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Since Chuck Todd assumed duty as NBC News political director on March 12, he has made numerous appearances on the network in which he spoke positively about Republicans, making broad, unsupported, and, in some cases, rebuttable assertions, while making negative, equally unsupported comments about Democrats.
- On March 12, Todd asserted that former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) is "one of these people that can probably keep the entire conservative coalition together, the social conservatives, the economic conservatives, and the religious conservatives." Approximately two weeks after that comment, prominent social conservative James C. Dobson, Focus on the Family founder and chairman, said of Thompson, "I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," and added that "such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination."
- On March 28, Todd asserted that "[i]t would be easy for" Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "to criticize the war. The maverick thing to do is to actually take the unpopular stand." In saying this, Todd suggested that McCain's position on the war is one of a "maverick," despite the fact that other leading contenders for the Republican nomination also support President Bush's Iraq policy. As NBC News chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell noted during the same segment, "McCain's chief rivals for the Republican nomination, [former Massachusetts Gov.] Mitt Romney and [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani, also oppose a timeline for withdrawal and support a surge of U.S. troop strength." In addition, McCain voted with the vast majority of Senate Republicans to remove a redeployment goal from the Senate's Iraq funding bill, as Media Matters noted. And, contrary to Todd's suggestion that McCain has taken the politically unpopular approach of not criticizing the war, McCain has described himself as the "greatest critic of the way the war was being conducted."
- On March 30, NBC News congressional correspondent Chip Reid noted that "some political analysts" say that President Bush's veto of an Iraq spending bill that includes a timeline for withdrawal "could strengthen [Bush's] hand." Reid then aired a clip in which Todd asserted that a veto would allow Bush "to look like the commander in chief," "stand up to the congressional Democrats," and "potentially put [Democrats] in a position of not funding the troops." Todd did not indicate why "stand[ing] up to the congressional Democrats" on a timeline for withdrawal might help Bush politically. A March 23-25 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 60 percent of respondents favored Congress "[s]etting a time-table for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq no later than the fall of 2008." Moreover, it is unclear why Bush's veto would put Democrats "in a position of not funding the troops." It could also be said, as Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) did on the March 29 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, "if [Bush] vetoes this bill, he's the one that's cutting off the money to the troops."
While Todd has repeatedly praised Republicans during these appearances, his comments about Democrats have been largely critical:
- On March 21, discussing the possibility that former Vice President Al Gore might run for president, Todd said: "I think Al Gore doesn't sit well in a long period of time with the American people."
- On March 22, Todd said of the congressional investigation into the Bush administration's firing of eight U.S. attorneys: "This is the danger for the Democrats, of looking like they're not doing the job that they were elected to do. They're not talking about Iraq, and instead they're picking a political fight." Since Todd's assertion of political "danger," polls have shown majorities or pluralities of Americans support Congress' investigation into the U.S. attorney dismissals. As Media Matters noted, the March 23-25 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 72 percent of respondents said "Congress should ... investigate the involvement of White House officials in this matter" and that 48 percent of respondents said "Democrats in Congress" were spending the "right amount" or "not ... enough" time on the matter, compared with 40 percent of respondents who said Democrats were spending "too much" time on the matter. Similarly, a March 16-19 Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll found that 60 percent of respondents said Congress was spending "too little, or the right amount of time conducting investigations of possible government wrongdoing," while 31 percent of respondents said Congress was spending "too much" time.
From the March 12 edition of NBC's Today:
ANDREA MITCHELL (NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent): In real life, Fred Thompson is also a former Tennessee senator and one-time Watergate prosecutor. Voted for the Iraq war, but criticizes the way it was run. Anti-abortion, but opposes overturning Roe v. Wade. Against gun control and gay marriage, and just possibly the answer for restless conservatives.
TODD: Thompson's one of these people that can probably keep the entire conservative coalition together, the social conservatives, the economic conservatives, and the religious conservatives.
MITCHELL: In 2000, Thompson supported John McCain.
From the March 21 edition of NBC's Today:
MITCHELL: In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Democrats are evenly divided on Gore. Forty percent want him to run, 39 percent do not. Gore is so well known and well financed, he can benefit from waiting --
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I give you the person who, for 35 years, I have always believed, would be the best America can offer. Thank you.
MITCHELL: -- to see if Hillary Clinton, whose husband helped her raise money Tuesday night, stumbles, or if the Democratic hopefuls knock each other out, making room for Gore.
TODD: He could be tempted into this thing. But he doesn't want to run a long campaign because I think Al Gore doesn't sit well in a long period of time with the American people.
MITCHELL: But supporters say this is a new Al Gore, more confident than ever.
From the March 22 edition of NBC's Today:
DAVID GREGORY (NBC News chief White House correspondent): But the challenge is to prove improper political interference by the White House and/or Justice Department officials.
TODD: This is the danger for the Democrats, of looking like they're not doing the job that they were elected to do. They're not talking about Iraq, and instead they're picking a political fight.
GREGORY: Presidents can use the bully pulpit of their office for political advantage, as Bill Clinton did against Republicans during the government shutdown in 1995.
From the March 28 edition of NBC's Today:
O'DONNELL: But McCain admits his support for the president's Iraq policy has hurt him with support and fundraising.
TODD: It would be easy for him to criticize the war. The maverick thing to do is to actually take the unpopular stand.
O'DONNELL: McCain's chief rivals for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, also oppose a timeline for withdrawal and support a surge of U.S. troop strength.
From the March 30 edition of NBC's Today:
REID: In a close vote Thursday, the Senate passed a $120 billion war-spending bill. Nearly all Republicans voted "no" because of the bill's nonbinding goal of bringing most troops home within a year. Now Republicans are counting on a promised veto from President Bush, which some political analysts say could strengthen his hand.
TODD: It gives him a chance to look like the commander in chief, and it gives him a chance to stand up to the congressional Democrats and potentially put them in a position of not funding the troops.
REID: So, what we have now is what one senator called a high-stakes game of chicken.