Early Show Gives Liberals Unchallenged Health Care Soap Box

CBS “Early Show” host Harry Smith used the top of the broadcast today to transmit liberal talking points on health care reform without bringing on a single conservative to articulate opposition.

First, CBS Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante’s glowing description of the benefits of passing health care reform went unchallenged:

It is expected to increase assistance for lower income people to afford health care, increase federal funding for the Medicaid program, and raise prescription drug benefits under Medicare. If the bills are signed into law, they would immediately forbid insurers from setting limits on dollar coverage or canceling policies in most cases. Children could then remain on their parents' insurance until age 26. In 2014, most Americans would be required to carry health insurance. There would be a health insurance exchange and insurers would then not be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. But meanwhile, the heat is really on. The President has been holding some one-on-one meetings with freshman House Democrats to try to persuade them. They are the people most vulnerable to the pressures to get this bill passed.


Instead of allowing a conservative guest to respond or at least pointing out the conservative criticisms himself, Smith turned to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who delivered an uninterrupted monologue on the need to pass the Democratic health care overhaul bill.

“The expectation that we wouldn't get anything done regarding pre-existing conditions, filling the donut hold on Medicare, stopping insurance companies from dropping all together,” said Dodd. “All of these provisions, to lose all of that, I think the public would react negatively, so I think we've got a good chance at passing this bill.”

Dodd also took the time to praise Plante’s reporting:

Bill Plante gave you a really good picture of it. I don't have a vote count, obviously, here in the Senate for you, Harry, but my instinct tells me – just watching this and listening to people – that I think Nancy Pelosi will produce the votes. She's got a wonderful record in doing that. And Bill made a good case for this.


To Dodd’s assertions, Smith merely changed the subject to the financial reform bill, which the Senate Banking Committee chairman seemed eager to address.

Wrapping up the interview, Smith and Dodd exchanged pleasantries about the benefits of, of all things, getting regular colonoscopies.

“It’s a good thing to do,” said Dodd, to which Smith agreed, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you.”


The full transcript, from the March 16 Early Show, which aired at 7:04 a.m. EDT, is included below (emphasis mine):

HARRY SMITH: Now to health care reform. The make or break vote is expected to be this week, but it could be a real cliffhanger, as President Obama continues to scramble to get enough votes from within his own party. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has the latest. Good morning, Bill.    

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. Cliffhanger for sure because the votes aren't there yet. The clock is running. The bill will go to the House floor in a day or two. So the President went to northern Ohio to try to fire up the voters to get them to put pressure on House Democrats to pass this bill.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Presidential Push; Obama Puts Pressure On Dems For Health Care]

BARACK OBAMA: We need courage. Did you hear what – did you hear what somebody just said? That's what we need.

PLANTE: Courage because more than two dozen Democrats are the target of an intense campaign by both lobbyists and the White House. Republicans are threatening supporters of the health care bill with defeat in this fall's elections. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meeting with children's advocates for health care reform, insists that she will bring those members around.

NANCY PELOSI: When we bring the bill to the floor, we will have the votes.

PLANTE: House Democrats are now working on a bill to fix what they don't like in the health care measure that passed the Senate. It is expected to increase assistance for lower income people to afford health care, increase federal funding for the Medicaid program, and raise prescription drug benefits under Medicare. If the bills are signed into law, they would immediately forbid insurers from setting limits on dollar coverage or cancelling policies in most cases. Children could then remain on their parents' insurance until age 26. In 2014, most Americans would be required to carry health insurance. There would be a health insurance exchange and insurers would then not be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. But meanwhile, the heat is really on. The President has been holding some one-on-one meetings with freshman House Democrats to try to persuade them. They are the people most vulnerable to the pressures to get this bill passed. Harry.

SMITH: Bill Plante at the White House this morning. Thank you very much. Joining us from Capitol Hill is Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, to talk about the giant financial reform bill he's trying to drag through Congress. But before we start that, Senator, let me just ask you what you feel like the odds are on this health care bill getting – getting enough votes in the House.

CHRIS DODD: Well, I think Bill gave – Bill Plante gave you a really good picture of it. I don't have a vote count, obviously, here in the Senate for you, Harry, but my instinct tells me – just watching this and listening to people – that I think Nancy Pelosi will produce the votes. She's got a wonderful record in doing that. And Bill made a good case for this. We've gone through the process debate now for months around here and I think people are – the expectation that we wouldn't get anything done regarding pre-existing conditions, filling the donut hold on Medicare, stopping insurance companies from dropping all together, all of these provisions, to lose all of that, I think the public would react negatively, so I think we've got a good chance at passing this bill.

SMITH: Alright, let's talk about financial reform. The bill that you're working on, more than 1,000 pages long. If it does nothing else, can it, in fact, prevent the reoccurrence of banks too big to fail, banks that would require being bailed out by the U.S. taxpayer?

DODD: Absolutely, Harry. That's a major provision of the bill and we've spent a lot of time, thousands of hours. It's two years ago today, Harry, that Bear Stearns was unraveling. And six months later, it was Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008. We've had countless hearings, meetings with all the various people and stakeholders. And one of the provisions that we have almost unanimous support on in the committee, thanks to people like Mark Warner and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who spent a lot of time on this issue, we will stop forever the notion that you're so big as a company that you have that implicit guarantee that the federal taxpayers or the government will bail you out, that will end with this bill.

SMITH: There are so many other factors, though, in this, and as I say, it's more than 1,000 pages. There's executive compensation, there's rules about the Federal Reserve, liquidation of large companies. Can you get all of that through or would you be better served just trying to do some single issues like the one you just talked about?

DODD: Well, I think we can get it through. It's, again – Dick Shelby said yesterday, the Republican ranking member of the committee, the former chairman of the committee, and I appreciate his comments, said we're about 80% - 85%, 90% together on this bill that I proposed yesterday.

SMITH: Really?

DODD: And that's a very – that would be a little high, frankly, but nonetheless, we're close to getting a lot of agreement on a lot of what you just described in this bill. There are a couple of areas where there's controversy. The consumer protection area, there's a lot of controversy around that, regrettably I might add. And there's some controversy around what they call the corporate governance issues as well. But aside from those two areas, we have a lot of agreement that's in this bill.

SMITH: Senator, thank you very much for your time. You're hard work this morning. Do appreciate it.

DODD: And thank you, by the way, for your colonoscopy effort. I've been through it every three years and I applaud you for it, Harry.

[Laughter]

DODD: It's a good thing to do.

SMITH: It's the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you-

DODD: I think I'm going through it right now with this health – this financial reform bill.

[Laughter]

SMITH: Senator, thank you very much.

DODD: See you later.

SMITH: Good luck with that. You may need some sedation. Alright.

DODD: I think I do already.

SMITH: Alright. Very good.

DODD: See you later.

SMITH: Alright, here's Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: I told you, it is the talk of the world.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.