On Wednesday, NewsBusters asked: Is the hatred [Keith] Olbermann has been spewing on virtually a nightly basis beginning to take its toll on his fellow on air personalities presaging a looming uncivil war at MSNBC?
Amid a spate of awkward on-air conflicts among MNSBC anchors at this week’s Democratic convention, some staff members say there are sharp internal disputes at the cable network over whether its opinion and personality-driven political coverage has crossed the line.
“The situation at our channel is about to blow up,” a high-ranking MSNBC journalist told Politico on Wednesday.
As my colleague Mark Finkelstein reported Tuesday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann labelled long-time Hillary Clinton advisor Howard Wolfson a Tokyo Rose-like traitor due to his current affiliation with Fox News.
On Wednesday, during an interview with FNC's Martha MacCallum, Wolfson struck back by mentioning how unfortunate it is "that a news organization with a great tradition like NBC has been taken over by those kind of antics."
That was just the beginning (video embedded below the fold, h/t Johnny Dollar):
About 24 hours after dissing Joe Scarborough via an open microphone during Monday's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann took an insulting poke at partner Chris Matthews.
Wonderfully, Matthews didn't take it lying down.
This raises an important question: is the hatred Olbermann has been spewing on virtually a nightly basis beginning to take its toll on his fellow on air personalities presaging a looming uncivil war at MSNBC?
Consider that on Tuesday evening, after Matthews finished sharing his views concerning Hillary Clinton's upcoming speech, Olbermann arrogantly introduced House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) thusly (h/t TVNewser):
The Barnicle clan should be grateful Mike landed the MSNBC gig. It could have been tough making ends meet had he chosen a career in used-car sales. I base that on some hilarious footage from today's Morning Joe, as Mike failed to persuade a Hillary fan to back Barack. And don't miss Mike Murphy's brilliant analysis, at the end, of what was missing in Hillary's speech.
At 7:35 AM EDT, a Hillary supporter, Judy Duvall of Fort Collins, CO, was brought by the set, still sporting her Hillary button. Under questioning from Joe Scarborough, Judy said that Hillary's speech was great but hadn't convinced her to support Obama. A bit later, after Republican consultant Mike Murphy had offered his IMHO-brilliant analysis of Hillary's speech [see below], Judy was brought back to the set to permit Barnicle to make his case.
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."
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):
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.
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.
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,":
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.
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.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is hardly reticent about touting himself as a Democrat. After all, he's the Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and in January was re-elected its representative to the Democratic National Committee. But in ABC and NBC news stories Thursday night about how a Michigan judge ordered him to jail immediately for violating his bond, neither identified him as a Democrat (verbally or on screen) -- not even in a full two-minute NBC story. On CBS, fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell didn't mention Kilpatrick's party in three teases/plugs for the upcoming story, nor in the introduction to it, but two-thirds into his report, Dean Reynolds, who in a March story failed to ID Kilpatrick, referenced: “Once a rising star in Democratic Party politics...”
Making that same “rising star” point, from a smoggy (or foggy?) Beijing, NBC anchor Brian Williams managed to avoid mentioning Kilpatrick's party affiliation:
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was once viewed as a rising political star in the United States. Tonight he has fallen pretty far from those early lofty and glowing predictions...
Two of the cable news networks were no more accurate. Filling in on MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle avoided Kilpatrick's party in a brief item on news of his jailing while on CNN's The Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer did not note Kilpatrick's Democratic affiliation in several updates and plugs and, in a full story in the 5PM EDT hour, the MRC's Matthew Balan noticed, Mary Snow failed to verbally name Kilpatrick's party in her piece.The only hint came in this chyron at the bottom of the screen for barely three seconds: "MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK (D) DETROIT."
Ron Suskind's charge, that the Bush administration forged a letter to falsely link al-Qaeda with Saddam Hussein, landed the journalist/author not only a spot on Thursday night's "Hardball," but also the following recommendation for his book, The Way of the World, from guest host Mike Barnicle:
MIKE BARNICLE: And in reading the book, I have to tell you, in reading all your stuff, I admire all your stuff. But in reading this book and these charges that have laid out here and because of my background, covering like city stuff and everything for years, I can't help but come to the conclusion, at the end of this book, this book is basically charging the President of the United States, or the Vice President of the United States with being an accessory, before the fact, to 4000 murders and more in Iraq. They lied us into war, according to this book.
The following is an excerpt of the interview as it occurred on the August 7, "Hardball":
Apparently having a show on two different networks owned by NBC does not guarantee familiarity with voters. Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball” and NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” has hinted at a run for Arlen Specter’s Senate seat in 2010 as reported by Mark Finkelstein here.
A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvanians found that 55 percent of voters “say they don’t know enough to have an impression of him (Matthews)” as reported in the August 5 edition of Politico’s The Scorecard blog, which can be found here. The same poll found that 28 percent hold a favorable view of Matthews while 15 percent look unfavorably on the “thrilled” Hardball host.
Be with you in a sec. Gotta finish this bag of Cheetos. Man, what a mess down here in Mom's basement. Let's see, where were we? Barnicle. Right. Bloggers. Doesn't think much of us. On this evening's Hardball, decrying the decline of bi-partisanship, Barnicle put much of the blame on the blogosphere.
Subbing for Chris Matthews, Barnicle had as his guest historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The jumping off point was a clip of Obama saying he could imagine naming McCain as his head of Homeland Security. Barnicle wondered whether that was feasible in what he sees as a hyper-partisan age, and pointed the finger largely at bloggers. Kearns Goodwin suggested that despite the difficulties, she could imagine either of the candidates reaching out to his opponent. That prompted Barnicle to let loose on bloggers, casting them as largely a bunch of loons with too much time on their hands.
Filling in yesterday for Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle showed what an understanding, compassionate fellow he can be:
We have some sad news to report this evening. Columnist Bob Novak has announced he has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He is retiring from the “Chicago Sun Times” to focus on his treatment and recovery. Bob Novak, despite your ideology, is a terrific guy, a good friends of ours. We certainly wish him all the best.
Novak is widely viewed as a conservative. Yet, despite that, he's still a terrific guy in Barnicle's opinion. Apparently, being a conservative and a terrific guy are mutually exclusive most of the time.
Chris Matthews must be reassured. His show's in good hands with Barnicle.
There's no current wisdom more conventional than that which has Hillary Clinton entirely out of the veepstakes. Take the opening of yesterday's Hardball, for example, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews.
MIKE BARNICLE: It didn't get much notice in the media and it didn't show up in any newspaper obituary pages, but the idea of a Democratic ticket of Obama and Hillary Clinton died a very quiet death this week. How did the dream-team ticket disappear so fast and so quietly?
Introducing a later segment, Barnicle displayed a statement from a group that had been pushing the idea of Hillary for veep now saying that it's abandoned its effort "because it seems that Senator Obama has made his decision to offer the slot on the ticket to another candidate." The subsequent schmoozefest with Dem consultant Steve McMahon and Air America honcho Mark Green took it as a given that Hillary would not be the VP candidate, focusing instead on what other role she might play in the campaign.
You might say nothing could be more unsurprising than a panel of political pundits admitting the obvious: that Barack Obama is playing the race card when he accuses John McCain of saying the Dem candidate "doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency."
But what makes the punditry panel's unanimity notable is that no one would accuse them of being McCain backers, and what's more, that they turned up on Hardball. Surely Chris Matthews, were he not on vacation, would have found one diehard to deny reality. But with Mike Barnicle guest-hosting, a consensus of truth-telling broke out.
Barnicle began by playing a clip of McCain, interviewed by CNN's John King, saying that it is legitimate to accuse Obama of having played the race card. The video is worth viewing if only to watch McCain end the interview by shaking a surprised King's hand and walking away. Then the panel commented. Perry Bacon of the Washington Post said he would decline to answer directly, but his answer left no real doubt as to his view.
Mike Barnicle went into hyper-sensitive mode on Wednesday night's "Hardball," as the substitute host feared the McCain campaign was questioning Barack Obama's citizenship, simply because a McCain ad placed the words "foreign oil," right next to Obama's face.
Barnicle did pull back a bit, as he asked if he was "overreacting," but his initial reaction to the ad was reminiscent of the New York Times' claiming the word, "Rats" popped up in a GOP ad back in 2000.
The following exchange occurred on the July 30 edition of "Hardball:"
MIKE BARNICLE: You know we sit here in living rooms and dens across America and these ads come beamed across and you sort of, half pay attention to them. I think a lot of people just half pay attention to 'em. But there's an element in that ad, right toward the end of the ad where it has Obama's face up and the word "foreign," next to it with "more foreign oil." There it is, it's right there on the screen now.
In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times based in London, declared “extremely imprudent” the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the “hard right,” not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem:
The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not “off the table.” Barnicle posed this leading question to her: “Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?” She agreed “it would be extremely imprudent” to do so given the “dire economic situation the United States is facing right now.”
Q. How can Scott McClellan tell he's pushed his turncoat trip a tad too far?
A. When even leading media liberals suggest his reputation's in tatters.
Say what you will, but I like Joan Walsh, editor of Salon.com. Liberal? No doubt. But also a grownup. On this evening's Hardball, Walsh had the integrity to acknowledge that by accusing Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly of regurgitating Bush White House talking points, McClellan was looking "worse for wear."
Sitting in for Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle [who I must say does a more "fair 'n balanced" job than the regular guy] rolled video from the this past Friday's show in which McClellan leveled his accusation.
Between now and Election Day, we're sure to see—and chronicle at NB—plenty of MSM sycophancy for Barack Obama. But between the thrills going up assorted media legs, evidence is emerging that some in the media are beginning to assess the Dem candidate in a clearer light. Take for example, Gabriel Sherman's piece at the New Republic which as its title—End of the Affair—suggests, has as its thesis that at least for some of its members, the MSM's puppy-love stage might be coming to an end.
Today comes Howard Fineman's admission, hesitant as it might be, and mitigated by his suggestion that Obama came close to hitting an absolute home run with his European trip, that yes, well, after all, the guy is—how can I put this?—arrogant.
Newsweek's senior DC correspondent was a guest on this afternoon's Hardball, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews. The jumping off point was Obama's cancellation of his plans to visit injured American troops in Germany.
Appearing on the Monday, July 21, Tonight Show, MSNBC host Chris Matthews defended his declaration from last February that a Barack Obama speech caused him to feel a "thrill going up my leg," and suggested he really is not biased in the presidential race as he contended that "I’m a freaking American" and "who I’m rooting for" is "us." Referring to Obama having "seen on both sides of that San Andreas Fault of race in this country," Matthews effused that Obama was "inspiring." Matthews: "I was inspired by it, and I said so at the time, and I took some heat for it, but I’d rather be honest and say what I feel ...You know, I mean, I'm a freaking American. I do have a reaction to things, and I do react emotionally to my country. I care about this country. I want to look out for it. It's my job. I'm not just some umpire. You know, I take a side: Us. That's who I'm rooting for." Video of Matthews' "thrill" comment from February 12 can be found here.
But after seeming to claim that he was not cheering for either candidate, as he discussed the expected closeness of the election, Matthews focused on his fear that many 70- and 80-year-olds will be "suspicious of change," which sounds like a reference to Obama, as he advised the elderly to "think like your kids for once." Matthews: "I hope one thing. When people go to vote, they look at the guy's background, they look at the age of the two candidates, they look at their abilities and really open up their hearts and say what's really good for my kids, who don't have any color awareness. Kids don't think about that, race. Think like your kids for once. Think the way they think. It would be great if the older people in the country, the 70-year-olds, the 80-year-olds who are suspicious of change, to say, ‘You know, why don't I think the way my kids are thinking and think about the future?’ Whatever they decide, just open up your heart to this prospect of something different. That's what I hope we do." (Transcript follows)
The screencap captures it nicely: Heather Wilson, smiling. Robert Wexler, mouth agape. On this afternoon's Hardball, the feisty, brilliant [bio: high honors Air Force Academy grad, Rhodes Scholar] GOP representative from New Mexico took on the duo of the combative congressman from Florida and host Chris Matthews, and walked away a winner. The subject was Obama's Berlin speech, and by extension his presidential qualifications.
You'll find excerpts below, but they don't do begin to do justice to Wilson's brio and the coolness under verbal fire she displayed. That's why I'd strongly encourage readers to view the video. Wilson kicked off her tour de force in commenting on a clip of Obama in his Berlin speech proclaiming that various walls, including one between American and Europe, "cannot stand" and must be torn down.
Barack Obama is still giving Chris Matthews thrills. On Thursday night's "Hardball," before throwing to an Obama clip, Matthews gave the following rave review, on his July 24 show, to the Illinois senator's speech in Germany:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: What, what do you make of this? Let's take another bite here because it was quite a speech. You have to judge for yourself but the speech had its thrill factor, certainly once again. Here he was.
However Matthews wasn't in such a jovial mood near the end of the program.
Apparently it's not just the American press corp that has fallen head over heels for Barack Obama. On Wednesday night's "Hardball," NBC News' Martin Fletcher revealed the quote that "went rushing around the media" in Israel was that a Shimon Peres female assistant remarked of Obama, "What a hunk!"
When asked by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, on the July 23 "Hardball," to give his assessment of the media coverage given to Obama in Israel, Fletcher dropped the following nugget:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you Martin for a final question there, as Barack Obama leaves the Middle East. What's the general assessment of the people over there, in terms of news coverage? Has he shown himself to be a commander-in-chief, potentially?
When a writer for the New York Times questions his own paper, for refusing to publish an editorial by John McCain, and a former Clinton press secretary questions the "balance" of the coverage of Obama’s foreign tour, you know the media has reached a bias tilting point.
On Tuesday night's "Hardball," New York Times political writer John Harwood said of the Times decision to spike a McCain editorial: "I was surprised that they did not take it, especially having just run Barack Obama."
And former Bill Clinton press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, called the press coverage of Obama overseas, "extraordinary" and admitted: "It’s legitimate question. Is the press coverage between the two candidates balanced?"
The following segment occurred on the July 22, "Hardball:"