I love the smell of a Lawrence O'Donnell meltdown in the morning. He goes off the rails better than any talking head in memory. Last Sunday may have been his best tirade ever; if for no other reason, the fact that he did not later retract it. If you're not a fan of The McLaughlin Group, you might have missed it.
I grew up on John McLaughlin and it's something of a tradition in my house. Every Sunday my husband and I drink our morning coffee to the mingled sounds Pat Buchanan's bloviating and my daughter's complaints of boredom. She sounds just like I did way back when my grandmother sat on her perch in front of the kitchen black and white. There are so few constants in the world of mass media. The McLaughlin Group is one to savor. At least once during every show, my husband or I will proclaim, on cue, "Wraaaahhhnng! I had oatmeal and banahnaaaaahs." It's kind of like "Hi Bob," only without the booze.
After last Sunday's McLaughlin offering, I searched the tv line-up for another airing. It was too good not to watch at least twice. YouTube to the rescue. (see above)
Here's what Frank Rich had to say, yesterday, about O'Donnell's anti-Mormon rant.
THIS campaign season has been in desperate need of its own reincarnation of Howard Beale from “Network”: a TV talking head who would get mad as hell and not take it anymore. Last weekend that prayer was answered when Lawrence O’Donnell, an excitable Democratic analyst, seized a YouTube moment while appearing on one of the Beltway’s more repellent Sunday bloviathons, “The McLaughlin Group.”
Pushed over the edge by his peers’ polite chatter about Mitt Romney’s sermon on “Faith in America,” Mr. O’Donnell branded the speech “the worst” of his lifetime. Then he went on a rampage about Mr. Romney’s Mormon religion, shouting (among other things) that until 1978 it was “an officially racist faith.”
That claim just happens to be true. As the jaws of his scandalized co-stars dropped around him, Mr. O’Donnell then raised the rude question that almost no one in Washington asks aloud: Why didn’t Mr. Romney publicly renounce his church’s discriminatory practices before they were revoked? As the scion of one of America’s most prominent Mormon families, he might have made a difference. It’s not as if he was a toddler. By 1978 — the same year his contemporary, Bill Clinton, was elected governor in Arkansas — Mr. Romney had entered his 30s.
O'Donnell, for his part, followed his shocking television appearance with a more moderated, but still scathing write-up on Romney's Mormonism.
Romney felt politically forced to give the speech specifically because evangelical Christians seem to know a little too much about the faith of his fathers. Many evangelicals believe and have said publicly that Mormonism--contrary to Romney's assertions--is not a Christian religion but an abomination of Christianity. Here's a sampling of why: Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri; that Jews were the first people in America; that Indians descended from Jews and are a lost tribe of Israel; that Jesus came to America; that after the next coming of Christ (which will be the second or third, depending on how you count his trip to America), the world will be ruled for a thousand years from Jerusalem and Missouri; and to answer Mike Huckabee's now famous question, yes, they believe "Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, in the sense of both being spiritually begotten by the Father."
When Matt Lauer asked Romney the Huckabee question about Jesus and the devil being brothers, Romney refused to answer and handed the question off to the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Church issued a deceptively worded statement that most reporters incorrectly read as a denial of the brotherhood of Jesus and Satan. In fact, the Church could not and did not deny it. The Church did correctly point out that attackers (meaning critics) of Mormonism often use the brother bit. Critics also use the Church's 70 year delight in polygamy and sex with very young girls, which also happens to be true. Critics of Mormonism have plenty to work with without inventing anything.
The pundits had no idea how deliberately misleading Romney's speech was. They loved the bit about Romney's father marching with Martin Luther King. None of them knew that if at the end of the march with George Romney, Martin Luther King was so taken with Mormonism that he wanted to convert and become a Mormon priest, George Romney would have had to tell him that they don't allow black priests. George Romney might also have had to explain to the Reverend King that Mormons believe black people have black skin because they turned away from God.
I find it disturbing that this is a conversation we even need to have. I agree with Eleanor Clift that all religions have some kooky notions; especially before they've had millenium or two to mature. But Romney opened the door with his passionate defense of his religion. I would have a far higher comfort level with Romney's Mormonism if he had forcefully stood up for separation between church and state, in his speech. He failed to meet that bar, saying instead:
Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom ... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
He put his religion in play. We all have a right to know exactly what he believes, as it seems he doesn't know how to separate those beliefs from his governance. Lawrence O'Donnell had the balls to call him on his duplicity. That's exactly the kind of righteous indignation we need.