Appearing on Morning Joe a couple weeks ago, Time editor Rick Stengel was quick to blame the controversy over Rev. Wright's past remarks on "the incredible ignorance of white Americans" about what goes on in black churches.
But the Time editor wasn't quite so forgiving when it came to the past of the current pontiff. Appearing on today's Morning Joe to discuss Time's cover story on Pope Benedict XVI's impending visit to America, Stengel blithely referred to the Pope as having been the Vatican's "hatchet man" during his years as a cardinal.
Salesman on train: How far you going, friend? Harold Hill: Wherever the people are as green as the money, friend. -- The Music Man, 1962
Among the many gaps in my knowledge is a broad unfamiliarity with Broadway musicals. So when Chris Matthews said that Bill Clinton would make a perfect Harold Hill in The Music Man, I scampered Googleward and discovered that the Hardball host had just called the former President of the United States . . . a con man. Appearing on today's Morning Joe, what set Matthews off was footage of Clinton slickly making the case to an Indiana crowd yesterday that Hillary is the only Dem who can win in November.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's not get into Cloud Nine here and start thinking the way Bill Clinton wants your mind to think.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But, but, but, but --
MATTHEWS: That was delusionary that speech, yesterday.
It was a bit later that Chris made his Music Man analogy.
MATTHEWS: Let's remake the Music Man, I think I've got a great guy to play him, Harold Hill. Let's, I'm serious, I'm dead serious. Meredith Willson's been waiting for this guy to come along for years. He'd be perfect as the Music Man.
Good thing Chris Matthews was down in DC and Mika Brzezinski in NYC this morning. Had they been in the same studio, it might have taken Springer-show security to pry them apart. Such was the level of bad vibes that cropped up between the MSNBC pair during Matthews' appearance on Morning Joe today.
The first incident to incite Matthews' ire was Mika's suggestion, after an impassioned Matthews plea to forget the Clintons and focus on Obama, that the Hardball host had done what it certainly sounded as if he had: endorsed the junior senator from Illinois. That drew a denial and an if-looks-could-kill glare from Matthews seen here in the screencap.
Later, Matthews got very miffed that Mika was about to end the interview of Hillary spokesman Howard Wolfson without letting Chris pose any questions.
It wasn't quite a "thrill up up my leg" moment, but Chris Matthews clearly hasn't gotten over his love affair with the candidacy of Barack Obama. It was a discussion of NM Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama on today's Morning Joe that inspired an outpouring of emotion in which among other things Matthews acknowledged Obama "gets to me."
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think [Richardson's] a gutsy guy, his own man, and I think it's a powerful endorsement. It certainly would have been powerful if it had gone the other way to Senator Clinton. I think it'll be a prized endorsement for Senator Obama, especially coming from a, he also comes from an interesting background. He always says, he says, you know, I've got a, what does he say? I've got an English name, I've got a Mexican mother, and I look like an Indian. I mean, he's, he's always had an interesting --
Time editor Rick Stengel made his regular Thursday Morning Joe appearance today, revealing the magazine's cover to be published tomorrow. But while we learned that the Dalai Lama's photo will appear there, the bigger story is the "cover" Time is trying to provide for Barack Obama's Rev. Wright problem.
Here's the gist of Time's defense of Obama, a distillation of Stengel's statements and Time articles by Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein:
An important aspect of the problem is that white Americans are incredibly ignorant about black churches in America.
In fact, Rev. Wright's church isn't that radical as black churches go.
It was understandable for Obama to have joined Wright's church. At the time he was a 27-year old bi-racial man trying to figure out his identity as the son of an atheist father and skeptic mother and needed a church "he could learn from."
It's understandable that Obama didn't leave the church: it's like reading a book--you don't necessarily agree with the author.
Obama's speech was a "triumph," and Americans will be thinking "small" if they make the Wright thing a big issue in the campaign.
In today's great minds think alike moment, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein observed the same oddity in Barack Obama's much-publicized speech Tuesday.
For those with short memories, Finkelstein noted that Obama's reference to his white grandmother's "fear of black men who passed by her on the street" was eerily similar to a statement Jesse Jackson made in 1996.
On Wednesday's "Morning Joe," Scarborough was concerned about the very same thing (video available here):
There's a new entry next to Mika Brzezinski's name in the annals of MSM elitism. The Morning Joe panelist today lamented blue-collar whites who "can't hear" the message Barack Obama propounded. Poor benighted souls. Joe Scarborough called Mika on it.
Brzezinski's comment came in response to Scarborough's exposition of why he didn't think Obama's speech would work with many blue-collar whites.
One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.
And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.
When Christopher Hitchens came on today's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough began by inviting him to comment on "last night's" results. Quipped the famously hard-living Hitchens: "I'm still thinking of it as this morning's result. I hope it doesn't show." Unfortunately for Christopher, it did. See screencap.
But whatever price Hitchens was paying for indulgences of the night before did nothing to blunt his acerbic wit. The quondam Englishman turned naturalized American offered acid observations about both Dem contenders. Hillary was first in his sights. He described as "slightly sinister" her listing during last night's victory speech of Florida and Michigan among her primary wins, since by DNC rules those contests counted for nothing. By his lights, her inclusion of the two states portends nasty arm-twisting to come.
Then there was this: "Anyone who like me when they think about the Clintons thinks about zombies, thinks about the undead, thinks about stakes through the heart, silver bullets and so on, has just received confirmation. It's as bad as we thought it was going to be."
Not that Time's in the tank for Obama or nuthin'. Not that its new cover merely depicts Barack with an other-worldly aura, asks the question whether experience matters and answers it largely in the negative.
No, it gets much better. The magazine's editor goes on Morning Joe and cites a study comparing a new nurse with a nurse who has 35 years of experience. And he lets us know that not only did the experienced nurse not perform any better than the rookie, she actually wound up . . . killing the patient faster!
Time editor Rick Stengel [a former Bill Bradley speechwriter] today made his regular Thursday-morning Morning Joe appearance to tout the mag's new cover story. This week's, as you'll see from the screencap, is "How Much Does Experience Matter?", with that ethereal glow surrounding Obama's noggin.
Someone should tell Chris Matthews to go pick on someone his own size . . .
Matthews enjoyed himself at the expense of a local legislator during last night's MSNBC coverage of the primaries. Kirk Watson [shown in a clip from today's Morning Joe] is a state senator from Texas and an Obama supporter. Matthews cornered Watson at length over his inability to name specific accomplishments by Barack. Credit Kirk for keeping a smile on his face, but there's no denying he was put badly on the spot [HuffPo speaks of Matthews having humiliated the guy].
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):
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.
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.
Chris Matthews went off on one of his patented tirades on today's Morning Joe, imagining how conservatives would relish going after a President Hillary Clinton with a vengeance. Might Matthews, understandably, be short on sleep? He also bit Mika Brzezinski's head off for a harmless statement.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well you know a lot of Republican talk show people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, I think authors, successful authors, I must say, like Ann Coulter, they wouldn't be so unhappy to have Hillary Clinton to beat up for four or eight years, especially four years. And Mr. DeLay would probably love to have Hillary to beat up for two years and then win back the house in '10. I mean I could see the strategy -- sometimes in bad weather you let the other team have the ball. You elect to kick rather than receive. Let them have the ball in the Ice Bowl. Let them try to move it past the second or third yard while you come down hard on them. The people like Bill Kristol out there, the neo-conservatives. Imagine Hillary Clinton as president for a couple of months with about a one-point advantage coming into office? They will crash around her, hitting her with everything they've got.
David Shuster: not just an MSNBC "correspondent" anymore -- now a Dem campaign consultant too! In the opening segment of today's Morning Joe, Shuster offered a kernel of consulting wisdom to the Obama campaign, and the message was clear: Barack needs to get rougher with those mean-spirited Republicans.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: We did get some comments from Barack Obama yesterday about Mitt Romney dropping out.
WILLIE GEIST: I thought that was very interesting. Obama was responding to the comments we just heard earlier where Mitt Romney said Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will "surrender to terror." Here was Obama's response.
Cut to clip of Obama speaking to reporters on a campaign plane.
With Joe Scarborough away, the mice did play during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe . . .
WILLIE GEIST [facetiously]: David, I know how you like to speak for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of that group.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: He's going to the [CPAC] convention.
GEIST: You're the voice of that community, but can you make sense out of this? Are they willing, the conservatives, the Limbaughs, the Hannitys of the world, to concede the election, to not have John McCain be president, to take Hillary Clinton over them, just to take a principled stand?
Joe Scarborough has given away the MSM's dirty big secret: it hates Mitt Romney and is letting that animus distort its coverage of the Republican race. Joe went on an impassioned riff at the opening of today's Morning Joe.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I want the media mavens in Manhattan and Washington, DC to listen what I'm about to tell you, because it goes against your narrative, but it is the truth. Look at the map; let's put the map back up there. Last night was a good night for John McCain, he won the big states . . . but starting at about 9 PM last night, before a lot of the Western states were closed, we heard over and over again that Mike Huckabee had now raced into second place, and once again friends that Mitt Romney should drop from the race . . . McCain had nine states won, Romney had seven states won, Huckabee had five states won. And yet, what did we hear time and time again, at this network and every other network: Mike Huckabee has now raced into second place.
Serious question: why does Mika Brzezinski bother? Why does she sustain the charade of non-partisanship? Not a day goes by that host Joe Scarborough doesn't proclaim his conservative Republicanism. But despite a mountain of evidence as documented here over the months, Brzezinski continues to deny the undeniable: that she is a partisan Democrat.
On today's Morning Joe, Mika first put her GOP consultant cap on, counseling Republicans to stop supporting Romney, then floated the notion that she might actually vote Republican in the fall. The duo were mulling the latest poll numbers, which showed Mitt Romney having jumped up over the last month.
Tim Russert isn't practicing his Christmas tree-ornament hanging technique. The Meet the Press host is demonstrating how John McCain is dangling the VP slot to Mike Huckabee. And Huck seems as transfixed as a hound before a bone, judging by the way he's staying in the race against all odds and spending his time taking shots at Mitt Romney.
Russert was a guest during the 7 AM half-hour of Morning Joe.
Don't tell Joe Scarborough that John McCain's the stronger Republican candidate because he can attract voters in the middle. The Morning Joe host has depicted McCain as unelectable because of the opposition to him of two key conservative leaders, Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson.
Scarborough's comments during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe were prompted by an article in today's New York Times that included this line [emphasis added]:
Since his victory in the Florida primary, the growing possibility that Mr. McCain may carry the Republican banner in November is causing anguish to the right. Some, including James C. Dobson and Rush Limbaugh, say it is far too late for forgiveness.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: There are a lot of conservatives that I've heard grousing that have said "I would rather a Democrat win then John McCain."
How is John McCain not a conservative? Let Joe Scarborough count the ways. The Morning Joe host thundered out a bill of particulars today that was nothing less than an indictment of McCain's lack of conservative credentials.
It was Mika Brzezinski's reference to Bob Novak's column of today, questioning McCain's conservatism, that sparked Scarborough's outburst.
Count Craig Crawford as a dissenting voice in the media storm blaming the Clintons for the injection of race into the Dem primaries. The Congressional Quarterly columnist and MSNBC political analyst offered his unconventional wisdom on a special Saturday edition of Morning Joe today.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: I never understood exactly what Bill Clinton said that was supposed to interject race, actually. I know he was arguing at arm's length with Obama about the war and some other issues. It wasn't clear to me -- I mean the most direct reference to race I saw in this campaign was interjected by the media after New Hampshire trying to say that for some reason Obama lost New Hampshire because of racism. I never followed that one either.
The woman who got her big break on network TV thanks to the firing of Don Imus now apparently wants another host to lose his job over some tasteless remarks.
Morning Joe is the show that took over MSNBC's early-morning time slot after Imus was bounced for his offensive observations about the Rutgers women's basketball team. Mika Brzezinski, a regular member of the Morning Joe crew, has now left little doubt she would like to see John Gibson fired for the callous comments about the death of actor Heath Ledger the Fox News host made on his radio show.
Tom Brokaw says his most conservative friend has told him he might vote for Hillary Clinton. I for one believe the former NBC News anchor. Hillary supporters might indeed constitute the rightmost fringe of his friend set.
Not that there was much doubt, but let's make it official: MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski is firmly in the Obama camp. The capper came during today's opening segment of Morning Joe. After Chris Matthews offered a plausible explanation for Obama's "present" votes in the Illinois senate, David Shuster used an apt metaphor to describe Barack's less-than-trenchant rhetorical style.
DAVID SHUSTER: It's in Barack Obama's interest to say it as sharply as you [Matthews] just did, and his inability to sort of navigate in these debates, like the giant aircraft carrier trying to make a turn. If he could make the point as simply as you just did he would be fine but the way he's trying to explain and defend everything, it's like a guy who skis down a hill who makes these wide, swooping turns, and after awhile, you know, that's not, you don't get down very fast that way.
That's when Mika made her allegiance unmistakable.
Did Hillary Clinton really claim to be "blessed" and "grateful" to have a "passionate" husband? Yes.
Freudian slip or part of a calculated strategy to curry the women's vote by reminding people of the indignities she's suffered at the hands of her wayward spouse? In any case, Hillary deployed the intriguing double-entendre to defend Bill's recent attacks on Barack Obama.