Posts Tagged ‘Paul Krugman’

Sunday talk show highlights, August 1, 2010

August 2, 2010

After a long and fairly eventful summer, we’re back on track with our “Sunday talk show highlights.”  We’re off to a slow start though… This Monday: This Week.

On This Week, Christiane Amanpour made her hosting debut and showed off a new music theme, a new color theme (more red and black, less blue and gray), and a more international approach. First of all, whereas the old intro included the following line: “From the heart of our nation´s capital…”, the new intro includes the following: “From all across our world, to the heart of our nation´s capital…” Furthermore, towards the end of the “In Memoriam” segment, Amanpour states: “We remember all of those who have died in war this week, and the Pentagon released the names of ….”. The old line simply  read “this week, the Pentagon released the names of…”

Onto the actual events of Amanpour’s debut show. The show’s headliners were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Pelosi seemed nervous throughout the interview, but she did a pretty good job of sticking to her talking points.

Focusing on the polarized nature of American politics going into the mid-term elections, Amanpour asked Pelosi the following question:

What is it you can do for the people in this highly polarized situation?

To which Pelosi responded with a cocktail of Democrat=good-Republican=bad-framing:

Well first of all, what you … describe as a highly polarized situation is a very big difference of opinion. The Republicans are here for the special interests, we’re here for the people’s interests. The president said we will measure our progress, our success, by the progress that is made by America’s working families. That is our priority. That is not their priority.

This isn’t about inter-party bickering. This is about a major philosophical difference as to whose side you’re on. You don’t like to think that. We come here to find our common ground. That’s our responsibility. But if we can’t find it, we still have to move. I’ve never voted for a perfect bill in my life. I don’t think anyone has. I wish it were not so stark. I wish the elections weren’t so necessary for us to win. I really do, because … there should be more common ground. Are we unhappy that … the job creation has not gone as fast as we would like? Well, we were digging out of a very deep hole. But we will continue to fight.

Reality isn’t that black and white. However, it’s a politically expedient sales pitch during campaign season.

Laughable line 1:

“This isn’t about inter-party bickering.”

Laughable line 2:

“I wish the elections weren’t so necessary for us to win. I really do, because … there should be more common ground.”

In other parts of the interview, Pelosi uttered her confidence that the Democrats will keep their majority in the House. Why? Because they have, in Pelosi’s words, more “money” and “the best sales persons” out there. According to her choice of words, it sounds as if Pelosi is confident that the  American people will buy the Democratic product this fall. It would be nice to hear Pelosi talk about “the best solutions”, “the brightest ideas” and “unselfish and principled civil servants”, instead of “the most money” and “the best sales persons.” However, such framing would be misleading, since marketing is the name of the game these days. In marketing, as we all know, slogans and packaging rule.

In Amanpour’s interview with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gates talked about the wikileaks by referring to two types of “culpability”:

My attitude on this is that there are two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that’s up to the Justice Department and others. That’s not my arena. But there’s also a moral culpability. And that’s where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.

On the topic of the war in Afghanistan and the much talked about month of July 2011:

AMANPOUR: The president has clearly said that the summer of 2011 is a period of transition. And many people are interpreting that in all sorts of different ways, as you know. The Taliban is … trying to run out the clock. Let me put something up that David Kilcullen, the counter-insurgency expert, a former adviser to General Petraeus, said about the timetable. “They believe that we had stated a date certain, that we were going to leave in the summer of 2011. And they immediately went out and spoke to the population and said, the Americans are leaving in 18 months, as it was then. What are you doing on the 19th month? Who are you backing? Because we’ll still be there and they won’t be.”

…. My question to you is this, what can General Petraeus do to defeat the Taliban at their own game? What can he do now in Afghanistan to avoid this deadline that they’re setting for themselves?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think we need to re-emphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011. We are beginning a transition process and a thinning of our ranks … and the pace will depend on the conditions on the ground. The president has been very clear about that. And if the Taliban are waiting for the nineteenth month, I welcome that, because we will be there in the nineteenth month and we will be there with a lot of troops. So I think that —

AMANPOUR: But what is a lot of troops?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think that — my personal opinion is that — that drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers. And as we are successful, we’ll probably accelerate. But, again, it’s — it will depend on the conditions on the ground.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the so-called “drawdowns” are going to play out in the 2012 presidential election cycle. Depending on the situation, Obama can either go with “we’re drawing down our troop levels because…”, or, “we’re not pulling out because…” Drawing down and pulling out might essentially be the same thing, but in politics, as always, the wrapping matters.

After playing a video clip of Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks to NBC earlier this week, in which he stated that the United States isn’t in Afghanistan “to nation-build”, the following exchange followed:

AMANPOUR: Is that it?

GATES: That’s good.

AMANPOUR: Is that the war?

GATES: I agree with that. We are not there to take on a nationwide reconstruction or construction project in Afghanistan. What we have to do is focus our efforts on those civilian aspects and governance to help us accomplish our security objective. We are in Afghanistan because we were attacked from Afghanistan, not because we want to try and build a better society in Afghanistan. But doing things to improve governance, to improve development in Afghanistan, to the degree it contributes to our security mission and to the effectiveness of the Afghan government in the security arena, that’s what we’re going to do.

During the Roundtable discussion, George Will described the previously mentioned wikileaks as “redundant anecdotes about what we all knew from good journalism and honest government.” I guess the colleagues of the two Reuters journalists whose murder was brought to the light of day due to the video clip leaked by WikiLeaks.

On the topic of the upcoming mid-term elections, Paul Krugman had the following to say:

We’re not looking good going forward. This is very difficult. It’s very hard for an administration in power to run on the campaign slogan, “It could have been worse” … It actually could have been a lot worse, but that doesn’t sell very well.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? No one. But at least Christiane Amanpour’s British accent stood out…

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

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Sunday talk show highlights, April 25, 2010

April 26, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week.

On Meet The Press, David Gregory hosted a debate between the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). On the topic of financial reform, Gregory posed the following question to Dodd: “So, Senator Dodd, the big question is do you have a deal?” And towards the end of his answer, Dodd stated the following:

Here we are 17 months after someone broke into our house, in effect, and robbed us; and we still haven’t even changed the locks on the doors, and we need to get it done.

On the prospects of passing the Dodd bill, Senator Shelby stated

not yet, but we’re getting there.

Focusing on the bill’s complicated and multilayered details, Gregory stated that people on Wall Street think that “a lot of senators and congressmen and women don’t understand … and yet they’re willing to just, because of this political atmosphere, pass sweeping regulation that could hurt competitiveness, that could send jobs overseas and all the, all the rest.” In short, Congress doesn’t know what’s in this bill, and they’re pushing it ahead just to score political points. Not surprisingly, Senator Dodd didn’t accept the premise:

David, I was born at night but not last night. With all due respect to those arguments, those are red herrings. We understand the complexity of it, that’s why we spent so long at this. Richard and I have spent the last two years basically, 39 months, going through hearings, working at this, listening to people, countless conversations with experts in the field. And there are some disagreements here. Not on “too big to fail.” We’re going to shut that down forever. We want consumers to get some protection. We’d like an early warning system so we don’t end up getting into trouble in the first place. And then making sure that no financial institution’s going to be unregulated in our country.

PolitiFact: Was Chris Dodd indeed born at night? Bring it on!

On the issue of immigration reform, Gregory focused on the newly passed and highly controversial Arizona immigration law and stated that immigration has now become “a front burner issue.” The New York Times’ David Brooks had the following to say:

First of all, I think this bill in Arizona is an invitation to abuse. You’re going to have the government making decisions on the basis of race. And at what level are they making these decisions? At the cop level, in the worst possible circumstances, when people are angry? It’s an invitation to sort of racial profiling and abuse. So I think it’s terrible. But the worst effect is happening back here because now we have the Democrats promising to have a comprehensive immigration bill before any of the preparatory work has been done, pushing aside a lot of other stuff, like cap and trade and energy. And why are they doing it? For purely political reasons because a lot of Democrats, including Harry Reid who is trying to get re-elected in Nevada, need to really fire up Latino voters to get them to come out to the polls.

On the same topic, Gregory mentioned the fact that Senator John McCain (who is in the middle of a tough primary campaign against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth) has voiced his support for the bill, leading to an exchange  between Gregory and Newsweek’s Editor-at-large Evan Thomas:

MR. GREGORY: And, Evan, look at the politics of this, Senator John McCain came out in support of the governor’s bill. This was the same Senator McCain who with Senator Kennedy fought for comprehensive immigration reform. It says something about the political mood and the landscape politically of the country.

MR. THOMAS: It makes me sad. I mean, McCain…

MR. GREGORY: He’s facing a tough primary fight, I understand.

MR. THOMAS: And I’m sympathetic for that, a politician’s got to get re-elected. But this was a guy who really knew how to get to the center and to reach across the aisle, and he came close a few years ago in getting this done. Now here he is pandering like crazy to get himself re-elected and endorsing a bad bill. People who know McCain are disappointed by him. I mean, you understand, he’s a politician, but really.

David Gregory then raised the issue of the growing anti-Washington mentality found across the country:

MR. GREGORY: A big question that I’ve been thinking about this week, whether it’s health care and its intervention into the economy, whether it’s economic stimulus or whether it’s financial regulation, it is about this debate between the role of government in society, in the economy, in our lives generally.

David Brooks, you have been thinking about this a lot and you wrote this in your column on Friday: “In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.” How’s that playing out?

MR. BROOKS: Not well, I don’t think. I don’t think it’s good for the country. You know, we had a bitterly divisive culture war for a bunch of years, then we had a bitterly divisive debate about Iraq. And I think a lot of people, including President Obama, were hoping we could get to other debates about opportunity, about productivity, about fiscal problems. And those would have been debates, which would have structured some bipartisan cooperation. But for whatever reason, we fall into a big government vs. small government debate. And this is like a social script that puts all the Republicans on the anti-government mode, very polarized; strengthens the libertarian, more polarized part of that party; puts the Democrats on a more “let’s use government to do this and that” mode. And so you get this intense polarization which we’ve seen over the past year. It also tends to help Republicans, by the way. But it’s created, not only an end to the polarization, but it’s magnified it, I think.

MR. GREGORY:  And in fact, you saw this week, Evan Thomas, Pew Research Center comes out with a poll that says just 25 percent expressed a favorable opinion of Congress, virtually unchanged from March, prior to the passage of the healthcare reform bill. And there was this from the Pew’s analysis: “Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems–including more government control over the economy–than there was when Barack Obama first took office. A lot of people think, “Government can’t get it done.  They’re broke and they can’t do things well.”

MR. THOMAS: And Obama, you would think he’d get some points for first he passes health care, looks like he’ll finance–pass financial reform. But he doesn’t. He sort of floats around low in the polls. People are really down on government. To me, it’s a deflection from the real issue, which is how we’re going to pay for government. That’s the big thing looming out there. That’s what we ought to be talking about. And, unfortunately, both sides have got to give on something because we’re going to–you can’t deal with it unless, one, you raise taxes, which people don’t like; and, two, you cut benefits. Both sides got to give. That’s what Obama needs to be talking about because that is the real challenge facing us.

On the topic of the future of the Republican Party, David Brooks had the following to say:

MR. BROOKS: Can I just say something about the Republican mounting strategy, which is people like me would like there to be centrist, like Governor Crist, people like that. But the center has so far proved unprincipled, and people like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have shown they’re principled. And when you’re disgusted by government, you congregate toward people like that. And so the evidence shows overwhelmingly, so far, that the further right the party gets, as long as they’re principled, the better they do. Has any party had a worse year than the Democrats have had politically this year? Democratic favorability rating has dropped 22 points in a year. The Democrats a year ago had an 11 point party idea advantage over the Republicans. All that’s gone. So the Republicans are surging at the point they’re moving to the right with people like Rubio. And so that’s where the data is. People like me would wish, you know, go for the middle. But the data supports the idea that people like Rubio are driving the party to victory.

Gregory jumped in:

Well, OK, but if your desire is for the center, where, to come back to your original point, is there a more centrist big government argument to make? In other words, does President Obama have to win the argument that government is actually helpful?

Gregory’s question led to the following exchange:

MR. BROOKS: Yeah. Well, he won election because he won independents. The tea party movement is like really big and sort of interesting, but the core movement in politics has been in the center. He’s lost independents. And so he has to go being sort of the way he was on Wall Street this week, which is a pragmatic intelligent guy who talks about the things Evan talked about, that we need to have these things on both sides. And if he can embody that, he personally will be able to recapture the suburban voter. Whether the Democratic Party in the House can do it I’m really doubtful.

MS. NORRIS: If the party moves, if the Republican Party, though, moves farther to the right, do they capture those voters that are in the middle?

MR. BROOKS: Well, I, personally I’m dubious.  But I’d love to see some evidence to suggest that the Republicans I sort of like would do well.  I don’t see any evidence of that.  I see the Rubios doing really well.

MR. THOMAS: But can the Rubio people ever get the 51 percent?

MR. BROOKS: Right.  I, I think the Republicans will do phenomenally well this year.

MR. THOMAS: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROOKS: But it would be tough to see a Rubio-type candidate winning in 2012.

MS. NORRIS: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROOKS: But remember, the politics of the country are unprecedented, the disgust is amazing, and so I think we’d be hesitant to predict something like that.

On This Week, the Roundtable dealt with the same set of issues. Focusing on the Dodd bill and whether or not it would end too-big-to-fail, George Will had the following to say:

No [it will not end too-big-to-fail], because that’s not the problem. We all sort of sympathize with Sherrod Brown and Senator Kaufman’s idea that if it’s too big to fail, it’s too big to exist. The problem is it’s not scale, it’s connectedness that poses so-called system risk. And what people are arguing about is whether or not they have accurately located risk to the entire system.

This is an unusual argument. Usually in Washington when there’s controversy about a bill, the two sides agree about what the bill does but not whether it ought to be done. In this case, there’s an argument about whether or not the bill will actually do what it sets out to do.

Both sides want to guarantee the obliteration of certain kinds of failed firms. They want the management to go and they want shareholder equity to disappear. So it’s a competition to see who can be most beastly to these bad companies. And the question is whether or not this happens.

On the topic of financial reform, host Jake Tapper put some numbers up on the screen showing the large donations given to Democrats and Republicans from the same sector that they’re now trying to reform:

TAPPER: The Center for Responsive Politics did a study of campaign contributions, and in this cycle, the finance, insurance and real estate sectors are giving much more to Democrats than to Republicans. $65 million to $51 million. Paul, do you think the Democratic Party is too close to Wall Street?

KRUGMAN: Well, it has been in the past for sure. No question that in the late ’90s, the Clinton team — some of whom are now in the administration — were way too close to Wall Street. They believed that these were wise men who knew what they were doing. And no, at this point, it’s the party in power, of course, is going to be getting a lot more contributions. It’s kind of — that’s not too surprising.

Let me say a couple of things here. Anyone who says we need to be bipartisan should bear in mind that for the last several weeks, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks. And basically, the argument boils down to saying that what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department. Because then people will know that they can’t let their buildings burn in the first place, right? It’s incredible.

So anyone who says bipartisan, should say, you know, bipartisan doesn’t include the Senate minority leader. But, you know, I agree with George, actually, believe it or not. Too big to fail per se is not the problem. The Great Depression was made possible by the failure of the Bank of the United States, which despite its name, was a Bronx-based institution that was the 28th largest financial institution in the United States at the time, and yet brought the whole system down.

But what we are getting now in this bill is a way to have graceful failure of big institutions, right? We know how to deal with small banks. The FDIC seized seven banks last week that were on the verge of failing and let them, you know, liquidated them gracefully, but we don’t have a way of dealing with complex, you know, what we call shadow banking institutions like Lehman or Citigroup. And this bill would give you that.

So it would give you the ability to do for big, complicated financial institutions what we’ve been doing routinely for small ones, and that does — so it doesn’t end the too big, but it may deal with the fail bit.

On the topic of immigration reform, Tapper elaborated on the previously mentioned Arizona immigration law:

Let me start before we discuss this bill and what it actually does by going into one of the most controversial provisions in this new law, Arizona Senate bill 1070. “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official, where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, s reasonable attempt shall be made when practicable to determine the immigration status of the person.”

Paul Krugman’s perspective:

We have never put in enough money is basically what it comes down to enforce the border control. It’s not a deep issue of principle, it’s just a question of resources. People have been willing to talk tough about it but actually not willing to do reasonable stuff in terms of enforcement. And it’s going to be a problem. But what I want to go back to here is not just apartheid issues, but think about a different way.

We have these massive protests in this country about alleged authoritarian tendencies that we are going to have some kind of — inside the Obama/Hitler stuff — the idea that the government is encroaching too much in our lives.

And now all of the sudden, we have by pretty much the same people, demanding that we set up a system that will turn us into one of those apocryphal foreign authoritarian regimes where the police are saying hand over your papers, right? A world where you constantly have to prove who you are. And yes, it will be racial profiling but who knows what else? I mean, some people take me I look like President Lula of Brazil, so I might end up being pulled over when I’m on my morning walk, right?

Discussing the same topic, George Will, surprisingly, and in a slightly surreal moment, stated the following:

What the Arizona law does is make a state crime out of something that already is a crime, a federal crime. Now, the Arizona police — and I’ve spent time with the Phoenix Police Department — these are not bad people. These are professionals who are used to making the kind of difficult judgments. Suspicion of intoxicated driving, all kinds of judgments are constantly made by policemen. And I wouldn’t despair altogether their ability to do this in a professional way.

Comparing the upcoming immigration reform debate to the health care debate, Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated the following:

Let me say this about immigration reform, though. If we thought health care reform was divisive, this is going to be an all-out battle, and will even create fissures in the Democratic Party. That’s why Speaker Pelosi has said we will act, but only if the Senate acts first.

Tapper jumped in:

President Obama has been saying — pointing out that there were 11 Republican senators who supported immigration reform in 2007 when it failed, and suggesting that they need to support it now. I don’t think they’re going to support it, though.

… to which Krugman had the following to say:

Well, politically, though, this is one of those issues that cuts right through the middle of both parties. The Democrats, on the one hand, tend to be pro-labor, which means they are worried about immigration; on the other hand, it is the party that now gets most of the Hispanic votes, it’s the party that generally is for inclusiveness. So the Democrats are divided. Many of them divided within their own hearts. It’s an interesting thing, it’s not so much different wings of the party as each individual Democrat tends to be kind of torn about this.

Republicans are divided between the sort of cultural conservative wing, the preserve America as the way it is, and the business wing, which likes having inexpensive immigrant labor. So this is one heck of an issue. It’s deeply divisive among both parties, which is one reason not to rush it, to push it at the top of the agenda right now.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Evan Thomas’ “pandering like crazy” was good, but Paul Krugman had the best one:

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

Sunday talk show highlights, March 28, 2010

March 29, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week, State of the Union and Fox News Sunday.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory interviewed Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). During the interview, Graham lost his connection with Washington twice, and Senator Schumer didn’t seem to mind:

Hey, I like the show this way. … It’s pretty good.

When Senator Graham got his audio back, he didn’t have any problems responding to Schumer’s talking points:

MR. GREGORY: But you, you have the floor here. You know what some of the discussion has been. What is your view?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, I do, I do. Well…

During his time on the air, Graham was able to voice his own talking points as well, and he managed to squeeze in the phrase ”ponzi scheme” – referring to the cost of the health care bill – four times.

During the roundtable discussion, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin had this to say about the signing of the health care bill:

I think the key thing that the legacy is not simply what this is going to do for the future but what it’s done, which you started on, to Obama’s leadership. You know, when LBJ got civil rights through in ’64, he said it felt so incredible inside to have done something that will make life better for millions of Americans. He said, ‘Now I’m going for voting rights. Now I’m going for Medicare.’ It emboldens a president. The fact that it was so tough in the Congress, and it became difficult, they’re in the trenches together, they’ve come out more unified, the Democrats. The party has its morale back up. Even the sense of the countries abroad, he’s a winner, he won something. I agree with you that the battle’s only begun, because the battle of public sentiment was never won by the Obama people. The Republicans won it with the ‘death panels,’ they won it maybe with falsehoods, but still the majority of the people still don’t feel good about this bill. So they still have a lot to do, I think, to compress their arguments and make sure that they reach the country. Lincoln once said … that ‘He who molds public sentiment is more important than he who passes laws.’ … That with public sentiment, everything’s possible. Without it, nothing is. Public sentiment still has to be won.

As Mark Twain once said: “Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.”

Moving along, the following exchange took place between Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Mike Murphy:

MR. SHRUM: … The Scott Brown era is the shortest era in the history of American politics, and he helped us pass the bill. Because once he got there, once he got there, the Democrats said, “We can’t ping-pong this back and forth between the Senate and the House. The House must pass the Senate bill, then we’ll fix it in reconciliation.”

MR. MURPHY: That was a freight train of disingenuous sound bites, and I can’t try to address them all.

MR. SHRUM: It was actually … the march of truth.

MR. MURPHY: It was baloney. I worked on the Romney healthcare bill, you didn’t. I know you don’t. Here’s my question for you.

MR. SHRUM: I do know the Romney healthcare bill. He helped write it with Senator Kennedy.

Flashback to the 1988 vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle:

QUAYLE: … I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.

BENTSEN: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

On a different note, Sarah Palin has been campaigning for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in his re-election bid against former Representative J.D. Hayworth, and in her appearance she tied herself, McCain and the Republican Party to the Tea Party movement:

And let me clear the air right now. We might as well call it like we see it, right, and not beat around the bush. In respect to the tea party movement, beautiful movement. You know what, everybody here today supporting John McCain, we are all a part of that tea party movement.

Palin’s statement led to the following remarks:

MR. GREGORY: Is that true? That’s probably what Republicans hope is true, that the tea party is part of the Republican Party.

MR. MEACHAM: I think perhaps that crowd, perhaps it was true there. … But I don’t think so. … You know, when you have these extreme, more vociferous and ferocious movements, it doesn’t always help. As Churchill once said in another context, ’It’s a good starter but it’s not a good finisher.’ And the way parties absorb these things–and we’ve seen it a thousand times; we’ve seen it with Wallace, we’ve seen it with Perot–is they take some part of the grievance, address it and press forward. I think we’re–you know, partly we’re built for argument. I mean, we–the system wasn’t created to really resolve much.

At the end of the show, host David Gregory gave a short history lesson to put Democrats’ prospects in the upcoming mid-terms into context:

Forty-five years ago in Washington there was another heated debate about providing health care to Americans. Despite vigorous Republican opposition, a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress passed sweeping reform. July 30th, 1965, the country’s largest ever expansion of public health care, the Medicare program, was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in Independence, Missouri, the hometown of President Harry Truman, who had fought for a national health insurance program 20 years prior. A year later, Republicans made some big gains in the midterm election due in large part to President Johnson’s unpopularity. The GOP netted 47 House seats.

On This Week, guest host Jake Tapper moderated a debate between Governors Haley Barbour (R-MS) and Ed Rendell (D-PA). In a question to Governor Barbour, Tapper stated that he didn’t want to “pick on Mississippi”, but then he did:

Studies indicate Mississippi is last in the nation when it comes to health care, when it comes to access, quality, costs and outcomes.Your state ranks worst in the country for obesity, hypertension, diabetes, adult physical inactivity, low weight birth babies. It has one of the highest rates of infant mortality.

Ouch.

Later on, Governor Barbour stated that he was surprised to find that the percentage in favor of the bill isn’t higher than it is, considering the “liberal media’s” biased coverage in the days following the passage of the health care bill:

And candidly, I am surprised that the numbers in the Washington Post poll weren’t better. I mean, since this thing passed last weekend, we have seen the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media elite, and every day that goes by, it gets sloppier.

During the Roundtable, George Will took a stab at Paul Krugman’s Nobel Prize by stating:

Paul’s prizes in economics, not practical Washington wisdom.

Discussing Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile stated that:

For the Democrats, I don’t think it hurts us at all to have Sarah Palin out there, whipping up the base, whipping up the tea parties. Stir up as much tea as you want. It’s producing a lot of coffee drinkers within the Democratic Party.

Switching shows, host Candy Crowley of CNN’s State of the Union focused on the aftermath of last Sunday’s tea party protest in Washington, D.C.:

SARAH PALIN: Hearing the news reports lately, kind of this ginned up controversy about us, common- sense conservatives, inciting violence because we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration–

CROWLEY: FOX’s Sean Hannity had more than doubts.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: And this is denied by a lot of people. I am not seeing the videotape that confirms this yet. If anyone has it, send it to me, I want to see it, of racial slurs, anti- gay slurs being made at the tea party movement. Do we have any evidence that corroborates this at all?

CROWLEY: Two FOX reporters responded that they had seen no evidence. So we begin by trying to set the record straight. There is video. Watch Congressman Emanuel Cleaver as he approaches the man on the left. Cleaver confirms that this man spit on him. He confirms that this is the man whom Capitol Police detained. Cleaver chose not to press charges. From where they were positioned, CNN microphones did not pick up racial epithets.

As for anti-gay slurs, a CNN producer heard the word ‘faggot’ yelled at Barney Frank more than once in the House Longworth Building. The producer cannot say for sure whether it was coming from one person or more.

What to make of it? I find it astonishing that instead of simply denouncing the actions of a set of angry and hateful people, the talking heads over at Fox News and Sarah Palin (who is also a contributor to Fox News) have decided to go the usual route of attacking the “liberal media” by questioning their accounts. Come on. Attack the content of the health care bill all you want, but it shouldn’t be hard to simply denounce anyone uttering the N-word or “faggot”. The paranoid style in American politics is alive and kicking when reports of hateful remarks aren’t met with a backbone reflex to denounce, but with  questions of the truthfulness of the media’s account.

Over on Fox News Sunday,  host Chris Wallace moderated a debate touted as the “Florida Senate Showdown” between Florida Governor Charlie Crist and former Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio.

Wallace quoted the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus money accepted by Governor Crist (87,000), to which Rubio replied the following:

If it’s bad for America, it can’t possibly be good for your state.

I guess if you think it’s bad for America to create or save jobs, it’s also bad for Florida to save or create jobs in Florida. Crist should’ve used those words against Rubio, but he didn’t.

Like Palin, Rubio has his own vision of the Tea Party Movement:

The Tea Party movement has been mischaracterized in the press as some sort of an organization. Tea Parties are where people go and what people do. It’s not what they are …, it is not an organization. It is a broad-based group of everyday Americans from all walks of life.

To summarize the debate: Crist would’ve voted for the stimulus, Rubio against it. Marco Rubio’s favorite Senator is Jim DeMint (R-SC), while Charlie Crist’s favorite Senators are John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Rubio has been endorsed by Mike Huckabee, Senator DeMint and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). Crist has been endorsed by Senators McCain, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Crist opposes parts of the health care bill, while Rubio would repeal the whole thing.

The essence of Rubio’s message: We can’t trust Governor Crist to stand up to Barack Obama. The essence of Crist’s message: Rubio can’t be trusted – he won’t even reveal his tax returns! Also, “I’ll put Floridians first, that’s why I accepted the stimulus.”

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Shrum’s “Scott Brown era” was good, but the one that stuck was Governor Barbour’s “longest wet kiss in political history”:

Since this thing passed last weekend, we have seen the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media elite, and every day that goes by, it gets sloppier.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

Happy Easter!

Sunday talk show highlights, Feb. 28, 2010

March 1, 2010

This Monday: Meet The Press and This Week (Apparently, my taste in Sunday talk shows follows the ratings [Meet The Press usually ranks first, and This Week second]. It might also be that I prefer the interview-followed-by-roundtable format, as opposed to the interview-followed by Bob Schieffer commentary on CBS’s Face The Nation).

Senator John McCain (AZ-R) headlined Meet The Press this Sunday, and he currently holds second place on the list of guests with the highest number of appearances on the show. Bob Dole tops the list with 63 appearances – nine more than McCain – while Joe Biden trails at third place with 44 appearances.  McCain seemed relaxed and smiled a lot, and he should’ve done more of that during the campaign (not that it would have mattered in the end).

During the lengthy discussion on health care, several numbers were tossed around, as the guests described the Democratic health care proposal. According to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-D), the plan will cover “31 million people.” Host David Gregory stated the Democratic proposal would cover “30 million” new people, whereas the Republican plan would cover 3 million currently uninsured Americans. National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, on the other hand, citing the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) number, placed the number at “33 million.”

In the end though, Representative Schultz did a bad job of defending and promoting the Democratic Party’s agenda. On top of that, Schultz’s constant interruptions were annoying, and it brought political bickering to a roundtable discussion that, more often than not, is characterized by its civilized debate environment.

On This Week, Elizabeth Vargas had her hosting début, making her the fifth ABC anchor to try out for the seat left empty by George Stephanopoulos when he left for Good Morning America (in addition to Jake Tapper, Terry Moran, Barbara Walters and Jonathan Karl). She did a good job, and I’d have no problems with her taking over the job permanently.

During the roundtable discussion, on the topic of the health care bill, The New York Times’ Paul Krugman demonstrated the authority that comes with being a Nobel laureate:

KRUGMAN: Look, let me explain what happens, because you actually have to read the CBO report. And what the CBO report tells you — in fairly elliptical language — is that what it will do, what the bill will do is bring a lot of people who are uninsured, who are currently young and therefore relatively low cost, into the risk pool, which will actually bring premiums down a little bit.

It will also have, however, let — lead a lot of people to get better insurance. It will lead a lot of people who are currently underinsured, who have insurance policies that are paper thin and don’t actually protect you in a crisis, will actually get those people up to having full coverage. That makes the average payments go up, but it does not mean that people who currently have good coverage under their policies will pay more for their — for their insurance. In fact, they’ll end up paying a little bit less.

Whatever George Will had to say at that point didn’t really matter.

Senator Lamar Alexander (TN-R), who held the Republicans’ opening remarks at last Thursday’s health care summit, followed his impressive appearance at Blair House with an impressive performance on This Week. Intriguingly, the failed candidate for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination framed the United States Senate as “the protector of minority rights”, instead of being the protector of small states – some of which voted for the president heading the current majority (such as Vermont and Delaware – both with 3 electoral votes – and  Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire – with 4 electoral votes).

The most memorable “back and forth” took place between George Will and Sam Donaldson:

DONALDSON: … The president has to drop his George B. McClellan mask and become Ulysses Grant. Be ruthless. That’s what a Franklin Roosevelt would have done. That’s what Harry Truman would have done.

When Will got the word, he replied:

WILL: … Sam, you want the president to be Ulysses Grant, who won the war by his wonderful indifference to his own casualties, and I think some members in the Senate and in the House would not approve of that.

Before I end, what was this week’s most memorable phrase? John McCain’s “unsavory deals” (repeated six times). If nothing else, the phrase stuck with me.

(Videotape) PRES. OBAMA:  Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore.  The election’s over.

SEN. McCAIN:  I, I, I–I’m reminded of that every day. …

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  What was your reaction to that moment?

SEN. McCAIN:  Well, look, the president said that the, the campaign is over. What I was saying to the president is that you–the mistake that has been made is assuming that with 60 votes in the Senate and overwhelming majority in the House, you can move legislation through which has to be bipartisan in nature. It has to be.  Every major reform has had bipartisan support.  And so what they ended up with is, in order to buy votes, they did these unsavory deals. They are unsavory.  To say that 800,000 people in Florida will be carved out from any reduction in a Medicare Advantage program–330,000 of my citizens in Arizona are Medicare Advantage enrollees. To … say that you’re going to put $100 million in for a hospital in Connecticut?  Look, these are unsavory deals. They were done behind closed doors, and it has been–look, I’d have town hall meetings all over the place in my state of Arizona.  People object to the process as much as they do to the product.

MR. GREGORY:  But, you know, Senator, the president…

SEN. McCAIN:  And policy cannot be made through an unsavory vote-buying process.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

UPDATE: Regarding our phrase of the week, Stephen Colbert just tweeted this (Tuesday March 2):

mccain calls the deals in the healthcare bill unsavory, but some of that pork was exquisitely spiced and tender.


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