PBS Guest Goes Full Kook on ‘Deadly, Dangerous People’ in Fascist GOP

News & Politics

On Amanpour & Co.’s Friday edition (airing on CNN International and taxpayer-supported PBS), substitute host Bianna Golodryga invited on a “political communications expert” on to ostensibly comment on Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, “about how it went.”

It was a hair-raising segment.

Anat Shenker-Osorio used the cover of word choice to unleash a series of long, vituperative, hackish attacks on “deadly, dangerous” “authoritarian Republicans” “hellbent on taking our freedoms” and seemed to assume (perhaps correctly, based on her lack of interruption) that host Golodryga was part of the team.

She asked Shenker-Osorio if Biden launching his State of the Union address with foreign policy was a wise decision.

Anat Shenker-Osorio pivoted to immigration and ranting about GOP authoritarianism, seeing Biden “in fighting form” against a not just wrong but actively wicked GOP.

Golodryga didn’t blink, just blamed Trump for everything.

When the host asked her if President Biden had” well-positioned” himself on the issue with his speech, Shenker-Osario dragged the conversation even further left, suggesting Biden had been too hard on immigration with his language and went off on another rant about the GOP. Should Biden even deign to deal with “deadly, dangerous people” like elected Republicans?

The long rant continued, uninterrupted by the journalist: Don’t dare call these GOP fascists good policymakers either! Shenker-Osorio was truly out of control.

Shenker-Osorio: If you need people to understand that, you cannot say on one day, hey, these folks in Biden’s parlance are semi-fascist, and I promise to work with these semi-fascists. That is an electoral story that doesn’t make sense. When you try this gambit of exposing them for their hypocrisy by unwittingly crediting them as good policymakers, you’re undermining your overarching story, which I would argue is accurate, that these are deadly, dangerous people who do not have Americans’ best interests at heart. There is a way to seize the upper hand on the immigration debate, and it comes from leading with our own values. And, yes, calling out Republicans, but not by crediting their policy ideas, but rather by exposing how they are employing the oldest trick in the authoritarian book, which is to shame and blame a scapegoat, to tell people, look over there, your problems, it’s because of those people, however that group is named and shamed. And they are doing that in order to get you to look the other way while they take away everything, Social Security, health care, living wages, the right to join together in union. That’s the way to call out Republicans. It’s not by crediting them as genius lawmakers by saying, hey, I’m going to make this bill happen because they wrote it.

Golodryga didn’t push back against those offensive characterizations of one of America’s two major political parties. No brakes from Bianna. Full speed ahead on the fascist chatter.

A disconnect was evident when Shenker-Osorio said immigrants were coming here for “the promise of freedom and opportunity in this country” while suggesting one of America’s two major parties was fascist. Freedom or fascism, which is it?

Again, Golodryga didn’t fight for any kind of balance, but pivoted to the age issue for both Trump and Biden, which her guest ignored in favor of more anti-Republican ranting.

PBS’s Amanpour & Co.

3/9/24

1:02:04 a.m. (ET)

GOLODRYGA: So, have democratic fears been allayed? And what is the address signal for the next eight months of campaigning? Anat Shenker-Osorio is a political communication strategist who joins me now from California. And I thank you so much for joining us.

So, let’s start there. It’s a bit unusual for the president to start a State of the Union address focusing on foreign policy. Yet, that is exactly what President Biden did, obviously, a lot of frustration among his administration and among the Democratic Party. And let’s be honest, even among the majority of Republicans that do want to see that extra supplemental of foreign aid funding pass, of some $60 billion waiting to besent to Ukraine, which needs that funding yesterday, desperately going through ammunition and needing additional resources and weapons. What did you make of the president starting there? And do you think it was an effective decision?

ANAT SHENKER-OSORIO, POLITICAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: Yes. I mean, absolutely extraordinary Biden in fighting for him and weaving together what I would note really well at the top of the speech that foreign policy (INAUDIBLE) with the very real truth that he was giving that speech in the very face of an at-home, home-baked authoritarian faction that is hellbent on taking our freedoms and has questioned the very basis of Democratic governance in that very chamber by helping plan, pay for, and wanting to pardon the deadly January 6th attack. So, those two threads together Essentially, the same thread, authoritarianism, a faction of people who are going to rule for the wealthiest few, both abroad and at home. And he made that point clearly. He made that point well, and he made that point forcefully as he had to do.

GOLODRYGA: And a lot of people pointing the blame at his predecessor, Donald Trump, for holding up that supplemental aid to Ukraine and Israel.

We should note as well, they’re also pointing the blame at Donald Trump for holding up the border security legislation, also something that was bipartisan support and drafted at some of the toughest border security we’ve seen in legislation and specifically coming from a Democratic president. And President Biden noted the frustration there and signaled that there was a lot of support for this, but one man is holding it up.

Here’s what he said.

BIDEN: In November, my team began serious negotiation with a bipartisan group of senators. The result was a bipartisan bill with the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen. Oh, you don’t think so? Oh, you don’t like that bill, huh?

GOLODRYGA: It’s interesting that we got a cutaway there of Senator James Lankford, a Republican of Oklahoma who co-drafted the Republican side of that legislation, who mouthed, that’s true. This is tough legislation. It’s something that he’d really fought for, and yet, it is nowhere near passing as well because it is being held up by the speaker of the house.

You poll a lot of people on this issue, and immigration has taken a real leap forward in terms of a concern for not only Republicans, which it traditionally has, but Democrats as well. Do you think that President Biden put himself well-positioned, at least enough, in terms of saying the ball is in the Republicans’ court, not mine right now?

SHENKER-OSORIO: I think the part of the speech where he came to immigration, and I thing by any objective view, he kind of began to get a little bit more convoluted and come out more — less clearly, less strong than he did at the outset and at end. I think that really shows what an Achilles heel that is.

And, unfortunately, if your electoral prospects, and I would argue more importantly, if the prospects of the continuation of experimental — experiment with self-governance, with having representatives who actually act in our interests honor our freedom to vote, honor freedom to decide for ourselves, basic things like weather and when we have kids.

If the future prospects of this country hinge upon the American people, understand that this election is a confrontation between two different futures, one in which we will continue to be able to elect our leaders, cast our votes, have them counted, and then another in, which this authoritarian faction will keep chipping away at every one of our freedoms. If you need people to understand that, you cannot say on one day, hey, these folks in Biden’s parlance are semi-fascist, and I promise to work with these semi-fascists. That is an electoral story that doesn’t make sense.

When you try this gambit of exposing them for their hypocrisy by unwittingly crediting them as good policymakers, you’re undermining your overarching story, which I would argue is accurate, that these are deadly, dangerous people who do not have Americans’ best interests at heart.

There is  way to seize the upper hand on the immigration debate, and it comes from leading with our own values. And, yes, calling out Republicans, but not by crediting their policy ideas, but rather by exposing how they are employing the oldest trick in the authoritarian book, which is to shame and blame a scapegoat, to tell people, look over there, your problems, it’s because of those people, however that group is named and shamed. And they are doing that in order to get you to look the other way while they take away everything, Social Security, health care, living wages, the right to join together in union. That’s the way to call out Republicans. It’s not by crediting them as genius lawmakers by saying, hey, I’m going to make this bill happen because they wrote it.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I don’t think he’s crediting them is genius law makers, at least that’s not how I interpreted it. I interpreted it as a man who told the American public that he can work with both sides of the aisle on sensible issues that are of relevance to American voters.

So, as far as this president trying to win over new voters, undecided voters perhaps, some of the Nikki Haley voters, I mean, is this an approach you think that actually would be beneficial for him?

SHENKER-OSORIO: I think it’s absolutely essential, as you rightly say, that we win over new voters by having a clear solutions-based message on immigration, and we have one. It is most of us, no matter what we look like, where we come from or when we got here, will do whatever it takes to provide for our families, including moving to a new place. Immigrant Americans are moving here for the promise of freedom and opportunity in this country, and Democrats have real solutions, include having a working border and having a pathway to citizenship for people who come here. But Republicans block us at every turn. They want us pointing our finger in the wrong direction, so we’ll look the other way while they take away what families need. That’s the way to win over, whether it be a Nikki Haley voter or another kind of conflicted voter.

GOLODRYGA: But isn’t that what President Biden did last night? I mean, wasn’t he doing effectively that, calling out those Republicans who win presented with sensible, some of the toughest legislation that’s getting support from both sides of the aisle still can’t be passed? Isn’t calling him out by saying you’re more focused on getting one man back into office or playing politics as opposed to focusing specifically on what would benefit the American public?

SHENKER-OSORIO: He was doing a permutation of it. The essential difference — and I’m arguing not just on the basis of my own logic, but rather on actual testing. And when we look through randomized control trials at what moved voters and what doesn’t move voters, he was doing that by first crediting Republicans with having a good idea here, because what else does it mean to say, I’m going to pass this bipartisan piece of legislation that Republicans hammered out? This is the toughest border bill ever. He’s echoing their language. And, unfortunately, in echoing their languages, as you probably noted, he even went so far as to use the word illegal as a noun, thereby giving credence to their broader story line, which is of course, is one of fear- mongering, race-baiting, as they’ve done all along.

And so, yes, there is a way of calling their bluff, but the way of doing it is not saying, hey, here’s their piece of legislation and I’m ready to pass it. Because what that does is it reaffirms his predecessors, to use his language, storyline that he’s the strong man and he is the one that’s going to come fix the border and is he the that needs to be bowed down to.

When Biden says, you know, I’ll do it with you. I will come to you or you come to me, and we will do together, how does a voter both understand these people are hellbent on taking your freedoms and, hey, I promise to work with these on this policy issue? Those are competing storylines.

GOLODRYGA: These two men, Biden and Trump, are both facing headwinds of their own, Trump in expanding his base, his core base and Biden trying to, I guess, satisfy a big portion — not a big portion, but a significant portion of the progressive Democrats who have spoken out on a number of issues, one being his foreign policy with regards to the Israel-Hamas war, also his age, a number issues.

But in relation to the Israel-Hamas war, he did address this — the war going on right now and the frustration that his administration now coming public about with how this war is being conducted, specifically with the Netanyahu government and what else needs to be done. Here’s what he said.

BIDEN: And Israel must do its part. Israel most allow more aid into Gaza to ensure humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire.

GOLODRYGA: I mean, is this going to an Achilles heel for him come November, or is it a situation where those who protested and voted noncommittal made their case, and we’ll see that it comes down to a choice between President Biden or Former President Trump and go with the former?

SHENKER-OSORIO: I think that, you know, the idea of predicting what the U S. voter is going to do and what’s going care about — what they’re going about come November is losing proposition, as we’ve seen most people, most human beings are not actually paying any attention at all to the election.

I know that’s hard for us political junkies to get into our heads, but as a person who watches focus groups on the weekly, I can assure you most people are still in the wait, there is an election November. Oh, OK. Guess so, kind of a spot.

And so, the question really here is there are, there is a voting bloc, there’s a base, there is a choir that is extraordinarily upset, and I would argue understandably and rightly so, about what’s going on. It’s horrific. The loss of human life. You know, it’s hard not to know about that, watch that, and not feel completely and totally moved.

I think that Biden made a good step forward in forthrightly addressing the crisis and the loss of human life among Palestinians, the devastation, and in calling out Israel and needing to actually attend to human rights and alter. And then, I think, equally importantly, the explicit naming of a two-state solution, the understanding that there is no security without peace. Security without peace does not exist. Whether that’s going to be enough, I think that talk without actions is unlikely to do enough. And I think the thing to really think about and underscore is that even if it is, relatively speaking, a small grouping of voters who are really thinking about this, it’s not the how many, it’s the who. And the who in many of our battleground states are the core activists that Democrats rely upon to do the calling, to do the texting, to do the relational organizing, to drive out the vote.

And so, if that choir isn’t willing to sing from the, hey, we need to elect Democrat’s songbook, then the congregation isn’t going to hear the joyful noise. And that’s why this is so critical. It’s not the how many, it’s the who.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And as you noted, though, it still is early days. So, a lot could develop between now and then. But this is definitely a warning sign. Quickly, last question to you. I don’t think he ever named Donald Trump, but he referenced him a number of times, over a dozen, and talked about their differences, but also their similarities.

Interestingly enough, both addressing that both of them are older men — are old men, but said their views on the future of the country, their views on the future of the global order are vastly different. Do you think he was effective in speaking out and calling out the elephant in the room, that’s his age, but also saying, you know, my predecessor also isn’t a spring chicken?

SHENKER-OSORIO: Yes. I think that his line, which is he’s used a couple of times now around it’s not about how old you are, it’s about how old your ideas are is spot on.

Everything that we’re seeing in testing is that casting the election more broadly, not as a contest between these two individuals, which let’s face it, people aren’t that hooked into, we’ve had this exact same matchup before, voters are bored of it, just to speak in the most prosaic terms.

So, rather than making it a contest between two individuals, making it a contest between two potential futures. And as Biden rightly said, between an America that moves forward together, intent on the full freedoms, the promise of liberty, opportunity, equality for all, and a MAGA Republican desire to drag us into, I would argue, the Mesozoic era, where a handful of wealthy white men alone decide who gets to do what and how.

And when that contrast is presented. When we see voters flip from thinking about this as a contest between two rival teams, and they’re not really into either team, let’s just be honest, so I’d rather just turn off the game, to a contest between what will my future be, where will my children live, what will be their surroundings, and how will they experience life in America, that is when the switch really flips, and I think Biden did that really well at the end there.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and instead of offering those alternatives in real-time, Former President Trump, among other things, was responding on social media posts by showing President Biden with some really, I don’t know how else to describe it, but wacky Snapchat filters over his face. I’m not sure how that’s addressing and speaking to some of the concerns a lot of people in this country are having right now. Anat Shenker-Osorio, thank you so much for your time.

SHENKER-OSORIO: Thanks so much for having me.

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