Right-wing pundit Frank Gaffney was on MSNBC's "Hardball" yesterday, debating U.S. policy in Afghanistan with Ron Reagan. It didn't go well, but the heated exchange was really only part of the problem. (thanks to reader W.B. for the tip)
After Reagan rejected the neocon approach to the conflict, Gaffney made things personal. "Your father would be ashamed of you," Gaffney told Reagan. The former president's son replied, "You better watch your mouth about that, Frank."
Now, Gaffney probably knows he crossed a line of decency; in fact that probably why he said what he said. Gaffney's a right-wing nutjob whose job it is to say ridiculous things.
And that's really what matters here. Gaffney's insane rhetoric isn't the problem; the fact that he was invited onto national television (again) to share his insane rhetoric is the problem.
Gaffney probably isn't a household name, but inside the media establishment, he's a pretty well known figure, as evidenced by his joint appearance with Dick Cheney on Wednesday night. And when offered a major media platform, Gaffney takes full advantage.
In April, for example, Gaffney appeared on MSNBC to argue that whenever President Obama uses the word "respect" in foreign policy, the word is "code for those who adhere to Sharia that we will submit to Sharia." He wasn't kidding.
In June, Gaffney wrote a column insisting that President Obama might really be a Muslim. In March, Gaffney argued that "evidence" exists connecting Saddam Hussein to 9/11, the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Last September, Gaffney argued that Sarah Palin has learned foreign policy through "osmosis," by living in Alaska. He's argued that U.S. forces really did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but the media covered it up. He's used made-up quotes and recommended "hanging" Democratic officials critical of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. He even believes there's "evidence" to support the "Birthers," and once recommended a military strike on Al Jazeera headquarters.
So why is it, exactly, that MSNBC's "Hardball" invited Gaffney on to talk about foreign policy? What is it the viewing public can learn from listening to his unhinged perspective?
To be sure, Gaffney is certainly entitled to believe obvious lunacy, but that doesn't mean he deserves a microphone or the opportunity to convince a national television audience that his lunacy is legitimate.
Honestly, is there nothing conservatives can say that would force them from polite company? Just how nutty must far-right activists be before they're no longer invited to share their ridiculous ideas?
Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."