Schieffer Scolds McConnell for Claiming Obama Isn’t Serious About Budget Two Weeks After Saying Same Thing
Bob Schieffer on Sunday scolded Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for saying President Obama wasn't serious about the budget.
Two weeks ago, the "Face the Nation" host made the very same observation in a discussion with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (video follows with transcripts and commentary):
BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: Well, all we know, of course, is about what is being said in public. We hear the back-and-forth that’s being going on in public. But you and the other leaders have been meeting behind closed doors with Vice President Biden. I guess I would ask you this question. What is your take on the administration right now? Do you believe that President Obama is, in fact, serious about trying to get something done here?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KENTUCKY): No, I don't.
MCCONNELL: I have now had a number of private conversations with the President and the Vice President. I was hopeful that we would step up to the plate here, if you will, and use this divided government opportunity to do something big about our long-term problems. I don't have any more complaints about the conversations with them; I've had plenty of conversations with them. What I don't see now is any willingness to do anything that's difficult.
Look, this is the perfect time to do it. We control part of the government. They control part of the government. It could be done in a very, very effective way, and for those who are concerned about the 2012 elections survived politically because both sides will have embraced it. I haven't given up hope but frankly I'm not optimistic.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, that really is a pretty serious charge at this stage to say that you don't even think the President is serious. What is it that makes you say that?
MCCONNELL: Well, look, I've had a number of conversations with people who count at the White House, and I think that so far I don't see the level of seriousness that we need. For example, they're in denial about Social Security. They are saying Social Security is not a problem. The Congressional Budget Office said it's running a $50 billion deficit this very year. Medicare, Social Security are unsustainable. Medicare, Medicaid is unsustainable.
You step back and look at what this administration has done, they've sort of pumped up the government. Bob, you would be interested to know that unemployment among government workers is half what it is among private sector workers, and most of those unemployed workers are state and local workers who have been laid off. The federal government has in fact added 100,000 jobs in the course of this administration while the American people have shed millions of jobs. Our priorities are out of whack. When my friend John Kerry says cutting government spending is reckless, I'm wondering what planet is he living on?
SCHIEFFER: Alright. Well, I tell you, I asked you for a response and you certainly gave me one. Senator McConnell, it's always good to have you here, and I thank you.
Schieffer's reaction here was absurd. Just two weeks ago, he had the following discussion with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-My.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) about this very issue:
SCHIEFFER: Congressman, let me ask you this. How can you really say that the president is serious about this when his budget does not mention Social Security or Medicare, the two biggest items in the budget? Aren’t you going to -- Democrats eventually have to come to the table and say we’re really ready to talk about serious restructuring of those two programs, if you’re going to in fact get anything done
CONGRESSMAN CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MARYLAND): Let’s take each of those separately. Social Security, we’re willing and ready to come to the table with Republicans as Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan did, but to strengthen Social Security.
Social Security is not a driver of these deficits and debt. And we’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security beneficiaries. It is solvent, 100 percent, until the year 2037. After that, you’ve got about a 25 percent gap. Yes, we need to work together to close it, but we’re not going to balance the budget.
Now Medicare, I want to say something, because the health care reform bill that we just passed included significant Medicare reform. For example, we’ve reduced the overpayments to Medicare Advantage.
What was the response of our Republican colleagues? They ran ads against Democratic members of Congress in districts around the country saying that they were cutting Medicare. It was "Medi-scare" ads.
And now they’re turning around and saying President Obama, just after we ran these ads for some of the Medicare reforms you guys did in health care reform, why don’t you put more on the table?
Yes, we should come together to talk about these things, but what just happened in the last election was a clear indication that they’re not serious.
SCHIEFFER: Congressman Ryan?
CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN (R-WISCONSIN): Look, we have a huge fiscal problem. It’s primarily being driven by our entitlements. Presidents are elected to lead. They’re elected to see big problems on the horizon stop them from getting out of control. This president has punted, in the words of The Washington Post. He chose not to lead.
And if we wait for the other party to go first to propose reforms, then nothing will ever get done. That’s the problem we’ve had in Washington all along. We are going to lead. Where the president has fallen, we’re going to lead. And we’re going to propose solutions to these problems to the drivers of our debt, because the sooner we do that, the better off everybody is going to be, the better off these programs themselves will be made more solvent and our economy can grow today.
So, look, the president punted on these issues. He seems to be complicit with an out-of-control debt because that’s what his budget produces. And we just don’t see it that way. And we are going to offer the country a choice, an alternative, a different vision, one of a debt- free nation, one of economic growth and prosperity today by living within our means, by getting these programs under control.
And I would simply say, if you keep kicking the can down the road, it’s going to be pain and austerity for everybody. We don’t have much more road to keep kicking the cab down the road. And we have to get serious about this.
So we’re going to lead and we’re going to propose serious solutions to this country’s problems so we can get growing again.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, gentlemen, I want to thank both of you for an interesting discussion this morning.
So two weeks ago, Schieffer asked a Democrat Congressman, "How can you really say that the President is serious about this when his budget does not mention Social Security or Medicare, the two biggest items in the budget?"
Now, just fourteen days later, he's challenging the opposition Party leader in the Senate for saying the President isn't serious?
Seems pretty ridiculous especially since numerous news organizations on both sides of the aisle felt Obama punted on meaningful debt relief with the budget he proposed last month.
There's an old saying in Washington: When the tough get going, the going turn to sports analogies. That's where we were yesterday as President Obama unveiled his fiscal year 2012 budget.
Despite the fact that the document is just a plan and has no power over what Congress actually does, the drama was intense. Many said the proposal reflected a decision to kick the can down the road, to deal with the tough problems another day. But a sports analogy, naturally, won the day.
"We got a punt," said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is still has the Packers Super Bowl victory on his mind. "The president punted on the budget and he punted on the deficit and on the debt, that's not leadership that's an abdication of leadership." One budget expert said that the president punted instead of dealing with the biggest costs to the federal government: entitlements of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Let's take this a bit further. In football, when does a team punt? When they are facing an fourth down and long - and the odds are against them getting a first down and continuing to drive the ball. Punting often puts one's opponent in bad field position and avoids a failed fourth down attempt which would give the other side a better chance at a score.
Most people would say that the president did in fact punt, but in this situation it may not be that bad a call.
This was written by Robert Hendin, a CBS News producer who just this week joined "Face the Nation."
If one of Schieffer's own producers wrote about Obama punting in February, it certainly shouldn't be all that surprising the leader of the opposition Party in the Senate would feel the same way.
On the other hand, maybe it's a reflexive instinct for liberal media members to automatically defend the current White House resident even when the facts suggest they shouldn't.
Yes, that was a rhetorical observation.