Admiral and former Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) has been an outspoken critic of President Obama's attack on Libya since the operation began almost two weeks ago.
For some reason on MSNBC's "Ed Show" Thursday, Sestak radically changed his view (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Sunday’s NBC Nightly News, during a roundup of several reporters covering a number of high-profile Senate races, correspondent Ron Allen was upfront in labeling Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Pat Toomey as a "conservative," but an ideological label for liberal Democratic nominee Joe Sestak was absent: "Conservative Pat Toomey, a former Congressman and businessman, has been consistently leading in the polls ahead of Joe Sestak, a Democratic Congressman."
And correspondent Natalie Morales played up the possibility that "a lot of people are going to be blaming the Tea Party" if Republicans land one vote short of a Senate majority and Delaware Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell also loses: "If they're somehow able to get to nine and then Christine O'Donnell loses, a lot of people are going to be blaming the Tea Party."
On Sunday’s syndicated Chris Matthews Show, as host Matthews asked the panel to predict the outcome of the Pennsylvania Senate election, he described Republican candidate Pat Toomey as "right-leaning," but assigned no ideological label to Democratic candidate Joe Sestak. Panel member John Heilemann of New York magazine asserted that Toomey is "not just right-leaning, he’s a pretty conservative guy," while also giving no label to Sestak. Ironically, it was Helene Cooper of the New York Times who finally described Sestak as "so far to the left."
Later in the show, as the group discussed what Republican control of Congress would mean for President Obama, Heilemann continued to see Republicans being at an extreme without noting any liberal extremism as he recounted President Clinton’s battle in the 1990s with Republican Speaker New Gingrich and how President Obama could play a similar role with a Republican Congress. Heilemann: "He (President Clinton) took advantage of Newt Gingrich’s extremism to make Republicans look bad. Obama can play that part of the game possibly very effectively."
In the span of a mere 50 seconds on Thursday's NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell managed to apply a conservative ideological tag four times to Pat Toomey, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, yet she failed to issue even a single label for liberal Democratic candidate Joe Sestak.
Sitting at the anchor desk with Brian Williams, Mitchell made clear Toomey “is a Republican fiscal conservative who was fiscally conservative before the Tea Party was cool,” soon repeating, in the narration for her story, how “Toomey is a former Congressman and a fiscal conservative” – all before driving home his ideology once more as she recalled that he “led a conservative Washington interest group.”
On Friday morning, after airing a full report on the Democratic strategy of painting Republican candidates as "dangerous" and "extreme," CBS’s The Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez seemed surprised when Republican guest Eric Cantor disagreed with her view that "there is no question these Tea Party Republicans are outside the Republican mainstream," and her suggestion that next year Republican congressional leaders may be in the "tricky position" of "feeling indebted to these candidates while trying to keep them in line."
And, picking up on Republican accusations of Democrats being extreme, the CBS anchor also wondered, "If these Tea Party-backed candidates win the election, wouldn't we just be going from one extreme to another?"
Meanwhile, over on the Today show, NBC’s David Gregory repeated the theory of some Democrats that Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell and other Tea Party-backed candidates are hurting Republicans in neighboring Pennsylvania. And, while he at least conceded that the Tea Party is a "legitimate movement," he described Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle – in addition to O’Donnell – as "outliers." He did not acknowledge the role the mainstream media may be playing in turning swing voters against Tea Party candidates.
It's no secret that Chris Matthews once flirted with the idea of running for Senate in Pennsylvania, but since he didn't throw his hat into that race, the Hardball host, on Thursday night, did everything he could to help Joe Sestak beat Republican Pat Toomey, as he urged: "I hope your party gets organized up there, because the Democratic Party of Ed Rendell and you and all those other guys ought to get together with Brady and win this thing!" And even before Matthews invited viewers to "Meet Joe Sestak" in an interview segment, the MSNBCer began cheerleading for him in a preview as he teased: "Up next, Joe Sestak from my home state of Pennsylvania, he's fighting hard, the good fight against Pat Toomey, the Club for Growther of the far right." [audio available here]
The following exchanges were aired on the September 2 edition of Hardball:
Teasing his upcoming interview with Joe Sestak on last evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews admitted that Democrats are worried that Dem PA senatorial candidate Joe Sestak isn't "ready for prime time."
When Sestak later appeared, he demonstrated just why Dems are distraught. The leaden, formulaic Sestak used the trite "at the end of the day" cliché not once, not thrice, but no fewer than . . . nine times in the course of his interview!
On February 18, Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, revealed in a Philadelphia TV interview that the Obama White House offered him a job in an effort to talk him out of opposing Sen. Arlen Specter, who’d recently switched parties. Network interviewers asked the White House for comment, but the network news bosses at ABC, CBS, and NBC kept any mention of this possible quid pro quo off the airwaves of their morning and evening news programs for more than three months.
Then ten days after Sestak defeated Specter, the White House issued a brief statement on the Friday afternoon heading into the Memorial Day weekend, claiming they asked former President Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board. That drew perfunctory reports on Friday night and some brief mentions over the holiday weekend.
During the following week, the White House narrative fell apart, since Sestak could not serve on these advisory boards as a member of Congress. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs obfuscated and dodged reporters when peppered with questions, which led to some newspaper and cable coverage, but ABC, CBS and NBC all blacked out the story as it crumbled.
Then Andrew Romanoff, a Democratic Senate candidate in Colorado, emerged with a similar story, complete with a White House e-mail he received that touted several positions in foreign aid programs he could have. This spurred two network morning show stories, but the networks weren’t acknowledging any kind of scandal was occurring. There’s now been 12 days of network silence on Team Obama’s Sestak maneuvering.
The CNN host aired his interview with the chief executive during the first half of the 9 pm Eastern hour. King spent the entire first two segments asking about the oil leak issue. Other than one question, where he asked whether the President had any responsibility for the disaster, the journalist asked softball questions (remember, CNN claimed just under two months ago in April that it was the only "non-partisan" cable network, and how King hounded Carrie Prejean during an interview in November 2009):
Matthews declared of Gibbs, who wouldn't go beyond repeated “I'd refer to the memo” deflections: “That is a big case of bluffing and BS.”
An hour later on FNC, columnist Charles Krauthammer marveled: “The indifference of the press to what the White House issued last Friday [is] really quite remarkable. This statement is Swiss cheese. It's got holes in it all over the place and it doesn't add up.”
As the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal took a weird turn on Friday -- Bill Clinton offered me an unpaid, obscure presidential advisory panel placement to dissuade me from a Senate run? -- The Washington Post found in the new story a chance to hail Bill Clinton. At the very end of a Saturday report headlined "Bill Clinton has evolved into Obama's Mr. Fix It," reporters Philip Rucker and Paul Kane slipped into fanboy mode:
Sestak said Clinton briefly brought up Emanuel's suggestion that if Sestak dropped out he might end up on a presidential advisory board for the Pentagon or the intelligence community. Sestak flatly turned him down.
"I knew you'd say that," Clinton replied. Even the master can't fix everything.
Left unsaid: if Clinton is "the master," why is Obama president instead of his wife? (Or do you just repeat "Even the master...") On the front page, the Post seemed to be buying this square-peg-for-round-hole tale about this weird, very unpersuasive offer no one would accept. Reporter Michael Shear tried playing cute and light in his opening, that Obama "resisted acknowledging what the top West Wing lawyer finally admitted on Friday: This administration plays politics. And not always effectively."
An absolutely astounding thing happened on MSNBC's "Hardball" Friday: Chris Matthews praised Rush Limbaugh.
Not only that, but what tickled Matthews' fancy was the conservative talk radio host lampooning former President Bill Clinton.
To set this up, the "Hardball" host invited MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell and NBC's David Gregory on the program to discuss Friday's revelation that Clinton, acting as a White House proxy, offered Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) a position within the administration if he backed out of the Senate race against Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
As the segment neared a conclusion, Matthews played a clip from Limbaugh's program earlier in the day (video follows with transcript and commentary):