NBC's Lauer Sees GOP More Hostile to Obama Than Russia: Why Hasn't 'Politics Ended at Water's Edge'?

Talking to MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough on Thursday's NBC Today about the Ukranian crisis, co-host Matt Lauer saw the Republican Party, not Russia, as President Obama's fiercest adversary: "We're six days into this crisis now, the rhetoric seems to be heating up. Not between Russia and the United States, but between Republicans in Congress and the administration." [Listen to the audio]

Lauer pressed Scarborough: "You heard John McCain say it was a massive intelligence failure and a misreading of Vladimir Putin's intentions. Lindsay Graham weighed in, saying, 'What we're seeing in the Ukraine right now is a result of failed policies in Syria and Benghazi.' Do you agree with those assessments?" Scarborough immediately dismissed the GOP criticism: "No, absolutely not....Barack Obama didn't lose Ukraine any more than George W. Bush lost Georgia in 2008, anymore than Ike lost Hungary in 1956."

Lauer followed up by fretting: "Why are we seeing what we're seeing? If this reminds us a little bit of the Cold War, Joe, back during the Cold War there was a theory, maybe even an unwritten rule, that politics ended at the water's edge. Why is that no longer the case?"

During the Iraq war, Lauer had no problem using the conflict as a political football to routinely bash then-President George W. Bush. In a 2003 interview with then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Lauer suggested Bush planned a secret trip to visit U.S. troops in Baghdad "because he did not attend any of the funerals of the fallen soldiers in Iraq some family members felt he was not showing compassion or a connection to the suffering that they have felt as a result of this war."

In 2005, while in Baghdad himself, Lauer desperately tried to get soldiers to admit low morale. When the troops described how "morale is always high," a skeptical Lauer pressed: "Don't get me wrong here, I think you are probably telling me the truth but a lot of people at home wondering how that could be possible with the conditions you're facing and with the attacks you're facing. What would you say to those people who are doubtful that morale can be that high?"

In 2006, Lauer actually defended a 2004 statement from then-presidential candidate John Kerry that American troops were "stuck in Iraq" due to a lack of education or better job opportunities.

By the time former Defense Secretary Robert Gates released a memoir in January of 2014 that was critical of President Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan, Lauer had changed his tune, wondering if such criticism was "dangerous or dishonorable."

The Today show was more than happy to bring on disgruntled ex-Bush administration officials to slam their former boss over Iraq.   

On Thursday, Scarborough at least noted that Democrats were guilty of criticizing President Bush on foreign policy: "Well, unfortunately, Washington's changed. There's a reason why Congress has a 13% approval rating. There's a reason why Republicans were upset when George W. Bush went to Russia and had a very important meeting with Vladimir Putin, that Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate at the time, called George W. Bush, while on Russian soil, a liar and a loser."

Unfortunately, Scarborough then equated such nasty personal attacks to policy criticism leveled at Obama by Republicans:

Americans don't like that. They don't like it coming from Democrats talking about Republican presidents and they certainly don't like Lindsay Graham tweeting out responses that undercut the commander-in-chief, not the Democratic commander-in-chief, America's commander-in-chief at this time.

You know, this is not only the right thing to do, where you have politics ending at water's edge in the middle of an international crisis like this, it's the smart thing to do. There will be time to debate this in the campaign in the fall. Now's not the time to do it.

Here is a portion of Lauer's March 6 exchange with Scarborough:

7:05 AM ET

(...)

LAUER: We're six days into this crisis now, the rhetoric seems to be heating up. Not between Russia and the United States, but between Republicans in Congress and the administration. You heard John McCain say it was a massive intelligence failure and a misreading of Vladimir Putin's intentions. Lindsay Graham weighed in, saying, "What we're seeing in the Ukraine right now is a result of failed policies in Syria and Benghazi." Do you agree with those assessments?

JOE SCARBOROUGH: No, absolutely not. I mean, the fact is, everybody's debating right now in Congress who lost Ukraine. Barack Obama didn't lose Ukraine any more than George W. Bush lost Georgia in 2008, anymore than Ike lost Hungary in 1956. The fact is, as Bob Gates said, former secretary of defense for Obama and Bush, Putin was holding all the cards. And as far as Intel goes, the CIA can't go inside a detached man's mind like Vladimir Putin, who is detached from reality, and decide what this guy's going to do in the weeks or months to come.

LAUER: Then why are we seeing what we're seeing? If this reminds us a little bit of the Cold War, Joe, back during the Cold War there was a theory, maybe even an unwritten rule, that politics ended at the water's edge. Why is that no longer the case?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, unfortunately, Washington's changed. There's a reason why Congress has a 13% approval rating. There's a reason why Republicans were upset when George W. Bush went to Russia and had a very important meeting with Vladimir Putin, that Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate at the time, called George W. Bush, while on Russian soil, a liar and a loser.

Americans don't like that. They don't like it coming from Democrats talking about Republican presidents and they certainly don't like Lindsay Graham tweeting out responses that undercut the commander-in-chief, not the Democratic commander-in-chief, America's commander-in-chief at this time.

LAUER: Right.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, this is not only the right thing to do, where you have politics ending at water's edge in the middle of an international crisis like this, it's the smart thing to do. There will be time to debate this in the campaign in the fall. Now's not the time to do it.

(...)

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.