The PBS NewsHour invited Nancy Pelosi on for an interview Thursday night, and the sparks were flying. Sparks of love, that is, between anchor Judy Woodruff and the House minority leader. Woodruff conducted a 10-minute interview of mostly softballs about the salient topics of the day. But one of today’s hottest topics, the sequester, only merited one question from Woodruff - and it wasn’t a query a serious journalist would ask. [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Woodruff began, “Quick question about the sequester. The White House spent a lot of time, the president did, talking about the dire consequences once the sequester kicked in.” Okay. So far, so good. Now, surely Woodruff is going to ask why the president did an about-face and is now downplaying the sequester’s effects. Or maybe she’ll ask if Mr. Obama’s fearmongering was overblown. Or maybe she’ll even ask Pelosi if the president did everything he could to reach a compromise with Republicans to avert the sequester.
Any of those would have been good questions. However, here is the question Woodruff asked: “Did the president, did the White House over-- or underestimate, I should say, the Republicans’ determination not to give any ground on taxes, on revenue?”
My, oh my. It looks as if objective journalism is dead at the taxpayer-subsidized network, despite what the smiling faces for the pledge drive say. Could there have been a better way to tee up Ms. Pelosi to beat Republicans with the same tired, worn-out club as always? Of course, that’s just what Pelosi did:
"What's important about this discussion is why we're here. We're here because the Republicans will not-- will not-- close any special interest tax loopholes in order to reduce the deficit. None."
Neither Woodruff nor Pelosi mentioned that Republicans gave up a lot of ground on taxes and revenue during the fiscal cliff negotiations back in December. Woodruff didn’t ask Pelosi whether Mr. Obama was being unreasonable by demanding even more revenue from Republicans before addressing the spending side of the equation.
Also, Woodruff never questioned whether the sequester will, in fact, bring “dire consequences.” They sure haven’t happened yet, if they ever will happen. A true journalist would have at least pointed out to Pelosi that the sequester has not brought disaster, as the president predicted.
If PBS is going to invite major political figures onto their network, they need to conduct fair and balanced interviews in order to maintain the appearance of neutrality - and convince us that our tax dollars are well spent on them.
Below is a transcript of Woodruff's question and Pelosi's complete answer:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Quick question about the sequester. The White House spent a lot of time, the president did, talking about the dire consequences once the sequester kicked in. Did the president, did the White House over-- or underestimate, I should say, the Republicans’ determination not to give any ground on taxes, on revenue?
NANCY PELOSI: What's important about this discussion is why we're here. We're here because the Republicans will not-- will not-- close any special interest tax loopholes in order to reduce the deficit. None. They say we may do it to reduce some rates. Now again, I don't paint all Republicans with that brush. Some Republicans have said we may have to close some loopholes to reduce the deficit and what do they want to protect? They want to protect tax breaks for corporate jets and now we lose four million meals on wheels. They want to protect tax breaks for big oil and what do we lose? The education of our little children suffers, big oil gains. When they want to protect tax cuts for sending jobs overseas while we lose 750,000 jobs here. The point is– the point is is this is spending. These are called tax expenditures. There is a spending as much as any other spending that you do in the budget when you spend on tax cuts for special interests in these loopholes. So that's really what part of it is, and don't take it from me. The chairman of the Fed has said the cost of the sequester will lose at least 750,000 jobs, will slow down our recovery and we will not reduce the deficit.