As political rituals go, the phony denial of interest in the VP nomination is among the most annoying. So credit Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee for unequivocally stating their willingness to serve as McCain's running mate.
But please, politicians out there, spare us the feeble non-denial denials such as the one Jim Webb offered up on today's Morning Joe. Isn't Webb supposed to be Mr. No-Nonsense Macho Man? After all, he was on the show to tout his new book, A Time to Fight, and to talk up his rough 'n tumble Scots-Irish roots. But judging by his wimpy response to the Veep question, perhaps the book should be renamed A Time to Fumfer. His reply to Mika Brzezinski's question on his interest in the Veep nomination has to go down as one of the lamest of an already-lame genre.
Doesn't Mika Brzezinski have any Republicans in her Rolodex? With Joe Scarborough home in Florida awaiting the birth of a baby, Mika has been filling in as anchor, and I sense doing much of the show's booking [mention is often made of her work in that regard]. Today's guest lineup consisted of six Dems/liberals versus a sole Republican, brought in almost at show's end.
Here's the list, in order of appearance, of today's political guests coming from outside the NBC/MSNBC family [Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell also appeared as guests, and Harold Ford, Jr. and Pat Buchanan served as panelists]:
Jonathan Capehart--WaPo editorial writer
Ted Sorensen--former JFK speechwriter
Doris Kearns Goodwin--historian and former LBJ aide
Tom Daschle--former Dem senator [check out the spiffy red spectacles]
Terry McAuliffe--Clinton campaign chairman
Jon Meacham--Newsweek editor and contributing editor of the center-left Washington Monthly
Like choosing Rosie O'Donnell to vouch that someone isn't a 9-11 conspiracy nut?
Of all the people Mika Brzezinski might have selected as a character reference for her father when he was portrayed as a problem for Obama with Jewish voters, Pat Buchanan isn't the first one who springs to mind. Yet that's who Mika [subbing as host for Joe Scarborough, home in Florida awaiting the birth of a baby] called on to defend her dad on today's Morning Joe.
The odd endorsement came at about 6:35 AM EDT today, after Mika highlighted an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal by Global View columnist [and former Jerusalem Post editor] Bret Stephens entitled Obama and the Jews. Stephens's item contained these lines [emphasis added]:
The 9a.m. hour of Friday’s MSNBC News Live featured only slanted coverage of President Bush’s remarks to Israel's Knesset including "Hardball" correspondent David Shuster’s characterization of the President’s remarks as “clearly an intellectually grotesque and dishonest statement.”
Shuster also argued that Bush’s remarks were offensive to "a lot" of people because "when you talk about Adolf Hitler in the context of the Middle East, it diminishes the atrocities and just how horrific the Nazi regime really was."
The hour long broadcast featured two segments which focused on Bush’s remarks with guests David Shuster and Barack Obama supporter Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), both of whom criticized the President’s statements and went along with the Democratic spin that Bush’s statements were an attack on Obama.
When Mika Brzezinski gushed over Pat Buchanan's knowledge of WWII history today, was she aware that her hero has criticized Britain for coming to the defense of her father's native Poland when Nazi Germany invaded it?
Buchanan has been a member of the Morning Joe panel this week. Much of today's talk has focused, with a Bush-bashing panel of guests, on President Bush's condemnation of appeasement in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. At 8:12 AM ET, the show rolled video from last night's Hardball of Chris Matthews's hectoring of radio talk show host Kevin James over the latter's inability to state precisely what it was that Neville Chamberlain did in attempting to appease Adolf Hitler. As I noted here, Chris managed to stumble on some history of his own during that segment, but MJ didn't deign to discuss that embarrassing fact.
Willie Geist turned to Buchanan to answer the question that James couldn't.
The big story this morning is President Bush's remarks to the Israeli Knesset invoking the example of Hitler to warn against the appeasement of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the opening segment, from Mika Brzezinski [subbing as host for Joe Scarborough this week] to Willie Geist to Pat Buchanan to Mike Barnicle to David Shuster, nary a word in defense of Bush was heard, with Shuster twice referring to Bush's remarks as "grotesque." The only slight straying from Bush-bashing orthodoxy was Barnicle's observation that when he first heard of the remarks, he took them as aimed at Jimmy Carter, not Barack Obama.
A show purporting to have any semblance of balance would surely have a defender, if not of Bush, then at least of John McCain [who has reacted approvingly to Bush's comments] as a subsequent guest on today's show. Well, here's the guest lineup that Mika announced:
Bill Richardson--Obama endorser
Joe Biden--who has called Bush's remarks "bull----"
Susan Rice--Obama foreign policy advisor
Jonathan Alter--liberal pundit and occasional Olbermann sidekick
"Thrill up my leg"? Forget about it. Chris Matthews's famous description of the excitement he gets from Barack is nothing compared to the tumescent terms in which MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson has depicted the intensity of the MSM's love affair with Obama. Tucker appeared on today's Morning Joe.
TUCKER CARLSON: It's gonna be such a great election; it has been so far.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Especially when you have the media loving one candidate as much as they love Barack Obama.
CARLSON: But it's more than love. I mean, it's the kind of love that anybody who's been a 9th-grade boy understands this species of love. Do you know what I mean?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Wow.
SCARBOROUGH: No, it's the truth. It's all-consuming.
CARLSON: It's red-in-the-face, I-think-about-you-when-I-go-to-bed, too embarrassed to stand up, it's sealed-with-a-kiss love. I mean, it's real, it's palpable.
Though she leavened it with considerable levity, there's no escaping the bottom line: Mika Brzezinski sees Pat Buchanan as a nut. An affable one, to be sure. Even one with interesting things to say. But at heart, a nut. A "crazy uncle" fit for the same crate of cracked pots as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
The prelude was Mika's reading of an excerpt from a brilliant essay by Charles Krauthammer in today's WaPo. Writing of Obama's recent attempt to definitively hurl Rev. Wright under the Greyhound, Krauthammer observed:
It's hard to think of an act more blatantly expedient than renouncing Wright when his show, once done from the press club instead of the pulpit, could no longer be "contextualized" as something whites could not understand and only Obama could explain in all its complexity.
Turns out the Wright show was not that complex after all. Everyone understands it now. Even Obama.
Aren't southern gentlemen supposedly chivalrous? Yet Joe Scarborough, son of the Florida Panhandle, today exploited Mika Brzezinski's less-than-encyclopedic knowledge of sports to lure his Morning Joe colleague into agreeing that the famous former coach of the Indiana University basketball team was none other than . . . Bear Bryant.
The jumping-off point was Joe's wearing of a red sweater today, which as a running gag he claimed was in solidarity with the workers of the world on this, May Day. But when Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, a Hillary supporter, came on toward the end of the show, Scarborough pressed the sweater into double duty.
I'm beginning to see Joe Scarborough's skirmishes with Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe as mere batting practice for the much more serious battles he undertakes in the evening with Rachel Maddow on Race for the White House.
As Noel Sheppard documented, Maddow and Scarborough tangled on April 17th, with Joe possibly having exited the set in the end. The pair were back at it on this evening's "Race," the Air America host this time accusing Scarborough of "tying Barack Obama to Hitler."
Maddow's theme throughout the show was that the media has devoted too much coverage to the Rev. Wright matter. David Shuster, subbing for host David Gregory, lit the fuse.
Granted, there's lots of time to go, but it's not going to be easy to catch Mika Brzezinski, the early clubhouse leader for the Year's Most Inapt Metaphor.
Barackophile Brzezinski made her bid for the prize during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe, accusing the Clinton campaign of having pounced on Obama like . . . lemmings.
Let's set the stage: the topic was a TV commercial Hillary's running in PA that, in touting her readiness to confront any crisis, briefly flashed an image of Osama Bin Laden. A headline [see screencap after break] in Today's NY Post claims the commercial employs "scare tactics" and the "fear factor." Joe Scarborough suggested that as tough tactics go, the ad was in fact small potatoes compared to truly brass-knuckled methods employed in the past. After playing a clip of Obama responding by touting his own leadership credentials, Scarborough complimented the candidate for not complaining.
During Morning Joe's opening segment today, Joe Scarborough, in an apparent allusion to the ambitions Chris Matthews has expressed, facetiously wondered whether the panel should start calling the Hardball host "Senator."
But just a bit later, Scarborough seized on a question Matthews posed to John McCain yesterday to illustrate a classic bit of MSM bias: the way the liberal media only speak of a "litmus test" when it comes to Republicans choosing pro-life nominees, never in regard to Dems picking pro-choicers.
Stephen Colbert called it "an announcement." Chris Matthews went on the Comedy Central show last night and, responding to the host's importuning to declare his candidacy for US Senator from Pennsylvania, ultimately stated: "I want to be a senator."
Over on MSNBC, Morning Joe played a clip of their colleague's appearance, then chewed it over.
STEPHEN COLBERT: There's a lot of talk that you might be running for Arlen Specter's seat.
As excuses go, it was right up there with "but oshifer, I was too drunk to see that stop sign." That's the league in which I'd put the defense of Barack Obama over the Rev. Wright mess that Mika Brzezinski offered this morning.
Responding to Chris Matthews' question on yesterday's Hardball as to why he never left Rev. Wright's church, Obama claimed "I never heard [Rev. Wright] say those things that were in those clips." On today's Morning Joe, two of the three panelists weren't buying. The genial Willie Geist came down off the fence where he often resides to frame the issue.
WILLIE GEIST: The fact remains, a lot of people, and these are people we've all talked to, say "if I went into a church with my children, and the pastor said 'God damn America' and the rest of these things, you just wouldn't go back to that church." There are other places to go.
That's when Brzezinski began her bad Johnnie Cochran impression.
Salesman on train: How far you going, friend? Harold Hill: Wherever the people are as green as the money, friend. -- The Music Man, 1962
Among the many gaps in my knowledge is a broad unfamiliarity with Broadway musicals. So when Chris Matthews said that Bill Clinton would make a perfect Harold Hill in The Music Man, I scampered Googleward and discovered that the Hardball host had just called the former President of the United States . . . a con man. Appearing on today's Morning Joe, what set Matthews off was footage of Clinton slickly making the case to an Indiana crowd yesterday that Hillary is the only Dem who can win in November.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's not get into Cloud Nine here and start thinking the way Bill Clinton wants your mind to think.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But, but, but, but --
MATTHEWS: That was delusionary that speech, yesterday.
It was a bit later that Chris made his Music Man analogy.
MATTHEWS: Let's remake the Music Man, I think I've got a great guy to play him, Harold Hill. Let's, I'm serious, I'm dead serious. Meredith Willson's been waiting for this guy to come along for years. He'd be perfect as the Music Man.
Good thing Chris Matthews was down in DC and Mika Brzezinski in NYC this morning. Had they been in the same studio, it might have taken Springer-show security to pry them apart. Such was the level of bad vibes that cropped up between the MSNBC pair during Matthews' appearance on Morning Joe today.
The first incident to incite Matthews' ire was Mika's suggestion, after an impassioned Matthews plea to forget the Clintons and focus on Obama, that the Hardball host had done what it certainly sounded as if he had: endorsed the junior senator from Illinois. That drew a denial and an if-looks-could-kill glare from Matthews seen here in the screencap.
Later, Matthews got very miffed that Mika was about to end the interview of Hillary spokesman Howard Wolfson without letting Chris pose any questions.
It wasn't quite a "thrill up up my leg" moment, but Chris Matthews clearly hasn't gotten over his love affair with the candidacy of Barack Obama. It was a discussion of NM Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama on today's Morning Joe that inspired an outpouring of emotion in which among other things Matthews acknowledged Obama "gets to me."
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think [Richardson's] a gutsy guy, his own man, and I think it's a powerful endorsement. It certainly would have been powerful if it had gone the other way to Senator Clinton. I think it'll be a prized endorsement for Senator Obama, especially coming from a, he also comes from an interesting background. He always says, he says, you know, I've got a, what does he say? I've got an English name, I've got a Mexican mother, and I look like an Indian. I mean, he's, he's always had an interesting --
There's a new entry next to Mika Brzezinski's name in the annals of MSM elitism. The Morning Joe panelist today lamented blue-collar whites who "can't hear" the message Barack Obama propounded. Poor benighted souls. Joe Scarborough called Mika on it.
Brzezinski's comment came in response to Scarborough's exposition of why he didn't think Obama's speech would work with many blue-collar whites.
One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.
And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.
On today's Morning Joe, Obama fan Mika Brzezinski did her best to defuse the spot of bother Barack is in over the extremist statements made by his personal spiritual advisor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.
Over the course of the three-hour show, Mika variously and repeatedly:
mentioned that Obama has already distanced himself from Wright.
pointed out that the Clinton campaign has its own race-related problems, as with Bill in S.C. and the recent Ferraro flap.
insinuated that the Clinton campaign might be behind the recent emergence of the Wright tapes.
And then there was my favorite. Mika speculated that the sermon in which Wright used the n-word to make an invidious comparison between Hillary and Obama might have been six years old. That's right. Brzezinski imagined that Wright might have taken to his pulpit to excoriate Hillary back in 2001 or 2002, at a time when Barack was a mere Illinois state senator and the presidency not even a gleam in his eye.
Not that Time's in the tank for Obama or nuthin'. Not that its new cover merely depicts Barack with an other-worldly aura, asks the question whether experience matters and answers it largely in the negative.
No, it gets much better. The magazine's editor goes on Morning Joe and cites a study comparing a new nurse with a nurse who has 35 years of experience. And he lets us know that not only did the experienced nurse not perform any better than the rookie, she actually wound up . . . killing the patient faster!
Time editor Rick Stengel [a former Bill Bradley speechwriter] today made his regular Thursday-morning Morning Joe appearance to tout the mag's new cover story. This week's, as you'll see from the screencap, is "How Much Does Experience Matter?", with that ethereal glow surrounding Obama's noggin.
MSNBC has cited and discussed the press release issued today by Brent Bozell, President of NB's parent Media Research Center, excoriating the New York Times for its article on John McCain. The discussion came during the network's post-press conference analysis of McCain's appearance this morning.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let me interrupt. This is interesting. Mika just handed me a Blackberry quote here. Chris Matthews, earlier this morning Tim Russert asked the question how would conservatives respond to this? Would they rally behind John McCain, against the New York Times, or would they go ahead and finish off John McCain? I've got this press release. Brent Bozell on the New York Times, quote, politically motivated hit job:
It is beyond appalling that the New York Times continues its steady slide into the journalistic toilet with such a spurious, and so patently motivated, hit job.
After looking at what MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said on Tuesday's "Morning Joe," the answer to Stephenson's question is: media that don't ignore Obama's disgraceful comments will likely defend them.
Fortunately, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin isn't part of the mainstream media establishment, and on his program Monday, said what most press representatives would if they had any spine, and didn't behave like shills for the Democrat Party (audio available here):
Update | 3:50 PM: Obama Campaign Clarification: As predicted, the Obama campaign has clarified Michelle's remark. See text at foot.
I sense there's often more than a bit of theater in the arguments between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Not to say Morning Joe's the WWF of political talk, but a little conflict never hurt the ratings.
But there was evidence that this morning's dust-up between the duo was for real. At one point, Scarborough disclosed that a producer had told him through his earpiece to put on a smile, but Joe wasn't buying.
The subject was Michelle Obama's statement that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
Scarborough opined that whereas the flap over Barack borrowing a line from friend Deval Patrick wouldn't hurt him, the attitude Michelle expressed could. Mika rose to Michelle's defense, and the fight was on.
As fellow NewsBuster Brad Wilmouth has documented, last night an inspired Chris Matthews declared that in watching Barack Obama speak, "I felt this thrill going up my leg."
Joe Scarborough has offered a graphic variation on the metaphor to depict how the Clinton folks might be feeling this morning. It came at 7:05 AM ET during today's Morning Joe, subsequent to a discussion of Matthews' thrill-up-his-leg line.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Look at these numbers; the percentages of victories. You're talking about feelings? If I were running Hillary Clinton's campaign right now, if I were Howard Wolfson, I might have a feeling actually running down my leg.
A shocked Willie Geist could be heard exclaiming "oh God!"
Chris Matthews went off on one of his patented tirades on today's Morning Joe, imagining how conservatives would relish going after a President Hillary Clinton with a vengeance. Might Matthews, understandably, be short on sleep? He also bit Mika Brzezinski's head off for a harmless statement.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well you know a lot of Republican talk show people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, I think authors, successful authors, I must say, like Ann Coulter, they wouldn't be so unhappy to have Hillary Clinton to beat up for four or eight years, especially four years. And Mr. DeLay would probably love to have Hillary to beat up for two years and then win back the house in '10. I mean I could see the strategy -- sometimes in bad weather you let the other team have the ball. You elect to kick rather than receive. Let them have the ball in the Ice Bowl. Let them try to move it past the second or third yard while you come down hard on them. The people like Bill Kristol out there, the neo-conservatives. Imagine Hillary Clinton as president for a couple of months with about a one-point advantage coming into office? They will crash around her, hitting her with everything they've got.
David Shuster: not just an MSNBC "correspondent" anymore -- now a Dem campaign consultant too! In the opening segment of today's Morning Joe, Shuster offered a kernel of consulting wisdom to the Obama campaign, and the message was clear: Barack needs to get rougher with those mean-spirited Republicans.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: We did get some comments from Barack Obama yesterday about Mitt Romney dropping out.
WILLIE GEIST: I thought that was very interesting. Obama was responding to the comments we just heard earlier where Mitt Romney said Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will "surrender to terror." Here was Obama's response.
Cut to clip of Obama speaking to reporters on a campaign plane.
With Joe Scarborough away, the mice did play during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe . . .
WILLIE GEIST [facetiously]: David, I know how you like to speak for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of that group.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: He's going to the [CPAC] convention.
GEIST: You're the voice of that community, but can you make sense out of this? Are they willing, the conservatives, the Limbaughs, the Hannitys of the world, to concede the election, to not have John McCain be president, to take Hillary Clinton over them, just to take a principled stand?
Joe Scarborough has given away the MSM's dirty big secret: it hates Mitt Romney and is letting that animus distort its coverage of the Republican race. Joe went on an impassioned riff at the opening of today's Morning Joe.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I want the media mavens in Manhattan and Washington, DC to listen what I'm about to tell you, because it goes against your narrative, but it is the truth. Look at the map; let's put the map back up there. Last night was a good night for John McCain, he won the big states . . . but starting at about 9 PM last night, before a lot of the Western states were closed, we heard over and over again that Mike Huckabee had now raced into second place, and once again friends that Mitt Romney should drop from the race . . . McCain had nine states won, Romney had seven states won, Huckabee had five states won. And yet, what did we hear time and time again, at this network and every other network: Mike Huckabee has now raced into second place.