A month ago, CBS News hired ex-Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaign operative Jamal Simmons, a self-described “strong supporter of Barack Obama's campaign,” as political analyst, and Tuesday night the CBS Evening News paired him with the more sober in-house analyst John Dickerson. As a result, viewers heard a rational look at the political landscape from Dickerson paired with Democratic talking points, in the guise of political analysis, from Simmons, but not balanced by any GOP veteran tearing down Democrats.
Simmons turned polls showing impending big Democratic losses into a way to deliver anti-Republican demagoguery, as he charged “voters are starting to figure out that if Republicans win, they're going to cut, you know, 21 percent out of education and borrow $700 billion from the Chinese to give tax cuts to rich people, and most voters don't want to do that.”
After Katie Couric raised, as controversial, Christine O’Donnell’s accurate contention “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution, Simmons took the opportunity to deride Republican candidates: “If you look around the country, not just Christine O'Donnell but Sharron Angle out in Nevada, and Rich Iott in Ohio who dresses as an S.S. Nazi for the weekend, you know, these candidates are making Democrats look pretty good in comparison.”
From the Tuesday, October 19 CBS Evening News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
KATIE COURIC: We want to bring in our CBS News political analyst John Dickerson and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons who are both in Washington tonight. Jamal, let me start with you. Our latest poll also found that 82 percent of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 approve of how he's handling the job. While that sounds encouraging, Chip reported there's definitely an enthusiasm gap this year. Do you think this will come down to turnout for the Democrats? And how is it going in that department, Jamal?
JAMAL SIMMONS, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the poll also said that 69 percent of voters say they'll definitely vote in this election, so there's a kind of mixed messages coming from those numbers. At the same time, Katie, Democrats are feeling very good. They feel like if you look at the early vote returns, you're starting to see some strong response and that voters are starting to figure out that if Republicans win, they're going to cut, you know, 21 percent out of education and borrow $700 billion from the Chinese to give tax cuts to rich people, and most voters don't want to do that.
COURIC: Conversely, John, just 39 percent of independents who voted for President Obama say he's made progress solving problems. So is that encouraging news for Republicans?
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: It is encouraging news for Republicans. That's a low number from independents who were such an important part of that Obama coalition. And that group is even less enthusiastic about the Democrats who will actually be on the ballot. Seventy percent of independents who voted for Obama in 2008 say they are angry and dissatisfied. That's good news for the party that's out of power.
COURIC: Meanwhile, GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell got into a faceoff with her challenger Chris Coons over teaching evolution in schools. They had a disagreement about the content of the First Amendment. Let's take a look.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, DELAWARE REPUBLICAN SENATE NOMINEE: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?
CHRIS COONS, DELAWARE DEMOCRATIC SENATE NOMINEE: No, an excellent point.
UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: Hold on, hold on, please.
COONS: There is a separation of church and state that our courts and our laws must respect.
O'DONNELL: So you're telling me that the separation of church, the phrase separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?
COONS: Government shall make no establishment of religion.
COONS: That's in the First Amendment?
COURIC: We received a statement from the O'Donnell campaign. It reads in part: "Christine O'Donnell was not questioning the concept of church and state as subsequently established by the courts. She simply made the point that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution." John, do voters care about exchanges like that one?
DICKERSON: It's hard to imagine, Katie, with the economy being what it is, that anybody's going to care too much about that exchange. Plus in Delaware, they've seen so much footage about Christine O'Donnell, anybody who is going to disqualify her for this constitutional back-and-forth probably already has. So it's a small distraction, but two weeks out, down in the polls, little distractions can be costly.
COURIC: And, Jamal, she, in one poll she only trails Chris Coons by 11 points. Could she actually win this race?
SIMMONS: You know, it doesn't look likely. It doesn't look like she can actually win this race. I mean, if you look around the country, not just Christine O'Donnell but Sharron Angle out in Nevada, and Rich Iott in Ohio who dresses as an S.S. Nazi for the weekend, you know, these candidates are making Democrats look pretty good in comparison.
COURIC: All right, to be continued. Jamal Simmons and John Dickerson. Gentlemen, thank you both.
— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.