During CNN's Super Tuesday election coverage, both liberal and conservative commentators took shots at conservatives as liberal Paul Begala declared that Mike Huckabee "don't believe in evolution or photosynthesis or gravity or anything," and liberal Carl Bernstein declared that Republican candidates were "trying to satisfy Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham rather than the people of the country." Conservative Bill Bennett quipped that conservative opposition to John McCain is a "kind of Trotskyism," and a "purification" of the Republican party. (Transcript follows)
At about 8:15 p.m., CNN anchor Anderson Cooper brought up the subject of "very personal attacks against" McCain from Focus on the Family's James Dobson, who declared his unwillingness to vote for the Arizona Senator earlier in the day. As Bennett explained that McCain would reach out to conservatives, he criticized fellow conservatives: "Frankly, I think these folks, and a lot of them are my best friends, need to move a little forward on their own. There's a kind of Trotskyism going on here, you know, purification of the party." Bennett went on to point out inconsistency in conservative talk radio hosts praising Democrat Joe Lieberman and inviting him into the Republican party, even though he is more liberal than McCain, while being tougher on the Arizona Senator.
At about 9:45 p.m., former Bill Clinton advisor and current Hillary Clinton supporter Paul Begala talked about the historic tendency of Republican presidential primaries to feature a conservative candidate and moderate candidate battling each other, and then took a shot at Huckabee, declaring: "Nobody is more conservative than Huckabee. He don't believe in evolution or gravity or photosynthesis or anything."
At about 11:15 p.m., in response to anchor Lou Dobbs' question about whether the Republican race was "over," CNN contributor Bernstein declared McCain the likely winner and criticized Republicans for trying to make conservative talk radio hosts happy: "McCain is going to get the nomination ultimately, but the question is: One, what is it worth? What does it mean? And all of these candidates are trying to satisfy Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham, rather than the people of the country. And so the question becomes, is the Republican party going to come out of this thing in a kind of shambles that either Obama or Hillary Clinton can really exploit. ..."
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of CNN's February 5 coverage of Super Tuesday:
ANDERSON COOPER: The battle for John McCain, moving forward, if he does very well tonight, I mean, there were some very personal attacks against him today. James Dobson on the Laura Ingraham radio show saying, "I'm convinced Senator McCain is not a conservative, and, in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. I cannot and I will not vote for Senator John McCain, as a matter of conscience." How does he make inroads among those conservatives?
BILL BENNETT: Well, he's going to CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, this week, Thursday. He's going to address them. It's a big meeting. He'll get a lot of attention. And he needs to reach out. He needs to say the right things, but he also needs to tell people to look at his record. Frankly, I think these folks, and a lot of them are my best friends, need to move a little forward on their own. There's a kind of Trotskyism going on here, you know, purification of the party. Here's an interesting thing. Connecticut just came in for McCain -- 42-41 conservatives for McCain. I didn't know there were conservatives in Connecticut. I'm thrilled to hear it, and I'd love to meet them, really, on some occasion, but, could it have something to do with Joe Lieberman's endorsement of McCain in Connecticut. And here's the thing I want people to think about, if they're conservatives particularly. Everybody loves Joe Lieberman on the conservative side. The talk show hosts can't get enough of Joe Lieberman. "Hey, Joe, will you join the Republican party?" If he did, he would be to the left of John McCain. So what exactly is this objection to John McCain, other than he sometimes takes pleasure, you know, in going against the orthodoxy? But I think reality, if he gets the nomination, reality sets in. The Dobson thing was very unfortunate.
BENNETT: Ronald Reagan wasn't Ronald Reagan either before he became Ronald Reagan, if you will. And the Ronald Reagan that we now revere did some things which really violated the orthodoxy. I don't want to list them because I won't be able to answer all the mail, but he did a lot of things that, you know, that you wouldn't have on the checkoff list if you were a conservative.
PAUL BEGALA: Here's the thing where McCain is lucky. Always in the Republican party, it seems to me, there's a fight between a conservative and a moderate. There's Goldwater and Rockefeller. There's Reagan and Bush. There's Bush and McCain. This time, there's one moderate, McCain, and two conservatives. And so Romney wants to be the conservative, and the conservative poobahs like Limbaugh and Coulter and Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family, they've all anointed Romney to try to stop McCain, but the voters got in the way. I love it. Sometimes voters just don't listen to the big shots.
ROLAND MARTIN: But he's also not, McCain is more conservative than Romney.
BEGALA: Nobody is more conservative than Huckabee. He don't believe in evolution or gravity or photosynthesis or anything.
LOU DOBBS: First of all, Carl, give us your thoughts. Is the Republican race, in your judgement, over?
CARL BERNSTEIN: Probably. McCain is going to get the nomination ultimately, but the question is: One, what is it worth? What does it mean? And all of these candidates are trying to satisfy Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham, rather than the people of the country. And so the question becomes, is the Republican party going to come out of this thing in a kind of shambles that either Obama or Hillary Clinton can really exploit. ...