'Today' Features Two Liberals, No Conservatives to Analyze Debates

To recap the previous night’s Democratic debate, "Today" featured two liberal commentators to analyze it. It might be fair had "Today" interviewed two conservatives the previous day to analyze the Republican debate. They did not. Instead, they went to former Carter speechwriter and Obama supporter Chris Matthews.

The February 1 edition of the NBC morning show turned to known liberals Paul Begala and Rachel Maddow. Host Matt Lauer did identify Begala as a Democratic strategist and called Maddow’s radio network, Air America, "liberal." However, "Today’s" bias is obvious giving air time to two liberals and none to conservatives.Perhaps, in the elite media world, former Democratic staffer Matthews is "conservative" because of recent left wing blog attacks for his anti-Hillary comments.

The transcript from both the Matthews and Begala/Maddow interviews are below.

MATT LAUER: Also in Washington this morning, Chris Matthews is keeping a keen eye on all the developments as host of "Hardball," on MSNBC as well as "The Chris Matthews Show." Hi Chris, good morning to you.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: Let's start with the Republicans and let's talk about these endorsements that John McCain has picked up in the last 24 hours. First Rudy Giuliani and now Arnold Schwarzenegger. What's the impact?

MATTHEWS: Well I think it's the crowning of John McCain by the Republican establishment, including the moderates like Schwarzenegger and Giuliani. I think the official-dom of the Republican Party, the congress-people, the big contributors are now aboard. And this sort of signifies that.

LAUER: But it's not gonna do anything with the, for the conservatives who still doubt this guy because of his stance on taxes and immigration.

MATTHEWS: He's still got three problems. The regulars who work in the fields for the Republican Party, the radio people and the right, the Rush Limbaugh crowd. They don't like this guy. And that movement conservative crowd are not gonna like him. The question is will they get in line? The old line is "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line." Republicans are now in the process of falling in line. They're not gonna like it but it looks like they're gonna accept McCain as their guy.

LAUER: Let's talk about debates. There's a kind of a theory. If you're the guy or the woman who comes into a debate with momentum-

MATTHEWS: Right.

LAUER: -what you have to do is avoid falling flat on your face.

MATTHEWS: Right.

LAUER: SO if you put that into effect last night, how did McCain do, how'd Romney do?

MATTHEWS: Well you know that's normal, that's logical thinking, Matt. What you just said makes sense. McCain's got the momentum but he came in last night like a pit-bull! He just grabbed this guy, Romney, and kept saying to him, "Timetable! Timetable! Timetable! You were for timetables, I was for the surge!" I mean it was like Chinese handcuffs he put him in. Romney doesn't know how to shake out of it. Everybody said last night, afterwards, Romney should be talking about the economy, the problems in the world right now, the sub prime, all the questions about finance - his strength. Instead he kept talking about the timetable.

LAUER: Right.

MATTHEWS: I think McCain beat him last night.

LAUER: I'm gonna make you, right now, the, the guy running the campaign of John McCain and Mitt Romney. You've got four days between now and Super Tuesday. You got two key resources. You have your candidate and you have money. So starting with McCain where do you put your candidate, where do you put your money?

MATTHEWS: Well I think he's just got to take his advantages and exploit them, that's the big states. Clearly he's got the, the Rudy Giuliani, what's left of it. He's got the Schwarzenegger thing, a bi-coastal campaign, roll up the delegates. Go for the big win states. The Republicans have winner-take-all in so many of those states. Take it all. Take all the big states.

LAUER: And with Mitt, with Mitt Romney you put him on a plane to where?

MATTHEWS: Oh God! I don't, I think he's gotta, I think he's gotta re-engage this campaign on the economic issue. I don't know a strategy for, except obviously exploiting the middle of the country, trying to get down into the, into the Bible belt, trying to exploit the fact that Huckabee is weak. But Huckabee is still there. It's a big challenge for Romney, I don't know the answer.

LAUER: John Edwards, do you expect him to endorse either Obama or Clinton before Super Tuesday? If he does, hypothetical obviously, what would the impact of that be?

MATTHEWS: Well if he does it by today, today is the ideal day to do it, if you look at the news cycle. It gives him all the weekend press, the commentary, the editorials, it gives him all the Sunday, it gives him all the play in the world. If he moves tomorrow morning he can still get all of that. I think he has to move tomorrow morning or today if he does it I think it's gonna be Obama. If he doesn't the impact will be pro-Hillary because his voters will go to Hillary, a lot of them, unless he says otherwise, I think.

LAUER: Alright Chris Matthews in Washington.

MATTHEWS: It's a great time, Matt!

LAUER: And I know you're eating it up Chris. Thanks very much.

And the Begala/Maddow interview.

MATT LAUER: Did anyone come out of this debate as a winner? Did they do what they need to make a splash on Super Tuesday? Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist and former adviser to President Clinton and Rachel Maddow is host on the liberal radio network Air America. Hey folks, nice to see you both. If you're an undecided Democratic voter sitting in one of the 22 states in play on Tuesday, did you lean in one direction or another last night? Paul, start.

PAUL BEGALA: You know, they both did what they had to do. You know, Barack has what his campaign calls a stature gap. They feel like they closed that gap. He sat there and went toe to toe with Hillary. A lot of Democrats are going to think he won the exchange on Iraq because he's been more liberal on that from the beginning. Hillary has I think what her campaign would call a warmth gap. Sometimes on the stump she seems stiff. She was funny and warm. So I think they both did what they needed to do.

LAUER: They made nice Rachel and that was more important for Hillary than for Obama last night, wasn't it, because if this got aggressive and nasty she's going to look like like the bad one.

RACHEL MADDOW: They both looked friendly. He looked funny. So that was the first time that he's really shown a lot of humor I thought and that helped him. But the big picture here is that Democrats liked them, like them both. The biggest applause of the night was "you guys look like a dream ticket." In terms of finding grounds on which to decide between the two of them, I mean maybe it's going to be Iraq. It's not going to be the minutia of the differences in their health policies. Democrats like them both

LAUER: How about this deal of Monday night at the State of the Union, there was the perceived Obama snub of Hillary Clinton. Last night he couldn't find enough chairs to hold for her. Did he go overboard?

BEGALA: No, they need that. Because there's no great issue distinctions, it's become kind of personal and nasty. And last night they put a lot of that to bed. And what a contrast between the Republican debate where McCain looked like he was auditioning for the sequel of "Grumpy Old Men." You know, I mean and he's winning and he's grouchy. So I-

[laughter]

LAUER: What's it going to be like when it's actually funny this morning? What's happening here? Let's talk a little about the distinctions they tried to draw because there was content to the debate, and Iraq as you brought up a second ago was one of the subjects. Hillary Clinton continues to say, "when I voted for the resolution to authorize us going to war in 2002, it was a vote for diplomacy." And Barack Obama says, "no, this was a vote to go to war." You wrote a book, right? Co-authored a book. In that book, you said, anybody who says this was anything but a vote to go to war is full of bunk.

 

BEGALA: Right, and that's because the editor changed the word.

[laughter]

LAUER: So I mean when Mrs. Clinton keeps saying it was all about diplomacy, is it bunk?

 

BEGALA: I think most Democrats think so. What she needs to do is push it into the future. She always loses when it's a backward looking debate about Iraq, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago. But she can do fine pushing forward. Who's the best one to get us out of this? And as long as she's looking backward she's wrapped around the axle but when she projects forward Democrats see her as a more plausible commander in chief.

MADDOW: But, last night she didn't effectively do that. Last night it really was about that '02 vote. I thought, I actually thought it was insulting. I remember listening to that Senate floor speech on that night in October 2002. I remember driving around because I was listening to it on the radio. I remember personally crying when I heard her give that speech because I could not believe that Hillary Clinton was voting for the war. Everybody knew it was a vote for the war. For her to revise that history now I think insults Democrats who remember that time.

LAUER: Real, real quickly, 30 seconds left. Four days left until Super Tuesday. What does Hillary Clinton have to do between now and then to get the most delegates on Super Tuesday?

MADDOW: I think Hillary Clinton is doing very well. She's not spiking. She's not plummeting. What's going to happen on Super Tuesday totally depends on Barack Obama.

LAUER: What is Barack Obama -- kind of weird me asking you this -- but what does Barack Obama have to do?

BEGALA: Well, I think Hillary as to elevate, inspire a little more. Frankly, Barack need to bring it down a little more. You know, a woman at the airport said to me, "I can't eat a speech." You know, he needs to be a little more specific about the economy. She needs to be a little more inspirational.

MADDOW: How can she be inspirational standing next to him though?

BEGALA: She would be the first woman ever. She pointed that out. It's like my kids have the place mat, white guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, oh look there's Lincoln. You know, he does a good job of showing how he'd be different. And she needs to elevate to show how she's the first person, first woman ever to win a presidential primary.