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.
When Washington Post columnist and, until recently, regular Countdown guest Dana Milbank used an edited quote from Barack Obama that was arguably a distortion of the Illinois Senator's words, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann suspended Milbank from appearing on his show insisting Milbank correct his transgression against the Democratic presidential candidate. But if Olbermann's MSNBC bosses held him to the same standard, the Countdown host himself would have been suspended numerous times during the past four years if he were required to correct either distortions of people's words or his reporting of stories that turned out to be inaccurate. But while in Milbank's case the Washington Post columnist's infraction was against a liberal target in Obama, Olbermann has primarily targeted conservatives, as detailed below. Notably, while it is no secret that Olbermann is very pro-Obama as he conducts his show, on the June 26 show, Olbermann came closest to admitting he hopes Obama becomes President as he defended the Illinois Senator's decision to vote for a FISA bill opposed by the left. Olbermann: "If you get as hot about the issue as I have, you would rather see a President Obama prosecuting the telecoms criminally, rather than a Senator Obama throwing away a vote to keep open the civil suits when most of the other Democrats already caved in."
David Shuster, arbiter of journalistic standards? The MSM didn't bother to pursue the Edwards story, yet Shuster, he of "pimped out" fame, had the chutzpah to look down his nose not once but twice on the National Enquirer during an interview this afternoon with Barry Levine, its Executive Editor. Levine, speaking with Shuster on MSNBC this afternoon at 4:20 PM EDT, laid out a number of open issues, including paternity and the source of funding for Rielle Hunter's living arrangements.
BARRY LEVINE: I think this story is far from over in that regard.
DAVID SHUSTER: And finally I mean, I mean, as a newsman, and I sort of, take that term, sort of liberally for some of your critics, in terms of how they would describe the National Enquirer, but nonetheless, you did get the story right. In your estimation, where is the next aspect to this story for the National Enquirer?
On Thursday’s Countdown show, one night after accusing President Bush of not doing enough to protect America from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization before the September 11th attacks, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann seemed sympathetic to the plight of bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan, during the show’s regular "Bushed" segment which purports to update viewers on what the Countdown host sees as Bush administration scandals. Following Hamdan’s sentencing in a military court during which the judge expressed an apology to the bin Laden aide as he handed down a sentence that would make Hamdan eligible for release in six months, the American military indicated Hamdan may still be kept prisoner at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely in spite of the ruling, prompting Olbermann to accuse the Bush administration of "urinating" on the Constitution, and making Hamdan one of the "victims" of its "medieval" justice system. Olbermann: "So, besides urinating on the Constitution and the rights and freedoms every American soldier has ever fought to win and protect, the Bush administration has now decided that when its victims have actually served their sentences, doled out under its own medieval, quote, "justice," unquote, system, it still might not choose to set them free, thereby giving that Constitution and our country a second pass on the way out." (Transcripts follow)
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":
The media continue to have Obama's back after his ridiculous claim tire inflation could be a substitute for oil drilling in a speech at a rally in Missouri on July 30.
MSNBC anchor Alex Witt is the latest in a long line of media personalities expressing irritation that McCain is using the presumptive Democratic nominee's tire inflation comment in his campaign against Obama. Witt interviewed former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on August 7 about McCain's strategy.
"But sir, when John McCain picks up this tire-gauge issue and you know - throws it about back and forth, doesn't he just perpetuate the problem?" Witt asked. "I mean, if you were advising him, wouldn't you say, ‘Can you leave it alone?' or does it work for him?"
Chicken and egg question: which came first, Obama supporters or pro-Obama media coverage?
Such seems important given a new Rasmussen Reports study that found people who watch CNN, MSNBC, and the broadcast network evening news programs largely support Obama for president, while those watching Fox News are more likely to say they're voting for McCain.
Though certainly not surprising, is this a function of the various channels' biases impacting their viewers, or people opting for news sources that are friendly to the candidate they support?
While you ponder, here are the relevant numbers (h/t NBer Schnikeys, photo courtesy MSNBC.com):
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.
Joe Scarborough has estimated that 95% of the elite media will pull the lever for Barack Obama. Even so, evidence continues to mount that the MSM is beginning to view the Dem candidate with a more discerning eye. The latest example comes from an unexpected corner, that occupied by NBC correspondent Martin Savidge. As NewsBusters has reported, on everything from climate change to Jesse Helms to the Jena Six, Savidge has consistently toed the liberal media line.
But on MSNBC this afternoon, interviewing an Obama supporter, Savidge surprisingly suggested that Obama was "a bit of a liar" on the subject of oil industry donations that he and John McCain have accepted.
Could the NBC honchos be a tad touchy about criticism of the Beijing Olympics—especially when it comes from its own talent pool? Was there a kernel of truth in Mika Brzezinski's light-hearted warning that MSNBC's Morning Joe crew would "get a call" if it persisted in its mocking of the games for whose broadcast rights the Peacock Network has over the years paid billions?
When the subject of the Olympics arose during the opening segment of today's show, the panel went into an extended coughing fit, coupled with cracks about tanks in Tiananmen Square. Mika joined in the joshing for a while, before finally putting her foot down . . .