Right seizes on Schultz line

RIGHT SEIZES ON SCHULTZ LINE…. Earlier this week, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz appeared on “Morning Joe,” and pressed David Axelrod on health care reform, criticizing the Democratic plan from the left. Soon after, on his radio show, Schultz said White House officials were emailing hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski — during the program — to complain about all the liberal critics of health care reform on the show.

“Now think about that,” Schultz told listeners. “Here’s the White House getting in contact with ‘Morning Joe’ because they’re afraid there’s too many lefties on the air!”

Schultz’s comments were, not surprisingly, quickly embraced by far-right bloggers, who said Schultz confirmed fears about MSNBC being in cahoots with the president’s team. After all, the argument goes, if White House aides are communicating with “Morning Joe” hosts during the program, it suggests … something nefarious. One went so far as to call it “state control” of the media, adding that it would be scandalous if conservative media figures “had been caught taking orders from Bush during the program.”

James Joyner, himself a conservative, noted how silly this is.

Now, first of all, all we know if that Schultz claims he saw the hosts looking down at their BlackBerries during the show. He doesn’t claim to have seen the messages or that the hosts said they had a question from the White House. It’s pure wild ass speculation on Schultz’ part.

But let’s take a leap of faith and presume that MSNBC’s show hosts do in fact get emails from the White House trying to spin them. Is that really that shocking? The White House has a rather sophisticated communications shop, after all. If the hosts are checking their emails while guests are on the air — which strikes me as a rather bizarre thing to do — then it stands to reason that they get whatever emails are sent during the show, including those from the White House.

How, exactly, does that translate into state control?

It’s the political equivalent of working the refs. Watch any NFL game and you’ll see players and coaches pleading with the officials to throw a flag or reverse a call. And every so often, the ref will change his mind after hearing the argument! Does that mean the refs are under the coaches’ control? Of course not.

And, one presumes, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin did indeed get messages from the Bush administration and other Republican operatives during their broadcasts. Hell, Limbaugh has admitted to “carrying the water” of the party, putting a spin on things contrary to his own beliefs in order to help Republicans win. He was getting his talking points from somewhere.

Does anyone really think Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman from Florida who many presume has future political ambitions, is a stooge for a Democratic administration? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Regrettably, the failure to make sense seems largely irrelevant here. What matters is getting people excited, not keeping them informed.