NBC's Vieira Taunts Republican DeMint: 'Is It Now Your Party's Waterloo?'

At first glance it appeared Today viewers were in for a balanced segment with NBC's Meredith Vieira interviewing both Republican Senator Jim DeMint and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin about the health care bill bill on Wednesday's show. However Vieira saved her most slanted questions for DeMint as she mocked his earlier prediction of an Obamacare defeat being his Waterloo, "Is it now your party's Waterloo?" and after selectively citing one poll that showed a favorable view of the bill questioned which party was really "out of touch with the public?"

First up, in addition to Vieira throwing DeMint's previous "Waterloo" comments back in his face, she included (most likely) David Frum's criticism at DeMint:

VIEIRA: Senator DeMint, if I could start with you, back in July you said, "If we're able to stop Obama on this," meaning this health care reform bill, "it will be his Waterloo, it will break him." Well, the bill is now law and a former speech writer for former President George W. Bush has said Republicans messed up big by adopting the "Hell no!" approach to this bill. So do you still feel it is the President's Waterloo or is it now your party's Waterloo?

Then Vieira, completely ignoring other polls that show the public is opposed to Obamacare, used Gallup's poll results to depict the GOP as being "out of touch":

VIEIRA: Well let me, can I stop you right there Senator, because you talk about the anger but according to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, by a margin of nine percent, Americans say it was a good thing that Congress passed this bill. Half describe their reaction as enthusiastic or pleased. 48 percent called the bill a good first step. So who is out of touch with the public? The Democrats or the Republicans?

And finally, picking up on Durbin's complaint that the GOP was trying to load down the bill with too many amendments, Vieira pressed DeMint: "You know Senator DeMint, by throwing out all these amendments, don't the Republicans run the risk of being seen as obstructionists or sore losers here?"

The following is the full interview segment as it was aired on the March 24 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Dick Durbin of Illinois is the Senate Majority Whip and Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina introduced legislation Tuesday to fully repeal the health care law. Good morning to both of you.

[On screen headline: "Health Care Extremes, Who Is Ignoring The Will Of The People?"]

SEN. DICK DURBIN: Good morning.

SEN. JIM DEMINT: Good morning.

VIEIRA: Senator DeMint, if I could start with you, back in July you said, "If we're able to stop Obama on this," meaning this health care reform bill, "it will be his Waterloo, it will break him." Well, the bill is now law and a former speech writer for former President George W. Bush has said Republicans messed up big by adopting the "Hell no!" approach to this bill. So do you still feel it is the President's Waterloo or is it now your party's Waterloo?

DEMINT: Well, I think we're gonna find out in November. Americans are very angry because this comes on the heels of the government taking over General Motors and Chrysler and our largest insurance company, our largest mortgage company. There is a lot of anger out there and I think this November election is gonna be do we really want the government running all areas of our lives?

VIEIRA: Well let me, can I stop you right there Senator, because you talk about the anger but according to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, by a margin of nine percent, Americans say it was a good thing that Congress passed this bill. Half describe their reaction as enthusiastic or pleased. 48 percent called the bill a good first step. So who is out of touch with the public? The Democrats or the Republicans?

DEMINT: Well I, we would expect hype with, with all the hype and propaganda that we would get a bump but I think as people understand, just as we're seeing this week, and there is not money in this bill to pay doctors to see our senior citizens in Medicare. They're trying to pass a separate bill this week just to make those payments for one more month. So the real fix of health care has not happened with this bill and that will begin to come out over the, the next year as we go into this election. So I don't think the anger's gonna go away. I think you're gonna see it continue to build and I believe I owe it to my constituents and Americans everywhere to commit to try to repeal this thing over the next year or two.

VIEIRA: Senator Durbin, when the House sent the reconciliation bill over to the Senate, it was for the understanding that it would be passed as is. As Majority Whip, can you tell us this morning, do you have the votes right now to do that?

DURBIN: We have the votes to pass reconciliation but the Republicans are gonna offer many amendments. We saw some of them last night. Now this is a bill about budget deficit reduction and health care reform, and one of the Republican amendments wants a public referendum in the District of Columbia on gay marriage. Another Republican amendment wants us to go after the organization ACORN which just announced its bankruptcy. Another amendment says no prescription Viagra for rapists. I mean when you go through this long list you say, common sense tells you this is a political exercise for too many on the other side of the aisle.

VIEIRA: But how do Democrats vote against those amendments without enraging their constituents back home who will be voting in November?

DEMINT: We're gonna tell our people back home that it's time to govern, it's time to lead, it's time to address important issues. The underlying bill, for example, makes sure that health insurance is gonna be more affordable for people who are working. It also provides for closing the donut hole which means for seniors on Medicare, there will be help for paying for prescription drugs. Let's get down to the real issues in this bill and help families and businesses and people across America with health care issues.

VIEIRA: You know Senator DeMint, by throwing out all these amendments, don't the Republicans run the risk of being seen as obstructionists or sore losers here?

DEMINT: Well, Senator Durbin and, and the Democrats are trying to distract from other issues here. I mean this is another takeover bill. They're taking over the whole student loan program in, in asking our students through higher interest rates to help fund this health care bill. And it also takes more from Social Security. So they're talking about a few amendments and hoping that Americans don't notice that this is another power grab, it's another tax increase, it's another attack on the, the entitlements that we owe our seniors from Social Security and Medicare. So we're gonna bring these issues up today and tomorrow as long as we can keep this debate going so Americans can see what's being done here. That's one of the real frustrations that Americans have is that so much of this has been done behind closed doors. People don't know what's in the bill. We're gonna do everything we can to make sure people know what they're getting into and they know that we're committed to repeal it.

VIEIRA: Yesterday Senator McCain said, or on Monday, I'm sorry, on Monday, I'm sorry, he said that he would not cooperate with the administration for the rest of the year because of what happened with health care reform. Do you agree with that sentiment, and in fact do most Republicans agree with that?

DEMINT: I think so. This breaks I think a lot of protocols in the Senate. I mean we look like we're fighting a lot of times but there's a lot that's done in a bipartisan way. I think using all these procedures and kickbacks and everything have, have broken that and, and I'm glad to hear Senator Graham and others saying that they're not gonna work with the President on, on his big agenda to continue to take over areas of our economy and our culture.

VIEIRA: So Senator Durbin, does this mean that, that's this is the end of bipartisanship and are the Democrats willing to go it alone from this point on?

DURBIN: For some on the other side of the aisle I'm afraid bipartisanship hasn't started with this president. As Senator DeMint said, himself, the object behind the health care debate was to break the presidency. America doesn't want a broken presidency, they want a president who's gonna work with both parties. President Obama's reached out to the Republican side of the aisle as well as Democrats. And look at bill that Senator DeMint just spoke about. He's talking about our attempts to end an a $8 billion-a-year subsidy to banks on, on the backs of students across America. We want to eliminate this government subsidy to banks because it adds to the cost of student loans. From Senator DeMint's point of view that's a government takeover. I see just the opposite.

VIEIRA: We're, we're gonna have to leave it at that. Senator Durbin thank you so much. Majority Whip Durbin and Senator Jim DeMint, thank you for your time this morning.

DEMINT: Thank you.

DURBIN: Thank you.

VIEIRA: This debate is far from over.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.