“What are they really thinking?”

Ever wonder that when you see political news talking heads yakkity-yak about the same talking points over and over again? If they actually believe what they’re saying, or if their real opinion is something different?

Wonder no more.

Conservative author Peggy Noonan, McCain campaign advisor Michael E. Murphy, and NBC News political director Chuck Todd are caught on mic showing their distain for the McCain campaign’s VP pick, deriding it as “cynical”.

(If it’s down, try mirrors here, here, or here.)

Noonan has made an apology, of sorts. This is rather odd because she was just expressing her opinion. She wasn’t being vicious or over-the-top or making untrue statements–until she wrote her apology:

[…]I did say two things that I haven’t said in public, either in speaking or in my writing. One is a vulgar epithet that I wish I could blame on the mood of the moment but cannot. No one else, to my memory, swore. I just blurted.[Emphasis added]

Yes, she was very, very sorry about the cursing. I’m sure she’s sincere in that. But her statement that “No one else, to my memory, swore” is strange. Since she is clearly aware that the audio feed is available online, why would she rely on her memory? She could listen to herself and her friends talk, and she would clearly hear Murphy drop an ‘F’ bomb. Moreover, her claim the ‘bs’ word was “blurted” isn’t supported by the audio either. On the audio, she apologizes for her language before she uses it, which suggests she just felt very strongly about what she (and Murphy) were saying, that Kay Bailey Hutichson was a far more qualified candidate for VP than Palin but that “political bullshit” and media narratives got in the way.

Earlier on the audio, Murphy talks about his experience with Republican governors and suggests a gubernatorial campaign strategy might not work for Palin. Noonan’s response is “It’s over”. In context, this looks like she’s talking about the McCain\Palin campaign as a whole. On her website, Noonan denies that was what she meant, but again she denies it in a weird way:

Here I must plead some confusion. In our off-air conversation, I got on the subject of the leaders of the Republican party assuming, now, that whatever the base of the Republican party thinks is what America thinks. I made the case that this is no longer true, that party leaders seem to me stuck in the assumptions of 1988 and 1994, the assumptions that reigned when they were young and coming up. “The first lesson they learned is the one they remember,” I said to Todd—and I’m pretty certain that is a direct quote. But, I argued, that’s over, those assumptions are yesterday, the party can no longer assume that its base is utterly in line with the thinking of the American people. And when I said, “It’s over!”—and I said it more than once—that is what I was referring to. I am pretty certain that is exactly what Todd and Murphy understood I was referring to. In the truncated version of the conversation, on the Web, it appears I am saying the McCain campaign is over. I did not say it, and do not think it.[Emphasis added]

There is nothing in the audio feed that suggests Noonan was talking about GOP assumptions. The audio and transcript do not show her saying “It’s over” repeatedly, nor do they have her say, “The first lesson they learned is the one they remember”, which she describes as a “direct quote”. Perhaps she did say those things at another point, off camera or off-mic, and if she can substantiate that, fine. But that’s not what she’s saying here. She’s suggesting she said things that the audio and transcripts don’t show, relying only on her “memory”. But I have the YouTube video open on another tab as I write this. Surely Noonan could double-check herself the same way. I mean, what’s the point of even bringing up the audio, “correcting” it and apologizing for it, when you don’t seem to know what’s on it?

The transcript below was taken from YouTube, and while it isn’t exact, it’s pretty close.

Peggy Noonan, Chuck Todd, Mike Murphy;

Noonan: [Can’t hear since Todd (who is still on air) is talking over her]

Murphy: Um, you know, because, I come out of the blue swing state governor world. Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, I mean, and these guys, this is all how you win a Texas race, just run it up, and it’s not gonna work.

Noonan: It’s Over.

Murphy: Still, McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech and do himself some good.

Todd: [can’t really tell what he says, but he mentions something about “insulting to Kay Baily Hutchinson]

Noonan: [says something I can’t understand]

Todd: She’s never looked comfortable up there..

Murphy: Oh, fuck that.

Todd: I mean, is she really the most qualified woman they can obtain?

Noonan: The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives…[couldn’t hear the end of it]

Todd: Yeah, but what’s a narrative?

Murphy: I totally agree.

Noonan: Every time Republicans do that, because that’s not where they live and it’s not what they’re good at, they blow it.

Murphy: You know what’s the worst thing about it, the greatest of McCain is no cynicism, and..

Murphy and Todd together: This is cynical.

Todd: And as you called it, gimmicky.

(Edited on 9/14)

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