Like an offensive-line blocking for their quarterback Chris Matthews and the rest of Wednesday night's "Hardball" panel game-planned to protect Barack Obama from what they saw as the coming "vicious" and "nasty" attacks from Republican sack artists in the fall.
On Wednesday night's "Hardball" Matthews, along with NBC's Norah O'Donnell and Newsweek's Howard Fineman continued to gripe about conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham's emphasis of Barack Obama's middle name of Hussein as Matthews worried: "Is this gonna be a vicious, almost ethnic fight, going after the guy because of his heritage, his name and saying, He's gonna sell us out.’ Is that what's coming?"
In the course of offering a tribute to William F. Buckley, Jr. on this afternoon's Hardball, Chris Matthews made a surprising revelation: that he came to political consciousness as a WFB conservative.
You'll find the transcript of the Hardball host's remarks below, but I'd encourage you to view the video, here. See if, like me, you're struck by the heartfelt nature of his comments.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: If you want to influence someone, get to him or her in high school. It's my experience that people at that age are the most impressionable, the most searching for guidance, for example, for purposes. It was in high school that I came under the charm and the influence of William F. Buckley, Jr., the dashing, charismatic young conservative who wrote God and Man at Yale, McCarthy and His Enemies, and founded the wistful, precocious, companionable monthly, National Review. As a high schooler, I could tell you which drugstore got National Review first. I went to hear Bill Buckley at a meeting of the Montgomery County Young Republicans. It was from National Review that I gained my early affection and appetite for political philosophy and argument.
Standard-free journalism on parade all day on NBC's Sunday
Forgotten But Not GoneIt was another do-as-we-say, not-as-we-do day for the National Broadcast Company this past Sabbath.
Over the weekend NBC offered up their latest versions of Tim Russert's Meet the Press and the Chris Matthews Show -- the latter being political television's answer to Jerry Springer. In them we were treated to two more glittering examples of all that is wrong with the Jurassic Press.
That being the woeful lack of journalistic ethics demonstrated by those at the heights of the media mountain, and the utter shamelessness they and their colleagues exhibit upon their being outed as amoral hacks.
Not only does it represent the epitome of good-natured cool, it comes in stark contrast to the patented glare that Hillary aims at those who draw her ire. We've often illustrated the death-ray genre here at NB; you'll find a representative image after the jump from last night's debate.
Obama's gesture speaks largely for itself, but let's don our amateur body-language expert hat:
Tuesday night's Democratic debate brought an unexpected political analogy to mind: Hillary Clinton has become Bob Dole.
That point became eminently clear in the debate multiple times but especially during her attempt to rebuke NBC debate moderators Tim Russert and Brian Williams by evoking a recent "Saturday Night Live" episode which accused the press of being "in the tank" for Barack Obama.
"In the last several debates I seem to get the first question all the time," Clinton said. "I don't mind. I'll be happy to field it. I just find it curious if anybody saw 'Saturday Night Live,' maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow."
Those remarks, while slightly better phrased, are strikingly similar to Bob Dole's "where is the outrage" lament while running against Bill Clinton in 1996. Both candidates:
On Tuesday night's "Hardball", Chris Matthews took offense to radio talk show host Bill Cunningham's criticism of Barack Obama, during a John McCain rally, as he called the comments "rotten business" and wondered "Is this now gonna creep into the debate, the discussion? This ethnic stuff and whatever?"
The following exchange occurred on the February 26 edition of "Hardball:"
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well let's take a look at, we had some really rotten business today. Here's radio talk show host Bill Cunningham at a John McCain rally today.
Given his penchant for comparing Republicans to Hitler, using such phrases as "slinging crap," and stating that the Bush presidency "has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush," you would think that Keith Olbermann, the buffoonish left-wing sportscaster-cum-newsreader would refrain from giving lectures on political civility or the limits of comedy. Not so, however.
On last night's edition of his program, the Obama-supporting anchor was horrified that Jon Stewart, the man he apes, dared to make a joke about the Illinois Democrat's unusual middle and last names. The hypocrisy is thick enough to cut with a knife and serve—assuming you could stand the stench.
Olbermann began the segment comparing Stewart to Ann Coulter (horrors!):
In Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, on the verge of MSNBC's latest presidential debate, media reporter Matea Gold explored MSNBC's funky brew of news and (mostly) left-wing hectoring. Gold found some liberal media experts said that blend "gives partisans fodder to argue bias." Can anyone locate the line dividing news from editorializing?
"In an environment where opinions are flying, words escape easily," said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan research group. "It gets harder and harder to define the line of what's acceptable."
Tom Fiedler, the visiting Murrow lecturer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, rejected the idea "that you can move from one side to the other and not confuse most viewers. I don't think even Fox would attempt to take Bill O'Reilly and put him in a position of being seen as a news anchor."
Tucker Carlson, on his MSNBC show this evening, describing the Clinton campaign's press relations . . .
TUCKER CARLSON: They're awful to the media: let's be totally blunt. They're awful to the press. They treat the press like enemies. [Clinton Communication Director] Howard Wolfson's always calling around threatening people. Threatening people! News organizations! They do that! People hate you if you do that. I mean, they've earned the enmity of the press, in my view. They have. I mean, it's been hard but they've done it.
The airwaves have been filled today with the clip of an angry Hillary saying "shame on you, Barack Obama," and another of Clinton mocking the notion that, to believe Barack, "celestial choirs will be singing."
But on this evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews unearthed yet another clip of Hillary at her harshest. And after playing it, a butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth Matthews ripped the Clinton campaign strategy. Words won't do justice to Clinton's fingernails-on-blackboard tone, but here's what a raspy-voiced Hillary said in the video Matthews played.
HILLARY CLINTON: Quit misleading people about what I do. [Ed.: shades of Bob Dole's unsuccessful line to George H.W in 1988: "stop lying about my record.'] Quit telling people what is not true about my plan. You know, come on: enough is enough! Let's get real here, and compare exactly what both of us stand for!
Do MSNBC higher-ups ever watch the garbage being spewed on a nightly basis during their primetime schedule, or does Keith Olbermann have the freedom at this point to present anything he wants on the air regardless of how vile and devoid of facts?
Take for example the fourth story on Thursday's "Countdown" when the host and his guest, Air America's Rachel Maddow, used the New York Times hit piece on John McCain to bash conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh including labeling him a homophobe.
For those that can stand it, just listen to Maddow's answer to Olbermann's question concerning what Limbaugh wants McCain to do now that the Times has attacked him this way (video available here):
Appearing on Thursday's 1pm hour of MSNBC News Live, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews couldn't resist taking a few swipes at Rush Limbaugh. After anchor Peter Alexander played a clip of the conservative talk show host discussing the New York Times story on Senator John McCain, Matthews irritably claimed, "Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant here. Irrelevant. He doesn't know anything more than what he read in the New York Times."
The radio clip, which was from Thursday's edition of Limbaugh's program, featured the host urging the GOP presidential candidate to learn a lesson from the front-page New York Times story speculating about a improper relationship with a D.C. lobbyist. Matthews's apparent annoyance at Limbaugh might have something to do with being mentioned in the clip. At one point during the monologue, Limbaugh asserted, "[McCain] has thought Chris Matthews and these other people in the drive-by media are his friends. They aren't."
MSNBC has cited and discussed the press release issued today by Brent Bozell, President of NB's parent Media Research Center, excoriating the New York Times for its article on John McCain. The discussion came during the network's post-press conference analysis of McCain's appearance this morning.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let me interrupt. This is interesting. Mika just handed me a Blackberry quote here. Chris Matthews, earlier this morning Tim Russert asked the question how would conservatives respond to this? Would they rally behind John McCain, against the New York Times, or would they go ahead and finish off John McCain? I've got this press release. Brent Bozell on the New York Times, quote, politically motivated hit job:
It is beyond appalling that the New York Times continues its steady slide into the journalistic toilet with such a spurious, and so patently motivated, hit job.
MSNBC was so excited about a Thursday New York Times story with a derogatory look at Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s supposed relationship with a female lobbyist eight years ago, that the network broke into the 7 PM EST re-run of Hardball to read from the Web-posting of the article which Keith Olbermann described as “extraordinary.”
Olbermann insisted the alleged efforts of staffers to “protect” McCain sound “eerily similar” to Clinton-Lewinsky. Later in his 45 minutes of “Breaking News” coverage, Olbermann proposed: “If this doesn’t sound like deja vu all over again, I don’t know what does.”
An interesting thing happened during MSNBC's coverage of Tuesday's primaries: Keith Olbermann humiliated Chris Matthews as studio employees laughed in the background (video after the jump).
As the campaign coverage waned late into the evening, Matthews was interviewing Barack Obama supporter Kirk Watson (D), and was trying to get the Texas state senator to list some of the Illinois senator's legislative accomplishments.
Unfortunately, no matter how many times Matthews asked Watson to name something of importance Obama has done since getting elected to the Senate in November 2004, Watson refused, leading to a very indignant "Hardball" host :
Chris Matthews on this afternoon's Hardball, speaking with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.).
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, why do you think Cubans on the island still support the Castro brothers? What is it that allows that lock on those people to continue?
DAN BURTON: I don't think they do support Castro, I don't think they supported Fidel or Raul. That is a Communist regime where they have block captains who watch everybody in each invidual block, and anybody that even speaks out against the government ends up in a gulag.
After looking at what MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said on Tuesday's "Morning Joe," the answer to Stephenson's question is: media that don't ignore Obama's disgraceful comments will likely defend them.
Fortunately, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin isn't part of the mainstream media establishment, and on his program Monday, said what most press representatives would if they had any spine, and didn't behave like shills for the Democrat Party (audio available here):
If you were to write an article about how the three cable news networks are covering a story, would you address the one with the highest ratings first, or the also-ran?
At the Washington Post, the answer is "the also-ran."
On Tuesday, in a piece about how political pundits are "overpopulating the news networks," staff writer Paul Farhi first highlighted what was going on at third-place MSNBC, and even gave Keith Olbermann the first crack at commenting on the matter (emphasis added throughout):
Update | 3:50 PM: Obama Campaign Clarification: As predicted, the Obama campaign has clarified Michelle's remark. See text at foot.
I sense there's often more than a bit of theater in the arguments between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Not to say Morning Joe's the WWF of political talk, but a little conflict never hurt the ratings.
But there was evidence that this morning's dust-up between the duo was for real. At one point, Scarborough disclosed that a producer had told him through his earpiece to put on a smile, but Joe wasn't buying.
The subject was Michelle Obama's statement that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
Scarborough opined that whereas the flap over Barack borrowing a line from friend Deval Patrick wouldn't hurt him, the attitude Michelle expressed could. Mika rose to Michelle's defense, and the fight was on.
Slip of the tongue, or was the man who gets a thrill up his leg from Barack Obama's rhetoric voicing his innermost apprehension at the prospect of Hillary Clinton regaining the upper hand?
On this afternoon's Hardball, host Chris Matthews was discussing the March 4th Texas primary with Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News, John Heilemann of New York magazine, and Norah O'Donnell. The MSNBCer made the point that under the arcane Texas rules in which the race is a hybrid of caucus and primary, it's possible for one candidate to win the popular vote and the other to walk off with more delegates.
That seemed to trigger Chris's anxiety reflex at the prospect of Hillary getting good publicity . . .
Rush Limbaugh read the first two paras of this item during his first half-hour today, citing "our buddies at NewsBusters." Thanks, Rush! Audio here.
If a supremely prominent Republican who was John McCain's chief surrogate had gotten into an angry confrontation at a campaign event, do you think the broadcast networks would have promptly let us know his interlocutor was African-American?
I do. But none of the broadcast network's morning news shows, at least during this morning's crucial first half-hour, disclosed the African-American identity of the man with whom Bill Clinton got into just such an argument yesterday in Ohio.
Not a word of any incident whatsoever at GMA or the Early Show, at least during the first half-hour. Today did mention that Clinton "showed his temper . . . after an Obama supporter tried to disrupt his speech in Canton," but nothing about the man's identity.
The domestic policy differences between Hillary and Obama are negligible. But the Clinton camp likes to claim that his national health care plan would leave 15 million people out, whereas hers covers everyone. Let's put aside for the moment the fact that former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich says the Obama plan would actually wind up covering more people. The key to Hillary's claim that she would cover everyone is that . . . she would punish people who refuse to fall in line.
Naturally, Clinton isn't eager to specify just what such punishment would be. But under intense questioning by Tucker Carlson on his MSNBC show this evening, senior Clinton advisor Kiki McLean employed an Orwellian euphemism. People who didn't comply wouldn't be punished. They'd simply incur an . . . "outcome."
All likely with the blessing of MSNBC's top brass, I suppose.
After all, they're clearly not trying to hide their political leanings anymore. So, why should they care if one of their hosts speaks and writes such detritus that it evokes the following vitriolic commentary from his readers aimed at America's president (vulgarity alert, h/t NBer Thomas Stewart):
Andrea Mitchell stopped just short of donning an impromptu Obama campaign-advisor hat. But the NBC correspondent has left little doubt she personally feels the time is ripe for Barack Obama to promote gun control as a campaign issue.
On Thursday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered his latest "Special Comment" rant against President Bush, this time attacking him for threatening to veto an extension of the Protect America Act unless it includes provisions to give immunity from lawsuits to telecom companies who have cooperated with government surveillance in the past.
Calling the President a "liar" who was "slinging crap" and using "a form of terrorism against his own people" to gain support, Olbermann accused President Bush of fascism: "If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You're a fascist! Get them to print you a T-shirt with fascist on it! What else is this but fascism?" (Transcript follows)