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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Buying (Rant and) Rave Reviews

This week’s weirdest story is the revelation that the Bush Administration’s Department of Education paid right-wing TV host Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind Act in the course of his broadcasts.
As Josh Marshall observes, purchased punditry is not a new development, but I haven’t heard of anybody collecting 240 Large for nestling a few references to education reform into a litany of ranting and raving.
If I were running the Education Department, I’d sure as hell think twice about relying on a guy like Armstrong to promote my message. Unless he’s changed recently (I refuse to watch him anymore), Williams is one seriously wacked-out dude. I once made the mistake of going on the show he did years ago for Paul Weyrich’s National Empowerment Network cable outfit, supposedly to talk about crime policy. He introduced me by saying: “My guest today not only thinks like a liberal and talks like a liberal. HE LOOKS LIKE A LIBERAL.” And his first question was: “How can you sleep at night?” Before I could answer, he went off into an insane tirade about Clinton that lasted for a good five minutes. And that was nothing compared to the callers to the show, whom Armstrong revved up into a hate frenzy that made me wonder if I’d wandered into a parallel universe where the Thousand-Year Reich was still underway. We never did talk about crime policy. But I guess no one was paying him to do that.

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