Q. What's weaker than playing the "taken out of context" card?
A. Digging yourself deeper with the supposedly exculpatory explanation.
Mike Barnicle managed the Daily Double today with his mishandling of the flap over the way he described Hillary back in January. Barnicle was on Morning Joe, and discussion turned to a New York Times article, Media Charged With Sexism in Clinton Coverage, that mentioned his remarks.
Washington Post: GOP tool? Might sound a tad far-fetched to you. But you're not Howard Dean.
Appearing on today's Morning Joe, DNC Chairman Dean claimed a Washington Post article about Jim Johnson, whom Barack Obama has chosen to head up the vetting of potential VP picks, was "planted" by the McCain campaign. Johnson's appointment has become an embarrassment to Obama because the former CEO of Fannie Mae has been linked to the mortgage crisis. As WaPo reported:
The questions about Johnson began after the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that he received more than $2 million in home loans that might have been below average market rates from Countrywide Financial, a partner of Fannie Mae and a leading purveyor of the kind of subprime mortgages that spawned a national housing crisis.
Update | 10 AM: McCain Campaign Comments to NB on Mitchell Remarks
McCain campaign deputy chairman Frank Donatelli has commented to NB on Mitchell's remarks. See report at foot.
IMing with a friend in England this morning, Morning Joe on in the background, I was vaguely aware that an Obama staffer was on, touting her candidate's economic plan. Signing off my chat, I focused on the tube, only to realize that the Obama staffer was in fact . . . Andrea Mitchell.
Mitchell cast the battle of the candidates' tax plans as McCain's "old-fashioned" supply-side economics versus Obama's "mainstream, centrist" plans that "do help people" while responsibly "paying for everything."
Vote Obama: it's a matter of life or death! That's essentially how Chris Matthews characterized the choice confronting voters this November. Matthews not only put voting for Obama in the category of something to be done to "save your life," he analogized voting for McCain to a decision to remain on the Titanic rather than man the lifeboats.
The Hardball host was a guest on today's Morning Joe.
Imagine a conservative commentator suggesting Hillary would rather spend time up-close-and-personal in the company of bare-chested warriors than with Bill. Cries of sexism and intrusion on privacy could be expected to echo through the media.
But don't expect the MSM to blink over Mika Brzezinski having suggested the same regarding Laura and George W.
With Joe Scarborough off today, Mika again was in the Morning Joe host chair. One of Willie Geist's light-hearted "News You Can't Use" items focused on Laura Bush's surprise trip to Afghanistan, and the display of the traditional Maori haka dance that New Zealand troops there performed for her.
Denying the obvious, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs tells reporters that tricking them into flying to Chicago on June 5th while Obama remained in DC to meet with Hillary "wasn't an attempt to deceive in any way." [Screencap from Morning Joe.]
"An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country."—attributedto Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639), British diplomat.
If Sir Henry were around today, he might offer a corollary: a communications director is a man sent to meet with the media to fib for the good of his candidate. In the current campaign, the tactic's most transparent practitioner would seem to be Robert Gibbs, communications director for Barack Obama.
As I noted here, Gibbs recently had the chutzpah [if that's the right word for the man from Auburn, Alabama] to claim that Barack Obama's resignation from his controversial church was "a deeply personal, not a political decision." Rig-h-h-h-t.
Gibbs, the bland face of brazenness, was at it again last night, this time denying the blatantly obvious: that the campaign had tricked the press into flying to Chicago while Obama remained behind in DC to meet with Hillary.
If Joba Chamberlain's debut as a Yankee starter didn't go that well last night, Joe Scarborough wasted no time this morning in demonstrating that, after a stint on the DL, he still has his stuff. Within minutes of reassuming his host's role, Scarborough unleashed a high hard one in the direction of Chris Matthews's chin.
Scarborough, back from an extended leave spent with his wife who's experiencing a difficult pregnancy, reported that the medical situation seems to have stabilized. Readers will surely join in wishing Joe and his family well.
The opening segment was, naturally, devoted to a discussion of Barack Obama's clinching of the Dem nomination, and to Hillary Clinton's less-than-gracious speech in which she declined to withdraw from the race and pointedly kept her options open. Which in turn led Scarborough to suggest that, at the beginning of Obama's campaign, there were only three true believers.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: It seems to me that the Clintons have very little respect for Barack Obama. This was his night. An historic night. A night that nobody believed—but perhaps Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Chris Matthews—this was a night that very few people believed would ever happen. It happened. And on that night, she's sticking a sharp stick in his eye, saying listen: you either make me Vice-President, or you put me on the Supreme Court if that's what I want, or you play with me, or else . . . this is going to get really ugly.
Since the first Democrat caucuses and primaries began in January, there has been a consistent media theme that it's acceptable for blacks to vote for Barack Obama because he's black, but racist for whites to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's white.
On Tuesday's "Morning Joe," MSNBC's Pat Buchanan exposed how utterly absurd and hypocritical this view is even as the Washington Post's Richard Cohen actually defended it.
What resulted was likely a far more honest discussion about race and racism in this nation than what Obama offered to the American people on March 18 when he tried to explain his connection to Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Without further ado, here were some of the highlights (video embedded right, grateful h/t Countdown to Hardball):
There's a great moment in the video clip here in which WaPo editorial writer Jonathan Capehart dithers, then palpably decides to bite the bullet and tell the truth: yeah, the media's in the tank for Obama. His admission against interest came in response to a question from Pat Buchanan on today's Morning Joe.
PAT BUCHANAN: That brings up the question of the substance of what Clinton said when he talked about the media coming down on Hillary and they're working for Obama, and all the rest of it. Obviously there's real bitterness on the part of Clinton. But is there not, as there was, and the reporters admitted it after 1960, hasn't there been sort of a melding between a lot of journalists and this enthusiastic Obama campaign?
The first African-American president, he's young and he's fresh. And all the journalists admitted later: yeah, we were for Jack Kennedy. We loved the guy. We didn't like Nixon. Isn't there some truth, in other words, behind his bitterness?
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, you know, Pat, I think, um, that, eh, yeah. I think there is some truth to his bitterness. Um, you know, it's hard to, let's remember: reporters are human. And reporters are covering both these campaigns. And it's hard not to get swept up, I would think, into the enthusiasm and the drama and the excitement behind one of those huge Obama rallies.
With its talk of "change" and images of folks from the Dem demographic, was this an MSNBC promo . . . or an Obama ad? Check out this spot, aired today just before the start of Morning Joe.
VOICEOVER [which I believe is that of Joe Scarborough]: A revolution that happens for us every four years is a quiet revolution that begins and ends at the ballot box. It's the American voter that goes in, and makes a very simple choice that can change the country and change the world.
Mika Brzezinski realizes that the latest looniness emanating from Barack Obama's church poses political problems for the presidential candidate. But as a person of pallor, the ever-so-PC Morning Joe-er doesn't want to judge a black church—even when the most recent rantings come from the mouth of . . . a white preacher.
Morning Joe opened today with a clip of Father Michael Pfleger guest-preaching this past Sunday at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ. Pfleger, a fixture on the radical Chicago scene whose endorsement of Obama [h/t Michelle Malkin] until recently appeared on the official Obama campaign website, mocked Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire tears as a sign of her frustrated sense of white entitlement. The screencap shows Pfleger making like Hillary wiping away those tears.
(Watch video above, context included, fast-forward to 3:40 for Brzezinski's humorous comment.)
But while acknowledging the headache Pfleger poses for Obama, Mika was oh-so-loath to comment on the substance or tone of the remarks themselves. Excerpts from her discussion with Tucker Carlson, Mike Barnicle and Willie Geist:
Lanny Davis let one of the world's worst-kept secrets out of the bag this morning: Mika Brzezinski's a Barack backer. But the Morning Joe host [in Joe Scarborough's absence] insisted on "taking issue" with the incontestable, and yet again cited her family's political diversity as a would-be shield against Davis's assertion.
Davis, former special counsel to Bill Clinton and die-hard defender of the Clinton clan, made his observation of the incontrovertible on Morning Joe at about 7:50 AM EDT today. It arose in the course of a discussion of Hillary's strategy for winning the nomination.
You pathetic little people of the blogosphere. You're nothing more than "nitwits at home with [your] computers" who've deluded yourselves into imagining you're "part of the news media." Just ask Mike Barnicle. The former Boston Globe columnist broke the tough truth to us on today's Morning Joe. WaPo editorial writer Jonathan Capehart was "so glad" to agree.
Capehart was in full courtier mode to Mika Brzezinski, anchoring the show during Joe Scarborough's extended absence awaiting the birth of a child home in Florida. When executive producer Chris Licht read a viewer email critical of Mika, Capehart leapt to her defense, and it was then that Barnicle and he sniffed at the pretenders of the pajamahadeen.
If NewsBusters were ever to use in its promotional material a photo this unflattering of Hillary Clinton, we'd be accused of the worst kind of sexism, of unfairly attacking a candidate based on her looks rather than her views. Check out the image of Hillary that MSNBC used in its promo of tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews that aired at 5:59 AM EDT today just before Morning Joe came on the air.
Hillary, shot from below to highlight her wattles, lit like something in a horror flick about to emerge from a closet wielding an ax. If there's a less-becoming snap of Hillary in MSM circulation, I haven't seen it.
View video of promo, and Carlson's comments, here.
Zbigniew Brzezinski says that since we talked to Likud, we should talk to Hamas. And Kevin Spacey, who has trouble keeping his disputed primary states straight, suggests that his "Recount" plays it straight, despite evidence to the contrary. All that and more on today's Morning Joe. In reverse order, let's begin with Zbig's appearance, and consider this statement.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I have joined a bi-partisan group of some prominent Americans including Paul Volcker, Brent Scowcroft, Lee Hamilton, and some others, in saying that talking to Hamas is a necessary course of action. You know, we talked to Likud when Likud was advocating the total incorporation of the West Bank into Israel. And today Likud accepts a two-state solution. Hamas will evolve, but it will not evolve if it is continuously ostracized and threatened.
As political rituals go, the phony denial of interest in the VP nomination is among the most annoying. So credit Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee for unequivocally stating their willingness to serve as McCain's running mate.
But please, politicians out there, spare us the feeble non-denial denials such as the one Jim Webb offered up on today's Morning Joe. Isn't Webb supposed to be Mr. No-Nonsense Macho Man? After all, he was on the show to tout his new book, A Time to Fight, and to talk up his rough 'n tumble Scots-Irish roots. But judging by his wimpy response to the Veep question, perhaps the book should be renamed A Time to Fumfer. His reply to Mika Brzezinski's question on his interest in the Veep nomination has to go down as one of the lamest of an already-lame genre.
Doesn't Mika Brzezinski have any Republicans in her Rolodex? With Joe Scarborough home in Florida awaiting the birth of a baby, Mika has been filling in as anchor, and I sense doing much of the show's booking [mention is often made of her work in that regard]. Today's guest lineup consisted of six Dems/liberals versus a sole Republican, brought in almost at show's end.
Here's the list, in order of appearance, of today's political guests coming from outside the NBC/MSNBC family [Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell also appeared as guests, and Harold Ford, Jr. and Pat Buchanan served as panelists]:
Jonathan Capehart--WaPo editorial writer
Ted Sorensen--former JFK speechwriter
Doris Kearns Goodwin--historian and former LBJ aide
Tom Daschle--former Dem senator [check out the spiffy red spectacles]
Terry McAuliffe--Clinton campaign chairman
Jon Meacham--Newsweek editor and contributing editor of the center-left Washington Monthly
Like choosing Rosie O'Donnell to vouch that someone isn't a 9-11 conspiracy nut?
Of all the people Mika Brzezinski might have selected as a character reference for her father when he was portrayed as a problem for Obama with Jewish voters, Pat Buchanan isn't the first one who springs to mind. Yet that's who Mika [subbing as host for Joe Scarborough, home in Florida awaiting the birth of a baby] called on to defend her dad on today's Morning Joe.
The odd endorsement came at about 6:35 AM EDT today, after Mika highlighted an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal by Global View columnist [and former Jerusalem Post editor] Bret Stephens entitled Obama and the Jews. Stephens's item contained these lines [emphasis added]:
When Mika Brzezinski gushed over Pat Buchanan's knowledge of WWII history today, was she aware that her hero has criticized Britain for coming to the defense of her father's native Poland when Nazi Germany invaded it?
Buchanan has been a member of the Morning Joe panel this week. Much of today's talk has focused, with a Bush-bashing panel of guests, on President Bush's condemnation of appeasement in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. At 8:12 AM ET, the show rolled video from last night's Hardball of Chris Matthews's hectoring of radio talk show host Kevin James over the latter's inability to state precisely what it was that Neville Chamberlain did in attempting to appease Adolf Hitler. As I noted here, Chris managed to stumble on some history of his own during that segment, but MJ didn't deign to discuss that embarrassing fact.
Willie Geist turned to Buchanan to answer the question that James couldn't.
The big story this morning is President Bush's remarks to the Israeli Knesset invoking the example of Hitler to warn against the appeasement of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the opening segment, from Mika Brzezinski [subbing as host for Joe Scarborough this week] to Willie Geist to Pat Buchanan to Mike Barnicle to David Shuster, nary a word in defense of Bush was heard, with Shuster twice referring to Bush's remarks as "grotesque." The only slight straying from Bush-bashing orthodoxy was Barnicle's observation that when he first heard of the remarks, he took them as aimed at Jimmy Carter, not Barack Obama.
A show purporting to have any semblance of balance would surely have a defender, if not of Bush, then at least of John McCain [who has reacted approvingly to Bush's comments] as a subsequent guest on today's show. Well, here's the guest lineup that Mika announced:
Bill Richardson--Obama endorser
Joe Biden--who has called Bush's remarks "bull----"
Susan Rice--Obama foreign policy advisor
Jonathan Alter--liberal pundit and occasional Olbermann sidekick
Guest hosting on Tuesday's "Morning Joe," MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews assigned dark motives to the voters of West Virginia and repeatedly reaffirmed that nobody should be surprised if Barack Obama loses the May 13 primary to Hillary Clinton. According to Matthews, "You could have predicted West Virginia 20 years ago on this one." Making his racial overtones more clear, Matthews derided, "These people made up their mind in '57." [audio available here]
This was all too much for fellow guest host Pat Buchanan. One of the few conservatives on MSNBC, he first laughed and then alluded to the fact that West Virginia has been almost exclusively controlled by Democrats: "What an indictment! What an indictment of your party, Chris!" Matthews snidely responded by claiming his remarks indicated "a suggestion of understanding the geography of America." He followed up by jokingly referring to Buchanan's previous presidential runs and not-so subtlety asking, "How did you do in West Virginia? Pretty good, huh?"
It's not unusual for journalists to attempt to distance themselves from the appearance of political ties, especially when trying not to be perceived as biased. But saying you do and actually doing are two separate things.
U.S. News & World Report Editor-in-Chief and chairman of Boston Properties (NYSE:BXP) Mort Zuckerman was asked about donating money to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton's fading campaign by Huffington Post blogger and MSNBC "Morning Joe" regular John Ridley on the May 9 "Morning Joe."
"I wish I could make a contribution, but I'm in the world of journalism and I can't, but thank you for the offer," Zuckerman said.
Is it the province of a "correspondent" of an ostensibly objective network to proclaim the tactics of a presidential candidate "inappropriate"? Apparently so, when the network is MSNBC and the correspondent David Shuster. The frequent sidekick to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann got into it with Pat Buchanan on today's Morning Joe.
Shuster spoke out against Hillary's rough-'n-tumble end-game tactics, while a feisty Buchanan defended Clinton's right to go down swinging. Shuster sounded less the reporter and more the DNC member concerned about damage to the party's presumptive presidential candidate. When Mike Barnicle got into the act, he wanted to be sure not to be seen as insulting the Clintons.
DAVID SHUSTER: What is the plausible scenario for what she's doing now, and do you agree, the only plausible scenario is that she's just trying to permanently damage Barack Obama?
MIKE BARNICLE: What about this one, David? What about the fact that, listen, not speaking ill of either former President Clinton or Senator Clinton [God forbid!], but this is all they've ever done in their lives. They've never worked at a private job, they've never worked in corporate America [Rose law firm?], they've been public people for 30 years. All they know is running! That's all they know: that's who they are.
"Thrill up my leg"? Forget about it. Chris Matthews's famous description of the excitement he gets from Barack is nothing compared to the tumescent terms in which MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson has depicted the intensity of the MSM's love affair with Obama. Tucker appeared on today's Morning Joe.
TUCKER CARLSON: It's gonna be such a great election; it has been so far.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Especially when you have the media loving one candidate as much as they love Barack Obama.
CARLSON: But it's more than love. I mean, it's the kind of love that anybody who's been a 9th-grade boy understands this species of love. Do you know what I mean?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Wow.
SCARBOROUGH: No, it's the truth. It's all-consuming.
CARLSON: It's red-in-the-face, I-think-about-you-when-I-go-to-bed, too embarrassed to stand up, it's sealed-with-a-kiss love. I mean, it's real, it's palpable.
Though she leavened it with considerable levity, there's no escaping the bottom line: Mika Brzezinski sees Pat Buchanan as a nut. An affable one, to be sure. Even one with interesting things to say. But at heart, a nut. A "crazy uncle" fit for the same crate of cracked pots as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The prelude was Mika's reading of an excerpt from a brilliant essay by Charles Krauthammer in today's WaPo. Writing of Obama's recent attempt to definitively hurl Rev. Wright under the Greyhound, Krauthammer observed:
It's hard to think of an act more blatantly expedient than renouncing Wright when his show, once done from the press club instead of the pulpit, could no longer be "contextualized" as something whites could not understand and only Obama could explain in all its complexity.
Turns out the Wright show was not that complex after all. Everyone understands it now. Even Obama.
It's turning out to be a red-letter day for Hoosiers. This morning, Joe Scarborough tricked Mika Brzezinski into agreeing that the famous coach of the Indiana basketball team was Bear Bryant, of all people, rather than Bobby Knight. This afternoon on MSNBC, when Howard Wolfson questioned the Hoosier bona fides of a superdelegate who today announced he was switching from Clinton to Obama, Andrea Mitchell turned the Clinton aide's gambit back on Hillary with a vengeance.
Superdelegate Joe Andrew, who in the 90s was elevated to DNC chairman with the backing of Bill Clinton, and who had earlier endorsed Hillary, today announced that he was switching his support to Obama. The timing is critical since it comes just days before the Indiana primary, and Andrew hails from the Hoosier state.
Mitchell, hosting her regular 1 PM ET politics show on MSNBC, mentioned that fact to Wolfson. When Wolfson tried to undercut Andrew's Indiana affiliation, Mitchell riposted in spades, citing the multiple states to which Hillary has claimed connection. Andrew later appeared himself, setting the record straight.
Was Barack Obama's denunciation of Rev. Wright yesterday just some ginned-up anger, a show for the cameras—and the voters? You might think so, to judge by Andrea Mitchell's surprising revelation on today's Morning Joe . . .
JOE SCARBOROUGH: What do you think of the Obama statement yesterday? Was it enough to finally put this behind him?
ANDREA MITCHELL: Perhaps, yes. He had to do it. This thing had been a nagging, you know, problem, an open wound really. This was a very public divorce. I should point out, though, that quite to my surprise when he was out on the stump last night, once again Obama was kind of trivializing it, saying "well, my opponents are making fun of me, and trying to define me, and saying I don't put my hand over my heart, and they talk about my former pastor's crazy statements." So he was trying to blame it on McCain, Hillary, whoever, rather than on what he earlier said in a very specific and dramatic way.
Were they commenting on the same speech? Rev. Jeremiah Wright goes before the Detroit NAACP, claims that black and white children learn with different parts of their brain, and offers a simpering, unflattering imitation of the way white pastors speak. CNN's Soledad O'Brien gushes that the speech was a "home run" and "really funny." But over at Morning Joe, Wright's words prompted a panel member to rip the reverend as a "mediocrity" and a "buffoon."
Soledad O'Brien was in the hall when Wright spoke. She reported on the speech at the top of CNN's 6 AM ET hour.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The whole thing, frankly, was really funny. I think a lot of people have seen Rev. Wright defined as controversial, defined as angry, defined as anti-American: not in that speech. Not in that speech at all. He was funny, he was witty. This is a guy who's got two masters and his doctorate in divinity. Here is a guy who speaks five languages, they took pains in his introduction to point out all his accomplishments.