Networks Accuse GOP of 'Partisan Standoff' After 'Rare Move' to Block Hagel Nomination

Following the failure of former Senator Chuck Hagel to receive enough votes in the Senate on Thursday to be confirmed as defense secretary, NBC, ABC, and CBS all immediately turned their ire on Republicans for daring to object to President Obama's appointment.

On Friday's NBC Today, news reader Natalie Morales fretted over the "partisan standoff." In the report that followed, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd mentioned Republican reasons for blocking the nomination, but brushed them aside as he concluded: "Ultimately, Hagel's issues with his former GOP colleagues are personal."

News reader Josh Elliot portrayed the temporary delay to Hagel's confirmation as an extraordinary measure on Friday's Good Morning America: "A rare move in Washington....the first time such a vote has been blocked for a cabinet nominee." (Actually not the first time, see Pelley in next paragraph)  

On Friday's CBS This Morning, correspondent Nancy Cordes similarly painted the Republican action as "a rare move." On Thursday's CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley worried to Cordes: "Cabinet nominations have only been stopped with filibusters three times in our history. Why did the Republicans take this step?"

After noting "questions about Hagel's record" and an effort to get more information on the Benghazi terrorist attack as reasons, Cordes settled on DNC talking points: "Democrats call it a fishing expedition, Scott, designed to embarrass both the White House and Hagel himself."

Amid all the media hand wringing over Hagel, they failed to mention that Democrats in the recent past did more than temporarily block a Republican president's nominee for defense secretary, they voted him down. In March of 1989, the Democrat-controlled Senate vetoed President H.W. Bush's pick for the Defense Department, John Tower.    

As much as the networks hyperventilated over GOP opposition to Hagel, they also made sure ward off any perception that Obama suffered a loss. On Thursday's World News, ABC chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl declared: "Now, this is a delay for the President. It is a set back for the President, but it is not a defeat."

On Thursday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams reassured viewers about Hagel's appointment: "This doesn't stop him, the nomination isn't dead." On Evening News, Cordes identically noted: "Hagel's nomination is not dead."

On CBS This Morning, Cordes voiced Democratic frustration over the delay: "Republicans say they probably will allow Hagel to get confirmed when they come back from recess. Democrats say if that's the case, why not just confirm him now?"

On World News, anchor Diane Sawyer lamented: "And still the nation waiting for a big appointment."


Here is a transcript of the February 15 report on Today:

7:16AM ET

NATALIE MORALES: A partisan standoff in Washington as Senate Republicans block a vote to confirm defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd has the very latest. Good morning, Chuck.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Playing Defense; Senate GOP Blocks Vote on Nominee Chuck Hagel]

CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Natalie. Well, President Obama is standing by his embattled defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, as Chuck Hagel's former Senate Republican nominees [colleagues] put up that roadblock that was an attempt to not just kill the nomination, but also delay it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The yays are 58. The nays are 40. One announced present.

TODD: With that Senate vote, Chuck Hagel came up short of a 60-vote filibuster roadblock that Senate Republicans demanded, delaying what could still be Hagel's eventual confirmation vote by at least two weeks. President Obama was emphatic in his defense of his embattled nominee.

BARACK OBAMA: Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our defense secretary. It's just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan.

TODD: Some Republicans want more time because they say Hagel hasn't provided enough information on speeches he gave in the last five years. Others say they want more information from President Obama about Benghazi, something the White House provided in this letter Thursday. But ultimately, Hagel's issues with his former GOP colleagues are personal.

JOHN MCCAIN: There's a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel. Because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and was very anti-his-own-party-and-people. People don't forget that.

TODD: One things folks should know is that Leon Panetta, the outgoing secretary of defense, is still secretary of defense and he said he will stay on until Chuck Hagel or anybody else is confirmed to replace him, Natalie.

MORALES: Alright, good to know. Chuck Todd in Washington. Thanks so much, Chuck.

Here is a transcript of the February 14 World News report:

6:41PM ET

DIANE SAWYER: And now, we head to Washington, because just this afternoon, the President was thrown a curve ball. He thought his Secretary of Defense nominee, former Senator Chuck Hagel, would be confirmed. But ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl tells us it didn't happen. What did, Jon?

JON KARL: Well, that's right, Diane. Today was the day the President hoped he would have a new Secretary of Defense, but Republicans blocked a straight up or down vote on his nomination. They don't like him for a lot of reasons, but their complaint today was they said he hadn't turned over enough information on his financial disclosure forms. Now, the White House is calling this delay unconscionable and the President in an online chat just a short while ago said, quote, "It's unfortunate that his kind of politics intrudes at a time when I am presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a Secretary of Defense." Now, this is a delay for the President. It is a set back for the President, but it is not a defeat. Even Hagel's strongest critic in the Senate, John McCain, says that he believes Hagel will be confirmed, just not quite as soon as the President hopes.

SAWYER: And still the nation waiting for a big appointment. Thank you so much. Jonathan Karl on the latest.

Here is a transcript of the February 14 Evening News report:

6:36PM ET

SCOTT PELLEY: President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense has been blocked in the Senate tonight. In a rare move, Republicans are filibustering to prevent a vote on Hagel. Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is following all the of this. Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Scott, Hagel's nomination is not dead, but this does mean that Democrats cannot move forward with a vote to confirm him right now. They can try again after that week-long recess that [correspondent] Wyatt [Andrews] just mentioned, and Republicans have signaled that they might step out of the way then, but there's no guarantee.

PELLEY: Cabinet nominations have only been stopped with filibusters three times in our history. Why did the Republicans take this step?

CORDES: Well, some of them feel that this vote is being rushed, that they still have questions about Hagel's record and his suitability to be secretary of defense, while others just think that blocking this vote is their best leverage to try to get more information out of the White House about the Benghazi attacks last September. Democrats call it a fishing expedition, Scott, designed to embarrass both the White House and Hagel himself.

PELLEY: Nancy, thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC