Eisenhower a Communist. And they weren't necessarily a dangerous group, but what they did was discredit serious conservative arguments and we may see in the days ahead where serious responsible Republicans and conservative thinkers say if they're going to make a forceful argument the country can accept, they'll have to cut themselves off from this more extreme view.

HARWOOD: Well, it's an interesting point. It's - I don't see right now anybody cutting off that extreme view all that much. Sam Tanenhaus, thanks for being with us just now.

TANENHAUS: My pleasure, John.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.