Back in the '90s, many people called CNN the "Clinton News Network" because it was so obviously partial to the Democratic President from Arkansas.
Wolf Blitzer perfectly exemplified why this was the case Thursday when in an interview with former President Bill Clinton, he shamefully allowed his guest to absurdly claim that prior to Tuesday's controversial interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, he thought the Bush tax cuts expired before Election Day (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
For those that missed it, Clinton told Bartiromo Tuesday that he felt all the Bush tax cuts should be extended "until early next year." This set off a firestorm because it went counter to what the Obama administration wants.
At the beginning of Blitzer's interview with the former President, he asked his guest about this issue.
After apologizing for creating such a controversy, Clinton said, "I thought something had to be done on the fiscal cliff before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done till the first of the year. So, he should just stick with his position and negotiate with the Republicans when possible."
Blitzer interjected, “During the lame duck session after the election if he’s reelected or if Romney wins, that's when they’re going to have to deal with the Bush tax cuts because all of them, including for the middle class, and they’ll go back to the rates that existed during your administration if they don’t do something. All of them will expire.”
Clinton then explained why he felt the Bush tax cuts should be extended for only “the bottom 98 percent.”
After some discussion, Blitzer once again clarified, “So on this issue, and I’m going to move on, there’s no daylight between you and the President?”
“No,” Clinton replied, “no, I really was under the impression that they would have to do something before the election, and I was trying to figure out how they would kick it to after the election. Once I realized that nothing had to be done till the first of the year, I supported, I support his position. I supported extending them last year, but I think his position is the right one and necessary if we’re ever going to get a comprehensive deal.”
Unfortunately, Blitzer shamefully ignored a number of things.
Here’s the relevant section from Clinton’s interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo Tuesday (emphasis added):
MARIA BARTIROMO: So what about this upcoming fiscal cliff? Because a lot of people are worried and the markets certainly have been reacting to the-- to the idea that these Bush tax cuts will expire at year end along with the spending programs that will expire. Should those programs and those tax cuts be extended?
Notice that right in Bartiromo's question, she said "these Bush tax cuts will expire at year end."
Yet two days later, Clinton said multiple times to Blitzer, "I thought something had to be done on the fiscal cliff before the election."
Blitzer didn't bring up this obvious discrepancy. But there was more:
PRES. BILL CLINTON: What I think they should do is find a way to keep the expansion going. And I think the-- as weak as it is here, you know, unemployment in the euro zone I think is 11%. And-- Germany's doing well but the-- and a lot of the smaller countries are doing extremely well, many of which are not in the euro.
But they're trying to figure out a way to promote growth. And what I think we need to do is to-- find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now, and then deal with what's necessary in the long-term debt reduction plan as soon as they can, which presumably will be after the election.
MARIA BARTIROMO: So does that mean extending the tax cuts?
PRES. BILL CLINTON: Well, I think what it means is they will have to extend-- they will probably have to put everything off until early next year. That's probably the best thing to do right now. But the Republicans don't want to do that unless he agrees to extend the tax cuts permanently, including for upper income people.
That warrants repeating: "Well, I think what it means is they will have to extend-- they will probably have to put everything off until early next year."
So, on Tuesday, Clinton said the extension of the Bush tax cuts should be "until early next year."
Yet two days later, he told Blitzer several times, "I thought something had to be done on the fiscal cliff before the election."
Not once did Blitzer challenge Clinton on this or the fact that "early next year" DOES NOT mean during the lame duck session which ends on December 31.
Potentially even worse, Blitzer seemed to totally forget that Clinton sold the two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts during a joint press conference with Obama on December 10, 2010.
As the Washington Post reported that day:
Former president Bill Clinton emerged from a private meeting with President Obama Friday afternoon to endorse the sweeping tax-cut agreement Obama has reached with congressional Republicans, urging other Democrats to support the framework as the two presidents appeared at a highly unusual joint news conference.
"The agreement taken as a whole is I believe the best bipartisan agreement we can reach," Clinton said during the event, carried live on CNN. He added, ""I don't think they can get a better deal" referring to congressional Democrats.
At Obama's request, Clinton - with whom he had bitter relations during the 2008 presidential campaign - came to the White House for an Oval Office meeting. The session lasted an hour and ten minutes. Afterward, White House officials hastily organized a news conference.
Obama introduced Clinton, said that the two had "just had a terrific meeting" and that it might be useful for Clinton to "share some of his thoughts."
For those that have forgotten - which apparently includes Blitzer! - Obama ended up leaving the press conference, and Clinton spoke to reporters for many additional minutes on his own.
As Clinton had an extensive, closed-door discussion with Obama about this two-year extension, and briefed the press about it, it's patently absurd of him eighteen months later to claim he didn't know when an agreement he was privy to and sold the nation on actually ended.
Not to mention the almost metaphysical certitude that no tax legislation would ever end in the middle of a calendar year. Exactly how would payroll preparers, bookkeepers, and accountants deal with such a situation?
Yet Blitzer completely ignored all the inherent flaws in the position Clinton was taking, and allowed him to basically say whatever he wanted to remedy the harm he had done to the Obama campaign two days prior regardless of its total absurdity.
And that's why they called it the Clinton News Network.