Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow hosted David Frum, former speechwriter to President Bush, to discuss the increasingly nasty — and sometimes racist — tone among some of the attendees at McCain-Palin rallies. Frum has been openly critical of the McCain campaign, and Maddow intended to discuss his concerns about the campaign’s turn toward negativity.
From his first answer, however, it was clear Frum had a very different agenda: to attack Rachel Maddow. Discussing the “ugliness of tone” in American politics, he said that Maddow’s show, “unfortunately, is itself an example of that problem.” He then compared her tone to the hateful outbursts of some McCain-Palin supporters:
MADDOW: Do you think that my tone on this show is equivalent to people calling Barack Obama somebody who pals around with terrorists, people yelling from the audience at McCain-Palin rallies, Bomb Obama. Kill him. Off with his head. Traitor. Are you accusing me of an equivalence in tone?
FRUM: I don’t think that’s an important question. I think the question is, given the small plate of responsibility that you personally have, how do you manage that responsibility? The fact that other people fail in other ways is not an excuse for you failing in your way.
MADDOW: But you did just say it’s the same thing, that you’re seeing the same thing on this show in a lot –
FRUM: I worry about that.
It’s laughable for Frum to be lecturing Maddow on striking an appropriate tone. It was David Frum, after all, who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil,” writing it into Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address. After leaving the White House, Frum helped fund a smear campaign against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when she visited Syria. He attacked Al Gore for speaking out against Bush’s foreign policy, saying, “Maybe a National Psychological Council would be a good idea after all … [Gore] ought to seek out for his own good a cool and quiet darkened room.”
In the past weeks, McCain supporters have called Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) “an Arab,” “Little Hussein,” and a “terrorist.” They have declared themselves to be “scared” of an Obama presidency, and have likened him to a monkey. By contrast, Maddow has consistently welcomed guests who disagree with her — including Frum himself — and has interviewed conservatives and progressives alike with dignity and poise, even when the interviewee decides to attack her and her show. Perhaps that’s why Maddow’s ratings continue to skyrocket.