On Letterman, Brian Williams Cheers ‘Fruits’ of ‘Clinton Economy’ and Ridicules Tea Party

Appearing on the Late Show on Monday night to plug his Friday night Dateline on the 5th anniversary of Katrina, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams bizarrely asserted “we're still enjoying the fruits really of the Clinton economy,” claimed Tea Party activists who say “we want our country back” want it back “from the Trilateral Commission” and ridiculed their presumed hypocrisy as he insisted “you see a lot of signs, ‘Federal Government Out of My Social Security,’ ‘Federal Government Out of My Medicare and Medicaid.’ But for the federal government, of course, those programs would not exist.”

Plus, he passed along how “I'm hearing a few people say” that President Barack Obama won’t run for re-election because he “wants to somehow transcend the presidency,” citing a British columnist who contends he was “never supposed to be an ordinary President.” Williams considered the possibility Obama could be as consequential as Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton: “Jimmy Carter converted the post-presidency, redesigned the idea of an ex-President. Solving diseases and bad elections around the world. Bill Clinton with the Clinton Global Initiative trying to do the same thing.”

When David Letterman raised the disparity between gluttonous Americans and kids starving around the world, Williams rued self-centered Americans as he incongruously touted: “We've had a good run here. We're still enjoying the fruits really of the Clinton economy.” Huh? The current economy is doing well? And I thought the line was that Bush drove the economy into the ditch and we’re all being saved by Obama? (Or was he saying the Clinton years made us selfish?)

Letterman soon wondered: “When they say ‘we want our country back,’ who, what, what are they talking about?” That prompted an answer from Williams which sounded more like derision than impartial reporting: “If you ask them, they would say from, ‘from the Trilateral Commission, from the big bankers, from the Council on Foreign Relations.’” Williams sounded like he’s still living in the 1980s.

The condescending duo soon latched on to supposed Tea Party hypocrisy, which really just proved their hostile naivete as Williams showed quite an imagine as to the signs held up at Tea Party events and dismissed it all as simply anger caused by people upset by the bad economy:

DAVID LETTERMAN: And again the popular inconsistency that is cited is “we don't want the nationalized health care. But by god we still want our Medicare and our Medicaid.” How do they reconcile that?

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well, you see a lot of signs, “Federal Government Out of My Social Security,” “Federal Government Out of My Medicare and Medicaid.” But for the federal government, of course, those programs would not exist. A lot of it is just raw anger being translated onto signs and in slogans because people are on the downside of a bad economy.
So much for “still enjoying the fruits of the Clinton economy.”

Audio: MP3 clip which matches video

From the Monday night, August 23 Late Show with David Letterman on CBS:
DAVID LETTERMAN: There are two food channels, two food networks. One’s motto is “Stay hungry.” “Stay hungry.” There are cupcake shows, there are cupcake wars, there are cake shows, there are let's build a cake. “Who can build a cake that looks more like a reclining chair?” And then there's one show where a guy goes out and eats as much as can. “Bring me all the food in your house. I'll eat it.” Three million people in this country do not get enough to eat and every six seconds, an infant in this world dies of starvation. How, how do you explain the disparity?

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Ask your friends at the World Food Program and they'll tell you the same thing. We're a highly generous nation. And we like to think of ourselves as a very generous people. But we've had a good run here. We're still enjoying the fruits really of the Clinton economy. And an ethos -- I still come back to this that says you're the star. It's about you. Listen to the commercials on all those channels and the message is all in the first person in ways we never ever used or would dream of in the time of say Mad Men, for a modern television reference. So I think it's that. I think out of sight, out of mind, however, is what sends children around the world to bed hungry and kills them ultimately.

....

LETTERMAN: Now when the Tea Party formed, or when I think it formed, or when I read about the formation of it, I thought this is great. This is great. People have gotten together and said “holy god, we've lost all our money, our pension funds are gone. Nobody seems to know where the money goes. The government raises all this money to bail out huge corporations, our money is still gone. Our retirement funds, everything is gone. We don't like this. We think we can do a better job. We're going to form another political party.” That's great. That's all part of the luxury of being born in this country. You can do that. You should do that. We thrive on that sort of thing.

Now I hear them saying things like “we want our country back.” And I'm having trouble deciding who took it, where did it go. You know, when they say “we want our country back,” who, what, what are they talking about?

WILLIAMS: ...You've latched on Dave, in what is Topic 5 for those playing our home game, you’ve latched on to sloganeering, which is as fine as an American tradition as any Tom Jefferson was involved in. And it makes people feel better to say “take our country back.” If you ask them, they would say from, “from the Trilateral Commission, from the big bankers, from the Council on Foreign Relations.”

....

LETTERMAN: A friend of mine, I said there's going to be a Tea Party convention up the road. I said go there and let me hear what they’re saying. Do they have a platform? Do they have solutions? And she said “well, no, not so much. It was more about we want our country back and are you with us and this and that and attracting support.” Which I understand is part of a growing movement. But to get any kind of traction, don't you want to hear, oh here's what we're going to do different. I mean let's face it, you could get elected, Harry Truman could get elected, and because of the politics of the day and the bureaucracy, it's going to be a pretty tough slog for anybody.

WILLIAMS: ...People's anger goes to their money. They do kind of generically want control back. They see a government so big and yet a government that says, “wait a minute, stop an oil leak a mile down under the water. Oh, we have nothing for that, that's BP's technology. We're going to put an admiral here in charge and watch BP for you, but I swear we’ve got this covered.”

LETTERMAN: And again the popular inconsistency that is cited is “we don't want the nationalized health care. But by god we still want our Medicare and our Medicaid.” How do they reconcile that?

WILLIAMS: Well, you see a lot of signs, “Federal Government Out of My Social Security,” “Federal Government Out of My Medicare and Medicaid,” but for the federal government, of course, those programs would not exist. A lot of it is just raw anger being translated onto signs and in slogans because people are on the downside of a bad economy.

....

WILLIAMS: I think you're going to see anger, in some form or fashion, translated at the ballot box.

LETTERMAN: And projecting from that, are we looking at a one-term President?

WILLIAMS: You know what, and I think the British Telegraph last night online there was a column saying he wants to be. And I'm hearing a few people say this, that he wants to somehow transcend the presidency. He was never supposed to be, or so this columnist’s theory goes, never supposed to be an ordinary President. And so this would be extraordinary to not do the expected thing and run for a second term. To kind of be a different kind of figure.

Jimmy Carter converted the post-presidency, redesigned the idea of an ex-President. Solving diseases and bad elections around the world. Bill Clinton with the Clinton Global Initiative trying to do the same thing. So I'm not putting any credence in this column. I think we have to assume, because he's a politician and he’s an incumbent President, he is running for re-election.
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