MRC's Geoff Dickens reports that MSNBC's "Hardball" on Tuesday also pushed the line that Bush was pandering to conservatives with media criticism. After claiming, like a liberal talking-point machine, that unnamed "national security experts" disagree with the president that the New York Times has harmed national security, since the Bush people announced vaguely in public that they would monitor terrorist finances, reporter David Shuster picked up on the Ed Henry echo:
Shuster: "Political analysts believe the Bush administration’s latest war with the media is motivated in part by the coming midterm elections."
Political analyst Charlie Cook: "They’ve got to motivate their base and conservatives, Republicans tend to distrust the media, so any time you can play off and use the media as a foil, it’s probably a good thing."
Shuster: "It could be especially helpful in a political environment dominated by Iraq. The situation there continues to appear horrific, and the administration has long sought to portray these images as misleading. The Bush administration is also facing criticism on how it has handled North Korea’s threats to launch a long range missile and Iran’s efforts to continue developing a nuclear program. And just today, there was a tough, investigative report about the widows of soldiers killed in Iraq. The New York Times reported that the Pentagon’s massive bureaucracy has made it impossible for some widows to collect all the benefits they are entitled to. None of those stories, of course, add up to good news for this administration. But bad news is blunted when the messenger is scapegoated or becomes the focus of debate, and to keep the focus on the New York Times and away from surveillance programs or even government disclosures, administration officials are considering a Justice Department investigation. I’m David Shuster for Hardball in Washington."
Later, Chris Matthews talked to retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, who unsurprisingly came down four-square for endorsing his media colleagues at the Times, although Brokaw at least acknowledged administration anger is sincere, not cynical:
"My own judgment is that they did have the right to do it, and that they exercised what they thought was a responsible position after a very thorough review. Obviously the administration is coming after them, and I think because it's heartfelt, they feel passionately that they have been betrayed, that the country has been betrayed in some fashion. And in a democratic republic, this is how we work things out, you have this debate in, in society. There have been some critics who have gone way too far on both sides, I think. But I don't know enough about all the elements that were on Bill Keller's desk when he made that decision. But based on what I've read, I can see where they would have done that."
Matthews: "Are there any stories, conceptually, that you can imagine..."
Brokaw: "Let me just say one other thing about that. I don't know of anyone who believes that the terrorist network said, ‘Oh my god, they're tracing our financial transactions? What a surprise.' Of course they knew that they were doing that."
Near show's end, Matthews turned to Margaret Carlson, the former Time White House correspondent who embarrassingly fawned all over Hillary Clinton back in the day. She thought Congressman Peter King is drowning in hyperbole:
"Well I think of espionage is something you do in secret and that is not what the New York Times is doing by putting a story on the front page of the Post. Congressman King was, was very excited. I think he will regret the Alger Hiss comments, it's over the top. Listen, the only people who didn't know about this program are in Congress and the public. Certainly the terrorists know that their phones are being tapped and their financial records are being tracked as well. The question is whether the President ever bothers to follow the law or whether since 9/11, he can do anything he wants without consulting."