Friday’s edition of Today on NBC had several conservative-denigrating moments over the ideological direction of presumptive GOP nominee John McCain. Matt Lauer interviewed columnist Ann Coulter. He threw a spitball about conservatives being babies: "Critics of conservative voices right now are saying for the first time in a very long time, the conservatives have lost. They haven't been able to choose their nominee and it's the political version now of a 3-year-old saying, ‘if you can't play the game the way I want to play, I'm taking my football and I'm going home.’ How do you respond to that?"
Tim Russert acknowledged in his pundit’s corner that conservatives must be assuaged, but that if McCain gives an inch to his right, "the Straight Talk Express will be derailed." For liberal media types, since 2000, Straight Talk was a way to equate talking liberal with talking "straight," that liberalism has all the straight answers. Here’s a fuller bite of Russert:
John McCain is going to have to sit down with these groups the way he did yesterday with the CPAC Convention, reach out to people across the country. The difficulty is if they start demanding compromises on his positions on torture or on campaign finance and he is seen as caving in or weakening, the Straight Talk Express will be derailed and he'll lose his ability to reach across and pull in independents. So it's a very dicey tight rope for John McCain to be walking.
McCain clearly has a tightrope to walk, but it’s a little biased to imply that being conservative would put McCain on the Dishonest Talk Express. Here’s some of Matt Lauer pressing Ann Coulter on conservative brattiness, stealing a bit from Peter Jennings comparing the 1994 Republican takeover as a two-year-old temper tantrum:
LAUER: Critics of conservative voices right now are saying for the first time in a very long time, the conservatives have lost. They haven't been able to choose their nominee and it's the political version now of a 3-year-old saying, "if you can't play the game the way I want to play, I'm taking my football and I'm going home." How do you respond to that?
COULTER: Well, I think I did just answer that. It isn't that. It's that I will always vote for the most conservative candidate, I don't care if there is an "R" after his name. If Teddy Kennedy runs as a Republican, I'm not voting for Teddy Kennedy. As for conservatives losing, I think if we'd been given a little more time. The one thing I think it really shows is the overwhelming power of the mainstream media. Because you talk to these Republicans who voted for McCain, they don't know anything about his record other than he was a POW.
LAUER: Let me just read you one thing Governor Romney said yesterday. He said in talking about continuing his campaign or not, if he continued, quote, "it would make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win and in this time of war I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror." So, if you this support Hillary Clinton as opposed to John McCain would you not be aiding a surrender to terror according to the man you supported?
COULTER: I think he should say that since he hopefully will be running in 2012. One way I'd vote for McCain is if he picked Mitt Romney as his vice president.
At the start of the interview, Lauer laid the attitude on this with "Come on!" Wouldn’t it be nice if NBC tried that during one of their typically fawning Jimmy Carter interviews? ("Israel has apartheid? Come on!") It began like this:
MATT LAUER: Among those angry conservatives is Ann Coulter, the author of "If Democrats Had any Brains They'd Be Republicans." And believe it or not she says she'd rather have Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office. Ann, good morning. Welcome back.
ANN COULTER: I prefer to think of myself as principled conservative.
LAUER: Not angry? Well, come on! You got John McCain as the presumptive nominee of your party right now. Are you going to calm down and get in line as he suggests? Or are you going to move to Bolivia?
COULTER: Well, I'll vote for the most conservative candidate. It's just not clear that's John McCain.
LAUER: Come on. Isn't it very clear that John McCain is more conservative than Hillary Clinton?
COULTER: I don't think it is. I think there isn't much difference between the two of them. And I'd rather have Republicans in Congress fighting a liberal president than saying, "oh, he's our president. Let's go along with that." And I'd rather not get blamed for it and live under 30 years of Democratic rule.
The "come on" isn't too unreasonable when Coulter suggests McCain and Hillary Clinton might be equally conservative. But the first usage came along with an insistence that she "calm down" and suggests that the reasonable person will just fall in line, and not "move to Bolivia." I don't believe Coulter threatened to move south of the border. Equating Hillary with McCain sounds uncalm, but a conservative should be able to state that McCain fails many a conservative litmus test. The most egregious one is the way he has sought out the liberal media as more of an organizing base in the last decade than he has sought out the conservative movement.