Civil Discourse

American History, Bush Administration, News Media

Speaking of etiquette and civility — there’s an odious little toad named Ed Rogers who is a Republican tool and a frequent guest on MSNBC Hardball. Last night’s program began with an interview of Jimmy Carter by David Shuster, and ended with this exchange (emphasis added):

SHUSTER: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re back with Ed Rogers and Joe Trippi.

And Joe, I‘ve got to ask you, earlier in this—Jimmy Carter said that he would prefer if Al Gore ran for president again. I know that you would like Al Gore to run again, so what‘s your reaction?

TRIPPI: I think Al Gore should run. I mean, this is going to be a very important election, and when you look at the real issues that are out there, like global warming and this war in Iraq and this economy and the deficits we‘re running, Al Gore has been putting out a lot of bold ideas on a lot of those subjects and doing very well as a non-candidate.

The real question is, if he does become a candidate, does he start, you know, being the safe, cautious guy that he was when he was a public official. …

… SHUSTER: Given that Iraq is the dominant subject, why not Al Gore? I mean, do you really think he would be such an easy target for Republicans?

ROGERS: I love the idea of Jimmy Carter picking the next Democrat nominee. From one loser to another, from Jimmy Carter to Al Gore. That suits me.

I’m sorry I don’t have audio, because there was something about the way Rogers sneered out the word loser that just plain made me sick. I know we’ve all seen rightie operatives play this smear game thousands of times, but something about this exchange grabbed me more than usual.

If Rogers or any other Republican wants to say he disagreed with Jimmy Carter’s policies as president, or that Carter made mistakes, or that Carter’s administration was substandard, that’s one thing. That’s legitimate political opinion, whether I agree with it or not. But to insult the man as a loser — I mean, who the hell is pipsqueak Ed Rogers to call Jimmy Carter a loser? Carter is our oldest living former President. [update: Second oldest; I forgot Mr. Ford.] He’s a Nobel laureate, for pity’s sake. Ed Rogers doesn’t have to like him, but when speaking of the man in public, civil discourse requires showing the man some respect.

As for Al Gore — A lot of us were put out with Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, but his speeches and work since then have made him a champion of the values many of us hold dear. Still, assuming he’s still a potential candidate a little knocking around is expected. But why is it necessary to insult Jimmy Carter?

I think a little respect is in order when speaking about any elderly, living retired elected official on a television news show seen nationwide by a general audience, but especially a retired POTUS. If Rogers wants to badmouth Carter when conversing with other Republicans that’s his business. But I do not believe that, 40 years ago, someone speaking on a nationally broadcast television program would have insulted a living former President that way. The fact that Rogers does it and no one seems to mind is symptomatic of the deterioration of political discourse.

Rogers continues,

… But Al Gore is pretty tired. That‘s no new energy for the party. He‘s a lousy performer. I mean he—you know, Al Gore, plus 60 pounds, is he going to do better than he did in ‘04?

Nothing substantive about Gore’s stands on issues, notice. Instead, Rogers — who isn’t exactly Mr. Twiggy — makes fun of his weight. If my Mama had been watching this, she would have said somebody ought to teach Rogers some manners.

TRIPPI: And Ed, will all due respect, I mean, there were a lot of Republican losers in this past election. I mean, a couple of Republicans…

ROGERS: They weren‘t running for president.


ROGERS: We had a bad election. We lost a lot. That‘s over. Let‘s look at 2008. It is the Democrats‘ time to win. Historically, the Democrats—after eight years ago in power, the Democrats are supposed to win. But they can blow it. And they can blow it by Kerry. They can blow it by Clinton. They can blow it by Gore. We know what a winning Democratic nominee looks like. It looks like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. They don‘t have a Clinton stylistically in this race.


TRIPPI: Well, there‘s a lot. Look, there‘s very strong field. John Edwards in this field. Look, I think when you look at what‘s going on, the Democrats are in good stead for 2008. Any one of the people that you mentioned or Ed‘s mentioned or that we talked about tonight can win against the Republicans.

And I agree with Ed on one thing. Usually what‘s supposed to happen in politics happens, and you don‘t usually have a two-term president being followed by a member of his own party…

ROGERS: That‘s true.

TRIPPI: … and particularly—unless it‘s somebody very popular, like a Reagan presidency, which got us George Bush I.

ROGERS: A third term.

TRIPPI: A third term.

It‘s not likely that the Republicans are going to pull this off, given George Bush‘s unpopular status right now, the failure in Iraq, particularly if he keeps doing what he‘s doing and staying the course, and you have people like John McCain the only way out is to put more troops in there, which is…

ROGERS: The Democrats are so arrogant. They…

TRIPPI: … this is why I think it‘s going to be a problem for them.

ROGERS: The Democrats never respect the legitimacy of their defeat. So when they lose an election, they always think it‘s because the other side cheated or some happened, never about their agenda. This time, they are overestimating the significance of their victory. They won in ‘06 because they did nothing, not because they did something. Their agenda is a loser, and that‘ll come through in ‘08 if they‘re not careful.

The Democrats are so arrogant? Holy bleep …

This is pretty standard stuff for Rogers. You’ve got Trippi, who is someone I don’t always agree with either, injecting somewhat substantive statements, and Rogers doing nothing but smearing Democrats. Notice there was no discussion (except for a passing mention of McCain) of potential Republican candidates in 2008. Just Rogers calling the Dems arrogant and loser. That’s pretty much all he ever does, yet he seems to be on cable news talk programs at least once or twice a week.

I just needed to rant.

While I’m on the subject of Jimmy Carter — I caught this snip in one of Joe Scarborough’s programs last week. Scarborough was talking about President Bush’s plummeting popularity and comparing the Bush White House to the Carter White House.

SCARBOROUGH: … It‘s enough to remind many voters of another president who, in the words of Elvis Costello, just couldn‘t stand up for falling down. In fact, things got so bad for Jimmy Carter that he was attacked on a fishing trip by a dreaded killer rabbit, a metaphor for an administration going nowhere fast, other than out of power. Welcome to the United States of malaise, 1979-style.

It‘s getting ugly out there, and to talk about how badly things are going for this president and the country, here‘s Phil Bronstein. He‘s the editor of “The San Francisco Chronicle.” We also have A.B. Stoddard with “The Hill” and MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford.

Craig, happy news out there—beatings, robberies, record low ratings, motorcade collisions. You‘ve got Iraq out of control. How much worse can things get for this president before they turn around?


Well, he can sing that old song, If it weren‘t for bad luck, I‘d have no luck at all.


CRAWFORD: It has been pretty rough. I‘ve got to agree with you about Jimmy Carter, although it pains me to do so. I worked in his White House and loved the guy. But his White House did unravel. And what happens is, you know, each story just sort of compounds on the next one and it becomes a story line that doesn‘t go away. It is like Gerry Ford falling down, and you know, Al Gore the serial exaggerator, John Kerry the flip-flopper. I mean, once the story line gets started, any little thing that can be attached to just becomes a train that can‘t be stopped.

SCARBOROUGH: And Craig, with Jimmy Carter, you, of course, had the Iranian hostage crisis and a terrible economy at the time. But then you‘d have the killer rabbit episode, and then Jimmy Carter would run a 10K and he‘d collapse.


Here there’s an interesting discussion of what went wrong in the Carter Administration. While I mostly agree with this discussion I want to skip ahead to this part:

SCARBOROUGH: You‘re right. With George W. Bush, it‘s been the arrogance, the arrogance to say he couldn‘t remember making a single mistake over his first four years.

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”: People don‘t want to hear that.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, too arrogant to read the newspapers, too arrogant to listen to Colin Powell, too arrogant to listen to criticism, too arrogant to pick up the phone call and even talk to his father regularly about the war.

Craig, I want you to listen to this speech from Jimmy Carter. We‘re just going to play a clip.


JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.


SCARBOROUGH: Boy, Craig, that makes you want to get out there and wave the flag. Now…


CRAWFORD: … I‘ve got to say—first of all, you know, he never used word “malaise” in that speech, by the way.

SCARBOROUGH: No, he didn‘t. No, he didn‘t. Cold comfort, though, if you actually read the text of that speech.

CRAWFORD: And I thought that was one of the—I actually think that was a profound moment because a president telling—not telling the people what they want to hear. Now, we can debate that speech all we want, but that was one of the rare times you saw a president actually telling Americans what he thought—telling them something that he believed that wasn‘t something they wanted to hear, which I thought was kind of refreshing.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, but they threw him out for a…

STODDARD: I agree with Craig.

SCARBOROUGH: They threw him out for a guy who said America‘s best days really did lie ahead and…

CRAWFORD: I‘ll tell you—this man…

SCARBOROUGH: … Ronald Reagan won…


CRAWFORD: Over and over again, Jimmy Carter warned Americans about the oil crisis, about the dependence on foreign oil. He did everything he could think of, including putting solar panels on the White House, to try to get this country focused on that. And had the country listened to him at the time, I don‘t think we‘d be in a war in Iraq because we wouldn‘t be dependent on oil from that region.


CRAWFORD: That‘s my speech. …


… SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll see you tomorrow night on Thanksgiving. And Craig Crawford, sorry if I touched a nerve on Jimmy Carter.


SCARBOROUGH: I love the man.

CRAWFORD: I‘m a little sensitive about Jimmy. I admit that.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I can tell.

Actually, as I remember it, it was Craig Crawford who said “I love the man.” But it was so refreshing to see someone stand up for Jimmy Carter, and I thought you’d enjoy it.

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  1. moonbat  •  Nov 29, 2006 @5:28 pm

    My blood pressure, let alone my television, couldn’t take listening to right wing bullies like Rogers, or in general what passes for political discourse in the MSM.

    Instead of moaning about it, Democrats who go on TV had better develop the skills to kick these toads back into their holes where they belong. I think Dems are finally getting the clue that these rodents are not interested in civil discourse, and are starting to develop the chops to take them down. We were all thrilled with the way Bill Clinton nailed Mike Wallace, and that’s what’s needed. This might be hard for someone as old and genteel as Jimmy Carter; he should agree to go on the air with some sort of bodyguard, who could raise the very issue you mentioned about being rude to an elder.

    One of my favorite posters on DailyKos and other blogs, Antifa, has a tagline I like:

    All frames exist within a larger frame. Draw a larger frame around your opponent’s frame, and he will appear wrong or insufficient. This is how wizards play.

    Answering jerks like Rogers on their own level plays into their game. Elevating the frame makes them look like the idiots they are.

  2. Doug Hughes  •  Nov 29, 2006 @5:33 pm

    There’s a reason Jimmy Carter is gonna get smeared for the next 2 years. Jimmy Carter TRIED to broker peace in Israel. We need to try again. Contempt and distain for Islamic factions is the neocon strategy and they want to discredit Carter PERSONALLY so they can discredit the strategy of dialogue which is part of a peace process by association.

    In ’08, the debate over the Mideast MAY center on if we will engage factions in dialogue (even if we don’t like them) or do we continue to ‘isolate’ them, which has so far been a disaster in N. Korea and Iran. Neocons don’t want to debate this on the merits, so it turns into character assasination.

    Of all the presidents of my lifetime, if I had to live next door to one, it would be Jimmy Carter. That does not mean I agreed with all his positions or decisions. But I like him.

  3. Bonnie  •  Nov 29, 2006 @8:15 pm

    Carter has been a great ex-President; and, the radical right hate that. Also, I believe that Carter has held his tongue for a very long time because he is a polite gentleman. I think he is only doing this because it is something that needs to be said. Despite the problems during his Presidency, I believe that he tried to do what was right for the country and the people unlike the present administration that only does what will win an election. And, if that means calling over half Americans traitors, that is what they will do. They are liars and thiefs who aren’t good enough to shine Carter’s shoes. And, having good manners and respect for a good man are not part of their repertoire.

  4. Lynne  •  Nov 29, 2006 @8:32 pm

    Jimmy Carter is a good man; that seems to be what they just can’t stand. Thanks for this, Barbara.

  5. freD  •  Nov 29, 2006 @8:48 pm

    I’d love to take a trip to to Mr. Rogers stupid neighborhood to debate the results of Carter’s tough presidency vs. those of Bush’s moronic one.

  6. Avedon  •  Nov 29, 2006 @9:55 pm

    They have to keep saying this stuff, because unlike George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore both won the presidency.

  7. lafrance  •  Nov 29, 2006 @10:58 pm

    All the dems have to do to counter the righties smear of Carter is say “like Bush is any great shakes? huh?” Slam them with thier president , Chimpy.
    Rogers is a prissy little snot. I saw him and he also tried to emphasize Obama’s middle name, Hussien. So, they won’t smear on race this time, but, try to make him a terrorist.
    This was after he got snitty because Trippi tripped him up with his come back on something.
    The whole segment was Rogers being a priss in a snit.

  8. ellenbrenna  •  Nov 30, 2006 @1:04 am

    Well the next time anyone talks up the first Bush Administration, how classy and high minded they were, please remind them who their political operatives were, people like Rogers.

    They have always been this way Poppy just had a better vocabulary to gloss over the utter contempt he had for most of the opposition.

  9. Zeus  •  Nov 30, 2006 @1:28 am

    I saw that Hardball segment and wanted to go through the screen and strangle the little puke. He apparently thinks that everyone was just dying to hear the pearls of wisdom that he spewed from his pie-hole. It reminded me of an expression I heard many years ago: “he thinks he’s hot shit in a martini glass but he’s just cold diarreah in a dixie cup’.

    I agree with Bonnie, Carter is proving to be a better ex-president than president. He’s stirring up a hornet’s nest by saying everything that’s on his mind, but more importantly he speaks the truth. He’s earned the right – he talks the talk and walks the walk.
    The truth hurts and that’s why ‘toads’ like Rogers will take a page out of the Rove playbook by doing the old smear job.

    But all that aside, you’re right maha, the least the guy could do is show a little respect.

  10. Thud  •  Nov 30, 2006 @4:29 am

    Just a nit-pick: Isn’t Ford the longest living former President? He’s still around at 93.

  11. Mike Slag  •  Nov 30, 2006 @9:45 am

    Look, Jimmy Carter was a failure as a President, and a very uncouth ex-president. I mean he and St. Clinton were the first ones to ever break the unwritten code of not-trashing a sitting President. Not to mention, where you say that people should have respect for any elderly, let alone an ex-POTUS, why is it that this is an issue when it comes to Carter, but it’s no problem for people to trash a sitting President? It seems like something of a conflict here.

    Also, as for the Nobel Laureate thing, that’s not….really a big deal anymore, they gave the nobel peace prize for literature last year (I think, possibly year before) to a woman who said that President Bush should be killed. The Nobel PEACE prize.

    The Nobel prize, when not given to scientists who have done something worthwhile, but the ones given to people for literature or humanitarian works or other such things, really comes out to be no great achievement but instead just as some sort of lifetime achievement award equatable to something someone would earn at the Oscars or the MTV movie awards (chewbacca won one year).

    I don’t know, yes I’m a righty, and so I’ll preface by saying people will probably say I’m biased reading this, but it just seems as though this is another case of double standard.

  12. Bonnie  •  Nov 30, 2006 @11:38 am

    It’s easy to trash a sitting president when said president trashes all Americans who disagree with him calling them traitors. The sitting President is a liar, fraud, corrupt, and classless. Carter is a remarkable man doing what is best for the country, which is more than can be said for the present administration.

  13. maha  •  Nov 30, 2006 @11:43 am

    Look, Jimmy Carter was a failure as a President,

    Not half as big a failure as The Creature occupying the office now. As Craig Crawford said, if we’d listened to Jimmy Carter on oil we’d be in a lot better place today.

    and a very uncouth ex-president. I mean he and St. Clinton were the first ones to ever break the unwritten code of not-trashing a sitting President.

    Nonsense. Harry Truman badmouthed Eisenhower fairly robustly, as I recall. I’m sure I could find other examples if I cared to look for them. This “unwritten code” is mostly rightie myth.

    Not to mention, where you say that people should have respect for any elderly, let alone an ex-POTUS, why is it that this is an issue when it comes to Carter, but it’s no problem for people to trash a sitting President? It seems like something of a conflict here.

    I don’t consider George W. Bush to be elderly. He’s about my age, actually, and I sure as hell am not elderly. I am in my PRIME, sir.

    Also, as for the Nobel Laureate thing, that’s not….really a big deal anymore

    Yeah, right. Go away, son, and don’t bother me.

  14. Ian  •  Nov 30, 2006 @12:01 pm

    “nobel peace prize for literature”

    Um. You do realize that there’s no such thing as a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, right? RIGHT??? There’s a Nobel Peace Price and there’s a Nobel Literature Prize … no combo deals.

    And if what you’re actually talking about is the Nobel Literature Prize, then the winner’s political statements, homicidal or otherwise, have absolutely no bearing on whether or not they write purty.

    In other words, what is your actual point?


  15. erinyes  •  Nov 30, 2006 @9:45 pm

    Most people don’t realize that it was Jimmy Carter NOT Ronald Reagan who caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. Carter funded the Muhajedeen in Afghanistan who killed the Soviet Army and crippled the pro communist Northern Alliance. In a cruel twist, the Mujahadeen morphed ( after being ignored by Regan and following administrations) into the Taliban, and Bush 43 decided to
    align with the Northern Alliance years later to defeat the Taliban. History will tell that this adventure was motivated by far more than the “war On Terror”. Think narcotics and petro chemicals, big money, easily hidden.

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