"They essentially elevated Rush Limbaugh, they elevated the arguments on the right," Madden said.
CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante, noting the "nasty" rhetoric coming from some critics of the president, noted "there's a whole undercurrent of people who are questioning the legitimacy of this president." He told Unplugged host Bob Schieffer that the White House was blindsided by the level of anger.
"But then they decided to rise above it and not really much deal with it," Plante said, noting that the current strategy is to let Mr. Obama go out and sell his ideas personally.
Madden argued that an American public that voted for change is now seeing "a maintenance of the status quo and a government that has sort of spun out of control."
"And they feel that there's this detachment between the way Washington is working and the way that their daily lives are being affected by it," he said.
Schieffer said he agreed to a point but wondered whether talk radio and the Internet had fed a culture of meanness.
Madden agreed, saying "people aren't meeting in the middle to discuss issues, but instead they're meeting amongst themselves to talk and find comfort with those that say the exact same thing."
Asked about Jimmy Carter's suggestion that the criticism of the president is grounded in racism, Plante said such an argument was "the last thing they want to hear, because they don't want to make race the issue."
"They just downplayed that as fast as they could," he said.
Watch Friday's edition of "Washington Unplugged" above, which also includes an interview with filmmaker Ken Burns and the cancer survivor who introduced Mr. Obama at his speech to college students this week.