In an interview with Harry Smith on CBS' "Early Show" Friday morning, President Obama called out Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as purveyors of "vitriol" - creating a climate in which he's called a "socialist" and even a "Nazi."
Smith asked the president if he was "aware of the level of enmity that crosses the airwaves and that people have made part of their daily conversation about you." Obama replied, "When you've listened to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck it's pretty apparent." The rancor is "troublesome," he said, but he acknowledged it's also a recurring phenomenon.
"Keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of - this kind of vitriol comes out," he said. "It happens often when you've got an economy that is making people more anxious and people are feeling that there's a lot of change that needs to take place. But that's not the vast majority of Americans."
Walking with Smith on the grounds of the White House, the president said that he is "concerned about a political climate in which the other side is demonized" and that "everybody has a responsibility, Democrats or Republicans, to tone down some of this rhetoric." What's different about today, Obama suggested, is the way overheated rhetoric has moved into the mainstream.
"It used to be that somebody who said something crazy, they might be saying it to their next-door neighbor, or it might be on some, you know, late-night AM station at the very end of the radio dial."
Asked by Smith if the name-calling bothers him, Obama replied that all presidents develop a "pretty thick skin." Still, he added that he hopes that Americans will start to lose their taste for vitriol. "I do think that there is a tone and tenor that needs to change, where we can disagree without being disagreeable or making wild accusations about the other side. And I think that's what most Americans would like to see, as well."
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