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Sheehan and Baldwin and Belafonte - oh my!

Reported by Chrish - July 7, 2006 -

John Kasich filled in for Bill O'Reilly on The Factor tonight 7/6/06 and in one segment with NPR's Juan Williams the two actually made an important point about the state of discourse in this country. They agreed that too often the extremists on either end of the political spectrum get all the attention, thereby hurting their own chances of reaching the less committed people in the middle. Unfortunately, the conversation was framed using exclusively examples from the liberal end of the debate - the far-left, as O'Reilly would have said.

The jumping off point for the discussion was a report on Army Lt. Ehren Watada, the first US officer brought up on charges for refusing orders to deploy to Iraq. Watada contends that the war is immoral and illegal, therefore it is his obligation and duty to refuse the orders. He is facing court martial and is resigned to going to jail.

Williams agrees with Kasich that it is not a good move on Watada's part . He contends that Watada should follow his orders and can protest the war and the false premises and the administration after his service is over (comment: IF he is allowed to leave when his time is up, right?). Williams repeats the right-wing talking point that it is a volunteer army and once in, a soldier must follow orders.

But as Judy reported June 16 on this situation, "retired Marine and Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt ... admitted that, "He’s right. Ethically and morally, you’re not supposed to obey an order you think is illegal.”

To shore up his contention that the anti-war faction is full of extremists Kasich used the most "notorious" names on Fox News. Without presenting their arguments, viewpoints or even actual quotes he delivered the following inflammatory soundbites:

"Cindy Sheehan: she's out saying that Hugo Chavez is not a dictator (video of Sheehan and Chavez together), and Bush, y'know, she makes all these outrageous statements about George Bush. She calls the insurgents 'freedom fighters' going into Iraq, y'know, she says America's been killing people , like my sister over here said, since we first stepped in this continent.' I mean, , radical words out of her, radical words out of Watada, y'know,

"Harry Belafonte, I like to call him the washed-up calypso singer (Foul! unnecessary smearing!) (video of Bellafonte speaking and jabbing his finger) y'know, here's a guy that, y'know, calls Bush, compares Bush to Adolf Hitler; (As reported by Ellen 8/9/05, here's what Belafonte said:

"Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value. If a black man is a tyrant, he's first and foremost a tyrant. Then he incidentally is black. Bush is a tyrant. And if he gathers around him black tyrants, then they all have to be treated as they are being treated.")

"Alec Baldwin, y'know, he, another tirade out of him. (Apparently refering to an article on HuffPo titled "God has truly blessed America." Extremist!) How do they think they're going to be able to convince those people in the middle about this with these kinds of radical statements?"

Comment: FOX News buzzwords, all. Drill, drill, drill.

Juan Williams didn't dispute these ramblings and in fact agreed. He said the left and the growing majority of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq are looking for a face to gather behind; Cindy Sheehan was "it" for a while but she "undercuts herself" with the kind of statements Kasich just talked about. When she says that Chavez isn't anti-American, people start going hey, what's wrong with her? (Comment: Chavez is anti-Bush administration, as are many proud and patriotic Americans.)

Kasich says that she's a pawn of the left (yawn) and she's been radicalized. Williams accepts and repeats the radicalized frame, lumps Watada in there too, and says the left is desperately trying to find a face, a voice, that can say something powerful to get that 2/3 of Americans opposed to the war mobilized.

Kasich agrees. He disengenuously asks how does someone get their message out without being radical? Ha! Better to ask how to get the message out without being ridiculed! As a FOX host he knows full well that every time a strong voice comes out against the war or the administration or their policies, FOX is tasked to kill the messenger which obliterates the message. Why else would they go for so long after a gold-star grieving mom? She was very effective, but so are they and she has become the object of widespread right-wing ridicule no matter what she says anymore. It's that echo chamber.

But Kasich is in earnest and wants to know how to get the message out to the middle without turning them off. Williams advises to speak from the heart (check), speak legitimately (check), and speak in patriotic terms that can appeal to the middle (check). Talk about policies, why you oppose them, and what the consequences are. "But once you get over the line and start acting as if you're on the other side and rooting for America's defeat...well then you're energizing the people on the other side and turning off that middle. That's a losing hand." Kasich says that's exactly right. Some debate we're having here.

Kasich wonders if celebrity gets in the way - once someone is well known they just go farther and farther and farther. Williams agrees, they keep upping the ante. It happens on both the left and right (well, finally, a mention), saying more outrageous things and demonizing opponents. Sometimes people on the left and right, the far-right, he clarifies, say things like "if you're not with us you're with the terrorists - that's crazy!"

Kasich agrees and expounds with some samples of his own: if you're anti-abortion you're anti-women; if you're against the war you're a traitor. You can't have good dialog (Williams says "it's so hard!"). Kasich wraps it up saying that the two men don't always agree but they agree on that point.

Comment: Hugs! Aaw, that was so nice. Of course there was no mention of Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, or any of the other over-the-top vitriolic war supporters who have ruined the national dialog. We at News Hounds see it every single day with name-calling and labelling, smears and insults from both sides, and wonder how we'll ever change minds. Too many people have commented that they like the blog content but are driven away by the comments and the tone of debate. It is to OUR benefit if we raise the level of discourse - Bush promised to but that's just another failed campaign promise. We can do better; we have to.