On Thursday's "Today" show, co-host Meredith Vieira actually challenged former Clinton administration advisor Paul Begala about the significance of Barack Obama's recent "lipstick on a pig" comment.
As was typical for this shameless pol, Begala viewed the McCain campaign's complaints concerning this remark as a distraction "from the fact that, you know, in the eyes of most people, the economy's going in the wrong direction, health care's going in the wrong direction, the whole country's going in the wrong direction."
However, Vieira surprisingly disagreed, and wasn't letting her guest get away with simply echoing Democrat talking points (partial transcript and embedded video follow, file photo right):
MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: This lipstick on a pig, any long-term repercussions, or is this just another diversion?
Mr. BEGALA: Well, it's a tactical diversion. And that suggests...
VIEIRA: A smart one?
Mr. BEGALA: For the McCain campaign very smart, sure. They--they're--these campaigns have two totally different goals. The McCain campaign's job is to try to distract people from the fact that, you know, in the eyes of most people, the economy's going in the wrong direction, health care's going in the wrong direction, the whole country's going in the wrong direction. `Oh, wait, look at this shiny object over here.' You know, let's make a preposterous allegation of sexism because you use a common phrase. The Obama campaign's job is the opposite. They need to label that, set it aside and say here's why they're doing it, because they don't want you to remember for the last eight years they've ruined the country.
VIEIRA: But Obama must have--when he said lipstick, it must--the minute it came out of his mouth he must have thought `Jeez, I probably shouldn't even gone down this road.'
Mr. BEGALA: Well, but see, you can't let them get into your head like that. You know, I just think that this has been--and frankly, it has been a failing of the news media for seizing on it. Great success for the McCain campaign. There are people at the McCain campaign every morning who get up and say `How do we distract people from the fact that two million folks are about to lose their homes, seven million have lost their health care? How do we distract from the fact that our guy votes with Bush 91 percent of the time? Oh, I have a good idea, let's accuse Barack Obama of sexism. He was raised by a single mom, he must hate women.' It's crazy.
VIEIRA: But you know, they also may be thinking that happened during the primaries. Obama and his camp were accused of sexism by the Clintons, and with some people that resonated. There are people that--you know, Clinton supporters to this day believe that she was treated differently because she was a woman.
Wow. You go, girl.
Yet, Vieira wasn't done, for moments later, she not only challenged Begala by quoting Karl Rove, but also threw some new polling numbers at him:
VIEIRA: Let's talk about what Karl Rove said in the Wall Street Journal today, because you actually brought it up. "Of all the advantages Governor Sarah Palin has brought to the GOP ticket, the most important may be that she has gotten into Barack Obama's head." Has she effectively gotten into his head?
Mr. BEGALA: Oh, I think certainly into the campaign's head. Who knows--you know, I don't want to pretend that I can peer into Senator Obama's head itself. But yes, because there's been this enormous distraction. This has been the benefit of picking someone who's never been vetted, who we have no idea about, who John McCain himself only met once. And I think it's actually a way that Bush has gotten into McCain's head. In other words, just like Bush, John McCain goes rash, reckless, goes with his gut. You know, he didn't think this thing through. And politically it's working out, but I have to say, governmentally this is--this is going to very difficult, I think, for McCain to pull off.
VIEIRA: We also have a poll, you know, particularly resonates today on 9/11, the anniversary of 9/11, where people were asked who they think would make the better commander in chief, more straightforward, stronger leadership qualities. McCain on all of those.
Honestly, what's going on here? Begala must have thought he'd stepped onto a Fox News set this morning instead of the "Today" show.
Nice job, Meredith.