Side story for a second. My favorite movie moment from last year was the dinner between Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and a family headed by a strangely bearded Richard Jenkins (the dad from Six Feet Under) in I Heart Huckabee's. I won't give too much of it away, but Schwartzman plays an activist, and Jenkins an electrical engineer, and within minutes of first meeting they are at each others throats. Both are coming at issues from such completely different starting points that it is impossible to imagine them being able to talk about anything – sprawl means waste to Schwartzman; fighting it means communism and no jobs to Jenkins.
A few minutes later they are thrown out of the house, and that little side-mini drama captures the high level of discourse this past year over everything. A vote for or against Bush wasn't a vote for or against supple-side economics or interventionist foriegn policy; it was a vote for or against a complete way of seeing the world through faith-based lens.
As such, everybody on both sides spent a good part of 2004 yelling at each other. This award could go to any single one of them, but your Rush Limbaughs were convincing us that liberal are destroying everything for a decade now. So instead I'm naming it the best liberal breakdown and giving it to the person whose change for this year stands out the most: Lawrence O'Donnell.
I'm a "The McLaughlin Group" junkie since high school, and he's been my favorite guy on it for the past few years. He's a nice, polite, smart and clever democrat. His resume has all the things you'd expect in the defender of the democratic party: Senior Advisor to Senator Moynihan, Democratic Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance in the early-to-mid 90s, prodcuer of the West Wing (where he won a few awards for co-writing an episode about the death penalty).
Being on a show with Pat Buchanan, you'd expect him to match his level, but instead he would contain himself. Until this past year. Here are two instances of his year-long meltdown. First off, the first Mclaughlin Group after the Kerry loss (airdate nov. 5th):
MR. O'DONNELL: But the big problem the country now has, which is going to produce a serious discussion of secession over the next 20 years, is that the segment of the country that pays for the federal government is now being governed by the people who don't pay for the federal government.
MR. BLANKLEY: Did you say secession?
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. O'DONNELL: Yes, yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: Are you calling for civil war?
MR. O'DONNELL: Ninety — not war; you can secede without firing a shot.
MR. BLANKLEY: Not if you have a Lincoln in the White House.
MR. O'DONNELL: Ninety percent of the red states are welfare client states of the federal government. They collect more from the federal government than they send in. New York and California, Connecticut, the states that are blue are all the states that are paying for the bulk of everything this government does, from the ward of Social Security to everything else, and the people in those states don't like what this government is doing.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Off mike.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let him finish!
MR. O'DONNELL: That cannot hold.
Going to one of my favorite commentators days after the Kerry loss (remember how sad of a day that was?) and having him call for a civil war did not cheer me up one bit. The rest of the commentators were a bit stunned. But I should have known that he was going to be intense that day, because I had seen over the internet him tear apart the head of the Swift Boat Vets on Scarborough Country (with guest host Pat Buchanan). Trust me – watch this video. Keep in mind that this man writes and produces The West Wing – 99% of the time he is smiling politely while discussing poltics. Not this time (follow the image link through to the media file):
Although Buchanan issued an apology, I cheered after seeing that clip, but that was before the election. After the secession talk, I was a little worried about Mr. O'Donnell, and he wasn't on the Mclaughlin Group for about two months – thankfully he was there for the Year End special, in which his resolution for 2005 was to not call people liars, unless they deserve it. Good to have the man back.