Republicans say they will follow “the people's priorities” when they gain power on Capitol Hill next month. Yet when it came to tax cuts for the wealthy and other top issues that dominated the just concluded lame-duck Congress, the GOP either defied what most Americans want or followed their will only after grudging, drawn-out battles.
The duo’s first piece of evidence:
Congress' approval of a compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional GOP leaders renewing expiring tax cuts for everyone, despite broad public opposition to including people earning over $250,000. An Associated Press-CNBC Poll in late November found only 34 percent wanted taxes reduced for the richest Americans.
In fact, there was never any proposal on the table to “reduce” income taxes for any income class of Americans, just a continuation of the current rates. If the rates were not maintained, Americans would have faced a steep income tax hike as of January 1. (Yes, the wealthy, like everyone else with a job, will pay a little less in FICA, but that was not the subject of the AP-CNBC poll question.)
“This is such a weak field,” Fox News analyst Juan Williams, recently ousted from NPR for not fully toting the far-left line, declared during a Fox News Sunday discussion of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, prompting an appalled Bill Kristol to mock: “Yeah, President Obama had done so much when he ran for President. I mean, all of these guys are better qualified than Barack Obama.”
Williams got in the last words of the December 26 segment, using them to deride Sarah Palin compared to Barack Obama:
There is nobody out there except for Sarah Palin who could absolutely dominate the stage and she can't stand on the intellectual stage with Obama.
That caused oohs from the panel and led host Chris Wallace to suggest “there’ll be a lump of coal” in Williams’ stocking. (Audio: MP3 clip)
FNC’s Bret Baier ended his Tuesday night “Grapevine” segment by highlighting NewsBusters’ Monday morning post which has generated quite a buzz on a lot of blog sites, “Nina Totenberg: ‘I Was At – Forgive the Expression – a Christmas Party...’” In Wednesday’s Washington Post, however, The Reliable Source column insisted “her critics got it completely wrong” since “she was, she says, defending Christmas.” As for bloggers who pounced on her, the NPR reporter said “these folks need a life -- and perhaps a touch of the Christmas spirit, as well.”
Baier noted that “NPR's Nina Totenberg is getting a bah humbug from some for something she said on a Washington political program.” Viewers then saw part of a clip of Totenberg posted by NB:
These agencies, including the Defense Department, don't know how much money they've got and for what. And I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this.
Baier then read from the NB post:
NewsBusters' Brent Baker wrote Totenberg was, quote, “seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious terminology for Christmas. She didn't say what she'd prefer for parties this time of the year to be named. ‘Winter solstice party'? Just plain old ‘holiday party'? Or a ‘seasonal gathering'?”
“There weren’t a lot of hard questions in this news conference,” FNC’s Bret Baier observed on Special Report in the understatement of the night. Indeed, in the first question posed at the late Wednesday afternoon session, Caren Bohan of Reuters reflected the collective glow of the White House press corp basking in Barack Obama’s glory:
You racked up a lot of wins in the last few weeks that a lot of people thought would be difficult to come by. Are you ready to call yourself the “comeback kid”?
(Katie Couric gushed on the CBS Evening News over how “the President isn’t calling himself the ‘comeback kid,’ but some other folks are.” A pleased George Stephanopoulos teased ABC’s World News by yearning for more Obama success in 2011: “The President takes a victory lap. How the Christmas season became what he called a ‘season of progress.’ Will it continue in the new year?”)
At the 4:15 PM EST press conference carried by the broadcast networks, ABC’s Jake Tapper Tapper offered his “congratulations” on the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell as he hit Obama from the left on whether it “is it intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country, but they should not be able to marry the people they love?” Audio compilation: (MP3 clip)
“I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party,” NPR reporter Nina Totenberg interjected on Inside Washington in the weekend’s oddest cautionary separation from a common description for a common event, seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious terminology for Christmas. She didn’t say what she’d prefer for parties this time of the year to be named. “Winter solstice party”? Just plain old “holiday party”? Or a “seasonal gathering”?
Totenberg’s bashfulness came as she explained how the failure of Congress to pass an annual budget has left federal workers in limbo:
Well, these agencies, including the Defense Department, don't know how much money they've got and for what. And I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this.
So, what did Totenberg mean by “forgive the expression”? Watch and judge for yourself. (Audio: MP3 clip)
Nearly 80 percent of the $858 billion “cost” of the compromise tax bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama is, per a Congressional Research Service estimate, from the $675 billion over the next ten years the government would have received if income tax rates were raised, a perspective widely adopted by network reporters and hosts who assumed just keeping rates at their current levels should be counted as a “cost” to the national debt and annual deficits.
“The $858 billion price tag for this bill will be added to the already $14 trillion national debt,” ABC’s Jake Tapper concluded Friday night, “meaning we, our children and our children's children will likely be on the hook for the law that was passed today.”
The Sunday interview shows echoed Tapper’s spin. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer lamented how the tax bill “is going to just add to the deficit.” David Gregory, interviewing Vice President Biden on Meet the Press, bemoaned how the tax compromise will “add a trillion dollars to the deficit.” Later in the program, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough also exaggerated the $858 billion to $1 trillion as he declared: “It straps us with another trillion dollars worth of debt.”
Searching for an upside to the WikiLeaks release of secret documents, Late Show host David Letterman on Wednesday night pointed to how such disclosures could have possibly prevented the 9/11 attacks since former President George Bush had disregarded “for months and months and months” the warning “that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were interested in hijacking planes and flying them into buildings,” but not even Rachel Maddow, his far-left guest from MSNBC, bought his spin. Letterman contended:
There is the viewpoint if WikiLeaks had been in business prior to the attack of 9/11 and we knew that George Bush had looked at a document suggesting that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were interested in hijacking planes and flying them into buildings – which largely went disregarded for months and months and months until long after the attack. If we had known that, via something like WikiLeaks, we perhaps could have acted a little more alertly.
In fact, the Presidential Daily Brief to which Letterman referred, the one titled “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US,” was presented to Bush on August 6, barely five weeks before 9/11, not “months and months and months” in advance.
At the Reagan Museum and Library in Ventura County, California, former First Lady Nancy Reagan on Monday unveiled a new Ronald Reagan postage stamp which is to be released in February to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth, “The Reagan Centennial.”
Of the broadcast network evening newscasts, only NBC, which has a deal to host a Republican presidential debate through MSNBC at the library, made note of the occasion. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams briefly announced on his December 13 newscast:
Nancy Reagan on hand today at the unveiling of the stamp that will mark the centennial anniversary of her husband's birth. The Ronald Reagan stamp goes on sale February 10th, just days after what would have been the former President's 100th birthday.
Matching the distortion documented in a MRC study posted Tuesday, though under the Obama-congressional GOP compromise income tax rates will remain unchanged for all, fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor introduced a story by characterizing a “battle over tax cuts” and how at a White House news conference President Obama “said agreeing to cuts for high-income earners was the only way to get middle-class cuts.” Except neither group is getting any income tax “cut” and the agreement simply forestalls a hefty tax hike.
Over on ABC, World News anchor Diane Sawyer’s tease presumed “tax cuts” were under consideration when the alternative to the deal to extend them was not a cut but a tax rate increase: “Talking tough. President Obama tackles his Democratic critics and says Republicans held the middle class tax cuts hostage.”
Brian Williams adopted a liberal framework as he opened Monday's NBC Nightly News by declaring “it’s a fair question to ask and for a while now Americans have been wondering how lawmakers in Washington could possibly extend tax breaks for wealthy Americans while allowing benefits for jobless Americans to be cut off.”
Then, after Chuck Todd outlined the Obama-GOP compromise to maintain income taxes at their current rates for two years while extending unemployment benefits and implementing a temporary reduction in the payroll tax, Williams fretted the deal contradicts how “the fight has been over anything in government that isn't paid for,” yet, as Todd despaired in filling in Williams’ regret, “none of this is paid for. In terms of lost revenue for the government next year, it's $450 billion.”
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Republican Senate whip Jon Kyl kept correcting host Bob Schieffer about how extending tax “rates,” not “cuts,” is what is being debated, leading Schieffer to conceded “I gotcha” and even prompted Schieffer to let Kyl fill in for him the correct term. Schieffer: “Are the votes there now in the Senate, in your opinion, to extend these tax ah-“ Kyl: “Rates.”
Schieffer had asked: “Is the Senate going to get down to business and resolve this whole business of the tax cuts?” Kyl chastised: “Nobody is talking about tax cuts. We're talking about extending the rates that have been in existence for the last decade.” Nonetheless, Schieffer stuck with his terminology: “Why is it so important to Republicans to extend the tax cuts for the upper-income people?”
Democratic Senate whip Dick Durbin matched Schieffer’s framing: “I'm not voting for any permanent tax cut for the people of the highest income categories” and Kyl felt compelled to again correct Schieffer and Durbin: “First of all we're not talking about tax cuts.” Schieffer interjected “I gotcha” as Kyl continued: “We're talking about extending, for another period of time, the rates that have been in existence for the last decade.”
In a Saturday Washington Post op-ed, “Save Obama – by running against him,” Tikkun magazine editor Michael Lerner provided a list of “excellent candidates” to run against President Obama “who would unequivocally commit to a well-defined progressive agenda.” Amongst the names Rabbi Lerner forwarded, two from the news media who share his far-left agenda, plus an actress: Rachel Maddow, Bill Moyers and Susan Sarandon.
Framing the debate through a liberal prism hostile to continuing the current income tax rates, ABC and CBS worried Thursday night about the “cost” of not raising taxes, as if all money belongs to the government, as both expounded on how not ending the Bush rates will fuel massive deficits. “If all the Bush tax cuts end for the top two percent of earners, $700 billion will be added to government coffers,” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric warned, and “if all the cuts stay in place, the deficit will soar by $3.7 trillion over ten years.”
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer promised answers to “how much the tax break for the wealthy increases the deficit and what is the impact on small businesses.” Reporter Jonathan Karl relayed how “Democrats say extending the top Bush tax cuts means a big windfall for the rich.” He ruled: “So will it help the super-rich? The answer, yes, of course it will.”
Karl continued: “Will extending tax cuts on the top brackets add to the deficit? Yes. Extending tax cuts for those making over $200,000 a year would mean about $700 billion more in debt over 10 years. But extending them for those with incomes under $200,000 costs even more -- $3.1 trillion in debt.”
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Wednesday evening hit presidential deficit commission co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles from the left, the New York Times left. Without ever raising conservative criticism of proposals to raise taxes, Williams charged:
It seems to me there's two arguments. There's what you're trying to accomplish and then there's how you're trying to accomplish, and there are, as you know, critics of what you're trying to do. James K. Galbraith writes in the New York Times, “Bowles-Simpson proposal is an assault on the middle class, the working class and the poor.”
This wasn’t the first time Williams has cited a left-wing New York Times op-ed or columnist for what he considered sage wisdom.
Covering President Barack Obama’s White House meeting with congressional leaders, ABC and CBS portrayed incoming House Republicans as the ones obstinate about tax rates, refusing to compromise – meaning agreeing to Obama’s wish to raise income tax rates on many – or match Obama’s conciliatory tone, though NBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out how Obama “seemed unwilling” to even agree with a Democratic proposal to raise “the middle-class tax threshold from $250,000 to those Americans making more than $1 million.”
ABC’s Jake Tapper reported “Obama pushed Republicans today to allow Congress to vote separately on Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and on those for everyone else,” but, he noted, “Republicans rejected that idea.” He concluded with how “Obama told the Republicans” that “he should have reached out more to them over the previous two years. Republicans,” however, “who oppose the President's domestic agenda lock-step, offered no such mea culpa.”
On CBS, Chip Reid, who relayed how Obama “did offer an olive branch, taking some responsibility for partisan tensions” while “Republicans did not return the peace offering,” contended: “Republicans, with their hands strengthened by the election victory, appeared even less inclined to bend than the President.”
The U.S. government “ought to speak about the enablers in the American journalistic community” who have cooperated with WikiLeaks, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer urged on Monday’s night’s Special Report on FNC, recommending that if you “collaborate” with WikiLeaks, then “we are going to look into possible prosecution.”
As the long holiday weekend comes to an end, catching up with a humorous, seemingly spontaneous, moment on the last fresh Late Show before Thanksgiving. David Letterman is a big believer in cataclysmic predictions about global warming, but on Wednesday’s program his mom, Dorothy, rejected his proposition that global warming was to blame for some unseasonably warm days in Indianapolis -- prompting her disappointed son to shake his head in disapproval.
Dorothy, better known as “Dave’s mom,” appears annually from her kitchen in suburban Indianapolis to let her son guess the types of pies she’s baked for Thanksgiving. This year, the 89-year-old remarked “it's been unseasonably warm,” leading her son to assert “that's that climate change. It's the global warming. You know that, mom? Do you believe in the climate change, in the global warming?”
At a time when the American mood has turned against excessive government spending, Christiane Amanpour devoted Sunday’s This Week to four liberal Democratic billionaires, though she failed to identify their political orientation, who want higher income tax rates on the wealthy.
Unmentioned during the pre-taped interviews with Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, Ted Turner and Tom Steyer revolving around their participation in “The Giving Pledge” – the promise to give away at least half their wealth: how they are free now to give all the money they want to the federal government.
Amanpour began by touting: “Warren Buffett has been practically begging the country, begging Congress to tax him more. In fact, many of the richest Americans like Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner say that they should pay higher tax.” In between letting Buffett expound at length on why taxes should be hiked, she fretted to Bill Gates: “If people aren't going to pay for the services that they need, how are those services going to get funded, do you think?”
Thanksgiving afternoon at 3 PM EST, with another re-run overnight at 2 AM EST Thursday night/Friday morning, the Fox News Channel is re-running the first three hours of the six-part Fox News Reporting: The Right, All Along: The Rise, Fall & Future of Conservatism, the documentary series hosted by Brit Hume.
> At 3 PM EST/12 noon PST (and 2 AM EST/11 PM PST): “Right from the Start”
> At 4 PM EST/1 PM PST (and 3 AM EST/12 AM PST): “A Time for Choosing”
> At 5 PM EST/2 PM PST (and 4 AM EST/1 AM PST): “Path to Power”
ABC’s Christiane Amanpour on Sunday again gave national U.S. television exposure to a liberal reporter with the London-based Financial Times as she brought Ed Luce, the newspaper’s Washington Bureau Chief and former Clinton administration operative, aboard her This Week roundtable. Luce declared the world would react “with deep horror, I think, but also some amusement,” to a presidential bid by Sarah Palin and charged Republican opposition to START shows “there's a greater hatred of Obama than there is a love of American national security.”
Echoing the standard liberal spin about how President Barack Obama just failed to effectively communicate his great achievements, Luce argued that “if GM had gone bankrupt and large portions of it had been closed down, we could have lost several hundred thousand jobs.” He then despaired: “The administration's communications effort on this has been absolutely abysmal. It's quite extraordinary to me how they haven't put this forward more forcefully and how the public still doesn't see just how different a kind of bailout this was than the Wall Street bailouts which remain deservedly unpopular.”
Very unusually, CBS’s Katie Couric promised a look Thursday night at “how runaway government spending has exploded the national debt,” but between that segment and her show’s lead story, an “exclusive” interview with debt commission co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, Couric illustrated how she and the media are an impediment to rational spending decisions since they paint any decision to not spend more in terms of how that will hurt people. To wit, she despaired:
Also in Washington today, House Republicans blocked a further extension of jobless benefits set to expire on November 30th. If Congress doesn't act, two million Americans will stop receiving benefit checks during the holidays. That would be devastating to a place like Elkhart, Indiana. It had one of the nation's highest unemployment rates when Seth Doane first visited there two years ago and it is only now just starting to recover.
Deep in his empathetic piece, Doane noted: “These benefits can last up to 99 weeks. That's nearly three months longer than any time in U.S. history. They now cost the country nearly $224 billion a year.”
Seeming to resurrect a favorite paranoid conspiracy of the 1980s, Shawn Carter, who goes by the stage name “Jay-Z” and is out with an autobiography, Decoded, about the origins of rap music, suggested on Tuesday's Late Show that “Reaganomics” and “Iran-Contra” put crack into urban neighborhoods.
While Obama has disdain for the news media, GQ’s Robert Draper discovered the few journalists for whom “Obama does reserve a certain respect,” are liberal columnists Tom Friedman, E.J. Dionne and Joe Klein, as well as David Brooks, the pseudo “conservative” columnist for the New York Times; and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was amongst those who stepped up to advise Gibbs against taking the roles of both senior adviser and press secretary.
Despairing that the current income tax rates will be extended for all income levels, on Sunday’s This Week, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus declared: “I think that the conversation right now is deranged” and “crazy.” In measuring the long-term “cost” of keeping the Bush rates for those below $250,000 versus for all, she argued:
I think that the conversation right now is deranged. We have in one room the deficit commission folks saying look at this huge hole, look at the tax increases and serious spending cuts that we need to do to fill it. And then outside the room, we're having a debate about whether we should add $4 trillion to the deficit long-term or a mere 3.3. This is crazy.
Marcus issued her characterizations after New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had made his case for raising taxes:
Former NBC and CBS correspondent Liz Trotta contended on FNC’s Fox NewsWatch that the already “very, very liberal” foreign news media are “encouraged by Obama's analysis that everybody in the world hates us,” which “only certifies their animosity towards the U.S.”
Trotta’s assessment came in reply to FNC host Jon Scott, who wondered in regard to President Barack Obama’s trip to several Asian nations: “What about his status with the foreign press? He's gone on this big jaunt to Asia now, seems to be enjoying rock star status over there.”
In his weekly “The Final Word” column for USA Today, “Out of the closet...well, almost,” features reporter Craig Wilson recalled in Wednesday’s newspaper: “I once knew a gay youth who was bullied. Me.” He soon, however, pivoted to “when I came out to my parents, they were not surprised.” But, “the real trouble came when I told my mother I had become a Democrat.”
Christine Amanpour spent much of Sunday’s This Week arguing with her guests about how taxes must be raised -- a theme also echoed on Face the Nation and Meet the Press -- as she brought aboard the media’s newest hero, tax-hike advocate David Stockman, and also touted Warren Buffett’s quest to hike taxes and how even conservatives in Britain have agreed to do so: “They’re saying there for every $3 in spending cuts, $1 up in taxes.”
Advancing the media-Democratic line against the agenda of victorious conservatives, Amanpour asserted to Senator-elect Rand Paul: “There are many economists who simply say the math does not add up, if you’re not going to agree to raising taxes. Do you agree that taxes will have to be raised, as well?” Rand retorted: “I think it's not a revenue problem. It's a spending problem.” To which, Amanpour countered: “But it is a revenue problem according to so many economists.”
Amanpour soon repeated: “Without making strong entitlement and other cuts, and even if one does, most of the economists say the math does not add up to keep tax cuts on and on and on. Will you agree to some?”
At the top of her show, with “Tax Cut Mantra” derisively on screen, Amanpour touted Stockman: “Their hero may be Ronald Reagan, but his tax man says that [extending the current tax rates] will finish the economy off.”
Contrasting a “contrite” President Obama with a “less conciliatory” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, CBS reporter Nancy Cordes on Thursday night conveyed Democratic concern about likely House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's pledge to hold oversight hearings as she recalled “a barrage of damaging probes, one of which ended in impeachment hearings.”
Cantor, Cordes asserted, has called “for more investigations into the administration, with quote 'one major oversight hearing each week.' That worries Democrats, who remember what happened the last time Republicans controlled the House during a Democratic presidency.” She then challenged Darrell Issa, now the ranking minority member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: “Democrats have said that you're going to start a witch-hunt against the President if Republicans take control.”
Just after NBC News called Nevada for incumbent Democratic Senator Harry Reid, Meet the Press host David Gregory credited his victory to how “Tea Party-backed” Sharron Angle disrespected journalists, citing how she “made some very unwise decisions, namely, saying things like 'I'm not going to give any interviews until after I'm elected.'” Gregory contended: “I don't think that inspires a great deal of confidence in independent voters, or any voter for that matter.”
Later in the 1:00 AM EDT hour, anchor Brian Williams asked NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker to explain “what's wrong” with the promise by Republican candidates to cut spending? Whitaker channeled a liberal argument in favor of hiking taxes, declaring “the fact is right now the Republican numbers do not add up” since House Republicans want to roll back “spending to 2008 levels, which gets you about a $100 billion, but extending all the tax cuts. And the Congressional Budget Office has said that ends up adding $270 billion, at least, to the deficit.”