On Friday, Jake Tapper promoted his Sunday State of the Union panel on Twitter like this: “we have two Dems and two GOPers.” One of the alleged Republicans was Charles Sykes, author of the book How The Right Lost Its Mind. So I tweeted back: “Rhetorically, that's one Republican and three Democrats.”
Sykes objected that he was an “unTrumpified conservative." So take a look at what Sykes actually said on Sunday's Tapper panel. He sounded exactly like what a Democrat would have said in his place. Only Trump scandals matter. Other scandals, he said, were “completely irrelevant.”
Sykes leaped to cry “distraction” on the Clinton scandal from the first question.
TAPPER: Let's start with you, Charlie Sykes, the author of a brand-new book called How The Right Lost Its Mind. Congratulations on the new book. There has been a big effort by the White House this week to try to change the subject from Mueller and try to refocus attention on the Clintons. What do you think?
SYKES: Well, you know, this is the -- we've seen this before. You know, deflection, distraction, you know, turn it around into something else.
You know, Donald Trump is still, obviously, obsessed with playing the Clinton card, running against Hillary Clinton. But I do think, you know, we're going to see a change tomorrow. It's going to move from the -- if, in fact, these charges do come down, we're going to see this move from the realm of politics and tweeting and speculation to the law and facts.
So I think you're going to see an extraordinary day tomorrow. And I think it's really a maximum peril, when you think about it. Because as you point out, as you've been pointing out all morning, I think that you saw Trump, the Trump White House and the Trump media really prepping the battlefield to discredit this investigation, and possibly even laying groundwork to fire Bob Mueller. And that is going to be a real test for Republicans, who claim to believe in the rule of law.
Then Sykes insisted that even if the Clinton scandal were actually scandal, it was completely irrelevant. Everyone pretends there are absolutely NO new developments in the new reporting on the Uranium One dealings and the Fusion GPS funding.
SYKES: But you can believe two things. You can believe this was a very, very disturbing deal, that we ought to look into.
NINA TURNER, DEMOCRAT: We should.
SYKES: And also think that it's completely irrelevant to what's going on right now. That you can be disturbed by that, but also recognize that there's really no new developments in that story. And why would this have, you know, become a big story the week before the first indictments would come down?
SYKES: So, again, you know, you don't have to say there's nothing here. But you can also say, this has ab -- this is a complete distraction from this real story of the Russian interference in the election.
TURNER: Right. Right.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, DEMOCRAT: In fact, this was raised during the election. And it was investigated.
SYKES: It was.
GRANHOLM: And fact checkers have said, there is nothing to Hillary Clinton -- Hillary Clinton did not even sit on the committee.
TURNER: No, she didn't.
If anyone took the surnames off that transcript, it would sound like Democratic Sunday Breakfast. Sykes claims the real issue is collusion with the Russians on the election, and yet asserting the Democrats paid for Russian testimony in their dossier isn't discussed. Tapper didn't bring it up.
Tapper then acknowledged he had three panelists who all sounded alike: ”Okay, with three of you saying this is a distraction, let's turn to what we are expecting tomorrow, which we are expecting if not an arrest, somebody to go willingly into federal custody.”
Later, Sykes lit into former senator Rick Santorum, the one panelist who doesn’t want Trump tarred and feathered, insulting him as having no character. Note Santorum is trying to talk about conservative policy proposals like tax reform, and "conservative" Sykes attacks him for daring to talk about that, like Trump needs to be impeached instead of helped:
RICK SANTORUM: The bottom line is that Donald Trump is going to -- is going to weather through this and things are going to turn around if he can pass the tax bill. It's going to turn around if we can pass the health care bill come the first of next year and all of these other issues about Donald Trump and his tweeting and Donald Trump and his -- you know, character are going to fall by the wayside once the issue -- once the issue shows that --
SYKES: Character? Wow. I'm old enough to remember when Rick Santorum cared about character.
SANTORUM: I didn't say --
SYKES: You said character matters.
SANTORUM: Character does matter. I'm not --
SYKES: I don't understand --
SANTORUM: I'm not suggesting that it doesn't matter. I'm suggesting what's going to happen if he succeeds.
SYKES (trying to talk over Santorum): I understand why conservatives support his agenda on tax cuts, and a variety -- what I don't understand is how conservative Republicans feel the need to rationalize, defend and enable the possible hacking of our election by Russians.
TAPPER: That's the end of that. Thanks one and all for being here.
Sykes mocked me on Friday for calling him rhetorically liberal on Twitter: “This is a fascinating new formulation. Conservative criticism of Trump may not be ‘liberal’ per se, but it is ‘Rhetorically liberal.’ Orwell would smile.”
Obviously, one can be conservative and very critical of Donald Trump. But when you call yourself conservative and dismiss every scandal that isn’t about Donald Trump as “irrelevant,” you don’t sound like integrity and character is your first priority. On the Democrat scandal-denying substance, you can't figure out where Jennifer Granholm ends and Charlie Sykes begins. '
As I tweeted back at Sykes, Tapper was stacking the deck 3 to 1: “Media bias INCLUDES the liberal use of "conservatives" who say liberal things. Like Nicolle. Like Steve Schmidt. Like Charlie.”
Did Tapper or anyone else at CNN seriously think they were putting on a balanced panel? That wouldn't make them look very smart. On most occasions, bookers at liberal networks know exactly what they're getting when they book a Charlie Sykes or a David Frum. It's a conservative who agrees with them. It may tickle their ears, but it's not balanced.