Throwing gas on the firestorm between Senator Obama and President Bush, the May 16 edition of "Today" sounded almost like an Obama campaign press release. Host Matt Lauer kicked off the segment rhetorically questioning if Bush is "the campaigner in chief."
Reporter Andrea Mitchell basically said "yes" stating without doubt that "President Bush did inject himself directly into the presidential campaign." Mind reader Mitchell claimed Bush’s speech to the Israeli Knesset "could hardly have been an accident" and used the opportunity "to fire a shot at Barack Obama."
Mitchell admitted the president did not mention Obama’s name but he somehow still managed to compare the Senator from Illinois to "the politicians who appeased Hitler." Displaying journalistic irresponsibility, Mitchell did not even report the White House’s denial that President Bush referred to Senator Obama.
After playing a brief sound bite of Senator McCain chastising Obama for "lack of judgment," Mitchell quoted an Obama press release blasting McCain and then stacked up with Bush critics. Mitchell played sound bites of Senator Biden in a profanity lace tirade, Senator Clinton in a rare moment defending Obama, and even Former Secretary of State Colin Powell calling for talks with Hamas.
The entire transcript is below.
MATT LAUER: Is he the campaigner in chief? President Bush is smack dab in the middle of the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain today. The Democrats say the president went over the line during a trip to Israel. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has all the fireworks. Andrea, Good morning to you.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning. Matt, President Bush did inject himself directly in the presidential campaign setting off that firestorm over the politics of foreign policy. Barack Obama, I'm told, will respond strongly to this today at a rally in South Dakota even as Clinton aides, for the first time, acknowledge the reality that she will not be the nominee. In what could hardly have been a political accident, the president chose the most high-profile speech of his middle east trip, his address to Israeli lawmakers to fire a shot at Barack Obama.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.
MITCHELL: Without naming Obama, the president compared the likely Democratic nominee's willingness to talk to Iran to the politicians who appeased Hitler before World War II.
BUSH: We've heard this foolish delusion before. We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement.
MITCHELL: And then John McCain chimed in.
SENATOR JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): It is a serious error on the part of Senator Obama. It shows inexperience and lack of judgment.
MITCHELL: A spokesman for Obama told NBC News, "let there be no doubt that George Bush is John McCain's wingman on this. This is a fight we like." Other Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, rushed to Obama's defense.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): I think what President Bush did today was to make an outrageous and deeply offensive comparison. I just reject it out of hand. And I think any fair-minded American will reject it out of hand.
MITCHELL: Just what is Obama's policy? He outlined it last August.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): The lesson of the Bush years is that not talking does not work. Go down the list of countries we've ignored and see how successful that strategy has been.
MITCHELL: In fact, George Bush's own former secretary of State, Colin Powell, said much the same thing.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: Hamas has to be engaged. I don't think you can just cast them into outer darkness and try to find a solution to the problems of the region without taking into account the standing that Hamas has in the Palestinian community.
MITCHELL: And this week Defense Secretary Bob Gates said there has to be discussions with Iran. All this led Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden to explode, calling the president's comments something we can't repeat on television.
SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): This is bull---. This is malarkey. This is outrageous.
MITCHELL: While the Republicans go after Obama, Clinton has noticeably dialed down her campaign rhetoric. Aides tell NBC News, we understand the reality. In effect, they are acknowledging that she is going through the motions until the final bell rings.