On Wednesday's "Today," frequent MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle filed a fawning, credulous report on "Amtrak Senator" Joe Biden and his daily habit of taking the train home from Washington D.C. after completing his duties in the U.S. Senate. Barnicle, who accompanied Biden during one of these trips back to Delaware, seemed to be repeating talking points when he touted how the journey keeps the politician grounded: "The train ride also had another benefit: Keeping him in touch with real people and his working class Irish Catholic roots."
After listing what political pundits think are Biden's strengths, the journalist cooed, "But for the Amtrak Senator, it's about working people he feels a part of." As though he were narrating one of the promotional videos that have been used to introduce speakers at the Democratic convention, Barnicle pivoted off a comment by Biden that one doesn't need a focus group for most political issues. The MSNBC personality extolled, "All you need, says the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president, is a seat on a train that takes you home every night."
"Today" co-host Matt Lauer actually teased the NBC piece by asserting, "The Democrats like to say the senator's got the common touch." Clearly, it's not just Democrats who will be promoting that particular angle. The graphic for the Barnicle segment unquestioningly announced, "All Aboard: Riding the Rails With Joe Biden."
In a previous piece, reporter Andrea Mitchell and NBC political analyst Chuck Todd preemptively praised Biden's vice presidential speech, set for Wednesday night. Mitchell claimed she saw Biden practicing the address in the Denver convention hall. "And he is going to be ready. This guy knows how to give a speech," she enthused. Todd agreed: "Biden is good speech theater. Ask labor guys. This guy knows how to give fire and brimstone. It will be- People will be surprised by what they see tonight."
And while "Today" found time to rhapsodize about Biden's everyman appeal and his toughness, unsurprisingly there was no labeling of the senator, a committed ideological liberal, in either segment. Biden's lifetime score from the American Conservative Union is 13.
A transcript of the August 27 segment, which aired at 8:24am, follows:
MATT LAUER: Well, Senator Joe Biden, it's his big night tonight. He's the man that Barack Obama picked as his running mate. The Democrats like to say the senator's got the common touch. It may be in part because he likes to take the train to and from work every day. It's because, actually, he needed to be with his kids when they were young and dealing with tragedy. So, we're going to go along for the ride.
MATT LAUER: Welcome back to Denver where Senator Joe Biden will accept his party's vice presidential nomination tonight. You know, he likes to say that he's not a typical Washington politician because, in part, he takes the train to and from his Delaware train every single day. Before he got the nod to become Barack Obama's running mate, Senator Biden took a ride on that train with MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle.
NBC GRAPHIC: All Aboard: Riding the Rails With Joe Biden
SENATOR JOE BIDEN: I take this train- literally, I've taken it, over 7,400 times since I've gotten into the Senate.
MIKE BARNICLE: Mr. Biden's neighborhood?
BIDEN: Yeah, well, it kind of is my neighborhood. Never planned on doing that. I thought I was going to live in Washington when I got elected, like everybody else.
BARNICLE: Elected to the Senate in 1972 at 29, Joe Biden endured a huge loss before he was even sworn in. An automobile accident claimed his wife and daughter.
BIDEN: A guy driving a tractor trailer broadsided my wife. Killed my wife, killed my daughter and my two sons were really badly injured.
BARNICLE: He nearly gave up his Senate seat, but party leaders persuaded him to stay. But he decided to go home to his sons every night.
BIDEN: A kid can hold an important thought for 12 hours, If you miss it, man, it's gone. So, I just made sure every morning when I got up, when they got up, I was there. Because that's when they wanted to talk.
BARNICLE: Five years after the accident, Joe Biden married a Delaware schoolteacher. They had a baby girl and he kept taking the 250 mile round trip every day. The train ride also had another benefit: Keeping him in touch with real people and his working class Irish Catholic roots.
BIDEN: I'm an Irish Catholic kid from a town we're going to pass we're going to pass in a few minutes called Claymont, Delaware. You know, the guys I went to school with, they became, you know, joined the union, were firefighters, cops or priests. In Washington, you get down there, you think you're pretty important. It sort of sneaks up on you. But when you come home every day, I do like everybody else does. I stop, pick up the milk on the way home or if I forgot the bread I go back out. You know, and people see me every day.
BARNICLE: Pundits talk about Biden's foreign policy experience, his ability to attack Republicans and the strength he brings in a key battleground state like Pennsylvania. But for the Amtrak Senator, it's about working people he feels a part of.
BIDEN: Look, they're worrying about putting food on the table. They're worry about getting the kids to school. They're wondering whether their mother has a prescription. They're worrying about holding their marriage together. They're worried about their kid in Iraq and whether he's coming home.
BARNICLE: You don't need a focus group for this stuff.
BIDEN: No, you don't. I don't think you do.
BARNICLE: All you need, says the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president, is a seat on a train that takes you home every night.