Is there something in the water at NBC/MSNBC? Laughing gas in the ventilation system, perhaps? Earlier today, I posted the photo below, showing Matt Lauer dissolving in laughter on this morning's Today show. It happened when Katie made her momentous announcement that she was leaving for CBS. Matt pretended to take it totally in stride, making to move right on, intoning "also coming up in this half-hour" in his best canned host-voice before bursting out.
This evening, it was Chris Matthews' turn to double over in laughter. Now granted, Matthews had a better excuse - his guest was the daffy Howard Dean. Matthews managed to keep a straight face when Dean first claimed that the Democrats "want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected," and then proceeded to lash out at every Republican within arm's reach.
On last night's Hardball MSNBC's David Shuster's piece on Tom DeLays sounded as if it was approved by the DNC Communications Department before it hit the airwaves. Okay seriously now, other than the snippets from the President, what in the following report doesn't sound like it's straight from a DNC press release?:
David Shuster: "He is the scalp that Democrats have long been sharpening their knives for. And today a Democratic Party spokesman called Tom DeLay’s announcement, quote, ‘Just the latest piece of evidence the Republican Party is a party in disarray, out of ideas and out of energy.’ At the White House, President Bush put on a good face."
[George W. Bush: "My own judgment is that our party will continue to succeed because we’re the party of ideas."]
Mickey Kaus over at Slate's Kausfiles blog noticed a remark Gloria Borger said to Chris Matthews on the economy. Apparently the media will beat the drumbeat of economic bad news until Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House.
When Gloria Borger announced on Chris Matthews that Treasury Secretary John Snow would be replaced after November because "the Republicans don't want to go through confirmation hearings and relitigate the economy before the [election]," you knew Snow would be gone by July. ... Yes, it would truly be awful for Republicans if in the days before the election the papers were filled with articles about their stewardship of the economy, their one remaining success story! It might push the news from Iraq off the front page! ... Does Gloria Borger really think the economy is the Republicans' weak spot? ... P.S.: When did Borger become Johnny Apple? [A long time ago--ed. Good point]
Be the death literal or figurative, in recent days Democrats and their MSM claque have demonstrated a ghoulish penchant for dancing on the graves of their political opponents. As documented here, on the very day of his death last week, MSNBC's Alison Stewart, subbing for Keith Olbermann on Countdown, took nasty parting shots at Caspar Weinberger. Stewart disparaged as both a budget "slasher" and a big spender the man who, as Ronald Reagan's Defense Secretary, contributed mightily to winning the Cold War.
Today, it was Tom DeLay's retirement announcement that brought out the worst in the left. Bob Shrum was Chris Matthews' guest on Hardball, and so avidly did Shrum exult in DeLay's predicament that former GOP Rep. Susan Molinari was plainly repulsed. But far from taking Shrum to task for his unseemly asperity, Matthews commended him.
NBC and MSNBC have a penchant for gulling viewers into believing they are presenting balanced panels by pairing a partisan Democrat with Pat Buchanan. The sleight-of-hand recently reached an apex when the Today show mislabeled Buchanan a "Republican strategist." Buchanan - the fellow who quit the GOP in 1999 to run for president against W as the candidate of the Reform Party. See report with revealing screen shot here.
Any pretense that Buchanan is anything but a Bush administration critic often more in synch with the Democrats than the GOP was stripped away on this evening's Hardball, when a partisan Democrat let the cat out of the bag.
A follow-up on Howard Kurtz's profile of Keith Olbermann: in his weekly "Media Notes" online chat at washingtonpost.com, Kurtz tries to declare that he has no opinion on the question of Olbermann's ideological bias:
Washington, D.C. : Can you tell me what is the upside in Keith Olbermann denying he has an agenda? I mean, you didn't buy that line. Who would?
Howard Kurtz: I'm agnostic. It is true that he was on every night in 1998 dealing with the Clinton scandal. And even most opinionated anchors don't want to be seen as aligned with one party or another (although Sean Hannity talks openly about raising money for Republican candidates). The true test will come the next time there's a Democratic president.
There was more good news about the economy today. The Conference Board announced that consumer confidence is now at its highest level since May 2002. Yet, on Tuesday’s “Hardball,” host Chris Matthews just couldn’t admit on television – with people watching – that the economy is actually doing well. Instead, he stuttered, stammered, and referred to the current economic condition as “not terrible.” Yep. 4.8 percent unemployment and 17 straight quarters of positive economic growth in Matthews’ view is “not terrible.”
In a segment featuring Pat Buchanan and former Clinton transportation secretary Rodney Slater, the threesome were discussing potential changes in the administration now that Andy Card has stepped down as the president’s chief of staff. Buchanan said:
Wouldn't you think that someone who fashions his show "Hardball" would have the intestinal fortitude to invite on at least one guest who disagrees with his world view? At least tonight, Chris Matthews apparently thought that unnecessary.
Here was Matthews guest line-up this evening:
Philippe Sands: left-wing Brit, author of a new book, Lawless World, accusing Pres. Bush of having decided very early on in the game to go to war against Iraq.
Susan Page: reporter for the Dem-friendly USA Today. Let's call the affable Page a voice of the more reasonable realms of the center-left media.
Craig Crawford: the snarky MSNBC/CBS political analyst who enjoys taking snide shots at the Bush administration.
Charlie Cook: political pollster, he of the Cook Political Report. Call Cook reasonably down-the-middle, but consider that the bouquets he placed in his own bio come from the NY Times, Bob Schieffer Al Hunt and David Broder. No one has ever accused Cook of being a Republican.
Sure, Matthews has had his share of Republican guests. But couldn't he have found at least one to round out tonight's left-leaning/Bush antagonist line-up?
Seemingly on every evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews enjoys chanting a mantra of allegedly failed Bush administration promises on Iraq. Chief among them is his taunt that the White House claimed that our troops would be greeted as liberators.
Just as it might be soothing to see someone silence an ostentatious Berkeley hippie endlessly iterating 'ummm', it was most satisfying to witness Christopher Hitchens on this evening's Hardball comprehensively refute Matthews on his claim.
Once again, Matthews launched into his leitmotif: Pres. Bush: "strikes out . . . on the fact that we were going to be treated as liberators."
Is Chris Matthews making a profound point about self-determination and democracy, or has he gone off an end deeper than even Cindy Sheehan has so far ventured into?
Discussing the Iraqi insurgency with Pat Buchanan on this evening's Hardball, Matthews had this to say:
"We know it for a fact that the country is about 20% Kurd, 20% Sunni and about 60% Shia. In any democratic process you put together, the Shia will run the show. Here's the question: who are we to say that the minority group, the Sunnis, shouldn't rebel? Who are we to say they shouldn't try to rebel against the majority of the people?"
Continued Matthews: "I'm asking a simple moral question. We can tell the people under our system of government . . . what to do. What right have we got to go into another country and tell those other people what to do?"
On the Tuesday night edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked if Cheney would "see the light" and retire.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well Mike Wallace announced his retirement today, and Mike Wallace who I thought never would retire. If he retires, maybe Cheney's gonna see the light. What do think? No? No takers on that?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I'm not sure if Cheney would see it that way.
Give Dem strategist Hillary Rosen high marks for candor.
It's been obvious for ages that from Medicare to Social Security to foreign policy, the Dems don't have anything that comes close to a hint of a suggestion of an outline of a constructive proposal.
Just the same, Democrats deny that the only thing they have to offer is fear itself. They claim they're being constructive, and keep promising to come forth, at a date certain, with specific proposals. It's just that the date somehow manages never to arrive.
It was thus curiously refreshing to hear a Democrat admit what everyone knows: the Dems have no policy and see no reason to offer one. The particular context was the war in Iraq. Interviewing Rosen on this evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews asserted: "I don't think your party [your party?] has a policy."
It's not exactly news to the GOP base that John McCain is not one of them. But it was perhaps noteworthy to hear Chris Matthews, ostensibly a McCain man [at least when it comes to his preference among Republican presidential hopefuls], acknowledge that fact on this evening's Hardball. He might also have raised eyebrows on the other side of the aisle by ripping Democrats for their weakness on illegal immigration.
Speaking of the issues that were stressed at this past weekend's Republican coffee klatsch in Memphis, Matthews stated "all I heard was . . . no gay marriage, immigration - lock it up, stop illegals - keep cutting taxes and keep appointing conservative justices."
If you put stock in the actual results of the Memphis GOP straw poll, you've got things . . . Oz backwards. At least, that's Chris Matthews' view.
In Dorothy's adventure, the Wizard cautioned us to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." But this morning, Chris Matthews told us that the way to understand what happened in Memphis was to do just that - look behind the curtain at the Republican heavy-hitters lining up behind John McCain.
Interviewed by Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show, Matthews claimed:
"The big thing for McCain is the strength he showed not in the straw vote [where he finished at the bottom of the pack] but among powerful people. [Haley] Barbour, Lindsey Graham, Trent Lott and [J.C.] Watts all talked up McCain. I think McCain is building up strength."
Tonight's Hardball post-mortem special on the just-concluded Memphis straw poll of GOP presidential hopefuls was a treasure trove for political junkies.
One obvious conclusion: it was good night for Mitt Romney. As a northerner, someone from Massachusetts and a Mormon at that, finishing second in the South was a notable accomplishment.
But Chuck Todd of the Hotline suggested another headline:
"The biggest thing: we'll look back at this conference by saying this is when we found out that Haley became McCain's southern sherpa. He has made McCain bona fide. I think a Haley-McCain coupling from this weekend sends gigantic shock waves to Republicans."
For some time now, Chris Matthews has played the leitmotif of a "second-rate second term" at the White House. When on this evening's Hardball he invited Margaret Carlson to whack the Bush pinata, there were embarrassing consequences for the toothy ex-Time editor, now languishing at Bloomberg News.
Matthews tried his best to tee it up for Carlson:
"Margaret, I look at a pattern of events and they come out of people's mouths, conservatives, liberals, whatever: Katrina - competence question. That nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, and now the ports issue. Is there a pattern of not being on base as we say in baseball, being caught off base by the President?"
The average American’s net wealth is the highest in history. More Americans own their home than ever in history. Unemployment is currently lower than the average of the previous three decades. The average weekly pay for non-supervisory production workers has increased by almost 16 percent in the past five years while inflation has risen by 13 percent. Yet, Chris Matthews stated on “Hardball” Tuesday evening that the current economy is only helping the people at the very top (video link to follow).
In a discussion with political analyst Charlie Cook, Matthews opined that one of the problems the Republicans are going to have in the upcoming midterm elections is the economy, and the public’s perception of it. In Matthews’ view, despite what the GDP is doing or what is being written about in financial papers, his “sense” is “that the money is going to the top.” Why is this? “Because of the tax breaks they got under Bush and because the way the economy is geared right now.”
Don't expect to see Chris Matthews and Hillary Clinton dining tête à tête any time soon. On this evening's Hardball, he described her as "Dukakis in a dress."
The comment arose in the course of his interview of House Majority Leader John Boehner. The topic was McCain. Boehner, perhaps with a grain of reluctance, labelled McCain a "good guy." But Boehner cut Matthews short when he floated a scenario in which the GOP would turn to McCain as its candidate "if you see Hillary coming, if it looks like she's got up a head of steam."
Boehner: "Wait a minute. You know, if ifs and buts and were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. I don't think she can win."
President Bush arrived in Pakistan “like a drug dealer...under cover of night,” according to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. On Friday’s Hardball, Matthews highlighted the security measures taken to protect Bush as he arrived in the same country in which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden may have found sanctuary, but he pivoted between suggesting the threat to Bush is quite real and language that suggested the President had skulked into Pakistan like a coward.
Would he have preferred Bush arriving in a bright red suit with a bulls-eye painted on his back?
Beginning the segment at about 5:25pm EST on Friday night, Matthews first asked MSNBC’s Hasan Zaidi to describe “the weird way in which our President had to enter your country, enter that country today.”
MSNBC versus NBC News. MSNBC's David Shuster, at the top of Thursday's Hardball, and NBC's Lisa Myers at the start of the NBC Nightly News, played the identical soundbites from Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center warning, on Sunday August 28, about his “grave concern” the levees in New Orleans could be “topped,” and a clip of President Bush four days later maintaining that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." But they used the soundbites to prove opposite assessments. Shuster contended that Mayfield's video “seems to contradict what President Bush said about Katrina” since Mayfield's warning “clearly” means that “the President's team did anticipate the breach.”
Lisa Myers, however, recognized the meaning of words and how water flowing over a levee, topping it, is not the same thing as a breaching, the collapse of a levee, which is what occurred. Myers explained: "Today Mayfield told NBC News that he warned only that the levees might be topped, not breached, and that on the many conference calls he monitored, 'nobody talked about the possibility of a levee breach or failure until after it happened.'” (Transcripts follow.)
There’s no getting around it. Chris Matthews hears what he wants to hear even when the facts are right in front of him.
After showing the video of President Bush being briefed by Max Mayfield saying: "I don’t think anybody can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that’s obviously a very, very grave concern," Matthews took that as evidence that Bush lied when he said no one anticipated the breach of the levees.
Here’s what Matthews said after running a clip of the video: "Okay. There we saw it and I want to repeat something that I just read and I want to repeat it to you because I read a few minutes ago.
Here’s the President four days after Hurricane Katrina, that’s four days, actually five days after that briefing. ‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,’ that’s the President. Kate O’Beirne, square those two facts, the briefing we just saw on tape and the President saying he was never briefed as to the possibility of the water coming over from Lake Pontchartrain."
Is Chris Matthews rooting for civil war in Iraq? It's hard to interpret his words otherwise when, after asserting that officials in previous administrations and former President Bush had warned that going into Iraq would lead to civil war, Matthews observed:
"The problem is it took a little time for this to take shape."
"The problem," Chris?
Matthews' hoping for the worst was just the capper on the Bush-bashing fest he conducted with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show. Those nature documentaries of vultures on the Serengeti plain have little on the way Matthews and Lauer went after President Bush's political bones.
Conservative author? Want to be invited on MSM shows and given deferential treatment? No problema! Just be willing to take serious shots at a Republican president. Case in point: on tonight's Hardball, Chris Matthews rolled out the red-carpet for author Bruce Bartlett, who had worked in the Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations. Title of Bartlett's book? "Impostor : How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy". Bingo!
Matthews: "If you had to narrow it down to the biggest offense, as you see it, that Bush is not conservative, what is it?"
Bartlett: "Spending. Spending is just totally out of control. Bill Clinton was actually vastly better on the budget and there is simply no comparison between the two."
In recent days, Rush Limbaugh has called attention to the sharp-elbowed way in which the Democratic leadership forced former Marine major and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett out of the race for U.S. senator from Ohio, installing Cong. Sherrod Brown in his place. On tonight's Hardball, Chris Matthews offered an interesting theory: that Hackett's controversial statements, particularly his unsubstantiated allegations of past cocaine use by President Bush, became too hard for the Dem leadership to defend.
In a set-up piece, MSNBC's David Shuster reported that "Hackett's style began creating waves. On [a past edition of] Hardball, he stood by his allegation that President Bush was once a cocaine user." Shuster rolled tape of Hackett on an earlier Hardball stating that he took such allegations "at face value" and assumed they were "quite factual." In that same earlier Hardball, Matthews was shown grilling Hackett hard: "you know for a fact that Pres. Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, because you're running for the US Senate, was a cocaine user? You know that for a fact?"
It wasn't enough for Chris Matthews to analogize the Bush administration to a family of Mafia killers. He had to call President Bush "Fredo," the weak brother. Matthews' theory was that Bush was unable to control Cheney's handling of the shooting incident in a manner similar to which Fredo was unable to control his wife.
As he amply demonstrated at his press conference today, Harry Whittington is not on life support, but Matthews was working as feverishly as an EMS on a heart attack victim to keep the Cheney story alive. And in doing so, Matthews managed to be ungracious to perhaps the most gracious man in America, the very same Harry Whittington himself. Said a sneering Matthews:
"They dressed up Mr. Whittington rather well, with a lot of make-up, he looked great, I'm glad he's back, but he walked right back into the hospital again. What was that? "
Thirty-six minutes into tonight's Hardball, host Chris Matthews finally permitted a Cheney defender, former Cheney aide Ron Christie, to grace his program. Even then, Christie was denied an unobstructed opportunity to make his case, having to share the segment with hyper-partisan Dem consultant Bob Shrum - he of the record-breaking number of losing presidential campaigns - who tried to drag in everything from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina.
Until Christie's belated appearance, Hardball was an absolutely ceaseless cavalcade of criticism heaped on the Veep and his handling of the shooting incident that included:
clips of NBC reporter David Gregory haranguing Scott McClellan;
file footage of Gloria Borger supposedly tripping up Cheney over the Saddam/Al-Qaeda connection;
MSNBC reporter David Shuster's decidedly downbeat portrayal of events;
a grim assessment from Washington Post reporter Jim Vandehei;
a pessimistic view of Whittington's medical situation by former NIH director Bernadine Healy; and finally
a panel discussion with former Clinton Press Secretary Dede Myers and DC factotum David Gergen
The negative portrayal of the Vice-President and of the administration's handling of the matter was absolutely unrelenting.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews seriously asked on the 5pm EST edition of Tuesday’s Hardball, about media coverage of the Cheney hunting accident: “Has the press been playing this down?” Matthews exclaimed that he was “shocked” at how “this was bottom of the fold in the New York Times and the Washington Post yesterday.” He went on to claim: “I've talked to experts, they can't believe that the papers treated this as such a light issue.” Turning to guest Dee Dee Myers, Matthews contended: “I was kind of surprised, to put it lightly, to see that the major newspapers on the East coast had buried this story below the fold and it was only today that they brought it up above the fold." Matthews’ thesis was too ludicrous even for an astounded Myers, President Clinton’s one-time Press Secretary, who countered with common sense: "I don't think putting it on the front page is burying it, Chris, I think that was an appropriate placement for the story.” (Fuller transcript follows.)
Mondays are normally a target rich environment for television talk show hosts that, like most Americans, take weekends off. After all, they’ve got more days to cover than normal. And, given a major East Coast snowstorm, a Congressional report on how the three levels of government handled the Katrina disaster, two air marshals facing drug charges, Saddam returning to trial, Alabama church burnings, the United Nations calling for the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, clashes in Haiti, and Tehran threatening to abandon a nuclear treaty, you would think that there was a lot for any member of the press to really sink his/her teeth into today. Yet, for some reason, Chris Matthews decided to spend the better part of three quarters of Monday’s 7PM EST installment of “Hardball” discussing a quail hunting accident the vice president had this weekend.
Matthews began: “Questions, questions, questions. The vice president of the United States shoots someone in the face late Saturday afternoon. Why didn`t he tell us? Why did Cheney wait until today, Monday, to talk to the president?”
In reality, it seemed that Matthews was the one with questions, and was thoroughly annoyed that the vice president of the United States, after accidentally shooting a close friend while hunting, didn’t immediately call a press conference to alert the media. This indignation went so far that NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory and Matthews actually discussed whether or not the vice president was calling the shots, and, therefore, had too much power. From closed captioning:
Let the record show that it took the MSM less than a day to float the possibility that Dick Cheney intentionally shot Harry Whittington.
And who better to surmise that the Vice-President might have been trying to bump off his buddy than Ron Reagan, that primetime speaker at the Kerry convention who moonlights as an MSNBC "political analyst"?
Reagan appeared on tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews, and in decrying the fact that the Secret Service apparently denied local law enforcement immediate access to Cheney, said the following:
"Law enforcement is entitled to investigate this case, to find out what happened, to find out if he had anything against Mr. Whittington, and to find out - again I don't mean to suggest anything - to find out if anyone had been drinking . . ."