He Called the President WHAT!?

I heard it myself.  Today, MSNBC’s senior political analyst, Mark Halperin said President Barack Obama “acted like kind of a dick yesterday” while discussing politics on “Morning Joe.”.

Joe Scarborough seemed genuinely in a panic over Halperin’s language, as he scrunched his face and barked instructions to his control room, “Delay that. Delay that. What are you doing? I can’t believe … I was joking. Don’t do that. Did we delay that? Did that work?”

(Scarborough earned his seven-second delay button, along with a knuckle rap from his bosses, back on November 10, 2008 when he dropped an F-bomb, live on the show. )

Mika Doesn’t Like the “D” Word

As soon as this morning’s “d” word was uttered, Mika Brzezinski recoiled in a full body cringe: her left arm went over her stomach, she turned her head away from Halperin and buried her face in her right hand, all within a split second moment of embarrassment and revulsion.

After assessing the comment had not been bleeped, Halperin, apologized, as did MSNBC, who for their part suspended their senior analyst “indefinitely” and released this statement:

Mark Halperin’s comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the President, The White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air.

Halperin, who is also editor-at-large and senior political analyst for Time Magazine, posted an apology on  “The Page,” a political blog he created for Time.com:

I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President, to my TIME and MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it.

Halperin’s “indefinite” suspension follows that of Keith Olbermann’s for not disclosing financial contributions to the congressional campaign of Gabrielle Gifford.  Back then, “indefinite” meant two days. (Joe Scarborough was also suspended for two days after his campaign contributions were discovered. )

Ed Schultz was suspended by MSNBC for a week after calling Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” on his radio show.

Ironically, Halperin was passing judgment on the President for his demeanor in yesterday’s press conference as he addressed the republican position in the debt ceiling debate.

Halperin's suspension: signalling time for a real game change?

Halperin’s suspension is definitely turning into a juicy summer sidebar with a steady stream of commentary running across the internet on the latest political pundit to put his foot in his mouth.

The cable news network’s stated goal of “striving for a high level of discourse” has not gone unnoticed, or unanswered.

Perhaps the Comcast, er, MSNBC brass does want to elevate the dialog. I certainly hope so.   I’ve just gotta ask, “Who calls the President a ‘kind of a dick,’  even in a candid moment?”

I’m certainly not shocked by the language;  I’ve spent too many years in too many newsrooms.   I’m more disappointed how crass it is, not to mention how arrogant and immature.

You call the kid in high school who accidentally-on-purpose knocks your chemistry book off your desk “a kind of dick.”   And maybe, just maybe if you hold a political office and engage in one on one political combat, I might get why you call the President rude names behind his back — in private, that is, certainly not on the air, even if the offending language is expected to be bleeped.

Halperin already has some defenders. Greg Sargent, for one, has blogged on WashingtonPost.com that the MSNBC suspension is “crazy,” and “way over the top,” calling for more focus on fair politics.

Sargent also happened to be interviewing top Obama advisor David Axelrod today and got this reaction to Halperingate:

What he said was obviously stupid and tasteless, and he exercised poor judgment,” Axelrod said. “I think he’d be the first to acknowledge that. I strongy disagree with his analysis. But I’ve known him for decades. he’s a decent person and a good journalist. I’m sure that no one regrets this more than he does.

Axelrod went on to say while Halperin clearly made a mistake today, he doesn’t think it characterizes the sweep of his career.

Now that’s a game change we can all embrace: a mistake that’s allowed to be a mistake and not the blood sport of the day.

I hope Halperin, other journalists, political pundits, fellow bloggers — all of us in the business of exploring the mistakes of others —  will follow that standard of fairness.

It’s fair to analyze those mistakes, research any history of like mistakes, then state one’s conclusion.   Let us now leave behind the name-calling, whether bleep-worthy or not,  and more reasonably measure the full merit, and sweep of one’s position, words and deeds.