Hypocritical Jansing Derides Gotcha Journalism Before Playing Gotcha with Christine O'Donnell Remark

Chris Jansing's cognitive dissonance must be excruciating.

On today's "Jansing and Co.," the MSNBC anchor initially rejected the practice of gotcha journalism in political campaign coverage, but proceeded to play gotcha with a comment made yesterday by Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell.

"I'm not a big fan of trying to do a gotcha," prefaced Jansing, directing the remark at retired Army General Wesley Clark. "I've said that before on this program. But does it bother you at all when someone can't name a current member of the Senate on the Democratic side?"

Clark, who ran for president in 2004 as a Democrat, refuted Jansing's gotcha question: "Well, first of all I think that's a little bit of a stretch in this case. She wasn't asked to name a current member, she was asked to name someone she'd like to work with. So I think that's a little bit of a stretch."

In last night's debate, the moderator asked O'Donnell to name a Democratic Senator she would "feel comfortable working with," to which the Republican nominee named former Senator Hillary Clinton. O'Donnell acknowledged that Clinton is "not a senator anymore," but that she has used "her name a lot on the campaign trail."

Chris Coons, the Democratic nominee, split hairs over O'Donnell's response: "One of the real risks as we go forward is that if we elect someone who literally cannot name a single currently serving senator in my party with whom she would work, we're advancing someone who has no experience crossing the bipartisan divide."

Jansing's attempt to parrot Coons's talking points was rejected even by Clark, who soberly observed, "It's normal that people who have been outside of government want to get into it, they probably don't know the people on the inside. But on the other hand, that doesn't mean that they couldn't learn them and couldn't do a good job."

"The issue here is the level of experience and competence," contended Clark. "The voters have to judge this. Is this a problem that she doesn't seem to be very familiar with the workings of government? On the other hand, some people think she's very likeable and trustworthy. Those have always been the issues at play in American democracy."

It is unclear whether or not MSNBC, in booking Clark for the segment, expected him to spurn Jansing's loaded question. Perhaps the network underestimated the value of integrity instilled in the West Point valedictorian.

A transcript of the relevant portions of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
Jansing and Co.
October 21, 2010

11:07 A.M. EDT

CHRIS JANSING: A gotcha moment for Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, but the moderator at last night's debate didn't exactly sound like he was trying to trick her.

MODERATOR: Give me a name, Christine, of someone in the US Senate – across the aisle – that you're comfortable working with.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, Republican Senate candidate: Well, she's not a senator anymore, but I would definitely have to say Hillary Clinton. I use her name a lot on the campaign trail.

CHRIS COONS, Democratic Senate candidate: One of the real risks as we go forward is that if we elect someone who literally cannot name a single currently serving senator in my party with whom she would work –

O'DONNELL: Senator Lieberman

COONS: – we're advancing someone who has no experience crossing the bipartisan divide.

JANSING: Let's bring back in Alicia Menendez and General Clark. General, I was on the campaign trail a little bit with you when you were running for president. You must have given 20 million interviews, you were constantly being asked questions. I'm not a big fan of trying to do a gotcha. I've said that before on this program. But does it bother you at all when someone can't name a current member of the Senate on the Democratic side?

WESLEY CLARK, former Democratic presidential candidate: Well, first of all I think that's a little bit of a stretch in this case. She wasn't asked to name a current member, she was asked to name someone she'd like to work with. So I think that's a little bit of a stretch, but I think in general as Democrats we have to respect the issues that are coming out of the electorate right now. There's a lot of anger out there, people are looking at new faces and it's normal that people who have been outside of government want to get into it, they probably don't know the people on the inside. But on the other hand, that doesn't mean that they couldn't learn them and couldn't do a good job. The issue here is the level of experience and competence. And this is the kind of issue that can only be resolved by the electorate and the kind of dialogue and communications that you showed on this. The voters have to judge this. Is this a problem that she doesn't seem to be very familiar with the workings of government? On the other hand, some people think she's very likeable and trustworthy. Those have always been the issues at play in American democracy.