On Wednesday's Countdown show, during a 21-minute "Special Comment ," MSNBC host Keith Olbermann warned American voters against electing Tea Party Republicans to power, whom he suggested are "unqualified, unstable individuals" who will take America "backward to Jim Crow, or backward to the breadlines of the '30s, or backward to hanging union organizers." He then made a play off MSNBC's "Lean Forward" slogan to disparage the Tea Party movement as he declared: "Vote backward, vote Tea Party."
After reading a list of controversial quotes and policy positions he disagreed with that have been spoken by a list of Tea Party-backed Republican candidates, whom he referred to as "cranks, menaces, mercenaries and authoritarians," he went on to suggest that the Tea Party movement is a greater threat than America's foreign enemies, and preemptively blamed those who would vote for these candidates as having "enabled" a "cataclysm":
If you sit there next Tuesday, if you sit there tomorrow, and the rest of this week, and you let this cataclysm unfold, you have enabled this. It is one thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from without. It is a worse thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from within.
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Wednesday, October 27, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN: Now, as promised, a "Special Comment" on the madness of the Tea Party and the elections of next Tuesday. It is as if a group of moderately talented performers has walked on stage at a comedy club on Improv night. Each hears a shout from the audience, consisting of a bizarre but just barely plausible fear or hatred or neurosis or prejudice.
And the entertainment of the evening is for each to take their thin, absurd premise, and build upon it a campaign for governor or congressman or senator. The problem is, of course, when it turns out that there is no audience shouting out gags, just a cabal of corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and political insider bloodsuckers like Karl Rove and Dick Armey and the Chicken Little chorus of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
And the instructions are not to improvise a comedy sketch, but to elect a group of unqualified, unstable individuals who will do what they are told, in exchange for money and power, and march this nation as far backward as they can get, backward to Jim Crow, or backward to the breadlines of the '30s, or backward to hanging union organizers, or backward to the trusts and the robber barons.
Result: the Tea Party. Vote backward, vote Tea Party. And if you are somehow indifferent to what is planned for next Tuesday, it is nothing short of an attempted use of democracy to end this democracy, to buy America wholesale and pave over the freedoms and the care we take of one another, which have combined to keep us the envy of the world. You do not think your freedom is at stake next Tuesday?
You are willing to let these people run this country? This is the America you want? This is the America you are willing to permit? These are the kinds of cranks, menaces, mercenaries and authoritarians you will turn this country over to?
If you sit there next Tuesday and let this happen, whose fault will that be? Not really theirs. They are taught that freedom is to be seized and rationed. They can sleep at night having advanced themselves and their puppeteers and to hell with everybody else.
They see the greatness of America not in its people but its corporations. They see the success of America not in hard work but in business swindles. They see the worthiness of America not in its quality of life but in its quality of investing. They see the future of America not in progress, but in revolution to establish a kind of theocracy for white males, with dissent caged and individuality suppressed.
They see America not for what is, nor what it can be. They see delusions, specters, fantasies. They see communists under every bed and a gun in every hand. They see tax breaks for the rich and delayed retirement for everyone else. They fight the redistribution of wealth not because they oppose redistribution, but because their sole purpose is to protect wealth and keep it where they think it belongs, in the bank accounts of the wealthy. They want to make the world safe for Bernie Madoff.
But you know better. If you sit there next Tuesday, if you sit there tomorrow, and the rest of this week, and you let this cataclysm unfold, you have enabled this. It is one thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from without. It is a worse thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from within.
But it is the worst thing to sit back and let it happen, to not find the time and the means to convince just one other sane voter to put aside the disappointment of the last two years and look to the future and vote. Because the disappointment of the last two years, those will be the "good old days" in a Tea Party America.
This is the week in which the three-card monte dealers hope to take over the government, the candidates who want their own way, who will say anything to make palatable their real identities as agents of regression, repression, and corporate sovereignty. They are here, they have energized the self-serving and the greedy and the proudly ill-informed.
The words are those of Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith from the screenplay from the movie Inherit the Wind. As the attorney for the man on trial for teaching evolution, Spencer Tracy cuts to the gist: "Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we'll be marching backward, backward through the glorious ages of that 16th century when bigots burned the man who dared bring them enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!"
The angered judge replies, "I hope counsel does not mean to imply that this court is bigoted." The attorney mutters, "Well, your honor has the right to hope." The judge warns, "I have the right to do more than that." The attorney explodes: "You have the power to do more than that."
And you have the power to do more than that. Good night and good luck.
- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.