PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff had a rough night on Friday, putting her outrage at Republicans ahead of the facts. In her "Shields and Brooks" segment with liberal Mark Shields and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson (subbing for David Brooks), she guessed "The Republicans, I gather, we're told, it is unprecedented, blocking the nomination -- or the confirmation so far of the man President Obama wants to be his defense secretary."
Did Woodruff completely forget Sen. John Tower's nomination for defense secretary, voted down by Democrats in 1989? The name never came up. Hagel's confirmation is only delayed, not defeated. But Woodruff expressed the need for GOP suffering: "Does somebody pay the price, though, for all this?" Naturally, the liberal expert agreed:
MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, I think -- I think that John McCain has paid a price already this week. Judy, he said at the beginning of the week that Chuck Hagel had answered all the queries that were put before him.
Then he berated Ted Cruz for -- the senator from Texas, for suggesting that Hagel may have had some money from North Korea, or Iran, with absolutely -- or Saudi Arabia -- with absolutely no basis in fact.
I mean, now the charge, and Republicans have been talking about this and answering questions about it, that the Friends of Hamas have endorsed Chuck Hagel. I mean, there is no Friends of Hamas. Nobody can find them. There is no such organization. And Rand Paul is saying, if this is true, it is a very serious thing. It is a terrible, terrible chapter. Bill Cohen, Republican secretary of defense ...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Terrible for whom?
SHIELDS: For the country, and -- but for the Republican Party. They are going through a terrible exercise.
WOODRUFF: Do you agree the Republicans are hurt over this episode?
MICHAEL GERSON: I think in the short term, not the long term. But I would say there is a serious problem here, that the next secretary of defense is going to have to sell defense cuts to the Republicans. And there is not much trust that Chuck Hagel has with Republicans, having made a second career attacking his party after he left government. I think that that -- this is a strange choice in order to do that particular purpose.
Liberal journalists are upset that anyone would stay angry over Hagel repeatedly stabbing Bush in the back over the Iraq War. But let's revisit the New York Times obituary of John Tower, shall we?
"Mr. Tower's repudiation by his former colleagues, who rejected him as President Bush's nominee for Secretary of Defense after public allegations of womanizing and heavy drinking, left a bitterness that could not be assuaged. In the normally clubby Senate, Mr. Tower was regarded by some colleagues as a gut fighter who did not suffer fools gladly, and some lawmakers indicated that they were only too pleased to rebuke him."
Sound like Hagel? But as usual, while the NewsHour's "Republican" analyst tried to sound notes of independence and nonpartisanship, the Democrat, Mr. Shields, whacked away at the Republicans as if they were waist-deep in the grave. The subject was the two GOP responses to the State of the Union address:
WOODRUFF: Well, what do we read from the fact, Michael and Mark, that there, as we said, not one, but two Republican responses? The other one was Rand Paul, Tea Party. I mean, obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but what does it say about the Republican Party right now?
SHIELDS: Well, I think the Republican Party is going through a very difficult period. And just to give you sort of a quick history lesson, Joe Lieberman was Democratic senator, was the nominee for vice president in 2000. In 2007, he created a great -- committed a great apostate act. He endorsed John McCain for president as a Republican. He went to the Republican Convention, where he criticized, censured the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, and endorsed McCain and Sarah Palin.
And when -- Joe then campaigned all 2008 with McCain, comes back to the Senate, and the Senate Democrats make him the chairman of a standing committee. Contrast that with Chuck Hagel, 84 percent Americans for Conservative Action voting record throughout his entire career, voted for the Bush tax cuts, voted for the war in Iraq, voted against No Child Left Behind, but was a small government conservative.
And Republicans right now, particularly the Tea Party, are not looking for converts, like the Democrats were with Joe Lieberman. They're looking for heretics. And they see in Chuck Hagel, who never endorsed Barack Obama, was friendly with him, traveled with him, but didn't endorse him, they see this terrible heretic.
And it's really -- I think that is where the Republicans are right now. They are looking for heretics, instead of converts. And I think it's apparent in the Tea Party. But I think it's apparent in the ranks of the party, the entire ranks of the party.
It remains bizarre that someone would attack the Republicans for seeking heretics instead of converts, using as your example, one Joe Lieberman, whom Democrats abandoned in droves in the 2006 elections because he was "heretically" pro-Bush.