In a chock-filled first half-hour of Today, the family of one the soldiers murdered in Iraq shared their grief and pride, Andrea Mitchell got it all wrong about conservative discontent, and White House spokesman Dan Bartlett declined to rise to Matt Lauer's bait.
Although the appropriateness of publicizing the grief of bereaved families is often debated, their dignity is a frequent source of inspiration. Here, the father of PFC Thomas Tucker of Oregon, reportedly tortured and murdered by the new al-Qaeda leader in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Zarqawi, spoke with simple eloquence:
"We don't understand the big political picture. We understand what has happened. Our son has died for the freedom of everybody in the United States. We are very proud of our son."
Mr. Tucker even had the equanimity to say of those who had killed PFC Tucker that they too, like his son, were "doing their job."
Next, Andrea Mitchell got conservative discontent with the Bush administration all wrong. If you're a conservative reading this, what's the first thing that pops into your mind if someone were to ask you what subject has you most dissatisfied with the president? Dollars to donuts says either immigration or spending.
But Mitchell somehow spun a theory that "setbacks in Iraq and Iran have the Bush team worried about its own base" and that as a result "the White House risks a conservative rebellion." The way Andrea portrayed it, you'd almost think conservatives had bought into the Murtha/Pelosi line. To buttress her theory that conservatives believe that "the Bush doctrine of spreading democracy around the world is too ambitious", Mitchell played a clip of Pat Buchanan proclaiming "this is an un-conservative thing to do. It's tough for conservatives to go along with this program."
Once again, NBC resorts to its technique of letting an ardent Bush foe, someone who ran for president against George W. Bush, speak for his 'base'! Hey Andrea, Pat Buchanan is about as much a part of President Bush's 'base' as Lenora Fulani, who at one point endorsed Buchanan's 2000 presidential candidacy!
Finally, Matt Lauer interviewed White House communications director Dan Bartlett. Twice Lauer tried and failed to provoke the suave spokesman.
Lauer first threw in Bartlett's face a line from a Los Angeles Times editorial to the effect that European leaders with whom President Bush will be meeting view him like "an infectious disease."
Bartlett kept his cool: "When you are the lone super-power in the world all of the problems land on your desk at the White House. The president has to make very difficult, sometimes controversial, decisions."
Lauer later tried to tempt Bartlett into naming cowardly Dem names: "The president said it's important to have members of the United States congress who will not wave the white flag of surrender on the war on terror. That's a very dramatic and harsh expression - the white flag of surrender. Have you heard any Democrats calling for the white flag of surrender?"
Just like the rest of us, Bartlett surely has seen Dems waving the white flag. Dems like Howard Dean, who has said the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."
And then there's Jack Murtha, who just last week on Meet the Press said:
"But there comes a time when you got to change direction, there comes a time when you have to say to yourself, ok, we've done everything we could do. We can't win this militarily."
Bartlett declined to name names, observing instead: "This is an epic struggle in which we have to be committed to winning. What President Bush is saying is leaders in Washington, DC have to continue to stand up and say we are going to support these troops. It's a very important debate for our country to have. There are no simple solutions. Those calling for immediate withdrawal will only put our country at more risk."