NBC's Curry Quotes Obama-loving Frank Rich to Rachel Maddow

Talk about tossing a softball. NBC's Ann Curry, on Monday's Today, quoted the New York Times' Frank Rich, essentially comparing Barack Obama to Superman to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. After citing Rich claiming "Not since Clark Kent changed in a phone booth has there been an instant image makeover to match Barack Obama's, in the aftermath of his health care victory" Curry asked Maddow how Obama will use his new found "momentum?" To which Maddow responded he'll push for Wall Street reform because "It boxes Republicans in, makes them take the side of the big Wall Street banks and insurance companies in a way that Democrats would like to run on in November."

The following is the full segment with Maddow as it was aired on the April 5 Today show:

ANN CURRY: Let's bring in Rachel Maddow, she's the host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Rachel, good morning.

RACHEL MADDOW: Hi Ann, nice to see you.

CURRY: Thanks for getting up early for us.

MADDOW: Sure.

CURRY: Let's talk about this news that Chuck just mentioned about. The Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who leads, by the way, as you well know the, of course, liberal wing saying, quote, he will surely step down during Barack Obama's presidency. Given the acrimony and, and essentially the gridlock of the moment, what does the White House face if this has to happen before, soon, before the November election?

MADDOW: Well I think that whether it happens before or after the election, it's gonna be acrimonious. I think that the climate in Washington right now is very partisan, very acrimonious. But when Senator Kyl, this weekend, talked about not wanting it to be an "overly ideological pick" he also threatened to filibuster. And, I mean Justice Stevens is a liberal. He's going to be replaced by another liberal justice. You can't really expect this president to move the court dramatically to the right by picking somebody who's not a liberal.

CURRY: The question I'm asking is, you know, given how important the Novembers [sic] are deemed to be and given how difficult health care was, if it happens before November could that spell trouble for the Obama administration? Are they gonna have to steel themselves for a bigger fight?

MADDOW: Well I think that a Supreme Court nomination can be difficult. It can be acrimonious. I can also give somebody a lot of political capital. I think it helped President Obama when he got Sonia Sotomayor confirmed. If Jon Kyl, though, is saying that he is going to filibuster any nominee who's considered ideological, I mean that, that, that would be almost unprecedented. It's been almost 50 years since there's been a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee. So, if they say, "We don't want a liberal justice and we'll filibuster if there is one," I think that's probably a big enough deal it might mean the end of the filibuster. I think the Senate rules might change. I think that might be a really big deal in Washington.

CURRY: Let's move on to the jobs numbers that came out, we, Chuck just talked about them. The unemployment rate is holding steady at 9.7 percent. The President said, quote, "The worst of the storm is over" and he trumpeted that the news that the economy has gained 162,000 jobs in March. Now Republicans are reacting to that much like liberals reacted to Bush calling the Iraq war "Mission Accomplished." Because we have House Minority Leader John Boehner saying, "A 9.7 unemployment rate is no cause for celebration and any politician who takes a victory lap for it is out of touch with the struggles working families and small businesses are facing." Is the White House out of touch on this economy?

MADDOW: I think when you look at the monthly jobs lost versus jobs gained. I mean it was going like this (points down) during Bush administration, it's going like this (points up) in the Obama administration. It's going the right direction overall. Now is the unemployment rate unacceptable? Absolutely. Nobody is saying that it isn't. I think the White House has been pretty much downplaying their economic success.

CURRY: Well has the White House done enough to increase jobs in this climate?

MADDOW: Well I mean what can - the White House doesn't, they don't have a magical wand. They can't do anything magical. But job numbers are going in the right direction. The economy is growing, job numbers are going in the right direction. It's a very deep recession. And they've, really, in terms of the tone, they do have a very fine line. They've really got to just titrate it exactly right to make people feel like that they're not being insensitive, even while they are talking about the progress that's being made.

CURRY: Meantime the President's approval rating is now just 47 percent. New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote on Sunday, "Not since Clark Kent changed in a phone booth has there been an instant image makeover to match Barack Obama's, in the aftermath of his health care victory." So if they're has been, do you agree there's been a makeover, and if you do, what do you think the President would use his momentum for first?

MADDOW: I think winning works. That's the best political tonic in any administration. When you win something, when you're seen as having an accomplishment, it gives you political capital and you get to decide what to do with it. And so I think you saw that when people decided, as soon as health reform passed, it seemed like a better idea than before it passed. And had it failed people would've thought it was a worse idea than they had thought before that was decided. And so winning does work. The question, as you zoom in on, is, is whether or not, what it is he's gonna decide to spend that on? Some people are talking immigration reform. I think it is more likely that we will see him put that into Wall Street reform, Wall Street regulation.

CURRY: He has more chances of winning Wall Street reform maybe-

MADDOW: More chances of winning and honestly it's better politics. It boxes Republicans in, makes them take the side of the big Wall Street banks and insurance companies in a way that Democrats would like to run on in November.

CURRY: Alright Rachel Maddow. We could talk some more but we're out of time. Thank you so much this morning.

MADDOW: Thank you, thanks.

CURRY: And you can catch The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9pm Eastern on MSNBC.

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