Mark Halperin and the Quote of the Day

It’s hard not to love that “liberal” media.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the three-hour program co-hosted by a conservative Republican former congressman, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin was asked for his assessment of President Obama’s White House press conference. “I thought he was kind of a dick yesterday,” Halperin said.

If you can watch the video, note how Halperin, ostensibly one of the nation’s most influential pundits, was smiling, with a smug satisfaction. It wasn’t a word he just blurted out in the heat of a larger discussion — Halperin thought about it, asked about whether the broadcast was on a seven-second delay, and then took his shot.

A few minutes later, Halperin’s smile had disappeared. Apparently realizing he’d royally screwed up on national television, Halperin added, “Joking aside, this is not a pro-forma apology, this is an absolute apology, heartfelt to the president…. I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize to the president and to the viewers who heard me say that.”

Later in the program, Halperin apologized again, conceding that his carefully-chosen on-air words were “inappropriate” and “disrespectful.”

There are a couple of angles to keep in mind here. The first is that Halperin’s credibility as an objective observer of political events has long been dubious, at best, but this morning’s little stunt should remove all doubt. In candor, I don’t much care that Halperin sides with the right over the left, and takes cheap shots at Democrats. I care that Halperin is presented to the public as a neutral, even-handed expert, when that’s plainly not the case.

To this extent, the “dick” comment only helps bring an end to a thin pretense.

The other point that’s worth remembering is the larger dynamic. Forget Halperin’s choice of words, and instead consider the argument he and his “Morning Joe” colleagues were pressing. They were annoyed, apparently, because President Obama wasn’t docile and conciliatory during his press conference. He showed some backbone, and this seems to have troubled the political establishment to no end.

If the president stays cool, he’s an emotionless Mr. Spock. If the president shows some fire in the belly, he’s “a dick.”

What passes for mainstream political punditry in 2011 is too often a national embarrassment.