'Today' Pits Partisan Dems vs. Reticent Republicans

How overmatched were the two lukewarm-at-best Republicans that "Today" tossed in against two partisan Dems this morning? If NBC scheduled this unfair a fight for Sunday Night Football, Al Michaels would be calling the play-by-play between the New England Patriots and the proverbial Little Sisters of Mercy.

The Today show's farce of a "voter panel" was invited to discuss politics and the state of the country this morning. With tens of millions of voters to choose from, NBC can of course contrive any cross-section it wants. So the views expressed by the participants say relatively little about the mood of the country -- but a lot about the network's own political bias.

View video here.

Host Lester Holt, accompanied by NBC News political director Chuck Todd, chose as his jumping-off point a poll-finding to the effect that 57% of Americans think the country is in decline. All the panelists -- including the two "Republicans" -- raised their hands in agreement with the notion [though not obvious in the screencap, the panelist in the lower left, a Dem, did have his hand up.] Holt began by asking Dem panelist Brian Gibbs [upper right] what put the country in decline and whether he saw a turn-around. Gibbs predictably blamed everything on the war, and said he didn't see a turnaround "right away" -- presumably meaning not until a Dem gets into the White House.

But when Holt turned to Susanne "Susie" O'Neill, the "Republican" in the lower-right, she essentially echoed the Dem: "I think it's in decline because of the war and our really having almost no understanding of the tribal-ness of Iraq."

Really? Then how did we develop such good rapport with the tribal sheikhs in Anbar that they turned on their fellow Sunnis in al Qaeda and made common cause with us?

Susie the "Republican" then got off a line that would have made Michael Moore proud: "I also think we're in a decline because corporations are totally influencing our members of congress and the senate."

Thanks, Susie. We have a couple complimentary tickets to "Sicko" waiting for you in the green room.

Turning to Dem Umair Khan, Holt set up his question on the economy with the most gloomy statistics he could find.

HOLT: Reading the headlines right now, we know where oil prices are going right now, we know where the value of the dollar is, we know where the stock market is going. Umair, you're in law school, you're going to be graduating soon. Is the economy a big, big issue for you?

Stop right there! We know where oil prices and the stock market are. But Lester apparently also knows where they're "going." If only he would drop me an email with the inside info, I could make a bundle ;-)

Umair was only too happy to take his cue from Holt.

UMAIR KHAN: Absolutely, it's a concern. After putting in so much time, hard work and investment, will there be a job out there? Where will we be a year-and-a-half from now, which is when I'm graduating. And the way things are going, the current seems to be going towards a downward trend.

Really? Based on what? Certainly not on the latest job-creation report, which was much stronger than predicted, or the latest GDP number, which shows the economy growing at a healthy pace.

Finally, it was the last panelist's turn. Sarah Hungerford also turned out to be NBC's kind of Republican. You know, the kind who might vote for a Democrat.

SARAH HUNGERFORD: Honestly, I don't think there's, for me personally any one candidate who has stood out to be like, I have the answer to what the country needs. And, you know, I am a Republican, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm solely looking at Republican candidates. We've heard a lot about Democrat candidates lately, and they've been in the news.

Right. As NB's parent, Media Research Center, has documented, the MSM is offering much more coverage of Dem candidates than their Republican counterparts.

But there was no such spirit of bi-partisanship when it came to the Dems.

Panelist Brian Gibbs jumped back in to say there is a candidate who has the answers. Gibbs proceeded to wax enthusiastic about the wonderful qualities of . . . Joe Biden, while decrying that for whatever reason the Delaware Dem hasn't gotten "traction."

Khan wasn't singing kumbaya either. Holt asked whether he'd consider voting for an independent or Republican.

UMAIR: Not from the current field. You look at the issues that we have today. I'm concerned that you still see within the Republican party a lot of fear-mongering. A continuation of what the policies are in the current administration. Whereas with Democrats there is this renewed sense of hope and this desire to take leadership.

The final comment, by Susie the "Republican," could have comfortably come from the mouth of Nancy Pelosi.

O'NEILL: Terrorism is of course a concern, but it's not at the top of my list, because I think we have an awful lot of safeguards in place, and I think this country has many more things to worry about, like our world reputation. People around the world hate Americans, and it's so unnecessary.

Not to worry. Hillary will be sending Bill out into the world as our "roving" goodwill ambassador.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.