President and Mrs. Bush couldn't be handling the transition more graciously. But rather than celebrating the peaceful transfer of power that is the hallmark of our democracy, Hardball has announced a new feature, "Final Daze," intended to mock W as we count down his last weeks in office.
Mike Barnicle, sitting in for Chris Matthews, announced the new segment on this evening's show.
MIKE BARNICLE: And that brings us to a new, regular item we're starting tonight called "Final Daze." President Bush has 57 days left in office, and many are asking "where's Dubya?" With the economy tanking and the country looking for guidance from the guy who's still president, here's what we got today.
Amidst all the sanctimonious do-gooderism and global-warming alarmism that is NBC/Universal's "Green Week," it's good to see that at least one network minion has managed to maintain his sense of humor.
Morning Joe's Willie Geist became something of a sensation with his spoof electioneering for John McCain on the sidewalks of Manhattan's ultra-blue Upper West Side. In that same spirit, Willie ventured onto the streets of midtown yesterday, asking folks how they were celebrating Green Week, and posing provocative questions. Sample: "Do you think global warming is kinda hogwash? I mean, look how cold it is today." He got some amusing answers and met some colorful characters, including one dazed and confused fellow who turned out to be none other than Mike Barnicle.
Repent, all ye owners of Suburbans, thou drivers of Explorers. Mend thy ways, ye Escalade-loving louts! Take heed of the warning the prophet Mika has vouchsafed unto you: greedy thou art; verily, destroyers of the environment be thee!
Oy. Mika Brzezinski was on quite a roll this morning. On the one hand, free-marketers would find much to agree with in Mika's arguments. As noted here yesterday, whereas Joe Scarborough has been vigorously advocating a federal rescue of Detroit, Brzezinski favors bankruptcy over bailout. But Mika couldn't help muddling her message, delivering a jeremiad against Detroit for producing larger vehicles and Americans for buying them, actually condemning the latter as "greedy."
Whoops. It's turning into quite the morning for gaffes on the NBC/MSNBC family of networks. As noted here, during the Today opening, Meredith Vieira stumbled onto the sensitive subject of Matt Lauer's marital history. Then, during Morning Joe's 8 AM hour, Joe Scarborough accidentally dropped an f-bomb, provoking a protracted apolog-a-thon. [H/t reader P.C.]
[Warning: video contains unexpurgated F-bomb 20 seconds in].
During a break, Time's Jay Carney had apparently told a story of some politico who had used the f-word. Back on the air, Scarborough had actually been praising the discipline of the Obama team members. It was in describing them as people who, in contrast with the person Carney had mentioned, were careful with their words and deeds, that Joe's internal edit button went on the fritz.
Mike Barnicle, come on up here and accept this morning's Lanny Davis Award for shameless defense of the indefensible. You've earned it. Not merely did the Morning Joe panelist excuse Barack Obama's nasty jab at Nancy Reagan, he actually claimed that we need more of those kind of "jokes" from our presidents.
Joe Scarborough began the discussion by asserting that whereas mayors, governors and other lesser officials can get away with what Obama said about the former First Lady, it is unbecoming in the mouth of a president. The Morning Joe host also suggested that had George W. Bush made a comparable crack about a beloved Dem First Lady, the New York Times would have taken him harshly to task. Leaping to Obama's defense, the former Boston Globe columnist didn't merely don the wetsuit: Barnicle went full bathysphere.
The Nobel hasn't conferred any classiness on Paul Krugman. Dancing on the GOP's grave this morning in his NYT column, the newly-minted laureate impugns the party of Lincoln as "a haven for racists and reactionaries."
According to Krugman [file photo], tomorrow's election will purge the Republican congressional delegation of some of its more moderate members, leaving it even more "extreme."
The only evidence Krugman adduces in support of his Republican-are-racists slur is that GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia "observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that 'the other folks are voting.'” Where's the racism, given that 90+% of African-Americans are expected to vote for Obama and presumably for Chambliss's Dem opponent?
View video after the jump of Joe Scarborough on today's Morning Joe ripping Krugman as a "shrill, silly, partisan cartoon-character" who takes his cues from the left-wing kookasphere.
Breaking down the front door of a suspected al-Qaeda stronghold in Fallujah took great courage. But even that fearless feat pales in comparison to the dangerous mission that Willie Geist undertook. The intrepid member of the Morning Joe crew ventured out onto the sidewalks of Manhattan's Upper West Side wearing . . . a McCain-Palin T-shirt, trying to drum up support for the Republican ticket. (h/t readers BondPlainBond and Steve.)
As Willie explained, it was all a good-natured goof. But the West Siders for the most part lived up to their stereotype of, as Willie described it, "a monolithic block of elitists," scorning Geist for his gall.
Has Mike Barnicle called Sarah Palin stupid? Seems that way. In a Huffington Post column that Mika Brzezinski read on today's Morning Joe, Barnicle, referring to Palin, wrote of the:
preposterous pronouncements of a woman whose candidacy is an insult to intelligence.
Let's deconstruct. The normal formulation is an "insult to our intelligence," used to describe an assertion that is obviously unbelievable. For example, you might say Barack Obama insulted our intelligence when he claimed against all evidence during this week's debate that his only tie to ACORN is his past representation of the group in a lawsuit. But when Barnicle writes that Sarah Palin's candidacy is an insult not to "our" intelligence, but to intelligence itself, it's hard to read that other than as suggesting Palin is something other than smart. Throw in his reference to "preposterous pronouncements" and there's little doubt that the person Barnicle intended to insult is Palin herself. Mika seemed to acknowledge that Barnicle meant to slur Sarah, observing, after reading that last line, "that's rough stuff."
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to suggest Mike Barnicle's nearly as deep in the tank for Obama as Chris Matthews, for whom he subbed for on tonight's Hardball. Mike's actually refreshingly down-the-middle compared to the regular host.
Still, when at the very end of this evening's show Mike asked a question of Jill Zuckman, the Chicago Tribune reporter on the Palin beat, wondering [hoping?] whether the wild enthusiasm for Sarah has run its course, he got an answer that I don't quite think he was expecting.
Thanks to Sarah Palin, the culture war has become a civil war—on the left. Mika Brzezinski bravely opened a new front in the conflict during today's "Morning Joe," repeatedly going after two female MSMers for suggesting Palin is taking the working-mom thing too far.
And, mirabile dictu, Mika even admitted to sensing MSM unfairness to Republicans.
"This is an argument Joe and I have about fairness and whether or not there are some sort of underlying unfairness when it comes to Republicans. And I just, you know, I feel it here," Brzezinski said referring to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Full text and commentary after the jump. View video here.
Subtract the subdued demeanor and the good tailoring, and how much difference is there between Brian Williams and Keith Olbermann? Take Williams' post-Palin speech analysis. Was the Nightly News anchor suggesting Palin's appeal is rooted in racism? He certainly made a clarion call to his fellow MSMers to keep up the good fight against her. Ann Curry interviewed a woman delegate who described Palin as "the American woman . . . who's had all the experiences that we have."
When it came Williams' turn to comment, he twisted the delegate's words into an invidious comparison between Palin and Barack Obama. Williams seemed perhaps to be suggesting Palin was appealing to racism.
Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann began to poignantly patch things up two nights ago. But there's clearly still mucho trabajo to be done to heal the rift between Joe Scarborough and the temperamental Countdown host. Readers will recall that during the Dem convention, Olbermann was caught [accidentally on purpose?] on an open mic suggesting Scarborough "get a shovel" for his failure to toe a sufficiently pro-Obama line.
On today's Morning Joe, Scarborough took a thinly-veiled shot at Olbermann for the way he tried to keep Republican analyst Mike Murphy off the air, and then tried to pull the plug ["let's wrap him up, alright?"] when Murphy eventually made it into an interview with Chris Matthews.
Pat Buchanan was the sole voice on today's opening-hour panel to opine that Fred Thompson had done a good job with his speech last night. In contrast, Scarborough suggested Thompson had been flat. Pat expressed his feelings of alienation as the show was going to a break. It was then that Joe and Mika let Buchanan know that—in contrast with other MSNBC venues—dissident voices were welcome on Morning Joe.
No, not Chris Matthews to Keith Olbermann. That media odd couple have already begun to kiss and make up. Instead, it was Joe Scarborough who authored the line this morning, directing it at Obama spokesman Mark Bubriski. The cause of Joe's ire was this email statement Bubriski released to the Miami Herald [emphasis added]:
Palin was a supporter of Pat Buchanan, a right-winger or as many Jews call him: a Nazi sympathizer.
The Morning Joe crew was unanimous in roundly condemning the Obama campaign tactic, rallying around Buchanan, one of its own, who was present on the set. Bubriski was riffing off a similar allegation made by Bob Wexler, a south Florida Dem congressman.
View video here. It's perhaps the longest video clip I've posted, but hope you'll agree the content justifies the length. Joe unleashes on Bubriski [calling him a "jackass" for good measure] three minutes in.
Pay close attention to Joe Biden's words tonight. During an appearance on this morning's "Morning Joe" Bill Adair, Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times and editor of politifact.com, implied that Barack Obama's running mate is not always truthful. Adair told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that "from a fact-checker's standpoint, we should be grateful to Joe Biden" because he is "full employment for fact checkers."
Brzezinski asked Adair about "the most outrageous statement" by Biden and Adair pointed to Biden's soundbite in which he says John McCain votes with George W. Bush 95 percent of the time. He discredited it, along with a charge from Hillary Clinton's speech last night about John McCain desire to privatize social security, "I thought, well, in terms of Biden, the 95% is just something where you've got to understand that that's sort of the worse case scenario. He's cherry picking. 95% was last year. Last night one of the things that Senator Clinton said that we'll hear a lot is John McCain wants to privatize social security. We heard it from several of the other speakers last night. You know, that's a real exaggeration. McCain is actually really vague and fuzzy on social security."
Biden's "95 percent of the time" charge may be the "worst-case scenario" but the fact remains that people should pay close attention to what Biden says tonight.
On Wednesday's "Today," frequent MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle filed a fawning, credulous report on "Amtrak Senator" Joe Biden and his daily habit of taking the train home from Washington D.C. after completing his duties in the U.S. Senate. Barnicle, who accompanied Biden during one of these trips back to Delaware, seemed to be repeating talking points when he touted how the journey keeps the politician grounded: "The train ride also had another benefit: Keeping him in touch with real people and his working class Irish Catholic roots."
After listing what political pundits think are Biden's strengths, the journalist cooed, "But for the Amtrak Senator, it's about working people he feels a part of." As though he were narrating one of the promotional videos that have been used to introduce speakers at the Democratic convention, Barnicle pivoted off a comment by Biden that one doesn't need a focus group for most political issues. The MSNBC personality extolled, "All you need, says the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president, is a seat on a train that takes you home every night."
The Barnicle clan should be grateful Mike landed the MSNBC gig. It could have been tough making ends meet had he chosen a career in used-car sales. I base that on some hilarious footage from today's Morning Joe, as Mike failed to persuade a Hillary fan to back Barack. And don't miss Mike Murphy's brilliant analysis, at the end, of what was missing in Hillary's speech.
At 7:35 AM EDT, a Hillary supporter, Judy Duvall of Fort Collins, CO, was brought by the set, still sporting her Hillary button. Under questioning from Joe Scarborough, Judy said that Hillary's speech was great but hadn't convinced her to support Obama. A bit later, after Republican consultant Mike Murphy had offered his IMHO-brilliant analysis of Hillary's speech [see below], Judy was brought back to the set to permit Barnicle to make his case.
Keith Olbermann has forgotten the figure-skating judge's cardinal rule: be sparing in the marks you award early contestants, to leave room for the favorites who perform at the end. After his gushing appraisals of Michelle Obama's and Hillary's convention speeches, how can Olbermann possibly top it in his praise of Biden's and Obama's to come?
Mixing metaphors here, let's compare the baseball scoring the Morning Joe crew gave Hillary's speech at show-opening today with Olbermann's assessment of last night. As you'll see, they range from solid single to Keith's grand slam. As for utility infielder Mark Warner's "keynote": has he considered giving up baseball and taking up knitting?
If the aphorism de mortuis nil nisi bonum instructs us to speak only good of people who have passed away, perhaps there is a corrollary applicable to those dealing with a dread disease. While I am thus somewhat reluctant to do so, I cannot let pass without comment Mike Barnicle's words about Ted Kennedy on today's Morning Joe.
MIKE BARNICLE: Last night when he came out, it was clearly a bittersweet experience. There was a tinge of sadness to it, to be frank about it. He's an enormously courageous man . . . You know, I've encountered very few people of my life, Joe, who are more extraordinarily attunedto others who are in pain. Whether it's physical pain, whether it's something caused by an illness. Whether it's an accident of fate, whether it's something that has befallen them, some tragedy of any sort. He is uniquely equipped to reach out to people who are hurt and damaged.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is hardly reticent about touting himself as a Democrat. After all, he's the Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and in January was re-elected its representative to the Democratic National Committee. But in ABC and NBC news stories Thursday night about how a Michigan judge ordered him to jail immediately for violating his bond, neither identified him as a Democrat (verbally or on screen) -- not even in a full two-minute NBC story. On CBS, fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell didn't mention Kilpatrick's party in three teases/plugs for the upcoming story, nor in the introduction to it, but two-thirds into his report, Dean Reynolds, who in a March story failed to ID Kilpatrick, referenced: “Once a rising star in Democratic Party politics...”
Making that same “rising star” point, from a smoggy (or foggy?) Beijing, NBC anchor Brian Williams managed to avoid mentioning Kilpatrick's party affiliation:
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was once viewed as a rising political star in the United States. Tonight he has fallen pretty far from those early lofty and glowing predictions...
Two of the cable news networks were no more accurate. Filling in on MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle avoided Kilpatrick's party in a brief item on news of his jailing while on CNN's The Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer did not note Kilpatrick's Democratic affiliation in several updates and plugs and, in a full story in the 5PM EDT hour, the MRC's Matthew Balan noticed, Mary Snow failed to verbally name Kilpatrick's party in her piece.The only hint came in this chyron at the bottom of the screen for barely three seconds: "MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK (D) DETROIT."
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":
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.
Filling in yesterday for Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle showed what an understanding, compassionate fellow he can be:
We have some sad news to report this evening. Columnist Bob Novak has announced he has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He is retiring from the “Chicago Sun Times” to focus on his treatment and recovery. Bob Novak, despite your ideology, is a terrific guy, a good friends of ours. We certainly wish him all the best.
Novak is widely viewed as a conservative. Yet, despite that, he's still a terrific guy in Barnicle's opinion. Apparently, being a conservative and a terrific guy are mutually exclusive most of the time.
Chris Matthews must be reassured. His show's in good hands with Barnicle.
There's no current wisdom more conventional than that which has Hillary Clinton entirely out of the veepstakes. Take the opening of yesterday's Hardball, for example, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews.
MIKE BARNICLE: It didn't get much notice in the media and it didn't show up in any newspaper obituary pages, but the idea of a Democratic ticket of Obama and Hillary Clinton died a very quiet death this week. How did the dream-team ticket disappear so fast and so quietly?
Introducing a later segment, Barnicle displayed a statement from a group that had been pushing the idea of Hillary for veep now saying that it's abandoned its effort "because it seems that Senator Obama has made his decision to offer the slot on the ticket to another candidate." The subsequent schmoozefest with Dem consultant Steve McMahon and Air America honcho Mark Green took it as a given that Hillary would not be the VP candidate, focusing instead on what other role she might play in the campaign.
You might say nothing could be more unsurprising than a panel of political pundits admitting the obvious: that Barack Obama is playing the race card when he accuses John McCain of saying the Dem candidate "doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency."
But what makes the punditry panel's unanimity notable is that no one would accuse them of being McCain backers, and what's more, that they turned up on Hardball. Surely Chris Matthews, were he not on vacation, would have found one diehard to deny reality. But with Mike Barnicle guest-hosting, a consensus of truth-telling broke out.
Barnicle began by playing a clip of McCain, interviewed by CNN's John King, saying that it is legitimate to accuse Obama of having played the race card. The video is worth viewing if only to watch McCain end the interview by shaking a surprised King's hand and walking away. Then the panel commented. Perry Bacon of the Washington Post said he would decline to answer directly, but his answer left no real doubt as to his view.
Mike Barnicle went into hyper-sensitive mode on Wednesday night's "Hardball," as the substitute host feared the McCain campaign was questioning Barack Obama's citizenship, simply because a McCain ad placed the words "foreign oil," right next to Obama's face.
Barnicle did pull back a bit, as he asked if he was "overreacting," but his initial reaction to the ad was reminiscent of the New York Times' claiming the word, "Rats" popped up in a GOP ad back in 2000.
The following exchange occurred on the July 30 edition of "Hardball:"
MIKE BARNICLE: You know we sit here in living rooms and dens across America and these ads come beamed across and you sort of, half pay attention to them. I think a lot of people just half pay attention to 'em. But there's an element in that ad, right toward the end of the ad where it has Obama's face up and the word "foreign," next to it with "more foreign oil." There it is, it's right there on the screen now.
In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times based in London, declared “extremely imprudent” the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the “hard right,” not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem:
The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not “off the table.” Barnicle posed this leading question to her: “Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?” She agreed “it would be extremely imprudent” to do so given the “dire economic situation the United States is facing right now.”
Between now and Election Day, we're sure to see—and chronicle at NB—plenty of MSM sycophancy for Barack Obama. But between the thrills going up assorted media legs, evidence is emerging that some in the media are beginning to assess the Dem candidate in a clearer light. Take for example, Gabriel Sherman's piece at the New Republic which as its title—End of the Affair—suggests, has as its thesis that at least for some of its members, the MSM's puppy-love stage might be coming to an end.
Today comes Howard Fineman's admission, hesitant as it might be, and mitigated by his suggestion that Obama came close to hitting an absolute home run with his European trip, that yes, well, after all, the guy is—how can I put this?—arrogant.
Newsweek's senior DC correspondent was a guest on this afternoon's Hardball, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews. The jumping off point was Obama's cancellation of his plans to visit injured American troops in Germany.
See Bonus Coverage at foot: Barnicle accuses Jesse Jackson of "corporate blackmail."
Two veteran members of the Senate, two entirely different treatments from Andrea Mitchell. Reverence for Ted Kennedy; scorn for Strom Thurmond. Guest hosting in Mika Brzezinski's spot on Morning Joe today, Mitchell, emotion in her voice, hailed Kennedy as "valiant" and a "hero." As for Thurmond, Mitchell mocked that he wasn't alive even when he was in the Senate.
The reference to the late South Carolina senator arose in the context of a discussion of the way in which, with the nomination of Barack Obama, the torch of Dem leadership has been passed to a new generation, whereas the same isn't true in John McCain's GOP.
If we're going to promote a candid discussion of race in our country, we can't jump down the throat of everyone who ventures onto the racial minefield. Rather than finding offense in Roger Simon's suggestion that choosing Bobby Jindal as his VP running-mate would hurt John McCain among racist voters, I propose we simply analyze it. Here's what Simon said on this evening's Hardball, as guest host Mike Barnicle led the Politico reporter and Newsweek's Howard Fineman through a tour d'horizon of possible VP picks.
MIKE BARNICLE: Interesting new Republican face, Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.
ROGER SIMON: Interesting. Young. Very young, almost too young to run, not quite, he gets over the constitutional limit. But I gotta raise the delicate subject: if you're John McCain, and you know that you're going to get an 'x' percentage of votes based on race, do you pick a dark-skinned vice-presidential candidate, who some people are going to say–wrongly—is black, is a Hindu converted to Catholicism, who's an Indian-American? You know, none of that should matter in American politics, but is it a safe choice, or is it a choice that is going to get everybody chattering? I think McCain is going to go for a safer choice than that.