Newsweek Editor: Great Night for Dems, But Huckabee's a Yokel

On the PBS talk show "Charlie Rose" Thursday night, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham declared that Hillary Clinton was right that it was a "great night for Democrats" and a bad night for Republicans. He scoured Mike Huckabee as an embarrassment: "Do you really want to see if a Southern Baptist minister who took two days to find out about the National Intelligence Estimate about Iran is going to be your standard bearer in a world at war?" He also declared it was "a rather odd thing for the Republicans of Iowa" to "say to the world that the strongest possible president is a Governor of Arkansas who does not have a great deal or any real foreign policy experience." Meacham seemed to have no sense of irony that the same words were easily spoken of Bill Clinton in 1992, and Rose didn’t call him on it, even though they joked "how many presidents does Hope, Arkansas get in one lifetime?"

Meacham also never thought it was odd that the Democrats of Iowa said to the world that the strongest possible president is a man with three years experience in the U.S. Senate who said (a) that he would meet with America-hating dictators and strongmen like Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez without preconditions and (b) then wildly swung back to suggesting he would bomb inside Pakistan to strike al-Qaeda. Meacham, who honored McCain’s courage for supporting the surge in Iraq, never mentioned Obama thought it was a mistake. When it came to the Democrats, Meacham sounded like he was offering a toast:

It is a historic night. We have the first plausible candidate of color who I think now is now in a position tactically to win in New Hampshire in five days and possibly then continue on. I was struck tonight watching the Clintons, looking less than pleased with the results. And my sense is, this is a lot like -- everybody has their analogous year – is a lot like 1960 in a way, where Nixon kind of represented the republican establishment, a third term of Eisenhower, and Kennedy felt quite new, quite different. And that's obviously something that people want very much after Bush-Clinton-Bush.

He then immediately turned to the GOP bad news spin:

And if I were a Republican tonight, I'm not sure I would be on top of the world. As we were joking before, how many presidents does Hope, Arkansas get in one lifetime? [Rose laughed.] And I just -- again, if I were a Republican establishment figure right now, I would be quite flummoxed. Because your favorite candidate, Romney, looks to be possibly dead in the water. Your other most plausible nominee, Senator McCain is someone that the establishment has always been rather uncomfortable with because of his views on campaign finance and corporations and that sort of thing. But now you have to figure out how do you stop Huckabee. Do you really want to see if a Southern Baptist minister who took two days to find out about the National Intelligence Estimate about Iran is going to be your standard bearer in a world at war? And I think there's some serious questions tonight, I would imagine, in Republican circles about what the next step is, in terms of can Romney be resuscitated somehow.

Notice how the liberal Meacham didn’t start his remarks with "If I were a Democrat tonight, I’d be on top of the world." He only made that distancing remark about the Republicans, a party he clearly has not joined. (He does a better job of that in the next quote.) Remember that Meacham worked at the neoliberal opinion journal The Washington Monthly before joining Newsweek. Later, he returned to Democrats win, Republicans lose spin:

It felt as though, to some extent, the Democrats were looking ahead tonight in terms of the future of the country and the way the world is shaping out and shaping up in the 21st century and to some extent the republicans were looking back. Governor Huckabee, despite his governorship, is a figure of the evangelical base, part of the Reagan coalition, and to say to the world that the strongest possible president is a Governor of Arkansas who does not have a great deal or any real foreign policy experience, that this should be the president in an era in which so much is threatening and frightening and in which questions of identity are changing and so much of that is fluid, it seems to me a rather odd thing for the Republicans of Iowa to have, who showed up tonight to have said. If, again, just thinking if one is an establishment Democrat sitting somewhere or an establishment Republican, very good night for the Democratic Party. I completely agree with one thing Senator Clinton said, which is "this is a great night nor Democrats."

PS: Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, another Rose regular, complained again about pro-Obama media bias, that a silver lining of the Obama win is he’ll get tougher scrutiny: "Obama has gotten softer coverage than Clinton. Anyone who disputes that isn’t paying attention. The question is will he get, as the front runner now and likely the next president, the scrutiny in the short-term that might cause some voters to give it a second thought and have buyers remorse on behalf of the people of Iowa?"

Rose turned to Meacham: "Has Obama in your judgment got softer coverage than Senator Clinton?" Meacham said yes. Rose asked why:

Fresh face. Newer. His story is hope, vote for me is a renewal of hope, is intrinsically an act of change. Senator Clinton has been a familiar figure to us for 20 years nearly now, and whether we want to admit it or not, I think that we look at the Clintons with a kind of jaundiced eye sometimes, in the full context of everything we have all been through with them. And so I do think Mark is exactly right, that there will be a tougher look at him. But there's only so much you can do the next five or six days. That's the nature of these things. And the reason the compressed schedule really does matter. I agree that I think Senator McCain is ultimately the winner tonight going forward. But I think that the Clintons, as I think President Cinton said to you, I do think there has been a kind of swoon for Obama in the press corps and I think it's understandable. It happens from time to time. But what goes up always comes down. So he will have a -- it will be unpleasant for him when the worm turns, so to speak.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis