Andrea Mitchell's Out of Touch Analysis on Anti-War Republicans

NBC's Matt Lauer and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough had a really hard time buying their colleague Andrea Mitchell's line of thinking that Senator Chuck Hagel might go places by appealing to anti-war Republicans. On this morning's Today, Mitchell proclaimed of a potential presidential run by the Nebraska senator: "Hagel would give Republicans an anti-war alternative..." But just minutes later Lauer and Scarborough scoffed at that idea as even they couldn't choke down that odd bit of Andrea's analysis:

Matt Lauer: "Alright Chuck Hagel, he's a guy who's come out strongly against the war, that upset a lot of loyal Republicans and yet conservative on just about every major social issue. So what's his biggest challenge right now? Is it name recognition?"

Scarborough: "I think his biggest challenge will be getting five percent in any primary. This, this guy, Andrea talked about how this guy could appeal to anti-war Republicans, yeah that's great. That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee in Iowa."

Lauer: "Yeah let me read you, Joe, let me interrupt you. Here's what Chuck Logner had to say. He's the executive director of the Iowa Republican Party. Quote, 'I don't know what constituency he'd be looking for to be the anti-war Republican, good luck to you sir.'"

Scarborough laughing: "Yeah!"

Mitchell's strange take on the Republican nomination fight wasn't reserved to just this morning's comments. Over the weekend, on the syndicated Chris Matthews show, she not only projected a Hagel-inspired war debate within the GOP but also blamed Senator John McCain's falling support among Republicans on his pro-war stance:

Chris Matthews: "Welcome back. The big question, anti-war Republican Senator Chuck Hagel looks like he's headed for an announcement Monday that he's in the race for President. Does that mean we get a full-throated war debate inside the Republican Party?"

...

Andrea Mitchell: "A debate yes? Precisely because John McCain is having so much trouble in the poll rankings because he's embraced the war."

Matthews: "Yeah!"

Mitchell: "That's his big problem."

Matthews: "And his numbers are sinking because he's a hawk."

Mitchell: "Exactly."

The following is the full Today show report from Mitchell followed by Lauer and Scarborough's analysis as it occurred on the March 12th Today show:

Matt Lauer: "Now to the race for the White House. The Republican field is pretty crowded already and now at least two more GOP hopefuls are dipping their toes into the presidential pool, not quite jumping in yet. NBC's Andrea Mitchell's in Washington with the latest on this. Hi, Andrea."

Andrea Mitchell: "Hi Matt, good to see you back. Today the Republican race will get even more scrambled. A leading ant-war senator is expected to announce today and a former senator, who has played the role of president, is also now thinking of doing it for real."

[movie clip]

Mitchell: "He has played a president and a White House chief-of-staff, a CIA director and the best known district attorney on TV. But can an actor be elected President?"

[Ronald Reagan: "Just win on for the Gipper."]

Fred Thompson: "People are somewhat disillusioned. I think a lot of people are cynical out there. I think they're looking for something different."

Mitchell: "In real life Fred Thompson is also a former Tennessee senator and one-time Watergate prosecutor. Voted for the Iraq war but criticizes the way it was run. Anti-abortion but opposes overturning Roe v. Wade. Against gun control and gay marriage and just possibly the answer for restless conservatives."

Chuck Todd, NBC News political director: "Thompson's one of these people that can probably keep the entire conservative coalition together. The social conservatives, the economic conservatives and the religious conservatives."

Mitchell: "In 2000 Thompson supported John McCain but this year McCain's campaign has stalled and today one of McCain's other close allies, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, is expected to also jump into the race. Like McCain, Hagel is a decorated Vietnam veteran where he served with his brother. But Hagel has split with McCain over McCain's support for the Iraq war."

Sen. Chuck Hagel: "I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why are you elected? If you wanted a safe job go sell shoes."

Mitchell: "Why do Hagel and Thompson see an opening to run? In every poll the front runner is Rudy Giuliani but social conservatives don't trust Giuliani's liberal stand on social issues and his past personal behavior."

[Tabloid covers shown of Giuliani affairs]

Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention: "I think that Rudy not only was unfaithful, Rudy's not only in his third marriage but he, he sort of, you know, was in your face with his second wife and publicly humiliated his second wife and his children."

Mitchell: "Hagel would give Republicans an anti-war alternative and even might consider running as an independent if he doesn't get the Republican nomination. But he's not widely known and now he could be competing against a former senator who, at least among television fans, is a household name. Matt."

Matt Lauer: "Alright Andrea, Andrea Mitchell in Washington this morning, thanks very much. Joe Scarborough was a former Republican congressman from Florida. He's now the host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country. Hey Joe, good morning to you."

Joe Scarborough: "Hey Matt howya doing?"

Lauer: "I'm alright. So we got March Madness. Let me ask you to handicap the field. We'll take it away from basketball and go into politics here. Fred Thompson, okay."

Scarborough: "Yeah."

Lauer: "What do you think about this guy? What are his chances to win the nomination?"

Scarborough: "Well he better get out fast and he better raise a lot of money because this campaign's gonna be more front-loaded than any other campaign. One year from today we will know who the Republican and the Democratic nominees are, but you talk about March Madness. It's a strange field this year. Your top two guys, at least. You got McCain and Giuliani but now you've got Newt Gingrich talking about stepping in. And you talk about March Madness. Think about this. Two of the top three names on the Republican side, Giuliani and Gingrich have enough wives between them to start a basketball team and carry a sixth man and yet conservatives are looking at these guys because right now the field's wide open. 50 percent of the GOP voters aren't happy with the field they have."

Lauer: "Well you talk about Thompson having to get out there quick and fast and yet he seems to be one of these guys who's gonna wait to sense weakness in the field, almost an opportunity campaign a little later on."

Scarborough: "Right. Well that would usually make sense. It doesn't make sense right now because you have huge states like California, Florida, others talking about front-loading and moving their, their primaries all the way up to February 5th."

Lauer: "Right."

Scarborough: "If they do that, Matt, this election will be over. There will be enough delegates in one of these camps by the middle of February, soon after New Hampshire. You can't just wait for your opportunity you've gotta strike, starting now."

Lauer: "Alright Chuck Hagel, he's a guy who's come out strongly against the war, that upset a lot of loyal Republicans and yet conservative on just about every major social issue. So what's his biggest challenge right now? Is it name recognition?"

Scarborough: "I think his biggest challenge will be getting five percent in any primary. This, this guy, Andrea talked about how this guy could appeal to anti-war Republicans, yeah that's great. That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee in Iowa."

Lauer: "Yeah let me read you, Joe, let me interrupt you. Here's what Chuck Logner had to say. He's the executive director of the Iowa Republican Party. Quote, 'I don't know what constituency he'd be looking for to be the anti-war Republican, good luck to you sir.'"

Scarborough laughing: "Yeah!"

Lauer: "That's Iowa."

Scarborough: "I, I tell ya. This guy, that is Iowa. This guy smells so much like John Anderson in 1980 where you run on the, in the Republican primary, you don't get a lot of votes and then you run as an independent. I would not be surprised to see McCain running against Hagel not only in the GOP, for the GOP nomination but also in the general election."

Lauer: "Let, let me just end with Rudy Giuliani because he's the guy who supposed to be running on his heroics following 9/11 and his leadership ability and yet over the last couple of weeks everyone's talking about family matters, marriages, feuds between kids and his third wife. Is this a two week or three week story, Joe, or is he headed down the wrong road?"

Scarborough: "Well it's hard to say. Anybody's headed down the wrong road when they jump 20 points ahead in national polls among Republicans. I mean his surge has been extraordinary but it's been less about Rudy Giuliani and more about John McCain. You will now see, in the coming weeks, conservatives taking a harder, closer look at this guy and saying you know what maybe John McCain, a war hero, a guy that stood by the President in the war doesn't look so bad after all. There's gonna be a lot of back and forth but in the end it's gonna be John McCain and Rudy Giuliani fighting this thing out. But it'll be Giuliani who's gonna get punched the next couple weeks and it'll help McCain."

Lauer: "Alright Joe Scarborough. Thanks very much, as always."

Scarborough: "Alright, thanks Matt."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.