Newsweek’s Thomas: GOP ‘Selling Smoke and Mirrors,’ PBS’s Peterson Mocks ‘Free Lunch’

 On Friday’s Inside Washington on PBS, host Gordon Peterson used the term "free lunch" to mock Republicans who wish to avoid tax increases while trying to restrain the federal budget deficit. After panel member Jeanne Cummings of Politico predicted a tough fight in Congress over spending, Peterson turned the conversation to Washington Post columnist Colby King. Peterson: "Hold the line on taxes, attack the deficit. Can I offer you a free lunch, Colby?"

After King gave his predictions for the budget fight, Newsweek columnist Evan Thomas accused Republicans of "selling smoking and mirrors," and asserted that "they need to be held accountable by the press." He went on to dismiss the GOP desire to cut taxes. Thomas:

Republicans are going to be selling smoke and mirrors, and they need to be held accountable by the press. They’re gonna be talking about cutting spending, but not big entitlement programs, which is where all the money is. And cutting taxes, which you just cannot do and deal with our fiscal problems. I mean, I’m all for attacking big government, and the Tea Party’s not all wrong about that, but the way that they’re talking about doing it involves a lot of fiction.

Peterson then suggested that the Tea Party movement in Congress is "the tail that wags the dog," leading conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer to take exception with the belief by liberals that the Tea Party movement is more extreme than mainstream Republicans:

GORDON PETERSON: What about the Tea Party movement up on the Hill? Is that the tail that wags the dog now?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: But I think it’s one animal. People have this, liberals love to have the extremists on one side and the regular Republicans on the other. I think there’s a general understanding - sort of symbolized by the Tea Party but not exclusively with them - that we’ve had an experimental expansion of the government, especially Obamacare, it’s got to stop.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, December 31, Inside Washington on PBS:

GORDON PETERSON: Hold the line on taxes, attack the deficit. Can I offer you a free lunch, Colby?

COLBY KING, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Yeah, you can. And I’ll take it, if it’s free. But it’s not going to be free. What’s going to happen is I don’t think it’s going to be the clash that they’re talking about. I think they’re gonna probably come to some agreement on the number that, number of the reduction. I think where the conflict will come is on what’s going to be on the package. And that’s where the left-right split will take place with Democrats wanting to protect domestic programs and Republicans wanting to protect defense. That’s all in short hand. But I think the idea of deficit reduction is .... take hold in both parties.

PETERSON: Evan?

EVAN THOMAS, NEWSWEEK: Republicans are going to be selling smoke and mirrors, and they need to be held accountable by the press. They’re gonna be talking about cutting spending, but not big entitlement programs, which is where all the money is. And cutting taxes, which you just cannot do and deal with our fiscal problems. I mean, I’m all for attacking big government, and the Tea Party’s not all wrong about that, but the way that they’re talking about doing it involves a lot of fiction.

PETERSON: What about the Tea Party movement up on the Hill? Is that the tail that wags the dog now?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: But I think it’s one animal. People have this, liberals love to have the extremists on one side and the regular Republicans on the other. I think there’s a general understanding - sort of symbolized by the Tea Party but not exclusively with them - that we’ve had an experimental expansion of the government, especially Obamacare, it’s got to stop. All Republicans are united on repealing Obamacare. I think that’s, if you want to save money, it starts there. It’s about a trillion dollars right there.