ABC Panel: Brown Just ‘Throw the Bums Out,’ Fret ObamaCare Not Pushed More ‘Vigorously’

With the exception of George Will, the panel on ABC’s This Week (hosted by Terry Moran) roundtable insisted Scott Brown’s Massachusetts Senate seat victory was less an anti-liberal or anti-Obama vote than simply a “pox on both your houses “and “throw the bums” out choice when Democrats happened to be in power. (On Face the Nation, Nancy Cordes described Brown as a “true Republican moderate” and dreamed he “could make being a moderate cool again.”)

Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson also contended people really want ObamaCare and so the White House, Donaldson asserted, should have pushed it more “vigorously” and he despaired that “Republicans were able the make the idea that being on a government health program is terrible. How absurd.”

ABC News veteran Roberts declared of Brown’s win: “I think it's much more the process than the substance” as voters said “‘a pox on both your houses. You know, we don't like any of you guys’” since “when you ask which party do you trust more with various issues, the Republicans do worse than the Democrats. So it's not a Republican tide, but it is a ‘throw the bums out’ tide.”
 
The retired ABC newsman Sam Donaldson echoed it was “throw the bums out” and “the bums at the moment happen to be in. They're the Democrats. And, therefore, I don't care what your name is, or how much experience you have or don't have, or what your positions are even. You're the other guy.” Former George W. Bush campaign chief Matthew Dowd agreed “it wasn't a Republican victory. It was a victory for an outsider.”

On ObamaCare, a frustrated Donaldson argued:
Last spring, the polls said people wanted health care reform. They even wanted the public option. Did the White House then press it vigorously? Did the President say, “I know, herding cats is difficult. No, but I'll have to do it.” No, he let the cats on Capitol Hill try to herd themselves, and they took all summer, and they took all fall, and they argued back and forth, and Ben Nelson got a little something for his state, and people turned against the process...

One third of that majority is on a government health program. I'm on Medicare. People who've been in the military are on a government health program. And yet the Republicans were able the make the idea that being on a government health program is terrible. How absurd.
Roberts fretted and advised:
After doing as well as they did in that campaign, they let this public option -- nobody had ever heard of a public option. Suddenly it became the Holy Grail. You know, it's absurd. They should have just been out there day after day saying: “Thirty more million people insured, and you don't have pre-existing conditions on coverage.”

Last month on This Week, Roberts contended “there's a lot in” the health care bill as it now stands -- even without the “public option” or expanded Medicare -- “that people are going to like” and a “lot of people are going to like a whole lot once they see what's in it.”

(Meanwhile, on Face the Nation, CBS’s Capitol Hill reporter Nancy Cordes dreamed Brown “could make being a moderate cool again” as she raved:

He is in many ways a true Republican moderate, New England moderate. He's pro-abortion rights. He thinks that all Americans should get health care coverage. And so, if he stays down the middle in the Senate, and as you know moderates are a real dying breed there, it's possible that he could make being a moderate cool again in the Senate. And you might start to see more cooperation between the parties than we have all year.)

From the roundtable on the Sunday, January 24 This Week on ABC:

GEORGE WILL: Health care, yes, and this really was a health care election. Tip O'Neill's axiom that all politics is local was stood on its head up there. This was a referendum on a particular piece of legislation that is the signature legislation of the administration, and the people of Massachusetts and the country are hotly angered over its substance, but coldly contemptuous of the process that brought it about, the serial bribery.

COKIE ROBERTS: I think it's much more the process than the substance. I don't think anybody knows what's in the bill. But the, but I think everybody is just furious with Washington, and Barack Obama rode that tide last year, and now he's feeling the waves breaking on him. The fact is, is that everything that's happening in that beautiful building right there [U.S. Capitol] is making people mad and Scott Brown was the beneficiary of that.

TERRY MORAN: Do you think George is right that the President doesn't get it?

SAM DONALDSON: Oh, I think the President gets it after the fact. I mean, that's always the best time to get it. Cokie's right. I mean, remember the anchorman, the old one, “I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.” That's the way the voters are in this country, and the great American slogan when that happens is “throw the bums out.” The bums at the moment happen to be in. They're the Democrats. And, therefore, I don't care what your name is, or how much experience you have or don't have, or what your positions are even. You're the other guy.

MATTHEW DOWD: Well, what's funny, I think it's funny is that, unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Massachusetts doesn't stay in Massachusetts, and this is something that's a wave that's moving across the country. I think this is a signal for both political parties and members of Congress in both sides. I think what the country has been saying for the last few years, when the Republicans held office and the Democrats took -- came in, they said “you're not listening to us. You're not doing what we want. You're not doing the process the way we want.” Barack Obama wins a big election. They expand their majority. And within a year, the Democrats lose New Jersey, they lose Virginia, and they lose a Senate race in Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. And it wasn't a Republican victory. It was a victory for an outsider that says Washington doesn't get it, Republicans and Democrats, you guys don't get it. We're going to try something else.

MORAN: Well, the Republicans seem to think it -- many -- that it was a Republican victory, just as the Democrats did in 2008. Take a look at a chart that refutes that a little bit. This is a chart that shows how people identify themselves. Are they liberal, moderate, or conservative? Over the course of the last five years, there's basically been no change -- that's the message, that this country didn't swing to the left in 2008 and it's not swinging to the right now.

DOWD: Well, the fastest rising, the fasting rising group of voters in this country right now are independents. It's not as if the Democrats suffered and Republicans rose. Independents have risen.

ROBERTS: No, which is the same way of saying, “a pox on both your houses. You know, we don't like any of you guys.” Republican -- when you ask which party do you trust more with various issues, the Republicans do worse than the Democrats. So it's not a Republican tide, but it is a “throw the bums out” tide, and that's going to be there -- I mean, Sam's right about that -- and that's going to be there as long as the economy is bad and as long as the Congress continues to act in a way that people think they're not representing them.

DONALDSON: But that's it, Cokie. It's a tide also to get things done. Last spring, the polls said people wanted health care reform. They even wanted the public option. Did the White House then press it vigorously? Did the President say, “I know, herding cats is difficult. No, but I'll have to do it.” No, he let the cats on Capitol Hill try to herd themselves, and they took all summer, and they took all fall, and they argued back and forth, and Ben Nelson got a little something for his state, and people turned against the process-

ROBERTS: Even people in his state, which is remarkable.

DONALDSON: -who don't even know what's in the bill.

WILL: But surely the interesting poll about health care that we had when this whole process started showed that, A, this was a poll, this was a fact, 85 percent of the American had health insurance. And according to the Kaiser poll, 95 percent of that very large majority were satisfied-

ROBERTS: Happy.

WILL: -with what they had, so there was no underlying discontent proportional to the change the President was trying to do.

DONALDSON: One third of that majority is on a government health program. I'm on Medicare. People who've been in the military are on a government health program. And yet the Republicans were able the make the idea that being on a government health program is terrible.

ROBERTS: Well, that's what I can't get over, is how the Democrats-

DONALDSON: How absurd.

ROBERTS: -and the White House lost control of the message. I mean, that to me is phenomenal. After doing as well as they did in that campaign, they let this public option -- nobody had ever heard of a public option. Suddenly it became the Holy Grail. You know, it's absurd. They should have just been out there day after day saying: “Thirty more million people insured, and you don't have pre-existing conditions on coverage.”
Next week’s host of This Week: Barbara Walters. (TVNewser post which reports Roger Ailes and Arianna Huffington will be on the roundtable.)
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center