The "Today" show's lead political story on Monday was that the Obama campaign was offended by the liberal New Yorker magazine's attempt to parody supposed right wing attacks on Obama, on its cover. To analyze the liberal Obama's reaction to the magazine cover, they brought on former liberal Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. to discuss the controversy.
"Today" co-host, Ann Curry, announced Ford was a new NBC News analyst and not surprisingly Ford acted more like an Obama PR flack as he determined: "I've never seen a candidate treated like this, at this point in a campaign."
The following is the full segment as it occurred on the July 14, "Today" show:
ANN CURRY: So let's get some perspective on all this from former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. He's now an NBC News political analyst. Hey, great to see you.
[On screen headline: "Obama Vs. McCain, Does Magazine Cover Go Too Far?"]
HAROLD FORD: Good morning, glad to be here.
CURRY: So how damaging is this New Yorker magazine cover?
FORD: It doesn't help. I think Senator Obama and his campaign's response that it's tasteless and offensive is, is spot on. Not only that, that it's curious that a magazine would, would go to this...to make this kind of a statement, when you consider that a portion of this country, particularly in Midwestern and rust belt states still believe that Barack Obama, because of Internet campaigns, mistakenly and wrongly believe he may be a Muslim and they equate that with, with terrorist activity. It's, it's puzzling, and if not outright belittling that they would do this to this candidate at this point. I've never seen a candidate treated like this, at this point in a campaign.
CURRY: Oh so you're saying, you're saying that, when you say, it's unbelievable they're treating, you're, you're suggesting that maybe there's something a little more untoward, devious about this decision?
FORD: No I think they may have wanted to satire, satirize this and that's all understandable. But at this point in the campaign, at this point in the nation's history, to take these steps with this picture, the editors at the magazine have some questions to answer.
CURRY: You make a good point in terms of the numbers. Because, in fact, a new Newsweek poll found that actually more than half of all respondents think that Barack Obama was either raised as a Muslim, educated in a Muslim school or sworn-in as Senator on a Koran. So the question really is why do so many people have this sense? It's not because of that magazine cover.
CURRY: Because that happened after. Why, why do people have this wrong?
FORD: I think two reasons. One, Senator Obama's name suggests in some ways wrongly that his religion may be different than what it is. He's a Christian, he's a God-fearing man who raised his kids in a Christian church. Two, I think part of, part of what Senator Obama's gonna do, he didn't create this problem. But he's gonna have to exude more, show more his love and patriotism for the country. He gave a fantastic speech a few weeks ago, not only about patriotism but gave a great speech on Father's Day about personal and self responsibility. He's now, from a campaign perspective, got to figure out how do you follow that up. How do you amplify it? How do you reinforce those themes and those messages through paid advertisements. They've raised a lot of money and they're probably gonna have to spend a good chunk of it trying to disabuse people of this wrong notion about him and his religion.
CURRY: There are the new, the new, a new Newsweek poll also says that Barack Obama and John McCain currently are now in a statistical dead heat. That same Newsweek magazine said that, a month ago, Barack Obama was actually ahead by 15 percent. Now there's some debate about whether these are funny numbers. But do you think there's something going on? Because there's also a lot of accusation now against both campaigns about flip-flopping and specifically against Obama, about flip-flopping. Do you think there's something going on? Does Barack Obama have to really worry now?
FORD: No, these, these polls are, just snapshots of where we are. I didn't believe the polls showing that far ahead. I got great respect for Jon Meacham and the organization but at the same time this is, this race is fluid. This race is finally engaging and forming. Two things, Barack Obama is running for the President of the United States, not the president of Moveon.Org or the president of a liberal group. He's running to lead and be a decision maker and be a visionary for the country on the economy, national security and the immediate issue of Iraq. He's not flip-flopping. I think people try to put him in a-
CURRY: He's changed his position, people say that he's changed position on, by rejecting public financing, by voting for the FISA warrant-less wiretap. His position on gun control in Washington D.C. He has now been accused of flip-flopping on those issues. What do you mean he's not changed his positions?
FORD: I think it's, I think it's fair on the, on the campaign finance because he made a statement there. But on FISA and on the war I want a President who's gonna adjust to circumstances and needs on the ground. I want a President who's not gonna be inflexible or ideological. And I think what Senator Obama said is that, "That's the kind of President, the kind of decision-maker I want to be." Campaign finance we can debate. I would agree there's probably a great argument that can be made about his different position, differing positioning on that front. The reality is we have a housing challenge, we have an oil price challenge in this country. And we have a national security image challenge around the world. Barack Obama has to address those four issues over the next four months. If he does successfully he'll be elected, if not he won't.
CURRY: Harold Ford, alright. Thank you so much Harold Ford, this morning.
FORD: Thanks for having me.