CNN Anchor Uses David Brooks to Press Jim DeMint on Debt Ceiling Standoff

American Morning co-host Christine Romans used David Brooks' words to press Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Wednesday on the stubbornness of conservative Republicans in the debt ceiling debate. Brooks, the faux "conservative" writer for the New York Times, wrote a scathing column Monday hitting Republicans for their refusal to accept Democrat "compromises" in the debt ceiling debate.

Romans twice referenced critics of the Republicans, first saying that critics fear the "new awakening" of the Tea Party and the 2010 elections as "dangerous for America." Later she read DeMint a quote from Brooks's piece in the Times.

The quote Romans read is as follows: "If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents [sic] voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don't take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right."

Brooks is framing Republicans, in this case, as "fanatics" and "not fit to govern." DeMint answered Romans that although Brooks might write for the New York Times, he does not represent the American people.

Then Romans seemed to make excuses for the spending increase under President Obama's watch. "And we know why it's gone up," Romans said of government spending.  "We know we've been fighting a horrible economy, a financial crisis."

"The president had a year and a half or two years to leverage that moment to try to turn the economy around, and now, now the Republicans are leveraging a moment ...to try to get big, big cuts in attached to the debt ceiling," Romans added. Apparently, Obama's stimulus was a logical reaction to an economic crisis.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on July 6 at 7:32 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CHRISTINE ROMANS: Well, it's this new wave of activism, this "new awakening" that you're talking about that has emboldened your colleagues over in the House to really hold the line on what they want. They want deep, deep cuts. They do not want tax increases in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. There are some critics who say that the Democrats are giving ground, and the Republicans aren't, and this new awakening is dangerous for America.

Sen. JIM DEMINT (R-S.C.): Not at all. This new awakening first of all, Christine, includes Democrats and independents and Republicans, and a lot of people who have never been involved in politics.

It's fun to go to Tea Parties and just meet a wide diversity of people. And hopefully if they stay active it will give House and Senate Republicans the courage to keep fighting. Democrats are talking about taxes, but Christine, last December, President Obama took taxes off the table. He said we couldn't raise taxes in a down economy. They've just put those back on the table so they can have something to give up to show they're working with us, but we need to address the spending.

ROMANS: Well what have you guys given up to show you're working with them?

DEMINT: Well, it's not a matter of what we give up or they give up, it's a matter of national survival. We can't keep spending more than we're bringing in. So this idea of "we give a little, they give a little," we have to balance our budget. And that's what needs to be the focus point right now.

ROMANS: David Brooks in the New York Times this week said "If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see the Democrats – they will see that they are willing to compromise, but the Republicans are not. If responsible Republicans don't take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism called this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern and they will be right."

DEMINT: I don't think he represents the American people. We don't have a revenue problem, Christine. Four the last five years we've had record levels of revenue, and next year is projected to be the highest level of tax revenues in history. But the problem is, spending has gone up 60 percent in the last eight years. We've got to stop spending.

ROMANS: And we know why it's gone up. We know we've been fighting a horrible economy, a financial crisis. The president had a year and a half or two years to leverage that moment to try to turn the economy around, and now, now the Republicans are leveraging a moment –

DEMINT: Right.

ROMANS: – to try to get big, big cuts in attached to the debt ceiling. Would you be amenable to maybe a short-term fix just so that we don't tell the rest of the world that we can't pay our bills?

DEMINT: We will pay our bills. It doesn't matter if we never raise the debt ceiling again. Our priority has to be to pay our debts. We may have to begin to cut other government programs, but Republicans –

ROMANS: Are you willing to start doing that? I mean, are you willing to have the Treasury Secretary decide which programs to start cutting?

DEMINT: Yes, we're going to have to do that, but Republicans are willing to give the president and the Democrats an increase in the debt limit in return for some short-term cuts, some caps on spending, and a balanced budget amendment. That is the pledge that we're encouraging that's the commitment that we have to make. OK, if we have to give them one more increase in how much we borrow, let's make a permanent change so that we don't have to do it again.

ROMANS: Pew Research Center asked who'd be responsible if no deal on the debt – on raising the federal debt ceiling happens. Obama administration 33 percent, GOP in Congress 42 percent, both 13 percent. According to this poll, this Pew poll at least, the public would blame the GOP in Congress if something doesn't get done here.

DEMINT: Well, if Republicans can't convince Americans we have to stop spending more than we're bringing in then we don't deserve to be there. I think that's a message I'd like to try to sell. What we're talking about are not draconian cuts next year or the year after, but let the states decide. Let the American people decide, do we need to balance our budget? Just like families have to balance their checkbook.

ROMANS: Sure.

DEMINT: But that's what "American Awakening" is about. If people understood what their involvement could do to change Washington and move it in the right direction, that's what I want people to know. If they want to know what's been going on behind closed doors, "The Great American Awakening" will tell them.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014