'Today' Show Wonders Why McCain Speech Didn't Trash GOP

David Gregory NBC On Friday's "Today" show, reporter David Gregory and other NBC personalities offered a sour and largely negative reaction to John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Deriding the Bush years, Gregory asserted that after McCain's nomination, the party faced a "daunting challenge," How will the candidate "overcome the record of Republican rule over much of the past eight years?"

The network journalist also featured footage of former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson knocking the speech as "typical for a Republican" and "pretty disappointing." He criticized the candidate for not doing enough outreach to moderates. A theme repeated throughout the show was attacking McCain for not going out of his way to play up differences with the Republican delegates in the Minneapolis convention center. Gregory chided, "Yet in front the party faithful, the Arizona senator declined to mention his signature stands that most angered his party: campaign finance and immigration reform, as well as climate change."

In a second segment, "Today" co-host Meredith Vieira interviewed McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt and offered a similar critique: "You heard the criticism in that speech that John McCain missed an opportunity to reach out to independents and moderates, that it was sort of a boilerplate speech. How do you respond to that?" After Schmidt listed the issues, such as early support for a troop surge, where the GOP nominee has disagreed with President Bush, Vieira whined, "Why didn't he bring that up then, Steve? Why didn't he bring that up last night? Some of those key issues where he disagreed?"

For more on Meredith Vieira's interview with Schmidt, see a post by my NewsBuster colleague Mark Finkelstein.

Gregory also criticized the various backdrops for the speech, saying, "McCain's speech may have lacked oratorical flare and stage craft," before going on to praise the Republican's recounting of being tortured in Vietnam. The "Today" show then showed a picture of, what they considered to be, the substandard background.  

In fairness, "Today" did continue its newly positive coverage of Sarah Palin. Just two days ago, the program was questioning whether the Republican vice presidential nominee could balance being a mom with the strains of the job. However, since Palin's well received speech Wednesday night, the tone has markedly improved. A Bob Faw segment on Friday's referred to her as a "breath of fresh air" and "the wonder from Wasilla."

A transcript of the David Gregory segment, which aired at 7:03am on September 5, follows:

MATT LAUER: But, first, John McCain, center stage. NBC's David Gregory has the highlights from the Republican nominee's crucial speech last night. David, good morning to you.

NBC GRAPHIC: Message from Minnesota: McCain-Palin as Mavericks for Change

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Matt. Well, Senator McCain emerges from this convention the head of a more united and enthusiastic Republican Party, but his real goal here was to be seen as a candidate of change. It was his moment in the spotlight, but Senator McCain shared it with a running mate who has captivated the party.

MCCAIN: I found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington, D.C. But I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington.

GREGORY: Together, he warned, McCain and Palin will serve notice.

MCCAIN: Let me just offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second crowd, change is coming.

GREGORY: And the Arizona senator insisted his independent streak is live and well.

MCCAIN: I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you.

GREGORY: Arguing for change, despite support for President Bush, McCain only mentioned the president once and not by name.

MCCAIN: I'm grateful to the president of United States for leading us in these dark days, following the worst attacks on American history.

GREGORY: McCain tried to reach independent voters. Yet in front the party faithful, the Arizona senator declined to mention his signature stands that most angered his party: campaign finance and immigration reform, as well as climate change. His strongest statement on the economy-

MCCAIN: - He will increase it. My tax cuts will create jobs. His tax increases will eliminate them.

MICHAEL GERSON (Former Bush speechwriter): The policy in the speech was rather typical for a Republican, pretty disappointing. It didn't do a lot of outreach to moderates-

GREGORY: McCain did, however, promise a bipartisan cabinet if elected and taking a shot at his rival, highlighted a record of working across the aisle.

MCCAIN: I will reach out my hand to anyone to help make this country get moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.

GREGORY: McCain's speech may have lacked oratorical flare and stage craft, but its power was the senator's powerful story as a former prisoner of war. That story was the basis of his most searing attack on Senator Obama.

MCCAIN: I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me and I cannot forget it and I will fight for her as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

GREGORY: Ann Curry spoke to Governor Palin.

CURRY: You're confident that you're going to win in November?

PALIN: Absolutely. Confident. We've got the right guy in John McCain, yes.

GREGORY: By night's end, the party celebrated its new look in St. Paul and faced a daunting challenge. How will this Republican ticket for change overcome the record of Republican rule over much of the past eight years? McCain/Palin is going to take this reform message into the Democrats' den today, hitting the campaign trail going to Michigan and Wisconsin, Meredith. Two states that were in the blue column, the Democrats' column back in 2004.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org