On Thursday's edition of "Anderson Cooper 360," the host of the self titled show fretted that the withdrawal of Republican Senator Judd Gregg as commerce secretary nominee might indicate the Republican Party has declared "a war, an insurgency" against Barack Obama. Speaking to CNN analyst David Gergen, Cooper expanded on the theory. [audio excerpt here]
Referencing an embarrassing gaffe by Republican Congressman Pete Sessions that the House minority could consider the Taliban as an example of an insurgent force, the anchor seriously wondered, "So, David, though, you don't buy the idea that there is a war by Republicans against the President?" He continued, "Because, I mean, Pete Sessions, you know, who's head of the Republican Congressional Committee, was citing the Taliban as sort of an example of how to run an insurgent campaign against a larger force." Gergen didn't seem to go for the concept, asserting that there are "some hot heads in each party."
A few minutes earlier, Cooper theorized about the possible GOP threat, speculating, "But, do developments today also speak to something deeper, a war, an insurgency by Republicans against the President, against Democrats in the House and against their agenda?"
Talking to reporter Ed Henry earlier in the hour, Cooper complained about the timing of Gregg's announcement. "I mean, this guy [Gregg] held a press conference when the President was just about to make a big speech, kind of upstaging him. How annoyed is the White House by all of this," he queried.
Cooper promoted his war concept throughout the show. At the beginning of the program, he asked if it was "all out war." Later, he darkly suggested, "The larger question raised by Gregg's about-face, is it a sign that Republicans have no desire for real bipartisanship? Have they, in fact, declared war on President Obama?"
In yet another piece on the subject, reporter Tom Foreman asserted that Republicans have "startled political analysts by launching vigorous assaults on his [Obama's] initiatives."
To be fair, there was some speculation as to how much blame Obama deserves for this latest political problem. Reporter Henry noted that the administration built up the cabinet position, in terms of its importance. He observed, "Now he [Gregg] pulls out. And so it's almost like they have created the controversy a little bit, because they have really built up a job that previously was not that big of a deal."
Stephen Hayes, of the conservative Weekly Standard, was also featured in a brief sound bite. He, too, dismissed the concept: "It's just the opposite. I think, actually, Republicans are being very careful right now not to declare war on Obama." But, for the most part, Cooper seemed far more concerned over whether or not the Republicans were fighting an insurgent war against Obama.
A partial transcript of the February 12 show follows:
COOPER: The larger question raised by Gregg's about-face, is it a sign that Republicans have no desire for real bipartisanship? Have they, in fact, declared war on President Obama? Republican Congressman Pete Sessions suggested they learn from the Taliban a while back and operate as insurgents against the Democrats. Blogger Andrew Sullivan today suggested the war against Mr. Obama is real. Republicans, he wrote, want failure. You can decide for yourself if that theory makes sense. Some facts now from Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN: Despite President Obama's soaring popularity, members of the GOP have startled political analysts by launching vigorous assaults on his initiatives.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm here today to point out the fact that this is not bipartisanship. This process that is- we're engaging in is not smart. We're not working together.
FOREMAN: The prime target, the stimulus bill. Whether it was packed with at least a type of pork, as some Republicans said, is debatable. But the GOP found the accusation resonated with voters. Almost no elected Republicans voted for the plan. And, soon, the President was being pushed to explain why.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is that a sign that you are moving away, your White House is moving away from this emphasis on bipartisanship?
FOREMAN: The fall of other Cabinet nominees built Republican confidence. They are not ready to hit the President head on, according to political watchers like Stephen Hayes of the conservative "Weekly Standard."
STEPHEN HAYES (Weekly Standard): It's just the opposite. I think, actually, Republicans are being very careful right now not to declare war on Obama. And if you listen carefully to what you're hearing from Capitol Hill leaders on the Republican side, they are attacking, almost exclusively attacking House and Senate Democrats.
FOREMAN: And that distinction matters. Polls have long suggested the public loves Barack Obama, but mistrusts Congress. So, Republicans are quite clearly trying to force a choice on to the President. They would like to make it so that he must stand closer to congressional Democrats, and risk losing public approval, or keep his distance, and risk his own party's support. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Strange day, so much for a team of rivals. Judd Gregg foregoing a Cabinet job, sparking plenty of questions about why he did it and what it means for this president, who promised changed and an end to partisanship. Certainly, they have taken plenty of hits, some of them self-inflicted, over personnel decisions lately. But do developments today also speak to something deeper, a war, an insurgency by Republicans against the President, against Democrats in the House and against their agenda?
COOPER: So, David, though, you don't buy the idea that there is a war by Republicans against the President? Whether it's- it's- whether the Gregg nomination was part of this, the withdrawal, or just, in general, you don't buy that? Because, I mean, Pete Sessions, you know, who's head of the Republican Congressional Committee, was citing the Taliban as sort of an example of how to run an insurgent campaign against a larger force.
DAVID GERGEN: Are there some hot heads in each party who would like to destroy the other party and see it as war? Yes, there are. There's definitely on each- in each party, Anderson, that has been true for a while. But it really, again, comes back to the political culture. You know, for -- for the fact that a -- that a man like Judd Gregg could not go in, for the best interests of the country, and work for -- in a -- in a Democratic administration and would be treated like Benedict Arnold, it's not that people were trying to pull him back in. It's the ostracization. I know something about this. I have gone through this. And you feel like you're suddenly isolated, that you're in no-man's land, because you have agreed to work with the other side. That speaks to the health of the political culture. But let me just say that I think there may be a silver lining here for the Obama administration. For the life of me, I have never been able to understand why they wanted to put a political figure at the Commerce Department. They have tried twice now. What they need there is what the Commerce Department has traditionally had. They need a CEO in this administration. They don't have anybody. What they need most of all, to go back to it again, they need a Jack Welch-type CEO they can bring in and help to oversee some of this spending and make sure it is well done and that -- and bring some trust. And I think they have got the opportunity now to put the kind of person they should have put in there to begin with.