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Instead Of Discussing Democrats During SC Primary Coverage, Hannity Defends Romney

Reported by Ellen - January 28, 2008 -

As I wrote in my last post, Hannity & Colmes spent a large chunk of their special coverage of the Democratic primary in South Carolina Saturday night (1/26/08) talking about the race for the Republican nomination. One and a half segments were devoted to a tiff between John McCain and Mitt Romney over McCain’s accusation that Romney had supported a troop timetable in Iraq. This came coincidentally just as FOX News reported that Florida Governor Charlie Crist had decided to endorse McCain. So intent was Sean Hannity on defending Romney that when Alan Colmes pointed out that Romney had, in fact, said he supported a troop timetable, the two hosts started yelling at each other. Hannity also dubiously asserted that McCain "claimed" to have more experience with war than Romney. With video.

The issue first came up in a discussion during Hannity’s portion of an interview with McCain supporter Senator Lindsey Graham. Colmes had not discussed the issue with Graham during his segment. The first video below includes Hannity’s entire discussion with Graham.

The dispute arose from an interview Romney did last April, on Good Morning America, in which, as ABC News reported, Romney said he supported a secret timetable for the troops:

When asked by ABC News' Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" if he believes there should be a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Romney replied, "Well, there's no question that the president and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn't be for public pronouncement."

The former governor went on to explain, "You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police and the leadership of the Iraqi government."

Furthermore, ABC reported that Romney had said something similar on CBS the same day. ABC went on to report,

When asked if Romney's Tuesday morning show comments represented something new for the Republican presidential hopeful, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden described them as "consistent with his previous statements about milestones and metrics towards success in Iraq."

Madden also pointed to a Jan. 10, 2007, statement Romney issued about President Bush's Iraq troop surge in which Romney endorsed the troop buildup while adding that this effort "should be combined with clear objectives and milestones for U.S. and Iraqi leaders."

It is worth noting, however, that the Jan. 10, 2007, statement studiously avoided references to timetables, in contrast with his Tuesday morning show comments.

The Hill, along with other news outlets, similarly reported last April that Romney supported maintaining a secret timetable. One would think that if that’s not what he had meant, his campaign would have raised a ruckus and demanded a correction. But I found no evidence that that had occurred. Nor did Romney spokeswoman Bay Buchanan make any such claim. She accused McCain, only, of distorting Romney’s remarks. She and Hannity simply insisted Romney had never supported a timetable.

Hannity based his defense of Romney on the fact that he would do like President Bush and veto a bill with a timetable. But it’s pretty clear from the context that Romney thought the veto was appropriate because he thought the timetables should be kept secret. Hannity never explained why, if Romney had not supported a timetable, he had said, “There's no question that the president and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones.”

In the next segment, Bay Buchanan came on as a representative of Romney. Hannity announced that Romney is demanding an apology from McCain. But I found nothing to indicate he had demanded an apology from ABC or The Hill for saying almost the same thing.

Hannity argued that a private benchmark was somehow different from a private timetable and that McCain had distorted Romney's comments. Hannity said to Buchanan, "(Romney) said, 'Of course, he would not support a timetable.' But it seems they're taking out of context the idea that they might put some type of benchmark, but again, it would be a private one. But John McCain is out there saying that Romney supported timetables. How are you guys responding to this?"

Hannity further suggested that McCain’s accusation was a deliberate attempt to shift the discussion away from the economy which, Hannity happened to mention, was the number one concern of voters (“that seems to play more into Mitt Romney’s camp in terms of his background and experience”) and more toward the war “where Senator McCain is claiming he has more experience?” Excuse me, but McCain isn’t just claiming he has more experience. He HAS more experience.

Colmes posted Romney’s quote (which matched the one I had above) and said, “(Romney) wanted a timetable. He just didn’t want it public. He is not being honest about what he said on Good Morning America.”

Hannity rudely interrupted Colmes to complain that Colmes had not put up the entire quote. Presumably Hannity wanted to include the part about Romney talking about a veto.

But Colmes shot back that it was his turn, that Hannity had had his turn and “I’m now questioning Bay Buchanan and I’m gonna make the case. Mr. Hannity, you’ve had your turn. Bay, let’s be honest here.” As I have noted has happened many times before when someone stands up to Hannity, he backed down with a smile.

Bay Buchanan accused John McCain of “deliberately distorting the facts” and threw a lot of other mud at him, including calling McCain “mean and angry” and saying that he doesn’t respond well to pressure. So much for that Republican civility FOX News was gushing about a few days ago.

Think Progress says that Fox’s Brit Hume reported that “some members” of the Bush family are supporting Romney. It’s no surprise that Hannity and FOX News are doing their part, too.