CNN Pleads With Republicans, 'Don't Fear the Grover'

CNN broke out the pom-poms on Monday and cheered the Republicans who reneged on Grover Norquist's no-tax hike pledge. CNN contributor John Avlon lauded them as "profiles in courage."

Avlon quipped that now "people don't fear the Grover. And that's a good thing, you know." Anchor Carol Costello clearly liked the GOP mutiny, asking "how excited should we really be by all of this talk of throwing Grover Norquist under the bust [sic]?"

"Look, that's why these two stands are profiles in courage," Avlon said of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) who considered abandoning the tax pledge. "It requires standing up for what you think is right, and putting the special interests and the potential short-term electoral consequences aside."

"We just need to disenthrall ourselves from these extreme voices who've choked off reasonable debate in Washington," Avlon continued.

"Come on, Congress, make a great mud pie. You can do it," Costello cheered for compromise. Many Republicans have still not abandoned the tax pledge, but CNN is already taking sides in favor of compromise.

Conservative guest Will Cain was taken aback by Costello's advocacy. "Is it something to get excited about?" he asked. At CNN it is, apparently.

"But not many House members are running to the microphones to renounce Grover Norquist's tax pledge. And isn't that where we're going to have the most trouble, Will?" Costello asked. So congressmen sticking by the pledge means "trouble"?

Near the end of the 10 a.m. hour of Newsroom, CNN talked with negotiation experts and even showed children at a playground who had to learn to work together. "So if they can do it," noted correspondent Kyung Lah, "maybe the political playground can do it, too."

A transcript of the segments, which aired on November 26, are as follows:

NEWSROOM
[9:29 a.m. EST]

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN anchor: More than one Democrat is tempted to do the happy dance over some Republicans' renunciation of Grover Norquist's no tax pledge. One of the latest is Republican Representative Peter King.

(Video Clip)

Rep. PETER KING (R-N.Y.): So I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed the – supported a declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed and the economic situation is different.

(End Video Clip)

COSTELLO: Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said, quote, "Country is more important than pledges. So, sorry, Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist, I'm out." It all sounds promising, you know, when it comes to compromise. Except senators like Lindsey Graham didn't exactly say he was now open to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He actually said he supports capping deductions and buying down debt, which is different.

So the question this morning, how excited should we really be by all of this talk of throwing Grover Norquist under the bust? Under the bus, rather, not the bust. CNN contributor Will Cain is here, along with Jason Johnson, chief political correspondent at "Politics 365" and political science professor at Hiram College. Welcome to you both.

JASON JOHNSON, Hiram College: Good morning.

WILL CAIN, CNN contributor: Good morning.

COSTELLO: So, Will, are we getting too excited about this? I mean, what's up with this?

CAIN: Is it something to get excited about? I don't know. I mean, what we hear here is something that Republicans are willing to give a little ground on in order to reach a compromise, towards, I guess, paying down our debt.

Look, here's the deal, Carol. This pledge has been overstated from the beginning. The deal is there's two parties to a negotiation. You don't get to walk into a room and say, here's my demands, here's what it's going to be – unless you own both houses of the legislature and the presidency. Republicans don't own it.

So, in order to get a reform that, yes, is going to require spending reform as well, entitlement reform, Republicans are going to have to give in on taxes. The question also is: will Democrats give in on entitlement and spending reform? I don't know about that yet.

(...)

COSTELLO: And just a last question. I know we've heard from two prominent senators, Republican senators, who said they're willing to bend on this pledge. And we did hear from Peter King, who's a congressman. But not many House members are running to the microphones to renounce Grover Norquist's tax pledge. And isn't that where we're going to have the most trouble, Will?

CAIN: Yeah. You definitely have the most trouble in the House of Representatives. And, look, Republicans are still dedicated to a low tax principle. They still want to achieve that. The problem is I used to own businesses, Carol. I used to buy and sell newspapers. I didn't get to dictate the price. There's the counter party to a negotiation, this counter party happens to be a Democratic Senate and President, I think you're going to have to make a deal.

(...)

NEWSROOM
[10:51 a.m. EST]

COSTELLO: The countdown's on. 36 days until we reach the so-called "fiscal cliff." Can the President and Congress get a deal done? It all depends on working together. A lesson learned by hostage negotiators, high-profile attorneys, and yes, kids on the playground. Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-Ohio) Speaker of the House: 700,000 jobs would be destroyed.

KYUNG LAH, CNN correspondent (voice-over): Two sides, ground into their positions but they can meet in the middle. Just ask tough negotiators outside the Beltway.

JACK TRIMARCO, retired FBI hostage negotiator: I'm the negotiator who knows how to deal with bad guys.

LAH: He's not talking about politicians. But crooks, literally. Trimarco was the FBI's negotiator in multiple high-profile bank hostage standoffs. He says he peacefully freed dozens of hostages over his 20 years with the agency. He negotiated seemingly impossible deals and says he never lost a life.

(on camera): You have to plan for everything going wrong as a negotiator.

TRIMARCO: Yeah. You've got to be ready for it. And to deal with it. And you've got to be flexible.

LAH (voice-over): But not too flexible. The lawyer for Hollywood heavyweights like Harvey Weinstein, James Cameron and Tom Cruise knows about ugly divorces, public fights with studios and, yes, fair deals.

BERT FIELDS, Hollywood attorney: At what point is it better to have no deal than the deal that's being offered?

LAH (on camera): Do you have an appreciation for what Obama and Boehner are looking for?

FIELDS: Oh, absolutely. I sympathize with both of them. It's not fun for these guys, because there's too much at stake. It's fun for me, because the worst that happens is my client gets less money, not the end of the world. Although it may seem so as a client.

LAH (voice-over): Maybe you can't please everyone, but even children know you have to cooperate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe you can work together, build together? Maybe can connect it? What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah.

LAH: A daily lesson on the playground, working together sprouts even better solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a great idea. Do you want to see my great idea?

LAH (on camera): Do you think these lessons on the playground really need to be transferred to D.C.?

PADDY LUDWIG, The Neighborhood School owner: Absolutely. Absolutely. We need -- we need to find a way to work together, to figure out what's going to be acceptable to everybody. We've got to figure it out. Otherwise, I mean, we all lose.

LAH (voice-over): There's nothing surprising here, because maybe it's just that simple. So if they can do it –

(on camera): How old are you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five.

LAH (voice-over): Maybe the political playground can do it, too. Kyung Lah, CNN Los Angeles.

(End Video Clip)

COSTELLO: Come on, Congress, make a great mud pie. You can do it.

(...)

NEWSROOM
[3:00 p.m. EST]

BALDWIN: Possibly progress, what did you call it, "common sense," in your piece, right? The fact that you have these three guys potentially willing here to break this pledge. And it's not just a pledge against new taxes, John Avlon, or tax hikes. I mean, it's against any and all new revenue, correct?
    
AVLON: Right. And that's the problem and that's the point.

(...)

BALDWIN: But if these guys are potentially willing to do that, what's different today than, I don't know, two years ago?

AVLON: What's different is that people don't fear the Grover. And that's a good thing, you know.

(...)

AVLON: But the reality is, more and more Republicans after this election are declaring their independence from the pledge and from activists and saying we've got to get serious about the business of governing in the national interest. And put all these special interests aside, on both sides. That is essential to getting a deal done.  

BALDWIN: And the fact that you have two of the top Republican senators flirting to break with Grover Norquist and consider raising rates on the wealthy. They both face re-election in 2014, Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham. I find that interesting. Do you find that interesting?

AVLON: It is interesting, the fact that they're from the south as well. From Georgia, where you're talking from, Saxby Chambliss, South Carolina is Lindsey Graham, where my folks live. Look, that's why these two stands are profiles in courage. Bob Corker just got re-elected to six years, but it takes real courage for some folks who are coming up in the next cycle to do this. But that's why they call it profiles in courage. It's a tradition we haven't seen a lot. It requires standing up for what you think is right, and putting the special interests and the potential short-term electoral consequences aside. That's why we elect these guys. It's great to see.

(...)

AVLON: So actually, you can make an argument that the Tea Party movement should get behind a grand bargain, a deficit and a debt deal, if they're serious about what they see and what they said was an existential threat to our country. So we can find common ground on this. That's the hopeful thing. We just need to disenthrall ourselves from these extreme voices who've choked off reasonable debate in Washington.

BALDWIN: "Don't fear the Grover." Best quote of the day.
 

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