Howard Kurtz Thinks The Press Is Too Soft On Republicans
When this arrived at my e-mail inbox Sunday, I thought a usually reliable tipster was playing a joke on me.
But after reviewing the video and transcript of this morning's "Reliable Sources" on CNN, it's become apparent that Howard Kurtz really did ask two of his guests if the press is currently going soft on the Republican Party.
"Every day, every week the media -- and that includes this program -- focus on President Obama," Kurtz said.
"But what about the Republicans? Do they largely get a pass because they're in the minority?" (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript and commentary, h/t Story Balloon):
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Every day, every week the media -- and that includes this program -- focus on President Obama. How is he doing? Is he tough enough? Is he too cerebral? Is he overexposed?
Is he down in the polls? Why hasn't he accomplished what he said he would?
Fair enough. But what about the Republicans? Do they largely get a pass because they're in the minority?
Take as Exhibit A the White House stimulus bill that was opposed by almost every GOP member of Congress.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We're going down a road to disaster. There's got to be some other way better than what we're doing, not the socialist way.
KURTZ (voice-over): But some of those Republican lawmakers have turned around and asked for stimulus money, or taken credit for it in their home states. A few news organizations have focused on this. "The Wall Street Journal," for instance, reporting that Senator Shelby joined the rest of the Alabama delegation in asking the Forest Service for $15 million in stimulus funds.
For the most part, though, it's liberal commentators who have pounced on the GOP.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Just this week, you were at a community college touting a $350,000 green technology education program, talking about how great that was going to be for your district. You voted against the bill that created that grant.
I mean, you seem like a very nice person, but that's a very hypocritical stance to take.
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: Well, Rachel, with all do respect, I can assure you Republicans were not consulted on the stimulus bill.
Stop the tape.
That Kurtz would use this clip of Maddow from last week's "Meet the Press" is quite telling. First off, the money Schock's district received WAS NOT from the stimulus bill.
As such, Kurtz employed a false premise.
But his negligence went deeper as the Washington Examiner's Byron York wrote Tuesday:
The spending to which Maddow referred was a grant to Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill. It was to buy equipment for training students to install cutting-edge environmental technologies required in new home construction.
The original $350,000 request was placed in the Education Department's appropriations bill last year by none other than Schock. (He was working with another GOP congressman, John Shimkus, who represents the district next to Schock's.) It turns out Lincoln Land asked Schock for help in getting the money. Schock thought it was a worthy project and wrote a request for inclusion in the education bill.
But the bill never passed. As it often does, Congress put off approving major spending measures until the end of the year. As December approached, Democratic leaders wrapped the education appropriation into a giant $447 billion omnibus spending bill that also included funding for the Transportation, Housing, Justice, State, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services departments, among others. The bill contained, in the words of a Washington Post report, "thousands of earmarks and double-digit increases for several cabinet agencies." It also included, deep inside its 2,500 pages, Schock's request for Lincoln Land Community College.
The bill was an affront to anyone concerned about controlling federal spending. It barely passed the House, 221 to 202. All 174 House Republicans, joined by 28 Democrats, voted against it.
"There was a lot of bad stuff in that bill," Schock says. "They lumped it all together and said, 'Take it or leave it, up or down.' "
So Schock voted no. But what about the request for Lincoln Land? How did Schock reconcile voting against the omnibus bill when it contained money for his own district?
"I have two responsibilities," Schock explains. "The first is to advocate for responsible federal spending, and the second is to advocate for my district's fair share of that federal spending. I don't see those responsibilities as mutually exclusive."
So, last year, Schock requested $350 THOUSAND from an education bill that didn't pass. It ended up being included in a $447 BILLION spending bill that Schock voted against because of the other garbage in it.
The latter bill passed, and Schock ended up participating in a ceremony at the college that received the $350 THOUSAND he had previously requested leading Maddow to shamelessly scolded him on "Meet the Press" as a result.
Unfortunately, host David Gregory didn't step in and point out to Maddow that what Schock did by voting against a bill that included something he wanted for his district actually demonstrated character, something that was sorely lacking when Senators Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) sold their healthcare votes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last year in exchange for moneys for their respective states.
With this in mind, Kurtz using this an example of hypocrisy a week later -- when he had the time to research what really happened with Schock -- was nothing less than pathetic:
KURTZ: So, are the mainstream media failing to hold Republicans to the same standard as the president?
Joining us now, John Aravosis, the founder and editor of AmericaBlog.com, and Amy Holmes, guest co-host of the syndicated radio show "America's Morning News."
John Aravosis, you're a liberal, so I'm sure you love it. But should the mainstream press have jumped on this question earlier about Republicans who opposed the stimulus and helped take credit for some of the money in their districts?
JOHN ARAVOSIS, FOUNDER & EDITOR, AMERICABLOG.COM: I think so. I think the problem the media has -- and it's Democrat and Republican -- is, in interest in being fair, they often don't want to jump on a story unless the other party alleges it first. So, in this case, if the media knows the stimulus created jobs because CBO and all the major studies said it did, they don't want to call a Republican on it and say, well, no, it didn't create no jobs, we know it did. They want to wait for a Democrat to allege it first.
KURTZ: And the Democrat -- I'll come to you in a second, Amy -- the Democrat who alleged it and gave the story momentum was President Obama. Let's roll some of the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are those, let's face it, across the aisle who have tried to score political points by attacking what we did, even as many of them show up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects in their districts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Exactly. So, Maddow was taking the lead from Obama. Is that the press's role? For some reason, Kurtz wasn't concerned with THAT hypocrisy:
KURTZ: Now, Amy Holmes, you can say the stimulus was dumb, it was wasteful, it was big government run amuck. But --
AMY HOLMES, GUEST CO-HOST, "AMERICA'S MORNING NEWS": I say all of those things.
KURTZ: OK. But if you were a lawmaker -- you worked on the Hill -- as you did, John -- aren't you fair game for the press if you vote against a bill and denounce it and then take credit for or try to get money for your district?
HOLMES: Certainly. And I think opponents to Republicans, particularly in primaries up against conservatives, that they will hear this criticism.
But, Howie, I really think this is sort of dog bites man story. I mean, there aren't a lot of headlines out of this.
Republicans voted against it, but I think they fairly say to their constituents, look, the pie was baked, you're federal taxpayers, you deserve a slice of it. However, they wouldn't have voted for it in the first place.
In terms of the media, if you're trying to convince me that they're hypocritical, you had me at "Good morning."
KURTZ: But why does it take Rachel Maddow to bring this up on "Meet the Press?" And there have been some good stories, and now some local papers are looking at their local members of Congress.
Why aren't we all over this? You seem to think that we need permission of partisan attack so that we can cover it --
Actually, the better question is whether it was right for Maddow to bring this up given the facts presented by York two days later. Unfortunately, Kurtz didn't go there:
ARAVOSIS: I don't think you need it. I do think the media tries too hard to be fair, so they feel if they do their own reporting and say, well, I'm Howie Kurtz, and I know that this study said it's a lie, Congressman, what do you say to that, they feel like you have to quote the White House saying it.
Even the White House -- the clip you showed of Obama, he didn't call out individual members. He didn't say, Congressman Cantor, you said this, that's a lie. Come to the White House tomorrow at noon and tell the American people in front of the camera why you're right. That would shut them up.
HOLMES: But it's also not news for a congressman to release press releases and tout the projects that they bring home to their districts.
ARAVOSIS: Oh, I think it is.
KURTZ: Even when the same congressman who voted against the bill, called it socialism and some of the rhetoric we've heard, it's not news? I think it's news.
HOLMES: I don't think it's necessarily news to the press who see this every day.
KURTZ: So we're jaded?
HOLMES: I think that's part of it. They're jaded. But, again, I make the argument that the Republican congressmen can fairly say, I did not vote to spend this money, but since it's been spent, and you're a federal taxpayer, you certainly should get your fair share, as compared to, say, Democratic constituents of Democratic congressmen and senators who (INAUDIBLE) to get this money.
KURTZ: Well, OK.
As I've said before, although I think Kurtz does a pretty good job in his role as a media analyst, sometimes he's WAY off base.
This was one of those times.