Why Did MSNBC Spend So Much Time Bashing Gabbard?

I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought Tulsi Gabbard gave her best performance during Wednesday night’s Democratic party debate. She swiftly demolished Mayor Pete and Kamala Harris to their faces, then attacked every prior Republican and Democratic administration (including Clinton’s, although she did timidly omit Obama’s) for wasteful and deceitful war-making and subservience to the foreign policy establishment and the military-industrial complex. In short, she was the only one to say anything new (or sensible) about foreign policy.

As a result, in the follow-up to the debate, MSNBC’s talking heads, instead of ignoring Gabbard, as they usually do, instantly jumped on her as soon as the program started. They hysterically denounced her to the audience as a “liar,” and insisted that she was so bad, and so offensive (presumably to good Americans), that they awarded her the booby prize of the week, concluding that her performance was even more disastrous and embarrassing than the egregiously awful interview of Prince Andrew on the subject of his relationship with the deceased billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Which is good news! The flood of choreographed opprobrium issuing from the corporate media’s talking-heads — especially when pitched at so shrill a level — clearly indicates the onset of a sudden fearful suspicion among this group (and those who pay their salaries) that what Gabbard is saying might actually resonate with the voters.

I must say that all the candidates were pretty good last night, except for Biden, who delivered his usual warmed-over banalities with a well-rehearsed, faux-emotional rising voice and gritted teeth, a performance that evidently entranced the MSNBC panelists so much that they considered this to have been his finest moment. Biden had the nerve, or the stupidity, to declare that “The American public is not in favor of Medicare for All” (when every poll shows that most of the American public strongly favors it). He then startlingly followed that statement by saying, “Therefore, Medicare for All will not pass the House or Senate.” None of the moderators, let alone any of the candidates, thought to ask Biden the obvious question, which is:

“Mr Biden, given the undisputed fact that a majority of the American public wholeheartedly supports some form of Medicare for All, regardless of party affiliation, doesn’t the unwillingness of Congress to enact it reveal that you and the Congress do not represent the will of the American public?”

Sanders was particularly good in the debate. He has finally begun to edge, albeit ever-so-cautiously, into sensible judgments about military spending and foreign policy, although he still felt obliged to assure the audience — before advancing the novel idea that Palestinians have a right to be treated fairly and with dignity as human beings — that “I am pro-Israel,” the way everyone in the fifties who wanted to criticize U.S. policy had to preface their remarks with, “I am not a Communist, but …”.

Kamala Harris came across as even more unlikable than before, not so much for what she said — which was not only unremarkable, unconvincing, and unlikely to be pursued if elected – but for her facial expression and tone of voice, which always seem to waver halfway between a sneer and a simper. Amy Klobuchar was also unlikeable (is it only me?); she talks through her nose and seems to seethe with feebly suppressed arrogance.

The additional good news is that all of the candidates (save Biden) came across as undeniably intelligent and quite capable of implementing their chosen policies if elected. Unfortunately, their policies, except for those of Sanders, Warren, and Gabbard, are or should be non-starters. Yang would be my fourth choice – he is admirable in his enthusiasm and clearly both honorable and sincere, if misguided

As I write this (at 1am EST), MSNBC panelists are still devoting a huge amount of time to self-righteously bashing and bad-mouthing Tulsi Gabbard. Even though she is obviously unelectable, they are nevertheless afraid, and described her as — I don’t remember the exact words, but all the panelists nodded their heads in agreement when she was called “weird,” unfit to be on that debate stage, and how dare she meet with a murderer like Assad, etc.

Gabbard must have really touched a nerve. The unarticulated but apparently deeply felt consensus among those who lie for a living is that the system must be suffering from a severe malfunction if it could actually allow such an inappropriate candidate to spout such nonsensical heresy within sight and hearing of 20 million impressionable Americans who might actually wonder if what she was saying could possible be true.

Steve Brown is a member of the editorial board of CovertAction Magazine and director of the Society for Independent Investigative Journalism (SIIJ). He is co-founder of the Progressive Radio Network (PRN), former director of the Pacifica Radio Foundation and WBAI-FM in New York, and President of the Alliance for Community Elections (ACE). He has run political campaigns for the U.S. Senate, Governor of New York, and Mayor of New York City.