Lawrence O’Donnell has hit a new low. Indeed, the man who can sit next to Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz and somehow still appear to be the crazy one in the room further discredited himself Thursday night during an interview with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
O’Donnell began the interview with the usual race-baiting but he soon got bored with the standard fare and decided to jump to an excerpt from Cain’s new book. In the passage, Cain talks about taking his father’s advice to “stay out of trouble” as a high school student during the civil rights movement. To that Lawrence asked, “Where do you think black people would be sitting on the bus today if Rosa Parks had followed your dad’s advice?” Then, as if to make sure Cain realized he had somehow not earned his “blackness,” O’Donnell quipped, “You watched … students from around the country come to the South and be murdered fighting for the rights of African-Americans.”
And it gets better.
During the Vietnam War, Cain worked for the Department of the Navy as an exterior ballistics analyst. When O’Donnell suddenly realized that Cain had worked for the Department of the Navy but was not in the Navy during Vietnam, he launched into an almost indecipherable run-on sentence that finally closed with, “After avoiding the Vietnam War, why should you be commander-in-chief?” Cain calmly pointed out that the Navy had asked him to stay in that position rather than drafting him, although he did make himself available for the draft. O’Donnell responded by saying, “I am offended on behalf of all the veterans of the Vietnam War who joined — the veterans who did not wait to get drafted. … They had the courage to join.”
By that logic, where was Lawrence O’Donnell during every American military operation since he turned 18? Instead of writing for “The West Wing” — which most would probably agree is his only positive contribution to society — why was he not on the front lines?
Lately it seems like people are quick to call for someone’s firing every time they say something a large group of people may find offensive. But I think it is probably fitting here to agree with Cain’s comments during a recent debate when he said that America needs to lighten up. I am not going to call for Lawrence O’Donnell to be fired. In spite of his assertion that Herman Cain was essentially complicit in the Jim Crow-era oppression and in the deaths of Lord-only-knows-how-many American soldiers, I support O’Donnell’s right to say just about anything he wants on his show.
And I am sure O’Donnell supports my right and the rights of the rest of America not to watch him disgrace himself on television every weeknight.
As a matter of fact, I appreciate Lawrence O’Donnell for being one of the best illustrations a conservative could point to of the free market at work. In the 8 o’clock time slot for October 4, only about 640,000 people suffered through “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” Meanwhile, at that exact same time there were over 3 million people watching “The O’Reilly Factor” just a couple of channels away.
As the great political philosopher Stephen Colbert pointed out recently, “[The government] can only tax you, draft you, seize and sell your property, arrest you, incarcerate you and execute you.” So until the day the government forces Americans to watch Lawrence O’Donnell on television, we can at least take solace in the fact that the “cruel and unusual punishment” portion of the Eighth Amendment is being upheld.
Cliff Sims is the chairman of the Alabama College Republicans and founder of Generation NOW, an organization formed to educate and empower a new generation of leaders. His Twitter handle is @Cliff_Sims.