PBS Hypes Liberal 'Congress Watchers' Who Hit GOP as Extreme, With No Use for 'Facts'

Just like NPR, the PBS NewsHour on Thursday night invited on liberals Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein to pound away at the "extremism" of the Republican Party (Tea Party Edition). Propose defunding public broadcasting, and this is how the Empire strikes back.

Thomas Mann unleashed on the GOP: "They are ideologically extreme, contemptuous of centuries worth of policy, economics and social; scornful of compromise, no use much for facts, evidence, and science, and really not accepting of the political legitimacy of the other party." As if Mann is sounding like he believes in the political legitimacy of the Republicans?

This is the huge flaw of media elites who see Mann and Ornstein as sober centrists -- as Woodruff calls them, "veteran Congress watchers." They don't ask: you say extreme partisanship is ruining Washington, and then you turn around and say everything that's wrong in Washington comes from those horrid Republicans. Isn't that awfully partisan?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom, you put in the book much of the blame for what's going on, on the Republican Party. Why?

THOMAS MANN: We do believe there are two profound drivers of our dysfunctional politics. The first is the mismatch between our political parties that are parliamentary-like, ideologically polarized, internally unified, and set on destroying the other. But the second factor, which is, frankly, overlooked in the press among pundits, by scholars and almost everyone else, is that one of our political parties, namely the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier.

They are ideologically extreme, contemptuous of centuries worth of policy, economics and social, scornful of compromise, no use much for facts, evidence, and science, and really not accepting of the political legitimacy of the other party. That makes a big difference.

Does anyone really believe that the press and "almost everyone else" has somehow overlooked blaming the Republicans for everything wrong in America? Do these two "scholars" ever consume any media? What they mean to say is Republicans haven't been blamed enough and the public doesn't blame them enough.

Woodruff  suggested what a Republican might say in response -- which is not as good as actually inviting on a Republican to rebut:

WOODRUFF: Norm Ornstein, if a Republican were sitting here today who believes in what they're doing, they would say, but it's really -- it's really about policy. We disagree with the president and the Democrats on the size of the deficit, on spending. We don't think the tax cuts should end.

ORNSTEIN: There have been serious differences between the parties and their world views and their outlooks for a long time. But just to pick a couple of quick examples, Judy, the Affordable Care Act, the health care bill that passed without a single Republican vote, was basically the Republican alternative that had been written to oppose the Clinton health care plan in 1993 by several people, including Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, current senators who now denounce those same ideas as socialistic.

WOODRUFF: Republicans.

ORNSTEIN: Republicans. It's a different culture than we saw 20 years ago or 30 years ago. And it's why people like Chuck Hagel, a very conservative Republican former senator, has decried what's gone on in own party.

Break out the laugh track! Chuck Hagel the "very conservative" Republican would agree with everything these two liberals are saying. He's an anti-Republican Republican. A "very conservative" Republican would support the Tea Party and oppose ObamaCare. Woodruff suggested they weren't saying the Democrats were perfect. Mann bizarrely said their period of being an "insurgent outlier" was the 1960s and 1970s.

Then they turned to the role of the media:

WOODRUFF: And to pick up on the role of the media, the new media, how has that changed what's going on, Norm?

ORNSTEIN: Well, it really is -- in a way, it's back to the future. We had partisan media in the 19th century. We have it now with Fox, with MSNBC, and with a lot of others, with talk radio. But this is different. We don't share a common set of facts. And we live in worlds that amplify those differences and, in fact, help to create the hype that we're in a tribal world and you've got to oppose the other side because they're evil.

Again, these two say they're against polarization at the exact same time they're demanding everyone treat the Republicans as the horrid obstacle to all progress. They sound exactly like MSNBC, not like they oppose MSNBC.

Finally, you know you're talking to a liberal when they lament that we no longer share a "common set of facts." This is code for we no longer accept the "objective" liberal media as the official arbiter of what are Facts. When the country was dominated by three Kennedy-adoring networks and The New York Times (what Mann thinks are the liberals "insurgent outlier" years), conservatives did not accept the liberal argument as the "facts," either. For example, Ornstein thinks it's "the facts" that ObamaCare is not socialistic. He probably also believes it's "the facts" that ObamaCare would reduce the deficit.

Fighting over defining "the facts" is part of any political debate. You would think "veteran Congress watchers" would have figured that out before they prepare for retirement.

At the segment's end, anchor Ray Suarez  announced some balance would come later. "We have another view coming soon from Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who's written a book called 'The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America.'" But Coburn won't be asked to rebut Ornstein and Mann. They get to tour public TV and radio and sell their screed  with no real opposition.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis