NBC Uses HBO McCain Movie to Bash Republicans

Touting a preview of HBO’s new documentary on the life of Arizona Senator John McCain, who is battling terminal brain cancer, on Thursday, NBC’s Today show used the segment as an excuse to slam Republicans over their “rush last summer to replace ObamaCare” and alluded to the former GOP presidential nominee’s “mistake” of selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.

Noting that the upcoming film, set to be released on Memorial Day, was “both personal and political,” fill-in co-host Craig Melvin declared that it was “highlighted by the Republican rush last summer to replace ObamaCare, that he ultimately doomed with an historic thumbs-down vote.”

 

 

A clip followed of McCain admonishing his GOP colleagues:

We tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them that it’s better than nothing. That it’s better than nothing?

That was followed by a soundbite of former Vice President Joe Biden lecturing: “I think the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats know better. They’ve got to start to stand up. As John would say, get back to regular order....That’s how democracy is supposed to work.”

Former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman then chimed in:

I think the Republicans felt that he had marshaled all his physical strength to come back after the surgery and that naturally he would vote with the Republican Party, but they totally misread John. He came back for a different reason. He came back to do the right thing and to send a message to his colleagues and to the country.

After that one-sided trashing of the Republican legislative agenda, Melvin noted: “The film takes a warts-and-all approach to McCain’s life, which he insisted on.” Apparently Sarah Palin was one of those “warts” because a picture appeared on screen of her with McCain in during the 2008 presidential campaign as Melvin delivered that line.

The documentary’s director, Peter Kunhardt, explained: “[McCain] remembers points where he made a mistake, where he let the country down, where he let himself down. He doesn’t gloss over that. He wants to talk about it and he wants to make it right.”

On ABC’s Good Morning America, during a report on the film that largely focused on McCain’s personal thoughts about his life, correspondent Paula Faris made sure emphasize that the selection of Palin was a major “regret” for McCain, though she made a glaring error on the year of the campaign: “But through the film, he shares both his disdain for the divisive political climate and his own regrets, like not choosing then-Democrat Joe Lieberman as his running mate in 2000.”

Of course, McCain was the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, not 2000. He did run for president in 2000, but lost to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush in the GOP primaries. Lieberman was selected as someone’s vice presidential nominee that year, but on the Democratic side, by then-Vice President Al Gore.

Speaking of his decision to tap Palin instead of Lieberman in 2008, McCain lamented:

I should have said, “Look, we’ve got a hell of a campaign anyway, Joe Lieberman is my best friend, we should take him.” But I was persuaded by my political advisers that it would be harmful and that was another mistake that I made.

Moments later, Faris concluded: “McCain very candid as he talks about his failures.”

The HBO special and the networks could have highlighted any number of events from McCain’s long life of public service, but they specifically chose to focus on incidents that were unflattering for Republicans.  

Ten years ago, McCain was the number one target for media attacks as he ran against Barack Obama for the presidency. Now, the same news media see an opportunity to use McCain to go after the rest of the Republican Party.

Here is a full transcript of the May 24 report on NBC:

8:45 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We’re back with a powerful new look at the life and career of Senator John McCain as he battles a life-threatening form of brain cancer.

CRAIG MELVIN: Yeah, there’s this new documentary out. It’s premiering on HBO Monday. It is called, John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls, a reference to the Ernest Hemingway novel where an underdog takes on a dangerous, probably fatal mission out of a deep sense of duty. A description that certainly suits the many battles John McCain’s waged in and out of Washington.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Movie “Maverick”; Inside New Documentary on John McCain]

PETER KUNHARDT [“JOHN MCCAIN: FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS” DIRECTOR]: He has an inner moral compass that, I think, drives him crazy when he doesn’t follow it.

MELVIN: The new HBO documentary, John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls, takes a look at the battles that the former naval aviator turned prisoner of war, turned maverick senator.

KUNHARDT: This was instilled in him by his father, an admiral, by his grandfather, an admiral, this military code of conduct that he began realizing as a POW in Vietnam, and it kind of steered his political course right up until today.

MELVIN: Both personal, after a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, and political, highlighted by the Republican rush last summer to replace ObamaCare, that he ultimately doomed with an historic thumbs-down vote in this exclusive clip.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN [R-AZ]: We tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them that it’s better than nothing. That it’s better than nothing?

JOE BIDEN: I think the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats know better. They’ve got to start to stand up. As John would say, get back to regular order. All regular order means is you introduce a bill, you have hearings, you let the public see what’s going on, you show the press, you have witnesses, you have amendments and make up your mind. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

MCCAIN: I will not vote for this bill as it is today.

FMR. SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN [I-CT]: I think the Republicans felt that he had marshaled all his physical strength to come back after the surgery and that naturally he would vote with the Republican Party, but they totally misread John. He came back for a different reason. He came back to do the right thing and to send a message to his colleagues and to the country.

MELVIN: The film takes a warts-and-all approach to McCain’s life, which he insisted on.

[PICTURE ON SCREEN OF MCCAIN WITH SARAH PALIN IN 2008]

KUNHARDT: He remembers points where he made a mistake, where he let the country down, where he let himself down. He doesn’t gloss over that. He wants to talk about it and he wants to make it right.

MELVIN: In what will probably be the closing chapter of his life, McCain remains a fighter, but with wit at the ready.

MCCAIN: I’ll be here for a few days, after that, I’m going home for a while to treat my illness. I have ever intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me. [Laughter] And I hope to impress upon you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company. Thank you, fellow senators.

MELVIN: It looks like a fascinating documentary.

CARSON DALY: Powerful.

MELVIN: Yeah, and you saw Joe Lieberman there, and you know, of course, one of McCain’s finest political attributes was his willingness to work across the aisle with Lieberman, whether it’s Russ Feingold out of Wisconsin on campaign finance reform as well.

But the documentary’s called, John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls. It premieres on HBO Monday night.


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