Most prevalent theme during Tuesday night's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, after speculation over healing the Clinton-Obama feud: TV journalists worrying about how the Democrats are not adequately aggressive in their attacks against John McCain as reporters, especially on CBS, repeatedly pressed for more “red meat” and wondered if the speakers are being “hard enough” or “tough enough” on McCain?
CBS's Bob Schieffer rued to keynoter Mark Warner that “normally keynote speeches” deliver “a lot of red meat,” but “I didn't hear a lot of that.” Over on NBC, Brian Williams pushed Warner: “You know there's some in the party who feel that this gathering isn't tough enough against a John McCain who, after all, hasn't let up for a day against this party.” Back to CBS, Jeff Greenfield asserted Barack Obama needs Hillary Clinton “to wake up this hall after a speech that was not only not red meat by former Governor Warner, but more like tofu with sprouts.” Couric even asked Michael Dukakis “if he thought the Democrats were hitting John McCain hard enough?” Clinton's speech left Couric unfulfilled: “We expected a lot of red meat from Senator Clinton tonight...Are you surprised she didn't sort of attack him more vociferously?”
Previewing Ed Rendell early in the evening, CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondered: “Let's see if he has some red meat.” On MSNBC, Chris Matthews was “amazed why they don’t have more fun with the man who calls himself Dick Cheney,” as he lamented: “It seems like they’re pulling their punches.” Analyst Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post yearned:
I am waiting for someone to take the podium and say the word “torture.” I'm waiting for someone to take the podium, say the word “Iraq.” I'm waiting for someone to take, to take the podium and talk about domestic surveillance...
Saying he's "not gonna take any lectures on how to be a good Democrat from two people who spent the last two years relentlessly attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton," Wolfson has fired back at Matthews and Olbermann. Noel Sheppard has the story here.
Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann put their own feud aside to agree on something tonight. Hillary honcho Howard Wolfson is a puppet, nay, a Tokyo Rose traitor, for going to work for Fox News. It was the McCain campaign's use in its ads of Hillary's anti-Obama statements that triggered the outburst.
KEITH OLBERMANN: Irony upon irony, instead of the commercials designed to destroy Hillary Clinton, [the Republicans] are using Hillary Clinton in commercials designed to destroy the Democratic nominee.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Those are crocodile tears. And you wonder whether an objective person, either rational or post-rational, would be able to appreciate the fact that that's clear politics--nothing wrong with it. But Republicans have no heart in Hillary Clinton's claim to the White House. They villainized her for years. Their commercials, their attitudes are--you go to a Republican hangout, it's all anti-Hillary. That's their point of view. To now hold her up as some victim of some sort of foul play, of unfair politics, is a joke. But the funny thing about it is, they're enjoying it. Fox News, for example, seems to enjoy it. It's no accident, for example, that they hired Howard Wolfson. They use him as some sort of, oh, little toy soldier waiting on the shelf.
OLBERMANN: Tokyo Rose was the thought that came to my mind.
Interviewing 11-year-old Scholastic News reporter Jack Greenberg shortly before 3 p.m. EDT, MSNBC's David Shuster asked the junior journalist whether he had any problem being skeptical -- sorta like Lee Cowan? -- of the people he interviews. Greenberg answered [audio available here]:
I try to stay objective through all my work. I try to do my best not to keep a political opinion, because as a journalist I always try to balance it out with what is on the other side.
To these ears, it sounded like a sophomoric line by, well, a sophomore seeking to impress classmates and perhaps his fuzzy-headed teacher. But MSNBC has proclaimed Mario Cuomo's call for a nuclear freeze because "peace is better than war and life is better than death" one of the greatest convention-speech lines ever.
In the run-up to this evening's keynote address by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Hillary's much-anticipated speech, Hardball did a segment on some of the best Dem convention speeches of the past. Now, love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that the late Ann Richards' "born with a silver foot in his mouth" about George 41 was a pretty good zinger. And even Barack Obama's "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America" wasn't bad either. No beef with those being included. But try out the excerpt from Maria Cuomo's 1984 speech that MSNBC selected as one of the "best of the best."
During the 11 a.m. EDT hour of Tuesday’s MSNBC “News Live,” host Dan Abrams interviewed Reuters Washington correspondent John Decker about Senator Obama’s campaign seeking a criminal investigation against the American Issues Project over an ad which links Obama to terrorist Bill Ayers.
While none of the American Issues Project ad was shown, MSNBC did help Obama rebut any claims of a connection between Obama and Ayers by airing part of Obama’s response ad: “Why is John McCain talking about the sixties trying to link Barack Obama to radical Bill Ayers? McCain knows Obama denounced Ayers’ crimes committed when Obama was just 8 years old.”
Just like in the Obama ad, Abrams only referred to Ayers as a “radical,” and never mentioned the bombings Ayers took part in or his September 2001 statement that, "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough."
During MSNBC's convention coverage on Monday night, Bill Maher explained to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann that American politics "seem to be getting worse because, sorry to say it, people get stupider and stupider every election cycle."
Maher's evidence of Americans' stupidity is found in the fact that "they think off-shore drilling is gonna lower the price of gas and they think Obama, the black guy from the single mother, somehow is the elitist."
Matthews and Olbermann didn't blink at Maher's characterization of Americans but simply provided the perfect set-up for Republican mockery by asking him who the Republicans will run as vice-president and who he wanted to win "for just comedic purposes."
Keith Olbermann seems to be suffering from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease during the Democrat convention coverage. As noted earlier by NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein, Olbermann, after commenting ecstatically about Michelle Obama's speech declared that he was "beginning to sound borderline sycophantic."
Also last night, an open mic caught Olbermann dissing fellow MSNBC team member, Joe Scarborough using profanity to describe his apparent disgust with Scarborough's analysis that Barack Obama has been falling behind in the polls.
"Jesus, Joe, why don't you get a shovel?" Olbermann snorted. Watch the video to the right or read the partial transcript below:
Tensions are running high at MSNBC, at least surrounding veteran host Joe Scarborough who seems to be increasingly discontented at his network's decision to market itself as the cable net of choice for Bush haters. That hasn't sat well with the likes of the far left Keith Olbermann who has played a large role in getting MSNBC to pursue this strategy
The Democratic convention seems to have only exacerbated those tensions. Last night saw Olbermann caught on an open mic blurting out profane disgust at Scarborough, prompting the latter to verbally call him out while fellow MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews sat back mortified at the intra-family dispute.
Things don't appear to have been smoothed over either as Scarborough was involved in another altercation this morning with liberal correspondent David Shuster on today's "Morning Joe." Scarborough ultimately accused Shuster and his MSNBC colleagues of being Democrats, their independent political registrations notwithstanding. (Exchange happens at 2:15 in video to the right.)
If the aphorism de mortuis nil nisi bonum instructs us to speak only good of people who have passed away, perhaps there is a corrollary applicable to those dealing with a dread disease. While I am thus somewhat reluctant to do so, I cannot let pass without comment Mike Barnicle's words about Ted Kennedy on today's Morning Joe.
MIKE BARNICLE: Last night when he came out, it was clearly a bittersweet experience. There was a tinge of sadness to it, to be frank about it. He's an enormously courageous man . . . You know, I've encountered very few people of my life, Joe, who are more extraordinarily attunedto others who are in pain. Whether it's physical pain, whether it's something caused by an illness. Whether it's an accident of fate, whether it's something that has befallen them, some tragedy of any sort. He is uniquely equipped to reach out to people who are hurt and damaged.
During MSNBC's live coverage of the Democratic National Convention, on Monday night, Newsweek's Howard Fineman pronounced that Michelle Obama, in her opening night speech, had "dug herself, beautifully and completely, out of the hole she put herself in...when she said her husband's success was the first time she was proud of her country."
Fineman made the following declaration at 12:03am [EDT] on the Monday, August 25 (to Tuesday morning August 26) coverage of the Democratic Convention:
How unbalanced was MSNBC's tag team tonight? When Keith Olbermann felt himself getting verklempt over Michelle Obama's speech, he threw it, for some fair-n-balanced commentary, to . . . Chris Matthews. At the conclusion of Mrs. Obama's appearance, Olbermann almost seemed ready to call the election off and just hand the presidency to Obama by acclamation.
KEITH OLBERMANN: Ye-a-h-h-h. Case closed.
Matthews responded with a very guttural "uh-h-h-h."
OLBERMANN: That could not have done better for them. That could not have done better for them. Right to the point of the little girls taking the mikes away and suddenly turning out to be hams. It's wonderful. It really was terrific. And notice, did you notice throughout that, especially as it built towards its conclusion, the woman in that convention hall--the ones we saw at least--we can't say every one--but there were tears throughout among the women. And it was not a maudlin speech, it was not a salesmanship speech. There was just a -- I know, I'm beginning to sound borderline sycophantic on this. So I'll stop. You start.
Live from Denver, Colorado, on Monday, Brian Williams hosted the 1 p.m. hour of MSNBC's "News Live" and featured guests Gwen Ifill of PBS and Michele Norris of NPR to talk about Michelle Obama’s upcoming primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention. The segment turned out to be a love-fest of Michelle Obama and her humble roots.
Williams started off the segment by asking the typical question of "what does Michelle Obama have to do tonight in this hall?" Ifill immediately went into gushing mode, first about Senator Ted Kennedy and then about Obama:
Michelle Obama has to find a way to bemore amazing and more emotional than Ted Kennedy. If it looks like Ted Kennedy actually walks across that stage tonight and appears in some fashion in person and speaks, it’s gonna be an emotional highpoint. Michelle Obama, however, also has to deal with preconceptions about who she is. A lot of people have never seen anything that looks like a Michelle Obama before. She’s educated, she’s beautiful, she’s tall, she tells you what she thinks and they hope that she can tell a story about Barack Obama and about herself.
Linda Douglass, the former ABC News reporter and current senior advisor to the Obama campaign, lashed out at John McCain and Mitt Romney by labeling them “extremely conservative on social issues” in an interview on Saturday’s “Morning Joe.” Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski failed to point out that liberals like Obama can be extreme in their views on social issues, too.
After Douglass repeatedly played up the foreign policy experience of Obama’s chosen running mate Sen. Joe Biden, Brzezinski asked Douglass about Biden’s experience in dealing with economic issues, especially if Romney, known for being well-versed in economic issues were to become McCain’s running mate. Douglass touted Biden’s experience with economic policy before inexplicably twisting her answer to include abortion.
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell had some harsh words for members of the media today, especially those associated with the cable network MSNBC.
Speaking at a discussion put together by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy, he called the coverage of Barack Obama "embarrassing," and accused MSNBC of being "the official network of the Obama campaign."
UPDATE at end of post: "Fox & Friends" weighs in.
As reported by Michael Calderone at Politico Sunday (h/t NB reader Wisdom6773, file photo courtesy USA Today):
Hailing Barack Obama's attacks on John McCain's foreign policy as “profound” with “the fire I've been waiting for,” during live MSNBC coverage Saturday afternoon of Obama introducing running mate Joe Biden, Chris Matthews was pleased “he finally took on John McCain on the issue of our time, which is Russia” as “he used the word bluster twice.” Matthews then smeared John McCain and conservatives as warmongers: “There are a lot of neo-conservatives out there that just love the old black and white Manichaean cold war feeling again. They'd like to get rid of color television, in fact. Let's go back to the '50s and let's fight with the Russians again.” That earned approving laughter from co-anchor Keith Olbermann who later cited Biden's call “to restore America's soul” and wondered: “Does it bring it up to this kind of Lincolnian greater than the sum of the parts public good mission almost?”
Matthews explained to his viewers that Obama “referred to it as bluster because if you read the really smart columnists,” and those would be “people like David Ignatius and Tom Friedman” who are “in the middle politically,” Obama was just “calling it what it is, bluster. It's just words, just sword-rattling, and he called it today. I thought that was profound.”
At about 3:42 PM EDT, just after Biden finished speaking, Matthews oozed over Obama's address with “dignity and indignation,” comparing him to actors Denzel Washington and Spencer Tracy. Really:
When I was watching Barack, I said there's the fire I've been waiting for. Maybe it was the camera angle, but I was looking up, if you look at some of the stronger performances, and they're almost always strong by the actor Denzel Washington, when he's really sticking it to the bad guys at the end of the movies, when he's really making his sort of Spencer Tracy moment, there's something about the face, there's something about that statement of strength and even anger where you really make your point with dignity and indignation, and I thought he was doing it today for the first time as a candidate: Barack Obama taking the fight to the bluster of the opponent.
You know the old software programmer's excuse: "that's not a bug. That's a feature!" John Harwood of CNBC/NYT has produced a political variation on the theme to buff up Joe Biden. Biden's gaffes, including the racially-insensitive ones, are actually . . . "a strength."
Harwood was chatting with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on a special Morning Joe edition today, and the topic of Biden's famous "clean and articulate" comment about Obama arose. Biden also made headlines of course with his crack about 7-11s being populated by people with Indian accents.
JOHN HARWOOD: He is not somebody who is infused with political correctness, the verbal equivalent of putting his pinky up when he opens his mouth. So this is what, the way ordinary voters are as well. They're not always worried about sort of calibrating every single word by "ooh, is this racially insensitive?" That's something that Joe Biden brings as an asset to the ticket. The gaffes actually show one of his strengths.
MSNBC went live shortly before 1 AM EDT, with David Shuster anchoring, to announce that Senator Joe Biden is Barack Obama's pick for Vice President, and Shuster was joined via phone over the next hour by NBC News political director Chuck Todd, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Howard Fineman of Newsweek. One word I didn't hear in that hour or the next as MSNBC remained live until 3 AM (CNN and FNC went to re-runs at 2 AM): liberal. In MSNBC's 2 AM hour, Joan Walsh of Salon.com touted Biden as a “working class hero.”
Olbermann hailed the “very powerful combination” of Obama and Biden based on joining Obama's “vision” of restoring America's image in the world and Biden's selfless “fervor to do good” enabled by his “18,000 good ideas” to achieve Obama's noble goal.
At about 1:35 AM EDT Friday night/Saturday morning, Olbermann proposed:
Barack Obama is planning to announce his VP pick via text message to his supporters. So in the spirit of the times, let's text message something to Sen. Obama:
Brck: b fraid. b vry fraid. hlry stl h8s u.
That's what we glean from Hillary's startling statement in Florida today. Chris Matthews aired it at the top of tonight's Hardball:
HILLARY CLINTON: I am doing everything I can to campaign for Senator Obama. I think it's fair to say that I have done more, as Senator Rich said, in a relatively short period of time, on behalf of my opponent, than probably anyone else has.
So not only is she bragging on her own accomplishments. Hillary's still calling Obama . . . "my opponent." The point was not lost on Matthews.
Billed as a roundtable, it played more like a group therapy session for distraught Dems on the verge. Obama's polls dropping. An inchoate sense this might all be slipping away. Chris Matthews and his guests for the show-ending "Politics Fix" on this evening's Hardball were united in bemoaning Barack's plight. The host himself was the ultimate downer, analogizing Obama's campaign to that of . . . Michael Dukakis.
Matthews fellow sufferers were Jeff Johnson, host of The Truth on BET, and Salon.com editor Joan Walsh.
NBC News has responded to John McCain's protest concerning biased election coverage by giving one of the most left-leaning members of the media -- a host from the ultra-liberal radio network Air America -- her own prime time program on MSNBC.
Honestly, how much further to the left can this network go?
That didn't take long. Tanned and rested on his first day back from vacation, Chris Matthews suggested on this evening's Hardball that under the guise of the "inexperience" charge, John McCain is handing out "permission slips" to racists to vote against Obama.
Matthews put his poisonous point to Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. Isn't he [McCain] handing out permission slips to vote against Barack? "Inexperience" is my favorite. Because you could have all kinds of problems with Barack Obama: ethnically, politically, culturally, class—I don't know what the adjective is for class, but "classily." And you can have every problem in the world with Mrs. Obama. But you could hide it all under, not hide it all, you could present it all under one word: "you know, I've got nothing against him. He's a bright young man with a quality education, interesting new ideas. But he's not quite ready yet." And that's a fair critique which covers all your reasons for opposing him.
Not that there was any doubt that McCain walked away the winner from Rick Warren's forum, but when David Shuster cracks that Obama was lucky not too many people were watching . . . Subbing for Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball, Shuster kibitzed Saddleback with Dem Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Shuster made his surprising remark at segment end.
DAVID SHUSTER: I think it also revealed that John McCain's going to be a much better debater than a lot of people think. And maybe also in some sense, Barack Obama is lucky in a way that Saturday night was Michael Phelps' night and not a night when a lot of people were paying attention to politics.
A bit later, Shuster used Phelps to work in an obligatory swipe at President Bush. After rolling tape of a clearly-excited Phelps mentioning that it was "pretty cool" that the president had taken pictures with him at the pool after the 400 individual medley race, Shuster pounced: "even cooler for the president, who's probably happy that someone popular wanted to get a picture with him."
On a special Saturday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, while previewing that night's presidential candidates forum hosted by evangelical leader Rick Warren, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd seemed to suggest that it is not out of the ordinary for evangelical Christians to feel "personal hatred" toward a Democratic presidential candidate. Todd, who is normally relatively balanced in his coverage of politics, once even admitting to being a "fan" of the MRC despite a history of working for liberal Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, made the uncharacteristic remarks as he contended that the forum would give Barack Obama an opportunity to keep evangelicals from feeling "personal hatred" toward him. Todd: "It's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama."
Update: NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein reports that Todd has since apologized for his comments.
Andrea Mitchell's floating of the Obama-camp accusation that John McCain cheated by overhearing Obama's responses at the Saddleback forum, as NewsBuster D.S. Hube reported, isn't the first time the NBC correspondent has made herself propagator-in-chief of Obama's conspiracy theories. As NewsBuster Noel Sheppard has noted, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis has now written NBC to protest Mitchell's behavior. Here's an excerpt from his letter to NBC News president Steve Capus [emphasis added]:
[I]nstead of taking a critical journalistic approach to this spin, Andrea Mitchell did what has become a pattern for her of simply repeating Obama campaign talking points.
In asserting a "pattern" of such behavior by Mitchell, what did Davis have in mind? Almost surely it included a very similar stunt that Mitchell pulled in connection with Obama's cancellation of his planned visit to injured troops while in Germany for his speech in Berlin. As I noted here at the time, Mitchell passed along the Obama camp's unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that McCain had pulled strings with Pentagon buddies to have them withdraw permission for the visit.
On Wednesday's "Hardball," substitute host David Shuster previewed a new book targeting Barack Obama by issuing the following warning to viewers at the top of the show:
DAVID SHUSTER: It was right around this time four years ago that the dishonest and highly effective Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry began. Now the man who started it all, with a book about Kerry, has one out attacking Obama. Can the Swift Boaters repeat their success, or does Obama know how to fight back?
In an ensuing segment with Republican consultant Mike Paul and Democratic consultant Rich Masters about the new book, The Obama Nation, Shuster derided the author, and by extension, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and demanded that John McCain condemn the anti-Obama book. The following are the relevant excerpts from the August 13, "Hardball,":
Elizabeth Edwards authorized a friend to attack John Edwards over his infamous "she was in remission" interview on Nightline. That's the stunning assertion of Sandra Westfall, the "People" magazine writer who authored the article [excerpt here] containing the friend's crticism. Westfall was a guest on tonight's Verdict with Dan Abrams.
DAN ABRAMS: Sandra, let me start with you.Is it fair to say that the story that you guys have in this week's magazine is effectively Elizabeth Edwards' side of the story?
SANDRA WESTFALL: You know, she authorized her brother and her best friend to speak to me on her behalf.
A newly formed conglomeration of thirty women calling themselves The New Agenda (TNA) have convened to "pool (their) talents and leverage already established 'riends of the family' organizations to launch a grass roots and grass tops effort to register women voters, organize a national 'get out the vote' effort around women's issues," so says Amy Siskind, a member speaking for the new gaggle.
But that's not all they intend to do. They want to rid the world of misogynistic males, and MSNBC's Chris Matthews is first on their hit parade.
On Monday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann blamed the Bush administration for the fighting between Russia and Georgia, charging that "the U.S. knowingly provoked Moscow for years by building up Georgia's military," and asked if "the administration essentially stoked the fires of this conflict by the way we contributed to the building up of Georgia and sort of encourage its president to do something like this." The MSNBC host was also distressed at the words of "neoconservatives" who favor a firm response against Russia, and referred to "troubling neocon echoes." Guest Flynt Leverett expressed his concern that "a very powerful group of neoconservative fellow travelers in the Democratic Party" would undermine Barack Obama's "more nuanced approach" to dealing with the situation as these neoconservative "elements" move into the Obama campaign. (Transcript follows)
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann attacked Sean Hannity for his recent declaration on FNC's Hannity's America that Obama "can’t point to a single instance in which President Bush or McCain or Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama’s race." Missing Hannity’s point that conservatives are not attacking Obama for being black or suggesting voters should be afraid to vote for him because he is black, Olbermann cited quotes from Hannity and Rush Limbaugh which, in the MSNBC host’s mind, proved Hannity wrong, and that "short-term memory is often the first thing to go right after ethics." Olbermann mocked Hannity and Limbaugh by concluding that, "What Hannity means when he says nobody has made an issue of Obama’s race is: He and Limbaugh haven’t called him the ‘N’ word." After a brief pause, Olbermann added: "Yet." Olbermann, who has a history of distorting the words of conservatives, read quotes from Hannity from the past about Obama and the race issue without conveying the context that Hannity was referring to Obama’s links to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan, who are known for espousing racist views. (Transcripts follow)
Chris Matthews: Back With an Obamania Vengeance . . .
If Barack Obama makes it to the White House, perhaps he should appoint Chris Matthews Commissar of Gosplan, the Commission charged with developing the economy's Five Year Plans. The Hardball host, back from vacation, displayed the enthusiasm of a dutiful apparatchik in praising an Obama ad that in turn amounted to a pitch for central planning.
During the "ad wars" segment on this evening's Hardball, Matthews first played a McCain ad that hit Obama over his plans to raise taxes and his lack of readiness to lead. After Andrea Mitchell suggested that the ad is "the wrong tone for the [NBC] Olympics," during which it's playing, Matthews wondered whether McCain is "the Grinch that stole the Olympics," and suggested a "taste test," comparing Obama's ad. Here's the ad's text:
VOICEOVER: The hands that built this nation can build a new economy. The hands that harvest crops can also harvest the wind [images of electricity-generating wind turbines.] The hands that install roofs can also install solar panels. The hands that build today's cars can also build the next generation of fuel-efficient vehicles. Barack Obama: a new vision for our economy. Fast-track alternative fuels. Create five million jobs developing home-grown energy technologies. Because America's future is in our hands.