It's understood there's a professional partnership between Newsweek and NBC/MSNBC, but it really seemed like the crew at Today on Tuesday were pounding consistently on the Newsweek drum of the week, that the crucial question in Washington is whether George W. Bush will listen to critics -- or to be more precise, whether George Bush will bend to the will of the liberal media establishment. NBC could have started the day be saying "We at NBC News, after consultations, have decided to ask today whether President Bush will listen."
MRC's Geoff Dickens noted that in the show's first minute, Ann Curry began: "Today, confirmation hearings begin for President Bush's pick to be the next defense chief, and tomorrow the Iraq Study Group releases its highly anticipated report. But just how open is President Bush to suggestions? We're gonna ask the man who's worked closer with him than probably anyone else, his former chief of staff Andy Card."
At 7:05, Curry repeated:
"With just one day to go until the bipartisan Iraq Study Group comes out with a report that everyone's waiting for there is a question that is being asked, will the President listen? David Gregory is NBC's chief White House correspondent. He joins us this morning. David, good morning."
[On screen headline: "Iraq Strategy: Is Bush Really Ready for Change?"]
David Gregory: "Good morning, Ann, you're right. Washington is certainly bracing for a massive course correction on Iraq but it is still a question as to whether the President is really ready for change."
George W. Bush: "Part of unifying Iraq-"
Gregory: "In the Oval Office, Monday, the President appeared with one of Iraq's key Shiite powerbrokers, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and was candid about the war."
Bush: "I told him that we're not satisfied with the pace of progress in Iraq."
Gregory: "In fact more dire assessments that the war is being lost, that the goal of democracy in Iraq is no longer obtainable, have fueled three separate internal reviews and calls for a new way forward."
Sen. Ted Kennedy: "There is no alternative now. There is no alternative. The times demand a change and the American people are expecting a change."
Gregory: "Last week, however, the President appeared to dismiss the forthcoming suggestion from the high profile Baker-Hamilton commission for a substantial drawdown of U.S. troops."
Bush: "And that's why this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all."
Gregory: "Does that mean the President is unwilling to listen? Privately White House officials maintain that the nuts and bolts of their war strategy is sound. They also contend little will be suggested by Baker-Hamilton that they haven't considered. Appearing on Fox News, Monday night Mr. Bush was as certain as ever about his vision."
Bush: "When it's all said and done I will have made decisions based upon principles and I'm not changing my principles."
Gregory: "Nevertheless the President may well bend to political demands."
John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington correspondent: "What the skeptics need to remember is this is the same President who shortly before the election said Don Rumsfeld was gonna be his Defense Secretary through the rest of the term."
The will-Bush-listen mantra continued as Lauer began his interview with former Bush chief of staff Andy Card: "What about this question that David poses in his piece, it's posed on the cover of the newsmagazines this week. Will the President listen? You know him? Does he listen?"
Card said "the president has the lonely responsibility to protect us. And he's got thousands of people who take the duty to help him do that job, and to protect us, he needs to make sure Iraq is not a safe haven for the terrorists and they can't use it to mount attacks on us."
But Lauer wasn't satisfied, insisting that Bush must bend to conventional wisdom: "But it's clear that there's got to be a change of course. And there are a lot of people weighing in with advice on how that course should be changed. Does he listen?" Card stuck to the point that Bush is committed to not letting Iraq fall apart and become a safe haven for terrorists.
Lauer wasn't letting to on Bush failing to acquiesce to liberal demands: "You know after the midterm election, the firing of Donald Rumsfeld, it appeared that the President was reaching out to people saying, 'Look I'm willing to consider all options.' But the statements that David mentioned in his piece just now, that he's made over the past couple of weeks. Quote: 'This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it all,' and 'When is all, when all is said and done I'll have made decisions based upon principles and I'm not changing my principles.' Is that the same thing as saying, 'I will not change the tactics?'"
At the end, Lauer brought up the Donald Rumsfeld memo, and suggested the Bush team has been remarkably insincere: "So, so given the fact that the administration was saying 'Stay the course, stay the course,' right up until before the elections then changed the terminology a bit but the message remained the same, isn't it fair for the American people to think that the administration was saying one thing and thinking something else?"