NBC's Today show, on Wednesday, used the occasion of two responses to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, by Republicans Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann, as an opportunity to portray the GOP as a party divided. Despite a historic victory by Republicans in last year's midterm elections NBC anchors, past and present, on this morning's Today show, took pains to portray the Republican Party in dire trouble with co-anchor Matt Lauer questioning if the party was "split" and "heading in different directions" and Meredith Vieira wondering if there was "a divide." Even former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw got into the act as he claimed the GOP was locked in a "two front war" against Democrats and the Tea Party.
NBC's White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie kicked off the GOP "divide" theme when she declared "Republicans had what amounted to dueling responses" in her set-up piece to a Lauer interview with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In that segment Lauer pressed Giuliani "Do you worry...that as we approach the next election in 2012...that the Republican Party is split and heading in different directions," as seen in the following exchange:
MATT LAUER: There were, there were two responses to the President's speech. One from Paul Ryan, the other from Michele Bachmann. Do you worry, at all, Rudy that, that in the wake or as we approach the next election in 2012, some 20 months away that the Republican Party is split and heading in different directions?
RUDY GIULIANI: Not yet, but you know primaries do that. I went through a primary in '08. Every, every year we have an election, we have these primaries. And I think we are gonna have certain differences, differences of opinion. But I thought Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan their theme was pretty similar. I mean it really didn't diverge on policy from each other. Maybe a little on style. I thought Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann did a good job. I thought - it's very tough. I would hate to have to do that.
Then in the ensuing segment, on the January 26 show, it was Vieira and Brokaw's turn to explore a possible split in the GOP.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Two GOP responses to the President's speech. Does it suggest a divide in the party? Rudy Giuliani was a little vague about that.
TOM BROKAW: I think there is a real divide in the party. It's very much of concern to what I would call mainstream or establishment Republicans. Dick Armey of Freedom Works, who's one of the Tea Party founders said, "Our objective is to take over the Republican Party." Dick Armey, the former Texas congressman, has said we ought to eliminate NASA, and the Department of Urban Affairs, the Department of Education, wipe out a lot of the federal government, in an effort to get this back in balance. One of his acolytes is Michele Bachmann, last night who spoke for that wing of the party. So the Republican leaders and the Congress have to have the President in front of them and the Tea Party people right behind them. And they're fighting a two front war.
After Brokaw speculated the Tea Party could break the GOP apart, he did express fondness for Republicans sitting with Democrats at the State of the Union Address because this allowed him to extrapolate on his theory that "life is junior high." Brokaw, commenting on the act of superficial bipartisanship, was clearly pleased by the seating arrangements as he pontificated:
"I believe that all life is junior high, by the way. And these kinds of ceremonies have been a reflection of that. They've been more like a junior high pep rally with people standing up and acting like they are adolescents again. Last night everyone in the chamber acted as if they were an adult. And the country longs for some adult leadership."
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here