PBS Panel of Journalists to GOP: Time to Change Your Policies

The liberal media’s attempt to paint Republicans as a party in crisis continues, this time with fresh ammunition from the Republican National Committee’s “Growth & Opportunity Project.” The recently-released report provides a critical review of what went wrong in the 2012 election cycle and how the party can improve its effort to win future elections.

On Monday’s PBS NewsHour, the taxpayer-subsidized PBS network brought on Susan Page from USA Today and Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report to rip into the Republican Party. Or, as anchor Gwen Ifill put it, the guests were there “to talk about how deep the party's fissures go.”


Page trotted out the usual admonishment that Republicans must evolve with the times: “In an America that is increasingly diverse and younger, [the party has] chartered an appeal that will not be able to win a national election unless they change course.

Rothenberg echoed this sentiment, projecting it onto party members themselves: “You get the sense that there are many people in the Republican Party that believe this is an unusually difficult period that they face, and that the future is rather bleak unless they make some dramatic changes.”

Ifill then asked whether the report talked about changing the party’s message or changing policies. To which Page replied, “Well, a lot of this talked about message, but I wonder if they're correct.” Uh oh. Here comes the lecture from a journalist who believes she knows what’s best for the GOP. She continued, “I mean, you can talk about putting something in a nice box, but if the contents of the box haven’t changed, I'm not sure it appeals to people.



Following this analogy, one could argue that Democrats are able to sell their brand precisely because of their beautiful, shiny box. After all, they promote the equal validity of all lifestyles and viewpoints (except conservatism) in the name of “tolerance.” Who doesn’t want to be tolerant, right? They promote a massive welfare state in the name of helping the poor. Who doesn’t want to help the poor?
 

As a non-commercial enterprise, PBS is in theory supposed to care not about packaging and marketing but about substance. This is supposed to be especially true of its news content. Yet here we have the folks at PBS focusing simply on the external packaging of the major political parties rather than the policies they prescribe.

American voters deserve deeper political analysis on PBS than the warmed-over pablum that they can get elsewhere on commercial broadcast television.

Below is a partial transcript of the segment:

GWEN IFILL: Joining us now to talk about how deep the party's fissures go are Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for U.S.A. Today, and Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call. To listen to Jeb Bush and Reince Priebus talk, Susan, I got the sense that they were giving a belated rebuttal to the Mitt Romney 47% will never vote for us argument.

SUSAN PAGE: And look what they called this. They called this an autopsy on the Republican party. On whom do you do an autopsy? Something that’s dead. I think that Reince Priebus, Jeb Bush and other establishment Republicans feel that the party has gone seriously astray. And in an America that is increasingly diverse and younger, it's chartered an appeal that will not be able to win a national election unless they change course.

IFILL: How unusual was it for you to read something 100 pages worth of that much – I think I called it unsparing criticism.



STUART ROTHENBERG: Right. It was very forthright and forthcoming as to the party's problems. Susan and I were talking about this. We have seen parties go through this angst over the years, over the decades. But you get the sense that there are many people in the Republican party that believe this is an unusually difficult period that they face, and that the future is rather bleak unless they make some dramatic changes.

IFILL: Are they talking message or are they talking policy?

PAGE: Well, a lot of this talked about message, but I wonder if they're correct. I mean, you can talk about putting something in a nice box but if the contents of the box haven’t changed, I'm not sure it appeals to people. You can talk about spending $10 million on outreach to minority groups. But if you don't change the policies that have prompted a lot of minorities, African-Americans, Hispanic, Asian-Americans to go with the Democratic party, I'm not sure it has an effect.

IFILL: I remember hearing about the big tent many years ago.

ROTHENBERG: Well, part of this is about mechanics. It's about how many phone calls and who makes the calls and the amount of data you have and microtargeting and things like that. And that I think the national party can talk about and do and raise money for. I think Susan’s right and you're right that the problem is the message and whether this is a big tent party or not. This report was clearly written by big tent folks. When you look at the people who are involved in drawing it together, a top ally of Jeb Bush, Ari Fleischer who is a big tent Republican. The national committeewoman from Puerto Rico. The national committeeman from South Carolina who happens to be African-American. These are folks who understand the party has a message problem. The problem is that there are lots of Republicans and conservatives who think a different message is the better message.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.