Pope Grover? CNN's Zakaria Sneers at Norquist's Tax Pledge: It's Like a 'Vatican' Pronouncement
CNN host Fareed Zakaria wasn't just on NPR last week dismissing Fox News as a CNN competitor. He spent most of an hour on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on June 30 sharing his liberal "wisdom" and promoting his book on "The Post-American World." He may have encouraged the Chris Matthews 'fiscal Wahhabi" jag by comparing Grover Norquist's tax pledge to a "Vatican pronouncement." Pope Grover I? It came in this exchange:
TERRY GROSS: So in talking about conservative opposition to raising taxes, Grover Norquist, who's the head of Americans for Tax Reform, which is a group that believes no tax is good. He gets many Republicans to sign a pledge that they won't raise taxes, any kind of tax. And a lot of Republicans have signed on to that. Is that an example of what youre describing as a theological kind of debate, as opposed to a political debate of compromise?
FAREED ZAKARIA: Exactly. Because the truth of the matter is we tax at about 18 percent of GDP. We're spending at 23 percent of GDP. There's simply no way you can close that gap entirely with spending cuts. And the worst and most damaging thing that has happened in the last few weeks is that Grover Norquist has decreed - it's almost like Vatican pronouncements - that even the closing of tax loopholes cannot be abided, because closing a loophole is technically raising taxes.
So that stupid loopholes, that are really institutionalized corruption, that have been made in the tax code to favor certain industries or favor certain interest groups in return for campaign contributions -- we can't even close those because he says that's technically raising taxes on someone and Republicans have signed a pledge that they will raise taxes on no one. So youve lost the one kind of easy mechanism that the Simpson-Bowles commission found to raise revenues without raising general rates. And as I say, it leaves you with the feeling that the system has now become, essentially, paralyzed.
A few moments earlier, Zakaria had first raised the "dogma" and "theology" spin in implying that conservatives were ruining America's global image with this bizarre debt-limit fetish:
Power is a very intangible thing. A lot of it is perception. And if there is a perception that the American political system is completely paralyzed over what most people around the world see as a bizarre debate. Because with the gap we have, there's simply no way you could close it without doing both tax increases and spending cuts. And that therefore, you know, it seems to everyone the obvious answer is to have a compromise. And that we cannot even achieve that simple compromise is strange. You know, the worrying thing here is we are approaching a debate that it's really about money, in a theological manner - as though there is simply no way to bridge these differences. But this is not theology. This is not something, you know, where a Muslim is talking to a Christian about the definition of hell. This is about money. You literally can split the difference and that's what compromise is.
As if Obama's stimulus and ObamaCare proposals were careful centrist compromises in the first two years of his presidency.
They also disparaged conservatives about illegal immigration:
GROSS: You grew up in India, and you came to the U.S. in 1982 to go to college. You're now an American citizen. You've been watching the anti-immigration movement in the U.S. grow and opposition to the Dream Act. The Dream Act would make children who were born here, citizens. So I'm just interested in your general reaction to the anti-immigration movement.
ZAKARIA: You know, the America I came to in 1982 was a much more open, tolerant place. I know it sounds odd, because I mean by many yardsticks we've made enormous progress and that's real -- gay marriage for example. But there was a spirit in the air that was much more accommodating, particularly of immigrants. Ronald Reagan used to have a wonderful line where he said Americans don't care what your origins are, they care what your destination is. And I really felt that was true of the America I came to. I think it is less true now. I think there is a certain kind of closing of the American spirit. And here's the tragedy, if you look at one of the absolute crucial strengths the United States has going forward, it is immigration. Why do I say that? If you look at every industrialized country in the world, we all have the same problems. Weve got a welfare state. We've got too many people who are going to get old. We have health care costs rising. And, you know, those are things you can fix. They're difficult, but you can fix them. The one thing you cannot fix, you cannot change really is demographics. Every rich country in the world is going to have fewer and fewer people....
The only difference between us and all these other rich countries is that we take in, legally, every year, more people than the rest of the world put together. And this is our extraordinary advantage. We take them in. We assimilate them. We know how to do it. We're the envy of the world with regard to this stuff, and yet, what we are doing is we are now trying to copy the immigration practices of France and Germany which have utterly failed to assimilate their populations. We are adopting this churlish, hostile attitude towards immigrants.
Gross ended the interview by discussing the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, and how Zakaria returned an award from the Anti-Defamation League:
It was a hard decision because I really admire the ADL. I admire the Anti-Defamation League. I think that what they have done for decades and decades has been incredibly exemplary work, not just on behalf of American Jews and in the cause of anti anti-Semitism, which is important, but they have often stood up for other groups. And that was why I was stunned that they would take on an issue like this one - where an entirely manufactured opposition to this Islamic cultural center had been created. We are constantly talking about how we should be supporting moderate Muslims. Well, this group of people was about as moderate as you get.
They wanted to build an Islamic Center with a mosque that would also have separate prayer space for Jews and Christians, that would have a board with Jews and Christians on it. I mean you find me a Christian church that has Muslims on its board. And so the effort here was entirely to try to build bridges between the Islamic community, the Muslim community and other communities. The location was really, from everything one can tell, a total happenstance...
It's understandable that right wing, you know, radio hosts and talk shows will use this. They're in the business of generating - manufacturing outrage. I mean every day they're trying to scare people about something. But that's not the ADL's business and it shouldn't be the ADL's business. It has a much higher calling.